Sunday, March 4, 2012

Reflections of Arizona

This is the blog post I submitted at the end of our Spring Training experience for the MLB Fan Cave. We had a 750 word limit. My original draft was about 1500 words. This is the condensed version.

The last two days have been my first visit back to Phoenix since the unfortunate loss the University of Oregon suffered in the BCS National Championship back in January of 2011. My previous trip was extremely prosperous in that I made over $4,000 selling the t-shirts my best friend Samuel Spencer, a clothing designer for Nike, and I had made in reaction to the alleged bribery scandal surrounding Cameron Newton during his championship run at Auburn University. While this opening doesn’t seem to make much sense in regard to baseball, had it not been for that ingenious idea, I would not be writing this piece right now. The money I made selling the t-shirts served as the payment for the Major League Baseball tattoos I started getting back in May of this last year. And without those tattoos, well, I probably wouldn’t be writing this piece you’re reading.

            The last two weeks have proven to be a whirlwind of mixed emotions, all of which have resulted in the most exhilarating experience of my life. Now I know I’ve talked quite a bit about being taken seriously as a journalist, but after really analyzing what I said, I’ve come to the conclusion that what came out of my mouth was wrong. The obstacle I wanted to overcome was not being all about my tattoos.

            In the days that led up to my journey to Phoenix I was beyond scared. My body was literally shaking in a similar fashion to when I was having light seizures after sustaining a concussion back in 2000 when I had accidentally walked in the on-deck circle that was occupied by Esteban German during my time as a bat boy for the Bakersfield Blaze. That day I learned how hard an eventual Major Leaguer could swing a bat as I took a shot right in the chin. While I thought my biggest fear was going to come as a result of a failed pitch, the real drama that was building up had come as result of my fear that everyone would think I was a “crazy person” based on my audition video which, not only got me a spot in the Top 50 and 30, but which spread across the internet like a wildfire after my television interview with KVAL in Eugene. When the day of the flight came, I knew I had to really impress everyone, bust most importantly be myself.

            From the night when I arrived in Phoenix through the flurry of handshakes and smiles I received from the executives of Major League Baseball, I felt the fear drip away from my body. Through the pitch and the MLB IQ match, I never felt safer. Not safe in the sense that I had nothing to worry about, but safe in the sense that I felt like I was amongst good company. Despite all of the hard work that my competitors and I displayed on both days of the competition, I never for a second felt and anything negative. The word competitor became lost on me and was replaced with the word friend. Not in a long time have I felt so welcomed, so encouraged in and out of the spectrum of the competition. Encouragement I reflected back upon everyone else I interacted with.

The support that I have received from my friends and family, but equally from the 29 other Fan Cave members and the executives of Major League Baseball has been overwhelming. Not to mention how much of a thrill it was to meet, greet and interview a few of my favorite players: Eric Byrnes, Ryan Roberts and Luis Gonzales. It’s not every day that a person is given the opportunity to come close to their dreams, and I did everything in my power to not let anyone down, including myself. The MLB Fan Cave experience will never be lost on me. The memories, friends and connections I made during this time have been a reward so great that it’s hard to put into words. The experience of being able to move to New York as finalist for the Fan Cave would truly be an honor, and something that I know will be bring me tears of joy. Just because I may or may not get a phone call does not mean that campaigning will end.

If selected, I will work my fingers to the bone to promote the game in an alternative, yet positive light. If not, I will continue to support the game that I love and cheer on with my new friends. The thing I’ve learned most is that the unconditional love I have for the game will never quit, just as the game will never quit on me.