Apr 042010
Authors: Matt L. Stephens

Ay, attababayonesevwhadayasaykid?

To most of you, that previous sentence made no sense at all and you’re wondering why a typo like that was able to run in print. To a select few of you, it played to your emotions and created a big smile on your face.

It’s the acquired language of baseball –– something not taught in the classroom, but rather learned in the dugout while spitting sunflower seeds.

From “get yourself a steak,” to “throw ‘em a chair,” the lingo in our sacred language is virtually endless.

I write to you today not discussing a certain team or event, but a personal memoir. I wouldn’t do this unless I thought most people could relate. While my lessons learned came straight from the diamond, anyone associated with an athletic team at one point of their lives should be able to see where I’m coming from.

I can pick a ball on a short-hop like it’s nobody’s business. What I can’t do is hit any pitch other than a fastball thrown 85 MPH or slower. What position on a high school roster does that leave me? The glorified water boy title of “manager.”

But the thing is, while being the Jenks baseball student manager my junior and senior year, not one instance occurred that made me feel inferior to my teammates –– in fact, I never fetched anyone a cup of water … ever. I was one of the guys.

The reason for this is that baseball is a fraternity in and of itself. If you wear the jersey, you’re in. I wore my No. 13 maroon and white polyester uniform for two years and what I gained were memories and lifelong relationships with the men I called my brothers.

At the time, I was beginning my career as a young journalist, which meant talking to players from schools other than my own. In turn, I became, if not friends, solid acquaintances with baseball players from all across the state of Oklahoma, some playing in the Major League’s today and others college all-Americans.

I had the time of my life, not because I knew these guys would be stars on the national level some day, but due to the fact we could have genuine conversations about anything before a game, standing there, chatting while wearing our Oakley’s and ball caps.

I’ll never forget the words my assistant coach, Mike Bauer, told me one day at practice after I had been going through a rough time. He said, “Stephens, you’re too good of a writer for your age. I guarantee you’re going to make it as a reporter one day.”

While I admit I’ll always be able to improve my writing skills, since then I’ve always banked on those words when it came down to business.

While friendships and confidence are great to have, there’s something else baseball taught me that I feel you should also know. My head coach junior year was a great man by the name of Glenn Sullivan. Next to my father, he’s one of the folks I respect most on this earth.

Every time we took the field, even in the middle of our 19-game winning streak, Sully told us two things. One, “let the chips fall where they may.” The lesson in that is quite obvious. Two, “baseball is fun.”

While baseball is fun, he was using “baseball” as something more than just a sport. Baseball was our lives. Everyday for a minimum of three hours, we were on the fields, either practicing or playing. All spring semester while in the classroom, our minds weren’t on Mr. Matthew’s Algebra II lecture, they were on how to beat the next opponent. We were consumed.

Coach was trying to make a point to us that life is fun and we need to make the most of it. That’s absolutely true and I’d like to share those words of wisdom with you.

Good and bad things are always going to happen, but we have to let the chips fall where they may and remember, above all else, baseball is fun.

So to Kyle, Merritt, Ruh, Dylan, Daves, Faz, Tyson, JoePa, Enkelmann, Nick, the Matt’s and everyone else: I have nothing but love.

To coach Sullivan, Bauer, Zumwalt and Cline: Respect.

And to everyone else, happy Opening Day 2010.

Sports Editor Matt L. Stephens can be reached at sports@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 1:37 pm

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