This is my last post for the season
I’ll keep it short and sweet.
Friends, readers, trolls, and fellow Cards fam: this is my last post for the season. I love the storytelling corner you all have given me on VEB, and I hope to contribute again soon, so think of this as just the off-season.
I always knew that Cardinal nation = BFIB, but I completely underestimated how amazing and enjoyable being part of the VEB community has been. So, please (do not read this as high school classmate signing a yearbook but as that college buddy you hope to grab a beer with at homecoming) keep in touch.
Twitter. Mention VEB so I can follow you back and continue discussing/dissecting the baseball life.
Email: gronsky.jake at gmail dot com (we spell it out so when the bots take over the world, they won’t take over our inbox)
I thank you all for your ear, the privilege of telling stories to an audience who feel more like a community than readers, and I thank you all for the opportunity.
This last story is more of a reflection.
Beyond that, it’s my hope.
The game was at St. Joes University in early May as a late Philadelphia winter decided to stick around. Thirty-five degrees felt like ten. Sleeting rain. Bitter cold wind. But due to a modern advancement in the turf industry, the plastic field became the only entity on the planet that wanted to keep this game alive. The umpires said to have no grounds to postpone (lie). By the second pitch of the game, hail pelted the bleachers whittling the crowd from a hovering five to a definitive zero.
To top it off, they put up about a dozen runs in the first two innings. I lost track of score after the second home run. My hands went numb around that time, too.
We left the field and put the game behind us. I completed my senior year and watched the draft come and go. I was left out. Undrafted. My last chance—over. So, I received a small opportunity with an independent ball team to play for a few weeks while their second baseman was hurt. It was all the time I needed, I said. That night, I left for Joliet, Illinois to prove to thirty teams that they made a mistake. I said was going to pull myself from the dirt and make it to the top without anyone’s help. Against all odds, I was going to do it alone.
Two weeks later, I proved my worth, and I received a phone call from the St. Louis Cardinals that changed my life.
It’s a familiar story. One of little importance. One that is entirely incorrect.
The self-made, bootstrapping narrative is a great story to exemplify a mentality: you can pull yourself from any circumstance. But hard work, discipline, and a steadfast approach do not give you success. They give you integrity. I believe dedicating yourself to these principals are more important than any material gain, but to say they are the reason for your achievement is arrogant.
It spits on the people who believed in you when no one else did. It forgets about the second, third, fourth chance at a marriage that you didn’t deserve. It washes away the friend who let you stay on his couch when the bank foreclosed. And it forgets about the man in his car watching a college baseball game while hail pelted his windshield.
The self-made story forgets a man named Sean Moran.
I didn’t hear this story until years later preparing for Spring Training with a local college. It was their Scout Day, the day professional teams come to campus to evaluate the roster, and I had just finished my daily workout. I head towards the dugout. He stood on the steps. I walked right by.
“Jake,” The head coach strikes a conversation with the man and waves me over. “Let me introduce you to Sean Moran.”
I’ve never felt so terrible on a baseball field than that moment. I knew the name like it was my own. I prayed for that name. Thanked that name. Talked to him twice, once before the draft and once after. But I never met him.
He was the St. Louis Cardinals scout who gave me the call.
Laughs and hugs make up for my ignorance, and we talk Cardinals baseball as he prepares to search for the next prospect. We talked about my first year, the success, the failures, the future. Then he asks me about the past—the draft, independent ball—and the chip on my shoulder does the rest of the talking. Finally, he asks if I knew when he decided to send my draft card to the front office—to make me a Cardinal? I laugh. Of course, I had no idea.
He told me it was a game of sleeting rain, a blow-out score, and a Philadelphia may that felt like winter. A game he watched Monmouth University play St. Joseph’s University from his car in the right-field field parking lot.
Now, I think about that story a lot. Sean saw the best in me when I felt like I was standing—freezing—alone on a field as the sky only seemed to darken and swirl around me. He saw the person I could be rather than the circumstance.
At our worst, we need people who will weather the storm and see our best.
They are the ones who matter. They are the ones who show us how great we can be, no matter how dark things appear.
They are the ones who make dreams come true.
My hope is I can be that for someone else.