Why am I doing this?

First, a little background. When I was in high school and college, my grandmother used to pray everyday that I would not pursue baseball. While she delighted in my success, she read the stories about professional athletes falling into lifestyles of promiscuity and drug and alcohol abuse. Knowing my level of maturity, I could have very well succumbed to these pressures. I am grateful for my grandmother’s prayers, and am also grateful that I quit baseball when I did.

For the last couple of years the thought of pitching again has crossed my mind. Not only am I now more mature (I hope), but there is much less professional risk involved. Had I dropped out of school and kicked around in the minors until I was 27–I would not be as “employable” as I am now. Dropping baseball meant completing college and graduate school, living overseas, and traveling extensively. Today, I am gainfully employed in a field I enjoy. I have a home, a wonderful wife, and two (soon three) beautiful children. These are great blessings.

The primary reason I am doing this now, however, is because I am responding to a challenge from a friend: the illustrious jazz musician Grant Dawson. Back in July, Grant and I and some other friends were at Applebee’s in Roseville. We were discussing my long nigh baseball career, and Grant said something to the effect of, “Well you’re only 31–this is the time to give it one last shot.” I realized he was right. If baseball and I were ever going to dance again, it had to be now.

A second reason why I’m doing this is my son, Charlie. He is only nineteen months old right now–but he already loves what he calls “bae-baw”. Someday, not too far off, I will be playing catch with him, and he will ask, “Dad, did you ever give it a shot?” I want to be able to tell him that I did.

A third reason I’m doing this because I want to prove to myself that I can. I have always had a facility for a variety of things. But I have never worked hard enough to truly excel in any one area. In general, excellence in athletics requires youth. For me, time is certainly running out (or, perhaps, has long run out). If I were to ever dedicate myself wholeheartedly to something athletic with any hope of legitimate success–this is it.

Finally, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I’d love to play professional baseball–even just a few weeks in the minor leagues. And as a Twins fan, it is certainly easy to daydream of running out to the mound of Target Field as a situational lefty, and having Joe Mauer call the pitches.

When I come back to reality, I realize that I’m doing this because I want to have some major league scout watch me pitch and say something like this: “Olson, if you had come out here throwing like that when were twenty, we would have signed you. But you’re 32 now, and it just doesn’t make much sense for us to sign you.” If that happens, I will be incredibly satisfied.

If it doesn’t, then I will at least have given it a go–and I’ll be in excellent shape. And one day, when I’m playing catch with my son and he asks me if I gave it a shot, I can tell him honestly that I did. Too little, too late? We’ll see, I guess. But a shot all the same.


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