My Summer with the Ballplayer

So I haven’t written on here in a while. Why? Well I’ve been busy with my two jobs and I’ve not had a ton of time to write here. One of the jobs is at a bagel shop called JoMamma’s. It’s an upbeat place with a good crowd of people to work with. It’s an easy job, as I’m on my feet all the time, but it has been rewarding and a ton of fun. The other job is closer to what I wanna do for my career. I went back to intern for another summer with the Brewster Whitecaps and became the Everyman of the unit in a way. I prepped the field before the games, picked up the trash after the games, sold 50/50 tickets, drove myself to most away games, served as the backup writer, and live tweeted games whenever I needed. I had a more varied job set compared to last summer, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. And there was one more role I had with the team that was more important than the others I had. I hosted a player for the summer. 

The teams of the Cape League don’t put their players up in hotels or houses for the summer out of their own pockets, they likely wouldn’t be able to afford it. To make the season happen, the teams recruit locals to host the players for the summer. Yes, this means smelly baseball players who chew tobacco take over people’s houses for weeks on end. But it is completely worth having another person living in the house, or so I have heard many times over before the summer began. We learned about our player in late May, and he arrived early the next month. His name was Zach and all we learned was that he was a corner infielder from Asheville, North Carolina, and attended the University of North Carolina. It seemed promising at the outset. When Zach and his college roommate Logan arrived at the start of the season, it turned into the best summer possible. 

I had a roomie who was relaxed, entertaining, intelligent, and from a different world than me. It was a different enough pairing of people to make it fun. I had a roomie (well 2 if you count the times when Logan lips lepta over at my house and the fact that he kept his stuff at my house) who knew how make anyone laugh, competed harder than any person I know, and taught me things that I never thought I’d learn about. For example, I learned that collegiate athletes are both similar and dissimilar to regular college students in a number of interesting ways. Here’s a quick list of similarities:

  • Addicted to cellphones and social media.
  • Tons of selfies.
  • Loves Chipotle and other fast food places.
  • Car troubles dictate life choices.
  • Trash talking among friends is expected, especially when those friends go to rival schools.

And there’s more where these came from. But there’s also some important differences. They all boil down to one major difference: Zach and I are from different worlds. Collegiate athletes have their schedules rigidly scheduled down to the tiniest letter of the day by their program. They have workouts all throughout the days and required study halls and classes and then they have regular people time to socialize and meet people. Their lives are so much more scheduled than my college life was, and it is almost completely dictated by one thing: their sport of choice. 

It’s even more intense than just their day to day lives being structured. They have a serious chance to play this sport as a career and to do that is a whole thing in and of itself. They got to speak with and play in front of scouts from all over the country, and their stock at next year’s MLB draft was both positively improved this summer. They both will be drafted and play professional baseball. That is their main focus, ahead of their schoolwork. It’s striking to see people so focused on that one thing, especially seeing how physically demanding it is. 

Zach and Logan got beat up badly during the summer. Fouling balls off their feet and shins, diving all over the field, hard runs to track down baseballs, crashing into fences and teammates, and getting hit by 90+ mph fastballs are only a few things that the guys had to deal with. They frequently had to take baths with Epsom salts, wrap themselves in ice, and get in good health right before the next day. Their dedication was admirable and inspiring. All I could do was get them the support they needed and let them know that they had a man in their corner. 

Despite those massive differences, the ultimate lesson I found in all this was that they’re not actually that different from me. They’re talented baseball players and potential major leaguers, but they’re still regular guys who play Call of Duty, talk sports with the guys, watch Netflix, and talk about their dreams. They’re excellent guys, perfect gentlemen, and the opposite of every dumb jock stereotype devised. I rooted for the Whitecaps more fervently than I had before, but more specifically for the guys who were living with me. 

There was more tension when they batted and more concern when they limped after fouling a ball off their shin. There was also more satisfaction when they got a hit, made a defensive play, or scored a run. They were and still are brothers, not just friends. My mom felt like she had two more sons and was nervous an I’ve ever seen her at a sporting event. We loved hosting them and were sad when they had to leave! 

Logan left early after a he reaggrivated a hand injury. His coach wanted him to avoid more injury and get treatment back at Chapel Hill. Without his best friend and roomie around, Zach was still excellent to have around. But he had to leave eventually too. A week ago today, the Whitecaps were eliminated from the playoffs and the season ended. Fittingly, it was also Zach’s 21st birthday. 

He came home to a big birthday feast, including a proper cake, and we celebrated his fun summer on the Cape. He drove out the next day with another college teammate. It was bittersweet to watch him go home. I knew the summer was gonna end for him, but we wanted the season to go on a bit longer! A week after the season ended, the house is now empty, save for me, and it’s so quiet. I’m expecting Zach to show up any minute and give some quip about the game, the umpires, or say how terribly he played, expecting better of himself the next day. Instead, the house is quiet, except for when my parents are up. It’s jarring being home with no one else here, especially my friends on the team. It’s another example of life being ephemeral, as my high school theatre director, Mrs. Avery, always said. 

I miss the guys, the games, and the energy of the league. But I appreciate everything I had is summer so much. It’s been a week since the season ended and I have come understand how amazing this summer was. The players were such amazing guests, the games were fun and entertaining, and I have two new friends who just happen to be amazingly talented baseball players at one of the best baseball programs in the nation. I loved every second of it. 

Zach, Logan, thank you so much for living at my house this summer, I’m happy to have been a part of making your Summer’s possible. You two are always welcome to come to New England! And you have a family of New Englanders who are North Carolina baseball fans. Thank you my friends. I will follow you and support you in your attempts to make your dreams of playing Major League Baseball a reality. 

7 thoughts on “My Summer with the Ballplayer

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