The Easy Way Out? A Personal Narrative. Part 1: The Low Point
By JD Biagioni
This is a three-part series of stories by me, JD Biagioni, as part of WZBC Sports’ efforts to expand our website content beyond just game stories. Enjoy the story!
They say that you should never take the easy way out. Well, sometimes what appears like the easy way out isn’t so easy after all. And sometimes, it can be the right way out.
On June 29, 2015 I thought I had finished my baseball career when my Cubs lost to the Giants in the Babe Ruth Town Championship. I’d been playing baseball for as long as I could remember. Two years with the Lookouts, two with the Express, three with the Cardinals, one with the Marlins, and two with the Cubs. It was the game I loved.
But now I was burnt out. The fire inside had been slowly dying for years. Defense was always my specialty, but I had switched positions from second base to center field and was struggling mightily (turns out this was an early indication that I’d need glasses for distance vision). I wasn’t hitting well either, I took pride in rarely striking out, but that started to happen more often. For the first time in my career, I was a bench player, surpassed by the younger, more talented kids.
I was also the quiet kid and the kid who went to the Catholic high school in town when all my teammates went to public school. So I wasn’t that close with any of my teammates. I got along well with all of them, but I didn’t have that special baseball brothers type bond with any of them. One of my best friends, a kid who I’d played baseball with since day one, was on the team, but I didn’t even feel too close to him anymore.
Don’t get me wrong I loved my coaches and teammates; in fact my Cubs coach was one of the best I’d ever had and is probably a big reason why I didn’t give up playing baseball that season. But, overall, I just didn’t feel like I fit in anymore. And my passion and love for the game was dwindling.
I remember being out at second base for the final inning of the 5-0 loss to the Giants counting down the outs until I could go home and start my summer vacation. The game ended, I thanked my coaches, and I took off my spikes for what I thought was the last time.
That winter, the email came. It was from the Arlington Babe Ruth directors, and it said that the league had voted to change the maximum age from 16 to 17. There was one catch: all 17-year olds would have to play in the intermediate league, aka the minor leagues. I had another shot to play, but did I really want to? Not really.
In the end I decided to give the game one more go-round, but I had a decision to make. Did I want to try out for JV high school baseball or play intermediate league baseball? I’m sure there were people who were disappointed I chose the minor leagues over JV, but I couldn’t play high school baseball. I was on the Arlington Catholic freshman team, and that killed my passion a whole lot quicker than town ball ever did. Hour-long bus rides to play a couple innings for a team I definitely didn’t fit in with made for a long couple of months during the spring of my freshman year.
Going back to the minors, where I played my first year of Babe Ruth with the Marlins before being drafted by the Cubs, was probably called “the easy way out,” but it felt like the right move. I put my name in the draft pool and went to tryouts, and I killed it (granted there were like 100 13-year olds and seven or eight 17-year olds, but, hey, I needed any kind of moral victory at the time).
On draft day I honestly thought I’d get picked first overall by the expansion Cardinals, which seemed like an interesting challenge. Instead, I was taken second by my former team the Marlins. I played for them during my 13-year old year, and it was the last time I remembered having fun playing baseball. The roster was completely different four years later, but I was excited to see my old coaches and at least a tiny bit excited to see where this next, and presumably final, chapter in my playing career led.