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Finding the right fit

Tyler Norris

Nobody ever told me that I wasn’t good enough to do something. I never had a lack of confidence when it came to playing sports. They seemed to come easy to me. But baseball was like riding a bike. I was never cocky though, anything I felt about myself I kept to myself. My parents always taught me to be humble and I was, but that never meant I couldn’t believe I was the best each time I stepped out on that field. Freshman year of college everything changed. I endured the hardest time of my life, and that was when I knew talent didn’t mean much in baseball.

Before entering college, I graduated from Wildwood Catholic High. I graduated with a class of only 45 students. In that time, I was captain of our baseball team for all four years and a lot was expected of me. I ended high school with a career .512 batting average and had thrown the most strikeouts in our school’s history. I was the big fish in a little pond. At graduation, I decided to attend Drew University with an opportunity to start as a Freshman outfielder and relief pitcher. Everything seemed great until that first day of fall ball. I remember our first test, the 60-yard dash. I was always the quickest player from my hometown and knew it was one of the reasons I was recruited to play at Drew. I ended up with the 4th best time on the team and my heart immediately dropped. It was a hard pill to swallow. I was always the quickest guy, and I always knew there was no one quicker than me, but all of a sudden that all changed. The next test was velocity from the outfield, and I knew that I had a great arm. There was no doubt in my mind that I could throw farther and harder than any other outfielder, I mean, hell, I was also a pitcher. Next thing I knew I was third on the team in velocity. Once again, I was in shock. I couldn’t understand what it was like to not be the “man”. I never understood how to take a backseat and realize this isn’t “my team” or that I may not be the best player on the team. I felt lost and that only hurt me throughout the rest of my freshman year. 

I couldn’t explain what happened next. I couldn’t hit, I was taking awful routes in the outfield, and even dropped three balls during a preseason game. I was doing things I’ve never done in my entire life, and I couldn’t explain why it was happening. To this day, I still remember being put into games and just praying that I didn’t make a mistake. I wasn’t playing the baseball I was accustomed to. Even worse, my coaches didn’t believe in me. The older guys told me one night that all the coaches were talking me up before I even got there, and that I was the farthest thing from what they were told they were getting. I lost all of my confidence and fell out of love with the game. In a matter of one year, I fell out of love with something that I originally wanted to do for my entire life. I was embarrassed, heartbroken, and depressed. I felt as though I had wasted the past 12 years of my life on baseball and just like that, I was done with it. Eventually, I realized that maybe it wasn’t me. Maybe I just wasn’t where I was meant to be. 

Following that year, I chose to transfer. I decided that I needed to go somewhere where I was on the same playing field as everyone else, where I could be me. At the time I was looking to transfer, Cabrini University was just starting a baseball program and I already had friends there so I thought it would be a good fit. I wasn’t recruited, and there were no expectations. I emailed Coach W and I explained to him who I was. I told him I had collegiate experience and was recruited by some schools he knew of. He explained to me that I’d still have to “tryout.” Well, I never tried out for anything in my life. I came from a small town and everyone knew who I was, but I had to grow up and face the facts. Sophomore year came and it was time for a change. I walked into that first baseball meeting not knowing a single person and no one knew who I was. As I walked in and saw a sign-in list, I couldn’t help but notice I was one of two people on that list that had “walk on” next to their name. Out of 40 kids, mostly freshman, I was literally one of two people known as a walk on, even though I was told “everyone” had to try out. I went from being one of the best players from New Jersey in high school with college playing experience to a “walk on” at a brand new division 3 baseball program; talk about a chip on my shoulder. It was time to just be me and prove to everyone else that I was the best player on that field. After everything I endured, there was a part of me that knew I could be the best on that field every day and finally that fire was lit. I made the team after the first 15 minutes of practice. Shortly after, I was named starting 1st basemen, and was batting third in the lineup for our first scrimmage. That first scrimmage I went 4-5 with three doubles, a single, and two stolen bases. I was finally me again, and I was loving the game of baseball. That previously found confidence followed me through that first year. To my surprise, halfway through the year I was batting .515 and received a text message from my old coach at Drew University. He told me that he was happy for me and could honestly say that he was completely wrong about me. He said he was sorry that he gave up on me. And the truth is that he was wrong, but I was also the one who lost confidence in myself. At the end of the day he was the bigger man and I was very grateful for that. 

My success continued at Cabrini, I was an all-conference player, recorded the most hits in Cabrini history, and took a team that started at 10-32 to a 31-11 record with an AEC championship. So, to all the big fish in a little pond, you’re going to eventually have a reality shock, but fight through it. Endure through the hardest times because they only last for so long. Baseball is a game of much more than just talent. 70% of the game is mental, the rest is hard work. Always remember to believe in yourself no matter what because if you don’t, then why should anyone else?

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