by cam smith
Benjamin Bennett was celebrating his 22nd birthday the same day of the Major League Baseball draft. A few days earlier his agent had called him and informed him that he was “ninety nine percent sure” Ben would be drafted in the top ten, top five probably, he had said. Benjamin Bennett had been a young baseball prodigy. A genius. The son of a retired professional baseball player and a softball player, baseball was in his genes. Ever since he could walk, Ben had been playing baseball and had broken all of his middle school and high school’s home run records. He had then received a full ride to a University and had become a hero there as well. Many found Ben’s athletic success to be unfair because of all the opportunities that arose from having a father who was a retired professional athlete. However, talent did not lie and Ben possessed plenty of it when it when it came to sports, especially baseball. Today he was getting ready to be chosen by a professional team at the draft. They would celebrate his birthday together with his top ten pick, according to his father. He got dressed in his best suit and headed out with his parents and his fiancée, Lydia. That night, Ben was drafted first pick. He had not seen it coming. He knew he had been the rookie to watch, but first pick? The Bennett family was thrilled. It had been the best night of his life so far and he was so excited to begin his career in Seattle.
Three years passed, and Benjamin Bennett was now an already burned out 25-year-old. The last two years had proved to be the worst years in his entire career, from middle school onward, so far. He didn’t know what had happened. The first year had been such a good year. He had won rookie of the year and had signed a very expensive contract. But at the beginning of the second season, the pressure had grown and Ben found that he couldn’t play at the same level he always had. He felt tired faster, he struck out often, to the point where he didn’t even start anymore and had become a bench player. The third year had been the same. In short, Ben had not accomplished anything in the last year, sports wise at least. In his family life, he had married his girlfriend Lydia, and had become a father to their now eight-month son Jack. These were the highlights of his last two years and the only things that kept him from falling into a deep depression. He did not understand what had happened to him. He had been seeing a sports psychologist who told him that maybe he couldn’t handle the pressure of his own success. Ben didn’t know if that was true because he had always been successful. And it wasn’t because he didn’t feel like playing anymore. It was just that he felt like he was dragging himself to work every day and becoming more and more frustrated by his lack of performance. His coach was frustrated as well as his team.
One night, he was laying in his bed after putting his son to sleep. He and Lydia were discussing his career and she pointed out something he had never really thought of. Baseball had always come easily to him. He didn’t know how to be bad at it because he always knew how to correct himself. He had always been in a positive environment where he was celebrated and treated as a hero, but now in the hostile cut throat environment that was the Pro league, he didn’t know how to work hard by himself with no one but his family believing in him. One might say he had even been “babied” by his previous coaches, his father, and his agent, even some of his fans. Now, the fans were hostile, the pressure was on, and the coaches easily frustrated. Ben had to learn how to adjust to this environment and how to work hard. He would not give up. He couldn’t. Baseball was all he had ever known.
That summer, Ben worked hard as if coming back from an injury. In a way, he was, except that the injury was in his confidence. He pushed himself past his limits, tuning out the negative comments of the media and the opposing fans. By the season’s beginning he was a new man. Maybe not at the same level he once was, but he was more confident and working his way up. He even hit a home run a few games into the season. Ben was learning how to deal with defeat and reverse it. He would not give up