I met Jake Fishman during my first few weeks at Union College, and he has been a major influence in my life ever since. Both of us being baseball players - and left-handed pitchers at that - an instant bond formed and continued to grow over time.
Being honest with myself, I know my upbringing wasn’t your average one for a kid such as me. Add to that some genetic differences, and college can be quite the experiment. Even with Jake’s support and guidance, my time as a student-athlete at Union College never went as I had originally planned way back when I had committed during my senior year of high school. Set back by a UCL tear that eventually led to Tommy John surgery at the end of freshman year, there was an inherent disconnect and isolation from the team. Additionally, as someone who thrives on competition and winning, this was my first time having to watch my team from the bench, and I had no idea how to handle it. As my time at Union progressed my priorities began to change. I felt stuck in the middle of two lives and unsure of which path to choose. On one hand I had dedicated my entire life to baseball and wanted to fulfill my promise on the field, and on the other I wanted to enjoy my time with friends, the fraternity that I had joined, and everything else that came with a typical college lifestyle. Let’s just say that the latter slowly but surely chose the path for me. Before long I found myself craving alcohol rather than the gym, and focused too much on enjoying the time I had left at Union rather than the years ahead of me afterward. All the meanwhile, that love and passion for baseball still lingered in the back of my mind.
Through all of this I battled episodes of anxiety and denial, telling myself that I was fine while knowing in the back of my mind that I was not, and not knowing how to do anything about it. It was a vicious cycle that took a toll on relationships with friends, affected my body and mind, and left me searching for answers time and again that always reverted back to just escaping it all by transferring and starting over.
With the help of friends and family, one day it clicked for me. However, this instant awakening doesn’t happen to everyone. I realized that I needed to make positive changes in my life in order to reach my post-graduating goals. I had to accept that I no longer had the talent to make a big impact on the field, but was willing to take a lesser role while still being an integral part of the team. I had to understand the sacrifices that people made to help me get to where I am today, and make sure that they were sacrifices made in the best interest of a brighter and more prosperous future.
For me, my time at Union has been a four-year learning experience. Learning a lot about me as a person, about life in general, and about the challenges that are faced by people with mental instability like myself who are unfamiliar with drastic changes or events happening in their life. Without the help of Jake and many others, I can’t really say whether it would have clicked for me before hitting the real world - but I’m sure glad it did.