Every day, for one whole summer, I got a call from a junior college baseball coach, asking if I would play for the school. That was the beginning of my baseball career. I wasn’t planning on playing baseball in college. After two years of junior hockey, I decided that I was going to play volleyball at the University of Manitoba. Hockey was my favorite sport, volleyball was my best sport and baseball was a hobby sport.
John Smith, the head baseball coach of Boone DMACC, was that persistent coach who called all summer.
“Hi, this is Joooooohn Smith from Boone, Iowa. I am calling to invite you to play baseball for our program,” he said. He sure did talk funny. It was kind of a cross between helium balloon talk and plugging your nose. Being Canadian, we thought Americans spoke funny.
I was super confused. How did this guy get my name? Did he see me play somewhere?
“Oh, cool… ummmm…where is Boone, Iowa?” I answered. I knew where Iowa was, but I was biding my time, pondering the appropriate response.
“We are south of you son. Bob Ciemkowski of the Reds told me you could play a little, and I should have you in my program,” Coach Smith responded.
“Thanks, Mr.Smith, but I am going to play volleyball,” I replied.
”VOLLEYBALL!! THERE AIN’T NO MEN THAT PLAY VOLLEYBALL!” he bellowed.
”In Canada, there is. So, thank you, but I am not interested,” I responded politely hoping not to offend.
We exchanged some pleasantries, and then I hung up. I thought that was the last time I would hear from John Smith from Boone Iowa.
The next day, I was outside working on the farm, and my mom yells, ” COREY, PHONE!”
I come running in, and pick up the phone. ”Hi this is Jooooohn Smith from Boone, Iowa. Are you still playing that volleyball?” he said.
This was our daily routine for the next 60 days. He was relentless!
I weighed the pros and cons.
- I had a scholarship to play volleyball. If I went to school in Iowa, I would have to take out a student loan.
- All my best buddies were playing volleyball at the University of Manitoba. I only knew one guy, that I played against from Manitoba, Cam Croy, that was going to Boone.
- On top of that, I was going to play the American Pastime. I had hardly ever played baseball.
What do I do?
I was torn. When I played baseball, I loved it, but I loved playing volleyball, too. I did play a lot of volleyball throughout the years, and, I guess, I was starting to get a little burned out. It was such a tough decision.
I went back and forth. I tried to put off my decision as long as possible. I was confused, and it came down one August morning. The night before that, I was sick to my stomach. The next thing I did was kind of weird, and out of character for me at that time of my life. I have no idea why I did it. When everybody went to bed, I grabbed my Cooper wood bat and went outside. I went to the middle of our yard (we lived in the country, so the yard was five acres), got down on my knees, looked up to the sky and prayed for direction.
I woke up the next morning, and I had a clear mind. I was going to play baseball. This decision was a 180, to say the least. I was going to be away from all my friends, and everything I knew.
I told my parents that I was going to go to Boone. The next step was to go to the bank and apply for a student loan. I was approved. Off I went to Boone, Iowa!
One week later, my parents and I drove for 12 hours to, officially, start my baseball career. When I showed up to the park for morning practice, I was overwhelmed by the number of ball players. There was close to 90 on the field.
”I am ok, because the coach really wants me. He called me every day,” I reassured myself.
I made my rounds and talked to some of the players. There were guys from Canada, Netherlands, Australia, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota and Minnesota. The common theme: Coach Smith called ALL OF THEM EVERYDAY! What did I do!!?? After practice, we went to the hotel. I was upset.
My mom asked me what is wrong.
”I want to go home,” I said fighting back the tears.
”Why?” Mom asked.
”I made a mistake. I shouldn’t be here,” I told my parents. I had so many emotions and thoughts running through my head. I was in the middle of corn fields chasing the American dream with a Canadian tire glove and Adidas soccer cleats.
”Why don’t you give it one more day?” she said.
I agreed to that.
The next day, we scrimmaged. I noticed a player with a gold M on his hat. That looks like a Team Manitoba hat.
I went up to him and said, ” Where did you get the hat?”
”I traded some dude for it,” he responded.
”Where are you from?” I inquired.
”Nova Scotia,” he said.
Huh, I had an NS hat. Eight weeks earlier, I traded hats with a guy at a national tournament I was participating in.
I took off my hat and showed him the initials on the inside of the bill, CF.
”Do you know this guy?” I asked.
”Yeah that’s me, Curtis Falls,” he responded in shock.
He took off his hat, showed me the initials under his cap. Guess what initials he had? CK.
”No way!” I said.
What are the chances that the guy I traded hats with would end up in Boone, Iowa with me?
That day went much better than the first. I even got a couple of hits in the game we played and found a couple of guys that seemed cool. I decided to stay.
What I learned as an athlete
When I don’t know what to do, or I feel lost, pray.
There were many times during my career where I felt overwhelmed by a situation. I would focus on one day at a time and try to feel a little bit better every day.
How I applied what I learned to business
As the leader of my organization, there were many days I wanted to quit and walk away. I was overwhelmed, taking money out of our family savings account to make sure the employees got their paycheck. I had to tell myself, often, to just take it one day at a time.
How I apply it to youth sports
I take a bigger approach. Being good is hard, and life is hard. We are going to come into situations where every bone in our body is going to want to quit. We are going to hit many hurdles. There will be sadness and tragedy in our lives. The only way I know to battle though this is one day at a time.