Wednesday, August 5, 2009

When Dreams Come True

Ana Aragón



This post comes as no surprise to those of you who know I’ve been living on Cloud Nine ever since my son was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 29th round of the MLB draft in June. Mark is proof positive that dreams do come true.

Before you non-baseball-loving writers X-out, I promise there is some correlation in what I’m about to impart about Mark’s baseball career path and writing. So please indulge me.

Mark is my happy-go-lucky kid—sweet, talented and very handsome (see picture.) But his path to the ranks of a professional baseball career looks more like a corn maze than an asphalt highway across Texas.

For one, he quit baseball at age 9 because it just wasn’t fun anymore. We convinced him to give it one more try, and his Little League All-Star team took third place in the Texas state tournament. Set hook and yank.

Mark is a great pitcher but, except for high school, has never been “projectable” enough. His fastball rarely touches 90, he isn’t a lefty (darn it), and he isn’t 6’5” (sorry, my fault.) All Mark has ever done is throw strikes and get guys out.

He’s been blessed to play for some very good teams. He was the last player selected for a premier team out of the East Cobb program in Marietta, Georgia, named the number one 16-year-old team in the entire country by Baseball America. His job on that team was to pick up stray innings here and there; to help with the boredom, he decided to be the official dugout Gatorade bottle collector.

As a sophomore, he was cut from his high school team for choosing to play summer ball in East Cobb (see above.) Because this is a violation of Georgia high school sports rules, he was transferred to another county high school, where he made the record books; he still holds the career ERA record.

He got a scholarship to play baseball at Birmingham-Southern College; after two years, the program was decimated when they decided to drop Division I sports to field a Division III football team (amazing, huh?) He then received a partial scholarship to play at the University of Memphis, injured his back, and got a medical redshirt.

Southern Polytechnic State U took a chance he’d be healthy and gave him a small scholarship; he paid them back with a combined record of 21-3 in two seasons, a Conference Pitcher of the Year award, and helped them to a 5th place showing at the NAIA World Series this summer.

Through all the ups and downs, he’s kept his head high, believing that if you get guys out, you have a positive outlook, and you never give up, you’ll get your chance.

In June, his name was called and he headed to Clearwater, Florida for rookie ball. At the Tampa airport, he pulled a muscle in his back and spent the next ten days on the Disabled List, pitched in relief for four games before coming down with a terrible upper respiratory viral infection, sidelining him for another week. Not a place you want to be, especially when you have to compete for innings with much younger, high-school pitchers who’ve been paid several hundred thousand dollars to forego college and play baseball.

But Mark has been taking it in stride; as of Monday this week, he’d pitched 10.1 innings (a great dollars/inning salary, I remind him) and had a 0.89 ERA. He knows he is blessed to have been drafted and that there are many others who would gladly trade places with him at a moment’s notice. The silver lining? He got to meet his idol, Pedro Martinez, this summer and he’s made some great friends.

Mark realizes that the chances of him getting to pitch one inning at the MLB level is like getting struck by lightning; but as a pitcher at the lowest level of professional baseball, he’s a whole lot closer than most. His dream may be cut short tomorrow, next week, or next year. He hopes it happens in twenty years. But at least he can say, “I did my best and I never gave up.”

So how does this story translate to writing, you ask?

We are all on the path of making it into the big leagues. Some of us are still playing rec league ball, some of us are on the travel team, and some of us have experienced success at the next level by winning contests. We’ve tasted success, but we haven’t hit the professional leagues yet.

Some of us may be at the lower levels of the professional league—maybe we’re published by a small press or an e-publisher. Maybe we’ve made it to AAA—we’re multi-published, but we just haven’t hit the big time.

We have very little control over what happens in our career—not in baseball, not in publishing and, certainly, not in life. But what we can control is our attitude and how prepared we are for the next step. You may still be at the rec level, trying to decide if you have the talent to move up. You may have made that step up to the travel team, but you’re the one picking up Gatorade bottles in the dugout, waiting for your chance to prove your worth. You may have experienced success and recognition at the next level, but are waiting for “The Call”.

Making the NYT list is like being struck by lightning. You’ve got to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right book, and most of us will never make it. But there’s nothing wrong with making it to travel ball, or to the lowest level of the professional leagues. Making it to the next level requires hard work, a positive outlook, and a desire in your heart to never give up.

There is one thing for certain—you’ll never get a hit if you never step up to the plate. So where are you on this journey to make your dream come true? And what are your next steps to give yourself the best chance of making it happen?

26 comments:

Sandy Elzie said...

Ana,
First, congrats again to Mark and to his family who lovingly support & encourage him and never give up on him. We all need that in our lives.

Secondly, you are absolutely correct about never giving up, always thinking positively and how, even with talent, it takes the right book at the right time going to the right person for "The Call" to happen.

I've published in a small press, but that doesn't mean I'm not trying out for the big league. Some days I feel like I'm picking up Gatoraid bottles, but really, I'm just practicing picking up the bat to swing. That's the key...never give up and keep swinging. A publisher can't buy a manuscript that isn't finished any more than he can publish a manuscript that he never sees.

Great post to encourage us today.

Sandy

Debbie Kaufman said...

Ana: Love Mark's story and it's implications for life and writing were quite clear. Thanks for sharing this.

Marilyn Baron said...

I love that line, "You'll never get a hit if you don't step up to the plate." Congratulations to your son and thank you for the very relevant life/writing lesson.

Marilyn Baron

Sally Kilpatrick said...

Ana,

What a well thought out piece, and we all need the encouragement to not give up. As a baseball fan, I really liked the analogy.

Congrats to Mark and the entire family, and may he find every success. Greg Maddux wasn't known for throwing exceptionally fast either, but he pitched smart. : )

Sally

Ana Aragón said...

Hey, ladies! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. Sandy, your comment is so true...a publisher can't buy a manuscript that isn't finished or one that he never sees!

Debbie, thanks for your kind comments about Mark.

Marilyn, that baseball comment is one I've heard many times, and boy is it true! Thanks for stopping by~

Ana Aragón said...

Hi, Sally,

Thanks so much for your kind comments. I'm glad you liked the analogy...as a baseball fan, too, I think baseball provides us with lots of lessons about life!

And really, it is about not ever giving up. Mark is my inspiration for my writing. At any point in his career, he could have given up, but he could no more give up baseball than I can give up writing.

Now I just have to remember that!

Ana

Linsey Lanier said...

Ana,

Thanks so much for an inspiring post. I need to hear this right now. Mark's story is one to remember when the going gets tough (which is a lot of the time, in writing, LOL). When hubby watches baseball, I'll think of this post and remember to press on.

Linsey

Anna Steffl said...

This is such a fantastic and inspiring analogy. I'm a baseball fan. The players make it look so easy, graceful, intuitive that most of us never realize how dang hard it is to play even little league. I think the same is so true for writing. Lots of people read books and because the writer is so good, it looks effortless to write. But start to write (or try to pitch a ball anywhere near the plate from THAT distance) and boy oh boy... you realize that it isn't an overnight process.

Congratulations to your son (and to you, too...for giving him that nudge when he needed it).

Susan May said...

Wonderful psot! Mark is handsome Do keep us posted on his career. You're right, we have to keep moving forward all the time. We don't know what great things are out there for us. Believing it is possible makes the difference.

Ana Aragón said...

Linsey, thanks for stopping by and I'm glad it was something you needed to hear right now! When I complain that "the muse" isn't with me, I think of Mark stepping on that rubber when he doesn't have his "stuff" that day and is facing the #1 team in the conference! No matter what, we have to toe that rubber and make the pitch!

Anna, you're right on! And that's why you can tell a pro from a Little Leaguer...they make it look so easy, and so do those multi-published, NYT authors. But we forget how many rejections and how many hours they've spent working on their craft. If we want to make the big leagues, we have to put in the time.

Susan, he is handsome, isn't he? I know you'd get it! We just have to keep plugging along in our writing, because quitting isn't an option!

Ana

Kathy Otten said...

I love baseball, though I'm a Red Sox fan. Congratulations to your son, I wish him well, to stay strong and injury free. Sports always make good analogies, because you do have to work hard and never give up to reach your dreams.

Ana Aragón said...

Kathy,

Thanks so much for stopping by! I agree; sports always make good analogies. (btw...two of my kids are huge Red Sox fans...including Mark!) Thanks for your good wishes.

Ana

Tammy Schubert said...

Congratulations to Mark and his family! His story is an inspiration to those of us still finding our way.

Ana Aragón said...

Thanks, Tammy! I feel like you've been there with us!

Ana

Nicki Salcedo said...

Ana, proof that a good writer can find inspiration anywhere. Even (especially) the baseball diamond. I hope many happy times are ahead for you and your family.

Ana Aragón said...

Nicki,

Thanks! We're hoping for success on both fronts!

Tami Brothers said...

Hey Ana,

Ditto for me on Susan's comment. Mark is a cutey!

Great post and I love the analogy. I agree that if you don't get it out there, how can they buy it. I really need to work on that!!!

Thanks for keeping us posted on Mark's progress. I had no idea he'd hurt his back. I hope everything works out for him and am very impressed with his maturity level and good attitude. I hope I can raise my son to be that smart about life!

Tami

CiCi Barnes said...

Now, that was a post close to my heart. I LOVE baseball: minor league, major league, little league. Doesn't matter. I can't wait to see Mark come up to the plate for his bat so I can scream "I know his mom!"

Congrats to Mark and all the family on this momentous point in his life. Kudos to him for his perseverence.

And now, I have the strangest urge to go write.

Great post, Ana. Thanks for the reminder to keep on keepin' on.

CiCi

Ana Aragón said...

Hi, Tami,
Thanks for your kind words. He's a pretty special guy! I hope it inspires you to keep writing, because I want to be the first to congratulate you on making it to the next step!

Thanks, CiCi, and I'm so glad it gave you the urge to write tonight! And thank goodness he's in the National league and can FINALLY bat when he makes it to the bigs! He hasn't been near a bat in five years.

Ana

Leslie Ann Dennis said...

WOW!! First, may I just say, you sure made a little hot tamale there! LOL! He's such a cutie!! On his looks alone, he's bound to have a HUGE fan base -- Fo'shizzle!

I love your comparison too. You're right. Right time, right place -- and you gotta be like Mark and never give up on that dream, no matter how much $%*t is thrown your way. I'm proud of you and that son of yours!

Ana Aragón said...

Hi, Leslie!
Thanks for stopping by and leaving your 2 cents worth! I'm pretty proud of him, too!

Maxine Davis said...

Ana,

Congratulations to you and Mark! It's always wonderful to see someone's dream come true.

I liked your analogy to writing. It takes practice, being there, being lucky and being very good at your heart's desire.

Keep us posted on Mark and yes, I'm going to watch the Phillies.

Katie said...

What an awesome story, Ana!

In the words of Galaxy Quest... "Never give up, never surrender!"

Writing 'happened' to me by accident, but now, now I MUST write. What began as something to amuse my sister became 'what I wanted to do with the rest of my life' or at least one of the things I want to do.

The blog above yours is about dreams. I read that first, so now, both these topics are on my mind.

Anything you can see yourself doing, you can.

Baby steps work better than grand leaps for most of us at least. (I have one friend for whom this is not true.)

When life gets all topsy turvy, the road bumpy, everything spinning, and you need several more hands to keep them going, you know amazing things are just around the corner.

Gina Ardito said...

What an inspiring story, Ana! Congrats to Mark and to the rest of his family for never giving up on the dream. It's definitely a lesson for writers everywhere.

I'm not good with Gatorade, but I make a mean cup of coffee...

Ana Aragón said...

Maxine,

Thanks...and so true! Practice, being there and being lucky! Let's hope that dream continues!

Hey, Katie,

Thanks for stopping by and, you're right, you know it's the right dream when it consumes you. Dreams don't happen in a vacuum. If you can't see yourself doing it, you're probably not. I'm waiting for that world to go topsy-turvy on me!

Hey, Gina!

Thanks for the kind words. He's a pretty special kid. I'm pretty good with the coffee myself!

Ana

Mary Marvella said...

Having our dreams come true is wonderful. Having our kids' dreams come true is even more wonderful!