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Tough Love MAG
What do I love?
I love to drag myself from under the covers at 5 a.m. To yank my eyelids open. To jog through the zero-degree chill wearing four shirts. To feel the biting cold attack my unprotected face. To hum the “Rocky” theme all the way around the block.
I love to whack the snot out of baseballs in my garage before school. Crack-Thump. Crack-Thump. Crack-Thump. The ball rockets off the batting tee and pummels the rug hanging from the ceiling.
I love arriving at the weight room after school and hitting the iron. Lift after lift, set after set, pound after pound. Don’t give in! I scold myself. One more rep. Squats, lunges, bench presses. I take out all my frustrations on that barbell. Nothing else matters at that moment. All the way up. Come on, suck it up, let’s go! I love demanding 500 crunches from my stomach after lifting. Rock-hard abs won’t come without sacrifice. Another 50 – don’t surrender!
I love running suicides. Start at the baseline of the court. Back and forth. Back and forth. Lungs about to collapse; can’t breathe. Keep going. One hundred and ten percent all the way. Ignore the agony. Back and forth. Back and forth.
I love stretching to finish a workout. Knees wobbling, too exhausted to stand. Shower, bus home, dinner, homework, bed. No time to mess around.
I love plastering inspirational quotes in my locker, constant reminders of my ultimate mission: to be the best I can be.
I love getting up at five the next morning to do it all over again.
I love the springtime, being outside, the season starting. I love fielding grounders, taking real batting practice, getting my uniform dirty.
I love hearing the click-clack of metal cleats on cement. I love the refreshing smell of athletic tape, the soft aroma of tanned leather, and the soothing scent of freshly cut grass. I love watching all those mornings of ice and darkness turn to sunshine and the refreshing sounds of birds chirping. I love feeling zero degrees and biting wind become 60 with a refreshing breeze. The weather changed, but I did not. I love to change my voice from self-berating to self-applauding. You deserve this. You’ve worked for it. This guy is meat.
I love to stare the pitcher down, to pretend to know something he doesn’t. To expect the fast ball. Here comes the heater, wait, wait, now! A vicious swing, and the ball launches off the bat. I love hustling to first, knowing the right fielder’s not going to catch it. Rounding second, heading for third. I love a head-first dive, sneaking a hand past the tag, being safe by inches or less. I love a triple.
I love to play the field, to react to the ball off the bat, to lay out to catch a line drive. Dive! Squeeze! To hear the sweet awakening thud of ball against cowhide. I love skidding on the coarse infield dirt, clutching the pearly white ball.
I love cheering on teammates, watching us succeed after a torturous winter of workouts. I love slapping hands after a victory, knowing we deserve it, laughing at each other’s bad jokes, cleaning out the dugout.
I love one thing, one feeling, one secret most of all. It can’t be transferred, sold, or traded. I can’t measure, see, or hear it. Very few people can fully comprehend it. Many people have never even felt it and never will. But I do, and I have. I am addicted to it like a drug.
Most of all, I love the private knowledge that I gave it my all. Gave 100 percent all day, every day. Didn’t fret about things I couldn’t control. Didn’t whine, didn’t slack, didn’t give up. Didn’t protest, moan, or complain. Didn’t feel sorry for myself. Didn’t quit. It was my choice to do this, after all.
I hit my triple during the game, but I earned it in December by hitting in the frigid garage and running suicides. I made an acrobatic catch in the fifth inning, but I really made it in January by banging out that last squat in the weight room. I have taught myself an invaluable lesson, not about baseball, but about life. I don’t care if the odds are against me. I have found out how to master my emotions. I’ve discovered how to leave nothing in the tank.
At the end of the winter, I had beaten all the negative voices and demons telling me to stop, instead only listening to the encouraging ones. The mental battle was won. My mind was transformed. I would not accept failure. I defeated those dumbbells. I owned that rug in the garage. And I whooped that gym floor. But what I really conquered was myself.