Tough Love This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 5 comments. Post your own now!

Katie D. said...
Mar. 6, 2010 at 9:54 am
This story is so inspiring...I have once felt that feeling that its an addiction like a drug. And lately I've lost that feeling and with out it I feel lost in life just trying to find my way back as soon as I can. This may have really helped me too, thanks!
Hannah B. said...
Mar. 20, 2009 at 8:44 pm
Great work! I love your story. I too am a sports fan and I loved reading your story.
cantquitnakea said...
Nov. 6, 2008 at 10:33 pm
..... i like this very much.... as a girl ppl say itsw wird that i care about sporst so much... but you are my type of personn!!!! ngood job
Sitav said...
Aug. 18, 2008 at 2:01 pm
i loved it! i wish u could get back to me.
TheGeekSquad said...
Aug. 18, 2008 at 4:30 pm
That was really good. Nice work
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