As the season approached in May, it seemed as if I was destined for a great year. I had put together a season that won me a ‘Player of the Year’ award. I put in 18 months of hard work and preparation. I was confident in the work I had done in Spring Training. I was ready to roll to the point I felt I was on my way to Major League Baseball.
Then the season began, and one week of woes turned to two weeks.
Two weeks turned to a month.
Darkness began to approach in the form of a question.
“Why do I suck so bad?”
One month then became two, and during that time I grew absolutely paralyzed by a darkness in a level of self doubt that I’d never experienced.
“Am I good enough? Do I even belong here anymore? What happened to me?”
I knew better than to talk to myself like this, but I couldn’t seem to shake the questions. I couldn’t shake the dark thoughts.
Heck, you’re probably questioning why I’m writing this in the first place. The answer to that lies in how these last six months have shaped me.
Your JOB is to perform as a professional athlete, and to perform, you have to put in countless hours of preparation of weightlifting, speed and agility, hitting, and throwing during the off season.
In this business, when you underperform, you don’t get paid, simply because you don’t have a job. The stakes are high, the pressure is real, and the reality is, you are under a microscope daily, dissecting your performance.
Is my identity in baseball? Absolutely not. But I’ll tell you what is in the game of baseball — my heart, my mind, and all the sacrifices I make to be away from my wife to pursue this dream. And anyone who knows me knows I don’t like to do things halfway.
So back to my struggle. During those days, I remained in a headspace where I was aware of my calling: to love God, love people (my teammates), and to have fun. I tried to express those through my daily actions.
I knew that, to lead, it was important for me not to waver with the ups and downs. That I needed to stay steady through the course. And this is how I approached MOST days and tried to keep a positive, God-loving approach to my teammates on and off of the field, even when I didn't want to.
Admittedly, I failed some, and deep down, I could feel my heart breaking as I continued to stare failure face to face. I had never been so confused. My mechanics were good. My pitch selection was good. But I couldn’t hit that dang white ball coming at me.
Few people close to me knew what was truly going on inside, so I bottled that up, so nobody could see the pain I was dealing with.
I prayed. I meditated. I visualized.
But the months of struggles persisted, and ultimately I hit my breaking point.
11:00 P.M. Tulsa, OK. Thursday, July 22nd.
It was postgame, and I was sitting in the hall, staring at the wall. The only way I know how to describe it is to say I could feel something going on in my heart.
“Do I want to yell? Throw things? Punch something? What is it?”
Minutes of thoughts consumed me. Back and forth.
I needed to make a call.
But, who would I call? I thought of my inner circle… wife, parents, grandparents, friends, mentors. All were asleep. It was 11 p.m. Then it hit me.
“Oh wait, my hitting coach from last year is in Korea, it’s morning there. It is a longshot, but let’s call him.”
The phone rang. He picked up.
“Hick, what’s up, stud?”
“I’m hurting Sutt, I’m hurting man. I am lost.”
Those were the first and only words I could get out of my mouth before I just began to ball crying.
An hour drifted by — I talked; he listened. I cried; he sympathized. I doubted; he reinforced.
I can’t put into words the freedom I felt in sharing my pain with someone else.
And this is where my darkness turned to light.
To me, I have been that guy for so many teammates. That guy who listened and sympathized and reinforced. What I realize now is that before that moment, during those six months, I was so consumed in my own darkness that I neglected my own hurt.
Externally, I was seeing others have success. In result, I continued to question my failure.
And you may be asking: How could your darkest days be based off of performance in baseball? You may be saying, ‘But Brewer, it’s just a game. You’re going to be fine if baseball doesn’t work out.’ And you’re right. I feel like we’ve all been in a place where we feel unqualified or inferior. And handling those feelings, in whatever walk of life, it eventually will tear you apart.
So as I sit here now, with a better understanding of my headspace, I want to at least share a simple thought.
We all have a spirit inside of us that craves success and acceptance. If you are even 1% like me, you strive to be the best you possibly can be in every challenge you face. Sometimes, that isn’t enough in someone else’s eyes.
What I’ve learned most is that it’s important to keep going – but don’t try it alone. Because over time it will wear you thin. Find a friend, mentor, family member to voice your frustrations, anger, grief, pain with someone. Cry on someone’s shoulder. There is power in numbers.
After all, God designed people to do life together. It is amazing because when you feel so isolated and desperate, as I did in that hallway, God once again showed his light and gave me a sense of freedom that is available to us all.
We all know that on the other side of darkness there is a lesson, a reward, and more importantly, a scar; a scar that you can’t see until it is brought to light. A scar that you will look at one day and say, “That made me a better person because of it.” A scar that you can thank God for!
I’ve learned that overcoming failure is not always about changing what you’re doing, but changing the way you think. And today, I hope this is a reminder to change your perspective, get someone on your team, and keep being the champion that you are.