Bellevue’s 2003 season and my career came to their simultaneous conclusions on a beautiful Saturday afternoon in May. Our fate came at the hands of the hated Liberty Patriots, a group of juvenile bush leaguers that our JV squad had brawled with three years earlier. Seriously. Liberty would go on to win the state championship that year, led by some stringbean pitcher named Lincecum. I don’t know. He was okay, I guess.
After the game, I remember our whole team kneeling in the grass behind the third base dugout, listening to our coach sum up this unfortunate turn of events in a few words. At the time, I remember thinking how I had no idea what I was going to do with my life now that baseball and I would be getting a divorce. I wasn’t going to play in college and my dreams of ever appearing in the same big league lineup as Ken Griffey Jr. were now dead (I say this only half-jokingly). All of this left me feeling completely lost, in spite of the fact that I was headed to the University of Washington and had what was more or less a promising future in front of me.
Assuming the life of a journeyman hanger-on, I dabbled in a select league that fall and played on one final all-star team in the spring of 2004 before finally hanging the cleats up for good. The all-star team I played with took on a traveling squad from Japan. If ever there was a more fitting way to end a baseball career, that would have to be it.
Now six years after I played my last game, and seven years after I pronounced my actual playing career deceased, I still don’t know what I’m doing with my life. I’m a college graduate. I have a “real job” these days. I can pay the bills. I like to write. I’m happy. I have a dog. These are all things I do know.
As for next week, next month, next year, next decade? I have no idea. I’m still figuring it out, I guess.
The only reason I bring all this up is because of this blog post from an athlete who just found herself in the same place I was a few years ago. Like the teenage version of me, Bailey Stenson is preparing to enter life without the comfort of constant competition, the infield dirt, the outfield grass, and the feeling of euphoria you can only get from a winning a ballgame. For me, it was Bellevue High School baseball. For her, it’s University of Washington softball. I once took home a t-shirt for playing in a tournament in Las Vegas. She once took home a ring for winning an NCAA National Championship. So you can see the similarities.
All jokes aside, the end of a playing career in sports — whether you’re like I was at 18, like Bailey is now, or even like Junior was two weeks ago — is a life-altering moment for anyone who has ever considered him or herself an athlete. The emotion of that moment is near-impossible to put into words, but Bailey does an excellent job of conveying what it feels like.
To offer full disclosure for a moment here, Bailey asked me to promote her Facebook fan site about a week ago and I’ve been thinking about exactly the right way to go about doing that over the past seven days. Unlike a lot of stuff that gets propped up on these pages for your viewing pleasure, I actually want all my readers to click on that link and check out Bailey’s work, because a) it’s good, and b) she has a bright future riding on this. If you’re a Husky fan, it’s especially entertaining. But even if you’re not a Husky fan, you’ll enjoy it.
Aptly titled Breakin It Down With Bailey (“I like to dance, so Breakin It Down With Bailey made sense as a segment name,” she said), the fan site was inspired by a series of interviews that the two-time All-Pac-10 outfielder produced in conjunction with the UW athletic department.
Among her collection of recorded interviews are question-and-answer sessions with such University of Washington celebrities as quarterback Jake Locker, head football coach Steve Sarkisian, and men’s basketball coach Lorenzo Romar. Generally, talks with guys like that are reserved for the mainstream media.
Unlike such interviews you might see from other sources, however, BIDWB’s sit-downs are far more entertaining. The questions are fresh, the perspective is unique, and there are moments of real-life hilarity. At some point during each interview, respondents are asked to showcase their best dance move, tying in the theme of the segment’s name.
“If I were to compare BIDWB to a dinosaur it would be a raptor because it is intense at times, quick, and sometimes cute,” says Bailey. And being an expert on raptors, I’d have to agree.
Bailey, herself, is no stranger to interrogation. She was the subject of an ESPN article in February, 2009. Entitled, Washington softball player Bailey Stenson lives life to the fullest, the column details Bailey’s energetic outlook, as well as her survival of leukemia as a child.
While the video interviews are what helped create the fan site, perhaps the best part about BIDWB is the blog. It’s well-written, and like the initial post that I referenced a few paragraphs up, captures the human side of athletics perfectly. The passion behind the words shines through, and you can’t help but wish that more writers could relate to their audience like this.
As far as the future goes, Bailey ultimately wants to become a professional sports journalist, and has previously interned at sports radio 950 KJR. In the short term, she’ll settle for 2,000 fans on her Facebook site by October 14th, her little brother’s birthdate.
Whether or not Bailey advances her budding media career (she will) is irrelevant. “I plan to continue Breakin It Down even when I’m on my deathbed,” she insists. So you might as well just get used to it.
Breakin It Down With Bailey, featuring Jake Locker