Wednesday, March 20, 2013

For My Love of the Game

          In the process of applying to Texas A&M for Sport Management I'm required to write a Statement of Purpose essay. I wanted to share mine with everyone who supports me in my journey and the things I pursue for my life! I love you all and thank you! Feel free to critique and edit before I submit to the University!!! Thanks, y'all!! 

          Nelson Mandela said, “There is no passion to be found in settling for less than you are capable of.” Well I have always been confident that I am not only capable of achieving greatness for myself, but instilling it in the hearts and minds of others who’s passions are similar to mine.

            In 1994, when the Texas-Louisiana Baseball League sent a team to Tyler, Texas, and my parents took me to my first game, we were all completely unaware of the impact that the game of baseball would make upon my life. Yet some of my fondest, childhood memories are of trips to Mike Carter Field to watch the Wildcatters. At the time I hardly understood the game, but the sounds, the sights, even the smells, the entire atmosphere of baseball captivated my young soul.

            Of course I had my first crush that summer too. He was the Wildcatter’s shortstop, and a right handed relief pitcher, Troy Dean Conkle. I was smitten, but mostly because he was my friend too. For my fifth birthday, Troy and the Wildcatters, oh yeah, and my parents too, gave me the most magical, memorable experience, EVER! Rigger Wildcatter, the mascot, took me to the field, where the team had all the fans sing to me! Then Troy gave me an autographed t-shirt, with his number, a rose, and a special kiss on the cheek! Looking back at the pictures of that day, I can remember it so clearly. It was all I wanted, and it proved to me then that I loved baseball.

            The Wildcatters were in Tyler for two more years, but even after they left and we couldn’t just go down the street to the ballpark for games, my daddy kept my fire fueled. He introduced me to the Texas Rangers. It was the era of Rusty Greer, Juan Gonzalez, Mark McLemore and my favorite, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez. There were many greats to admire, and though the team was far from what they’ve been in recent years, as a child, it was baseball to watch and my heart took great joy in it. To me, this was all that mattered. The spring I turned seven, I also got an opportunity of a lifetime, daddy signed me up to play on my first team, in the Rose Capital West Little League.

            I was the only girl on the Diamondbacks that season. A pudgy little blonde in my teal jersey and grey pants with my stirrup socks and brand new cleats, I was ready as any of those boys for that first practice and then the games. I remember when Coach Hunt told me he was so glad to have me, taking the chance on the boy’s sport, and I just told him I loved baseball and I was ready to play. I was far from the best, and when he gave me a chance to pitch with him one night-it was coach pitch-I totally blew it, but he still gave me the game ball because he knew I tried my hardest that night. Our team came out on top that year, we were the champions of the league and were to be honored at an event with all of the other teams and the east little league too. But that was my only year in baseball, because not long after, Tyler got a girl’s league and I got sent there.
            Fast-pitch wasn’t baseball, but it was close enough and it was a way for me to stay involved so I was okay with it. I still loved the sport and I just wanted to learn it better, so I kept it up. At this time, I decided I wanted to actually be able to identify with a position, and be the best I could there, so I decided to be a catcher. I loved catching, and I did it all through junior high school, and then I decided to join the Lady Raider Softball team at Robert E. Lee when I got to high school. I was in for a shock. It wasn’t quite the camaraderie I’d always imagined and seen in movies, nor what I was used to. The competition was at an entirely new level and I couldn’t just play because I loved my sport anymore. I had to play to win. My coach, Edgy Arbuckle was cutthroat, aggressive and intimidating, and unfortunately, after two years playing for her, I no longer loved what I was doing and I left the team.

            But I still loved watching baseball with dad on TV, and I’d learned to stay in the news and keep up with things going on online during spring training. I’d also started entertaining myself with college teams, during the College World Series in the summer and began to identify with the team from the college I planned to attend, Hardin-Simmons University. It was a small, Division III school in Abilene, but they played UT Tyler, so I got to watch them a few times before I moved off, and I definitely kept up with their news. By the time I got to Abilene, I was determined to know all about the Cowboys and be a regular fan.

            My first year at HSU, once springtime rolled around, I became a regular at John J. Hunter field. I’d gotten to know some of the guys through FCA as well as other fans and the Sports Information Director’s Graduate Assistant. Through these friends I got to know even the head coach and his wife and make valuable connections on the staff of our Athletic Department, which led to filming games and even announcing for the Cowboys throughout my time at HSU, only furthering my passion for the game and desire to make it something I invest my future in.

            My junior year, in on a breezy Saturday night, the Cowboys were playing Mississippi College. In the top of the 8th MC tied the game with the Cowboys, and in the bottom of the same inning, HSU came back. I was in the press box filming, and in the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and none on base, with a kid up to bat who’d done nothing all game and it looked like we could hold and go ahead in the bottom, he smashed one out, to take it back. In the bottom, HSU tied it again, sending the game into extra innings and the crowd into a sigh of relief and hopes of a soon end. The game ended an hour and a half later after 15 innings! Mississippi College would score one or two each time back up, and HSU would hold them off, and finally in the 15th HSU clenched the game and ASC West Division title. Sometime in the 10th inning that night, I imagine online viewers began getting a pretty shaky broadcast, and also a very chatty play by play from an anxious, excited recorder. I had my best friend on the line calling the game to him, as he was a way at a track meet, but he wanted in on the action.

            The next round of the playoffs didn’t go so well for HSU, but that night will ever be engrained in my memories, along with all of my trips to Cowboy’s games and the times I got to be involved in the action. People think its crazy the way I still get when baseball season rolls around. They ask me to explain how much I can enjoy something so much when I don’t even do it myself. Simply put, I truly have a deep love for the game. I don’t just watch it; I follow it year round. It’s not an April through October sport for me. I’m constantly in the news, reading reports and trade rumors. When I can’t follow the action of the sport, I follow the business, and it saddens me that sports of our era have truly become big business.

            I earnestly believe that there are lots of athletes left across the professional and semi-professional industries that make their mark in sports not just for the fame and money but because they still love their games. Yet among the trappings of the fame and fast-paced lifestyles, their passions just become their paychecks.

            I want to study sport management because I believe that it only takes one person reminding players that the core values of their sport and the purity of their game is reason enough to do it and remain deeply in love with what they’re doing and playing for, aside from the money. As well as reminding them that after the money is gone, they have to live for something and they should love sharing their passions with others, because something or someone shared it once with them.

            Whether its recruiting and scouting, becoming an agent, broadcasting or working in sports journalism, which are all things I have considered. I want to be able to do it not only with great passion, but also while exerting great knowledge and professionalism.

            I know the business and political aspects of sport in our culture cannot be escaped, but I know that a deep love of the game still exists in the heart of most players and yearns to be expressed. As I pursue my dreams, I desire to help others pursue theirs with purity and integrity, even in a time where these things seem lost and ancient.

            I am confident that directing others in sport is not only what I want to do, but also something I have been called to invest my life in. Sport has been my passion from a young age, and the knowledge that I have of sports as well as the memories are some of my fondest. The opportunity to pursue this education at Texas A&M is one I will cherish most dearly and I believe it will give me the greatest direction into my future, as I take the next steps into loving my game.

In Grace's Amazing Hands, 

Katelyn Paige

1 comment:

  1. Beautifully expressed. Way to go girl! I love you more than I can say.