Find something that pushes you. Find a purpose. Find that thing that makes you go to practice when all you want to do is sleep.
For me, that purpose is my mother.
When you look at every high performing athlete, the one thing that ties them all together is they have a purpose that makes them willing to put in the extra work. Something, some person, some reason, that allows them to dig deeper when they have nothing left.
Until I was 13 years old, I didn’t really have that.
I played football and baseball, enjoying them both as recreational sports, but not much else. But when I was 13, my mother died, leaving my older brother and me to become adults quicker than most kids are used to.
It’s hard to describe, but something in your mind just changes.
Seeing the sacrifices my brother had to make and knowing the wishes of my mother, I was determined to use my skill set to get a college education and compete at the next level. I no longer would allow myself to miss gym sessions or take time off, as I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity ahead of me.
Heading into high school, I carried this same mentality with me. I wasn’t always the most talented player on the field, but I was always willing to outwork people. During my junior year, scouts finally started to notice that work that I was putting in, as my performance was starting to stand out.
One of those schools that noticed was Lipscomb University.
But to be honest, I didn’t even know where the program was located at the time.
Growing up in South Florida, I had my eyes set on the big instate programs, and so I found myself throwing away the letters as I figured I would never go.
That all changed when I met a Lipscomb scout, Brandon Cadavid, who happened to be an alumnus of my high school, Archbishop McCarthy.
Taking the time to talk about my goals and where the program was headed, I began to see Lipscomb as my potential future home. All that was left, was for me to play in front of one of the Lipscomb coaches.
With the date set, which happened to be a doubleheader, I was excited to show what I was capable of. This was great, I was getting two opportunities to perform. Who wouldn’t want that?
I could feel the pressure, but I was confident that with two games, I would show that I deserved a scholarship.
Before the game, I met with my future coach, James Ogden, and told him how excited I was about the opportunity.
But with every at-bat, I felt the opportunity slipping away. By the end of the two games, I was a combined 0-2. The only thing I had actually done was get a few walks.
In my mind, I had just lost a scholarship. Everything I had worked for was gone.
But when I met with Coach Ogden after the game, it was a different story. He let me know that he was impressed by the little things I did on the field and how he could see the hard work I had put in and my drive.
I was thankful for that dedication my mom gave me, as it allowed me to show who I was even when I didn’t play at my best.
That’s one thing they never tell you. You don’t need to hit two home runs and throw a few guys out in order to prove you’re worthy. Show the scouts that you’re a hard worker and you play the game the right way, and I promise, you’ll start getting phone calls.
Now, even though I was excited to be heading to Lipscomb, I still didn’t know what to expect moving to Nashville. It’s a long way from home and a completely different culture.
I certainly didn’t know that they would completely change my skillset.
On the first day of practice, our hitting coach, Coach Coon, asked me to lay down a few bunts. I tried with terrible mechanics and informed him that I had never been asked to bunt before. He laughed in my face and let me know how ridiculous I looked. I thought that was the end of it, but Coach informed me that we had a long way to go.
For the rest of the offseason, I found myself working on my bunting mechanics every day.
And it paid off, as I became the leading bunter in the nation after being unaware of the tactic before arriving on campus.
It’s that attentiveness to detail from the coaching staff, that has allowed me to excel in my career at Lipscomb. From bunting to little things the coaches showed me while playing the outfield, my game started to improve.
After two seasons of adding to my game and learning from our staff, I was honored to be invited to participate in the Cape Cod League this past summer.
At first, I was nervous, as every baseball player knows that it’s the biggest stage of the offseason for prospects to showcase their skill. But as I prepared for the opportunity, I realized that there was a reason I was invited, and I was excited to show what the Lipscomb program was all about.
Playing against the top players in the country, many of them who will be selected in the draft, I started to achieve at a level that even exceeded my expectations. That same drive that had led me to earn a college scholarship was now allowing me to perform at a high level on the biggest stage of my life.
With the end of every Cape Cod season, there is an award ceremony that goes along with it. Sitting on the field with all of the other families, I was proud to hear a teammate of mine being honored for the top pitcher in the league. It made me proud to know that our University was showing our true colors.
But then I heard my name and immediately saw everyone staring at me.
I had no idea what was happening, but everyone around me pushed me up to the stage at Homeplate. When I got up there to accept the award, I read on the trophy that I was being honored as the top prospect in the league.
Wow. Now people really knew what we were all about.
Coming back to Lipscomb, I’m proud to say that we no longer get the question of, “What’s a Lipscomb?” People are starting to recognize who we are and the level of play that comes with facing our team.
As I have finished up my junior season, and have played my last game for the University, I am proud to say that I have been a part of this program. I now want to show younger athletes that this coaching staff can help you get to the next level and that Lipscomb can be your route to the majors.
And now, with being selected by the Royals, I have found that opportunity.
But no matter where I end up or how my performance goes, I will always remember that it was my family who got me here.
My mother, who gave me the drive to work harder than I thought possible, and my brother, who sacrificed so that I could live out my dream, are the ones who allowed me to succeed.
Michael Gigliotti | Contributor