Aiden McIntyre, Oakland Athletics RHP
(credit: Dean Jackson)
My Path Into Pro Ball
The concept of making it has many levels to me, and that's what I want to write about today. The funny thing about this idea is that nobody cares about your daily grind until you make it. In every underdog or comeback story, there's a lot of "boring" daily work that goes into the eventual success.
I personally love my story even though it seems like it's mostly full of failures. Not everyone has the same path to pro ball, not everyone's story is polished, and each player's grind is different. "Late bloomer" and "undersized," were some of the kinder terms used to describe me during High School. Other statements ring louder in my memory: "won't make it," "not good enough to play in college," "dreamer," and my personal favorite, "quit."
I wasn't recruited out of High School because I wasn't good enough for most schools, but I believed the game still had room for me. I got a walk-on spot to a juco in Arizona two weeks before school started. I remember showing up and immediately realizing I wasn't going to make it. Not every school cares about development, some are built for winning, and I wasn't a winner yet. I got cut after a semester.
A coach helped set me up at another juco in another state away from home. I jumped at the opportunity because it meant I could continue playing. I almost got redshirted that spring but requested the chance to play, saying, "I'd rather waste a year because you don't think I'm good enough than never get a chance to prove that I am." I was the last pitcher on the roster to record an inning that year, but I did it, I pitched in college. I threw well that year, but I allowed myself to become absorbed in college life, I wasn't dedicated to the game. I had a terrible sophomore fall, which ended in transferring before spring to yet another juco in yet another state.
During my sophomore year, I learned how to pitch a little bit and had a good enough year to get me a D2 scholarship to a struggling program. Yet again, I had prolonged my career and, for the first time, received a scholarship. I still wasn't pouring my heart into the game, I was still living a normal college life. I wasn't committed to my career. I didn't understand how quickly the game could be taken from me or how hard I needed to work. I was just another average college baseball player, what had once been a goal was now a distraction. College baseball and a scholarship weren't enough, I wanted more.
I saw some success (not a lot) my junior year, and I topped out at 90 -- this was when it clicked for me. I had one year left, and I owed it to myself, my family, and everyone who had supported me to fully commit to the game. Commit to training, sleeping, eating, mental growth, and cutting out bad habits. It hit me like a ton of weight, that if my career ended, I wouldn't be able to live with how it ended. I wanted to be proud of who I was and the work I put in.
I still haven't looked back.
Without this shift in attitude and action, I would not have been drafted in 2018. I wouldn’t be an MiLB player. I wouldn’t have hit 96 or learned how to train my body. Most importantly, without that shift and continual rededication to fully committing, I wouldn’t have the mental stamina, strong relationships, and hope in the face of struggle that I have today.