A DOUBTFUL OPPORTUNITY
Doubt is defined as a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction. Opportunity is defined as a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something. My life has felt like that; a series of events that began with doubt at first impression and then followed by an opportunity to transform that doubt into reality. This is my story.
Like many other kids, I grew up playing just about every sport whether that was a front yard football game with friends or the summer community swim team. However, baseball has been my passion since my dad bought my first glove. As I got older, my love for the game grew stronger and the strive to be great intensified. There was always one thing that seemed to be holding me back though, size. I’ve always been the small kid, but my competitive nature never let me shy away from trying to be the best player I could be. I have never let the size excuse get in the way of my goals.
So, when I made the high school JV team as a freshman I was satisfied but saw little game action because I was well, undersized. I stood at an astounding 5’3” and probably weighed 120 pounds soaking wet and simply could not compete with the “big boys”. That’s when I decided to dedicate my time and energy into perfecting my craft as a pitcher as I was lacking the physicality needed to be a hitter at the high school level. Not to mention being left-handed automatically gave me the competitive advantage (I still do not know why, but it’s a real thing). I knew my sophomore year was the year to show everyone what I had. But a week before baseball tryouts, hustling for a loose ball in a rec league basketball game, I blew out my ACL. This meant missing the entire spring high school season, but also the summer showcase season which is always heavily-recruited by college programs.
So now the fall of my junior year, with a new knee and excitement to get back on the field, I signed up to do a showcase at Elon University since I had missed the summer recruiting circuit. I was excited to take advantage of the opportunity to pitch in front of dozens of collegiate coaches from across the country. I had pitched well and felt good about my performance but the evaluation scorecard of a Division 2 coach after the showcase seemed to tell me otherwise. “Decent talent, undersized and not a lot of velocity, potential for D2 but likely D3 caliber player.” I had heard the size comment before, but this is the first time someone had labeled my ability based on my size; and in turn the inception of my love for the word doubt.
I had never had any expectations or big goals for myself, I just wanted to be the best pitcher I could be. However, when that coach put a limit on my ability and a ceiling to my career in writing, I was insulted. Who is he to say what I can or can’t do? So, when it came to the high school baseball season, I was anxious to get the opportunity to show everyone I could pitch at the Division 1 level. There was one thing out of my control though, playing time. Our high school was stacked when it came to baseball talent. The Central Virginia high school baseball schedule featured two games a week, and we had two pitchers already committed to the University of Virginia. I knew I would be fighting for mound time along many other talented pitchers we had on our team. However, an injury to our ace and future 1st-rounder in the MLB draft opened a door for me to start our season opener. To say I was nervous was an understatement but before the game my dad reminded me how I was looking for the opportunity to pitch and all I had to do was pitch “my game” and it would be a success. It was, which started a snowball effect of good fortune throughout the season. I received an offer from Hampden-Sydney College, a Division 3 school, but I knew that was only meeting expectations from that coach from the Elon camp. As the season and my success on the mound continued, I received an email from the pitching coach at Radford University, my first interest from a Division 1 school. Slowly but surely, my dreams of playing Division 1 baseball seemed to become realized as more offers continued to come my way. It wasn’t until that summer that my dreams became official with a commitment to Virginia Tech and one of the most competitive baseball conferences in the country. But only two weeks into my senior season, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever pitch in a Virginia Tech uniform; or ever again for that matter.
I don’t remember exactly what the doctor said, but the phrases I did comprehend hurt worse than the injury itself. “Torn ligament…Tommy John surgery….out for at least a year.” Each word out of the doctor’s mouth seemed to generate another tear running down my face. It felt like I had just returned from my knee injury and now I was going through the same process again, for twice as long the recovery time, on my throwing elbow. The timeline of events itself seemed impossible for any athlete to overcome, how was the under-sized, no-name athlete supposed to accomplish this feat? It was a tough thing to comprehend and for the first time in my life, doubt crept into my own mind.
When I stepped onto campus in the fall, the doubt continued. I mean just imagine the first impression I gave to the rest of my teammates. I entered college 5’8”, 150 pounds. Not only did I look like I didn’t belong, but I was also injured. I couldn’t even show my teammates I deserved to be there and they had pre-labeled my role in the program long before I ever got cleared to play again. I would probably be a late inning reliever or left-handed specialist used out of the bullpen, but I would never start. Starters at this level are at least six feet tall and throw 90 miles per hour plus. They seemed to know what they were talking about, but that doubt fueled me through the rest of my rehab to return stronger than ever and compete for a starting role. But they were right, in a way. My first collegiate appearance did come out of the bullpen on opening day of the 2014 season; a 6.1 inning relief appearance of two-run ball. Impressed by my ability to compete, my coach gave me the opportunity to start the next weekend. I loved being a starter and I wanted to show my coach he made the right decision. I ended up earning the win, my first collegiate win, and I didn’t look back. By the end of my freshman season I had made many other starts and pretty much cemented a starting role the rest of my career at Virginia Tech. I became a decent college pitcher, but there’s no way I could ever be drafted, right? I was supposed to be the kid that could only play Division 3, that little guy could never play professionally. But throughout my junior season I had started to put together a decent resume. I was pitching well against the some of the top ranked programs in college baseball and was coming off a strong summer season where I pitched in the Cape Cod League, the most prestigious summer collegiate baseball league historically (a league I was also told I was never good enough to pitch in). Sure enough, I had started to receive interest from major league organizations. As a kid, I always pretended to be pitching in the World Series but I never thought I could pitch in the big leagues.
The MLB draft was in June and I sat patiently with my dad waiting for the phone to ring. It wouldn’t be likely for a team to draft an undersized lefty as a junior but three or four teams had showed significant interest so I was feeling somewhat optimistic. However, the phone never rang, and back to Virginia Tech I went for my final season. The next year was even better for me. I had worked on a new sidearm delivery in the offseason to try and be more effective and the results showed. I put up the best numbers I had in my career and had more major league clubs showing interest in me. I knew the draft was a stretch as a junior for someone of my stature but coming into the 2017 MLB draft, I was fully expecting to hear my name. I have never passed the “eye test” but I figured with the experience and success I’ve had in this conference; some team still must trust the results I had produced rather than my physical appearance. Four teams told me they wanted to take me in the last ten rounds of the draft and six or seven other teams had also mentioned I was on their draft board. My dad and I listened to every pick for the last ten rounds. My phone never rang and my name was never selected. I was crushed. In 24 hours, I went from thinking I was about to be a professional baseball player to thinking my baseball career was entirely over. It looked like those people were right, I would never play professional baseball. But I wasn’t ready to give up quite yet and I remembered a piece of advice my pitching coach had given me several years earlier. “Your success in life is directly related to the number of uncomfortable situations you put yourself in.” The next day, I decided to swallow my pride and make ten of the most uncomfortable phone calls I’ve ever made. I called each of the ten teams that had just passed on me in the draft, and told them I still wanted to be a part of their organization if they were to give me an opportunity as an undrafted free agent. Over the next few days, I had received no new information and a post-baseball life seemed to be apparent, but then the phone rang.
It was the area scout from the Houston Astros I had communicated with throughout the scouting and draft process. He told me they were going to hold a workout in my hometown of Richmond, VA the following Wednesday. They were looking to sign two starting pitchers among several workouts they were holding that afternoon across the entire country. One last opportunity. One last time to prove everyone wrong. The morning of the workout my dad asked if I was nervous. I told him, “Not really, just got to pitch my game and I’ll be fine.” Two hours after the workout, my phone rang, and the news I had been waiting to hear for two years was finally delivered. I was offered to sign a contract with the Houston Astros. I can truly say I have been living a dream the last three months. I even got promoted twice in my first professional season, capping it off with winning our league’s championship.
The success I have had thus far has not come easy, but I am glad that has been the case. It’s challenging to pursue something that is constantly being told is out of your reach. But as many times as someone has doubted me, it has been bittersweet to take advantage of all the one-time opportunities to prove myself. I am thankful for all that doubt, I appreciate “the haters” for lack of a better term, and I’m excited for the next opportunity to present itself.
More about Kit *By the editor
Kit Scheetz Statistics
Virginia Tech Hokies
3.86 ERA in 67.2 innings
Quad City river Bandits
(Houston Astros A- Affiliate)
.95 ERA in 19 innings
3 games started