Embracing the All-American

I’m confident in my abilities, I know what I did and what I’m capable of doing in playing sports, and my results and stats speak for themselves; however that’s not all of who I am, nor is it where I define myself.

A.J. Ouzts

Frustrations

To many people who know me, they know I don’t like talking about this accomplishment (nor myself in general). It’s a weird existence in my life, and I struggle with embracing it. I’m grateful and honored by the accomplishment, but at the same time, I’m overwhelmed by it as well, which has a lot to do with an identity insecurity. Being good at sports with all of the recognition that can come with it tends to irritate me because that’s how certain people have chosen to define me at times.

When I think about being an All-American, I reflect on the sacrifices made and the struggle that was endured leading up to the accomplishment. Naturally speaking, I was a better football player than a baseball player when I decided to go into my 10th-grade year just to play baseball. I had the opportunity to be the starting QB, but I believed (with the counsel of my parents) that I had a better long-term outlook with baseball.

Growing pains

At that time, I was learning the value of delayed gratification. Just to let you know, delaying gratification is a painful struggle at times, especially when you know what you gave up, but it’s so worth the wait as well. To have a six error game in baseball against your rival school in your 11th-grade year, while your pitcher is pitching one of his best games, is one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had. Thankfully I had my dad encourage and challenge during that time because he knows I hate letting people down, so we just looked to get better so that would never happen again.

In my senior year, everything started to click. I hit over .450, but I didn’t make any of the county teams or accolades whatsoever, which is very frustrating. I don’t care who you are, when you know you outperformed people you want to get what you deserve. My family was frustrated along with me, but my dad would say, “your gift will make room for you.” I’m not going to lie I didn’t want to hear that at the time, I just wanted to stay pissed off, but complaining about it gets me nowhere, so you keep working hard.

Perspective

In 2011, going into my freshman year of community college, my family went through some financial struggles, which helped me put life into it’s proper perspective. I was still doing my best in the pursuit of school and baseball, but I found out that’s secondary compared to the relationships I’ve built with those closest to me. A neat result of that shift in perspective (Romans 12:2) gave me peace in the other circumstances, such as playing baseball, where there was no pressure to perform because what we were going through as a fam was tougher. I ended up having a solid, great year, because I was free and easy to go and play and wasn’t out there trying to do too much.

Going into my sophomore year, I just wanted to get better as a player and team, so I just worked hard in the offseason because I wanted our team to win our regional championship, as well as a personal goal to get the team MVP for the year. I soon learned that this was a rather small goal. As a team in 2013, we ended up in the championship game of our region and lost two heartbreakers to the eventual champions. It was a great season to help captain and lead that team to such a moment, but it still hurt. However, that team became a critical foundational piece for the school where the next year, they were able to win the region and go to the world series tournament.

Accolades

2013 became the year of great accomplishment, and its where I found out that I had a dwarfed goal compared to what I got. Just at the end of the season I received these honors:

  • First-team All-MD J
  • First-Team All-Region 20
  • Team MVP

These awards honored me, and I accomplished what I set out to gain as a personal goal. However, my expectations were blown out of the water by what was to come. This experience is summarized with one of my dad’s favorite verses, and it has become one of mine as well.

28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Romans 8:28

When I got the news of being named a Second-Team D3 All-NJCAA All American, you would think I’d be ecstatic. I wasn’t. I was more numb than anything. Humbled by the honor, I didn’t feel like I did anything spectacular. I had a slightly better year than my previous year. My friends and family were much more excited than I was and still are to this day.

Embrace

All this being said, this award has opened so many unique opportunities, and what I cherish most from it is the journey in the people(mainly my parents and sis) who went through the struggle with me. I remember the daunting summers of playing sixty games in a two-and-a-half month, playing in fourteen games in eight days and being insanely exhausted. I appreciate the people I’ve met because of this honor, and that’s what has made it easier to embrace.

Moving Forward

I still have the desire to be better, and I’m in constant competition with myself. I want to be excellent in all that I do. Christ defined greatness as:

11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Matthew 23:11-12

I try to live that as much as possible, though I fail spectacularly at times at this, I just keep going one step at a time. If my identity was grounded in this award, I would view that as a very shallow existence. However, I view it as a great foundational piece to who I am becoming, and I look forward to other challenges that will be ahead.

Stats and Websites

Stats2011 (H.S.)20122013
Batting avg.469.357.366
On Base%.544.421.471
Stolen bases1979
Runs261623

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: