Playing college baseball has always been my dream. Ever since I was 10 years old, I had dreams of playing for a Division I college. I remember when I was growing up, I would buy all of the baseball powerhouse’s shirts. Texas, Miami, Arizona State, LSU, TCU, I had them all. Even when I got to high school, I still bought them all. In sixth grade, I was supposed to write a story about where we would be in ten years. I wrote about how I would play for the University of Texas and be an All-American. I said that I would be the number one pick in the MLB draft and play for the Boston Red Sox. That was my dream.
Well, after my junior year I knew I wasn’t going to play Division I. It was far cry from reality for me. I accepted the fact but it was still hard at the time. I mean, I started varsity since I was a freshman in high school. I had some good years, but not great. I hit about .300 my freshman year and then we switched classifications to one of the hardest baseball regions in the state. My average dropped to.250 my sophomore year. What do you expect though? Some of those guys are playing at Western Oregon, Western Nevada, Salt Lake Community College, BYU, Utah Valley, and Wichita State. I was 16 and didn’t even have my driver’s license yet. Besides, I played three sports and I thought that basketball was my calling card when I was a freshman.
So my junior year came and I was ready for a fun year. I didn’t really play a lot during my basketball season and I knew that basketball wasn’t the sport for me during the summer before my junior year. So I started to focus on baseball. We were still in the toughest region in the state, but I started out hot. When region play started, I was hitting over .400 with 4 doubles in 6 games. I was the team’s leader at my new position of first base. Our regular first baseman quit to play soccer his senior year and I had to take over from my position of second base, a position I had played all summer and worked on all winter. It sucked at the time, but I liked first so it wasn’t that big of a deal.
Our first region game was played against the Box Elder Bees in Brigham City. I remember walking off of the bus with my dad and Coach Roskelley, who I called regularly in college. I was talking to Skelley, our nickname for him, when my dad told me that “If you hit one out today, Hunt, I’ll give you 100 bucks.” I smiled and said “Ok.” and walked into the dugout. The game started and our shortstop Preston hit a single and got on base. So, I was up to bat now. I hit second all of my sophomore and junior year to try to jolt our offense. Anyway, I dug into the batter’s box and got ready for the pitcher, a big kid named Dale who we all knew because he golfed and was just a goof. Dale gave me a fastball that I thought was up, but was called a strike by the umpire who resembled Adolf Hitler with his facial hair. I shrugged it off and dug in. Dale threw me another fastball and I belted it. I remember running around first and seeing it go over the double decker fence. That’s when I knew that I was a really good baseball player.
I had a better junior year than my sophomore, but my average went back to about .280. I hit a slump in the middle of the year and never really got out of it. So, I knew that I would have to probably play junior college ball or at a lower division school. So that summer, I decided to show what I knew what to do. I was a three year started and had all of the confidence in the world. That summer was the best season I had ever had. I hit with a .750 average and led the Northern Utah American Legion in doubles and average. The coaches on the other teams told me that if we had an MVP award, they would vote for me. I just went off. It seemed like that I couldn’t get out. So after that summer, I decided to not play basketball that winter and to just play baseball and go to some camps in the winter.
And I did. That fall I played football and hated it. I got hurt and my coaches didn’t want to play me because I would miss football practice in the summer for baseball games. So they looked for reasons not to play me. My dad was furious, but I was over it. So I said screw it. As soon as football ended, I was all baseball, all the time. A couple teammates and I would go out to an indoor facility that we had in our hometown and hit every day for an hour and two hours once a week with our head coach. I was fixing my swing and tweaking it. Skelley and I would go over discipline at the plate and talk about how that I was going to see a first pitch fastball every at bat so I needed to crush it. So that December, my best friend Joe and I climbed into a car and drove 5 hours to attend the Dixie State College baseball camp. My parents came with us and my dad came to talk to some coaches for me. I learned a lot that camp and I owe a lot of my baseball personality to them. They taught me a lot about how to play the game. I liked it so much that I talked to them about walking on the baseball team the next year. They said that if I had a great senior year then we’d talk. So I was as motivated as ever as we drove back to Ogden.
We got home and went back to school and I went back to being a cage rat. But I noticed that I was swinging and missing more. I was late on pitches that I shouldn’t be late on and I was just missing some balls. I told my dad about how I had trouble seeing the board in school sometimes and the next thing I knew my parents had me in with the eye doctor. I was diagnosed with a slight vision impairment, but my doctor said that for baseball this was more than big enough to cause problems. So I received contacts and that was a huge difference. Not only was I hitting the baseball better, I was doing better in school because I could actually see the board. My schoolwork was so good that I received an academic scholarship to Dixie State and the coaches then started to become interested.
Before I knew it, my senior season was here. We were back to our smaller region, but it was where we belonged. I knew that seeing the better players and talent had made me a really good baseball player. So I had the best high school season of my career. I hit an astounding .471 and had 30 RBI’s for the team. I also had the least amount of strikeouts on the team and the best fielding percentage. My coach told me that if I got out he would be in shock because that didn’t happen my senior year. My dad me that he expected to me to hit a shot somewhere during the season. And I did. I was fortunate enough to be recognized by the Utah High School Activities Association and be named All-State and All-Region. I was on top of the world. I was one of the best baseball players in the state of Utah and was graduating high school. But I still needed a place to play. Dixie State was still interested, but I didn’t get through the NCAA clearinghouse in time, which scared them. So they decided to pass on me. I was devastated. It seemed like my dreams had been crushed. I was really depressed and my dad could tell. So we sat down and talked about how I needed to make a recruiting video and send it out to every junior college in the West. And that’s exactly what we did. It took us two weeks from when we finished fielding to when our good friend edited it and sent it off to schools. I found out about the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges and sent it to pretty much every school that was a member of that conference. After that, all that was left to do was wait. May came and went without much interest. None, actually. During the last week of May, my best friends and I went on cruise to Mexico for our senior trip. It was 10 days long and I wanted to get home and play some baseball because I couldn’t stand my friends for that long. On the day we got back to Long Beach, California, I turned my phone back on because if it was on during the cruise, your phone bill would go through the roof. So I turned it on and my dad had texted me and I had an E-mail. My dad told me that Blue Mountain Community College offered me a chance to play. I checked my E-mail and sure enough, the coach offered me a spot on the team. I immediately took it and was excited all summer to start this new chapter in my life.
That summer was the hardest I worked for baseball and at my job. I would wake up, go to work for a couple of hours until my work was done and then come home. I would usually swim for my workout and then go hit with my dad when he got home from work. I was still playing summer ball with my American Legion team, but I was using a wood bat. It didn’t seem to matter as I was still crushing the ball and playing well. Then July came. One day I was working on a metal slitter machine, which cuts aluminum to exact measurements so that you can use it for whatever you needed. I was checking the measurements when all of a sudden the rollers stopped. I looked to see what the problem was and I saw that my thumb was stuck in between the rollers. My little brother was working with me and I told him to go get my dad, who was my boss. My dad came and got me and we pulled my thumb free of the machine. He rushed me to the ER and I was very, very lucky. I received 12 stiches in my left thumb and the doctor said it was a miracle that only that happened. She said that my thumb should have been crushed. I should’ve needed surgery to repair it, but it didn’t. I credit it to my Heavenly Father watching over me and having a plan that I needed to complete with both of my thumbs intact. I credit my religion of being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to helping me deal with it and helping along the journey of my life. I had no idea that when I went away to college that I would need the gospel more than anything.
As a result of my injury, I couldn’t play until the end of July. That was a tough time in my life because baseball is the one thing that I loved more than life itself. But I came back and played a couple games and played pretty well. I was pretty rusty for not playing for close to a month, but it happens. So our season got over in July and then I was waiting until I left for school in September. I was going to move from my home in Ogden, Utah to move to the small, hick town of Pendleton, Oregon. I made a visit there after my accident with my family to see what the school was like and to see what the town was like. I thought that I could live there for a year until I left on my two-year LDS mission.
I moved to Pendleton on September 18. My mom and I made the eight-hour drive to Oregon to help me move in and get settled in my new home. We got to Pendleton and I had a break down when we got to the hotel. I was scared, nervous and on my own for the first time in my life. I didn’t know what to expect with anything and my dad wasn’t there for me, who is my best friend and always will be. That next day, we went to the school to get books and try to find out more about the school. As we were walking around campus, we ran into my advisor and she took me on a tour of the school. She took us to the athletic facility and there I met my coach for the first time. Brett Bryan came in with a huge smile and gave me a friendly handshake. We shot the breeze for a little bit and couldn’t have been nicer to me or my mom. He was a great guy, or so it seemed at the moment. We left happy and a lot more comfortable about moving here.
That night, I met my roommates, Chris and Ryan. They are awesome guys and the best roommates a guy could ask for. But the problem is that we didn’t have a place. So that night they stayed in the hotel with my mom and me. The next day I had a class that I had to go to. I went and everything was smooth. I went back to the hotel and hung out with my mom until later that day when we had a baseball meeting. My roommates and I went into the indoor batting cages that the school had. I started to meet my teammates, like Orlando, Wes, and Josh, who I would come super close to in the coming months. We sat there as Brett came down and gave us a huge talk about what he expected from us and he gave us our practice shirts. We left and headed back to the hotel and ate at a Mexican place down the street. I could barely eat and after dinner my mom and I walked around the hotel for a bit and I started to cry even more. I remember we were sitting on a bench in the front of our hotel and I was crying. She then asked me a question. “Do you want to say a pray?” I nodded and my mom pleaded with our Heavenly Father for me to find a place and to bless me and help me in this new and scary time of my life. When she finished, I felt so much relief. It was like I knew that everything was going to be ok.
The next day, my mom had to fly home. I drove her to the airport and I said my final goodbye. I was bawling and so was my mom. I gave her a final hug and watched her drive to the nearest commercial airport to catch her flight. I hopped into my car and cried.
I decided to go to the school, where my roommates were hanging out. They had great news; we found a place to live. I called my mom and she was relieved, but she still wanted my dad to come and help me settle and he was already on his way. We moved into our small duplex, which we would call home for the next couple of months. I unloaded my car and then I broke down again. I was emotionally unstable at this point. It was because I was scared to be honest. This was the first time I was away from home for longer than a week. I didn’t know what to expect and I was scared about baseball as well as being all alone.
I was sitting in my room on the phone with my mom when Chris knocked and asked me to go hit with them. We drove to the baseball field, which was right next to a prison and in front of the mental hospital. I was kind of freaked out about that, and still am to this day. We met our friend Tony there and started to hit. I was feeling relieved and I was finally calmed down. We went home and got ready to go to the volleyball game that the school had that night. We went and hung out and everything was alright. My roommates went to drink after the game and I was left at home all by myself, waiting for my dad to arrive. My neighbor came and introduced himself, which was kind of cool since we just moved in. My dad called me and told me that he was at the hotel and I met him there. As soon as I saw him, I broke down again. I told him that I didn’t think that I could do this. He looked at me and told me that I could do anything if the Lord was with me. I still live by that. I know that the Lord is with me and that I’m never alone.
We hung out that entire weekend until my dad had to leave on Sunday. That morning we ate at Denny’s and we bought some other things that I needed in my house. I gave him a final hug in the rain and I walked back to my house, alone and unsure of myself.
The next day, I had school and then baseball. School was school, I never did mind school. School was easy for me so it was whatever. I waited until two o’clock came around and I had practice. I drove over from the school and got ready for practice. We warmed up before practice and then our coach sent everybody but the sophomores to the batting cages where we remained pretty much all practice. It was at that moment that we realized that this wasn’t high school anymore. This was college and our coach could choose who to play, even if we were better than them. This couldn’t have been truer that at this school. We realized that this program was a joke; other guys from different schools said that this was not how the other schools ran it. These other schools were some of the best in the region. So, we took their word for it. I got one at bat that day and I walked. My coach didn’t say one word to me and I don’t think he did that entire fall. Even when he couldn’t deny that I was better than some of the guys there, he didn’t talk to me. He always put me last and never let me play in the scrimmages that we had. He never asked how I was doing and even when the entire team knew I was having a tough time, he never spoke a word. He hated me, I thought. So I asked Josh if coach hated me. Josh laughed at it and said that “He doesn’t hate you. You’re one of the hardest working guys on the team. Our coach is just a dick. He’s just an asshole and there’s nothing we can do about it.” We just learned to accept the fact.
Fall ball lasted for six weeks. Week one came and went with me hating it and struggling to adjust to the faster speed of college baseball. My coach wasn’t a coach. He didn’t tell me how to adjust, he just yelled at me every time I made a mistake. It was as if he wanted me to fail. After every practice, I wanted to quit. It seemed like the world was against me. I was alone. I lost that entire swagger that I had in my senior year, the confidence that made me an All-State baseball player. I was giving up every day. Sunday came and I was excited to go to church. My dad had called the bishop of the family ward, who in turn gave him the number for the president of the singles branch. The branch president had been texting me about various activities throughout the week and I got ready for church. I rode up and walked in and sat in the back pew and waited for church to start. Matt, who quickly became a good friend of mine, came up to me and introduced to me to Sterling, who has become one of my best friends up here. We talked before church and I was introduced to the Elder’s quorum president, Chance. Chance has been there for me every step of the way and has been the best friend a guy could ask for. Church came and went and I was feeling better about life and myself.
The week came and baseball was the same. The first couple of days seemed better, but soon it took a turn for the worst. On Thursday, I had had it. I was ready to pack up and move back home. Brett had sent me to the cages for the whole practice with a couple of other guys. It was getting to be ridiculous. We weren’t getting a fair shot at playing and we never did, or at least I never got a fair shot. That night I was really down on myself. In my darkest hour, Chance called me. He wanted to have some pizza and just chill. He came and picked me up and we went to his brother’s house to eat some pizza and watch the USC-Utah football game. It was really nice for me to get away from baseball and the world. As we sat there eating, he asked me if I wanted to go see his friend. I said sure, but I was a little worried because I barely knew this guy and didn’t know what to expect. I said sure because well, I didn’t want to be alone again. Little did I know that the people I was about to meet don’t know how much they mean to me.
© Copyright 2016 Hunter Anderson. All rights reserved.
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