I respect Ryan Kalish for the man that he’s been, the man that he is and for the man that he’s becoming. He’s consistently looking for ways to improve as a human being and has a genuinely inquisitive and receptive mind. Our discussions delve deep into topics into which most athletes don’t even care to venture. We’ve covered everything under the sun over the years, but we frequently touch on the process of overcoming obstacles. I’m proud of Ryan’s desire and willingness to share a part of his journey relevant to his grit with you, the readers of Kaplifestyle.
Hey everyone. This is Ryan Kalish and I’m writing to share a bit of my personal journey with you. I’m writing this piece from a hotel in St. Louis, where the Cubs are playing the Cardinals. I know I am truly blessed to be back in the Major Leagues, and I never take any day for granted.
This is my first time sitting down to reflect on the arc of my baseball career. I will never forget July 31st, 2010. I was 22 and was called up to the majors by the Boston Red Sox for the first time. I played nearly every day for the final 2 months of the season. It was everything I could have dreamed of and then some.
I spent the off-season staying healthy and working out, planning on making the most of my first full season in the majors. I felt ready to establish myself as an everyday major leaguer. I was as strong, physically and mentally, as I had ever been. Unfortunately, the universe had another plan. The Red Sox signed some big free agents in the off-season, and they sent me back to triple A. I knew I needed to battle through this adversity, but I would be lying if I wrote that I was completely okay with it. To be honest, I was upset and a bit angry.
The first couple of weeks of the season were tough. I had a bit of an attitude and felt like I deserved to be in the big leagues. My feelings showed up on the field. I was struggling. I decided then that I couldn’t change the situation, but I could change how I was reacting to it. If I wanted to get back to the majors, I needed to earn my way up. I refocused and recommitted, determined to prove myself.
Yet again, the universe showed up with a different idea. A week later, I dove for a ball and tore the labrum in my throwing shoulder. The surgery and rehab process was a long and painful one. I was forced to learn a lot about myself and how much true strength is required to keep fighting. I could see the light at the end of the tunnel though, and knew I could once again be a successful ballplayer.
Remember that universe with its plans? Over the course of the next three years, from April of 2011 to April of 2014, I wound up under the surgeon’s scalpel three more times. My right shoulder also required surgery to repair the labrum, and I needed two neck surgeries to fix a damaged disk. I felt as though I was fighting a battle with my own body so that I could once again play the game I love so dearly. I’m still not entirely sure how that fateful dive for the ball led to the breakdown of my body.
The ups and downs of the rollercoaster during those three years took its toll, mentally. I didn’t want to give up, but the doubts haunted me. I lost count of the number of times I would ask myself “Is this worth it? Is it time to move on with my life and try something new?” The answer was always the same. “I don’t know.” Not knowing, for me, meant that I had to keep fighting to get back on the field.
I never envisioned losing those three years. I now cherish every day I put on the Chicago Cubs uniform and step out onto the field. I learned, during the long weeks and months of rehab, to smile every day. I go out and work hard to improve as a baseball player and a human being. I don’t get too caught up in the ups and downs of the long season. Whether we win or lose, whether I have a good or a bad game, I can sleep like a baby knowing that I did everything I could for myself and my teammates.
The lessons I’ve learned carry beyond the baseball field. I’ve learned if something is truly important to me, I will see it through to the end. Whether it works out or not, I know that I gave everything I had. I learned how much goodness there is in people. I talked to so many people through my journey and without the positive attitudes from everyone, whether close friend or total stranger, I would not have made the comeback I did.
My journey isn’t over yet. I don’t know how my big league career will turn out, but I will work as hard as I can to be the best that I can. I am pumped to continue learning new things every single day, no matter what the universe has planned for me next.