Many of the high school baseball players drafted to play professionally perceive an immediate decision. They must choose to either sign and play or return to school to pursue a degree in college. They have no idea the education the minor leagues provide. Chase Lambin does. He riffs in his own way below in a powerful guest post.
When I was a kid, I dreamed of playing baseball under the lights. What I never dreamed of is what I would do the day I decided to hang it up. After nearly 1,400 games in the minor leagues, I wrote the following letter to my friends, family and teammates. I wanted to give one more thanks to all the people who helped me along the way and to express my gratitude for all the experiences the game provided me. Little did I know it would provide me with the perspective, foresight and strength I needed in order to pursue my next career.
“Hangin Em Up”
As the old adage says, “All good things must come to an end.” Well, after 1,363 games, 5,149 plate appearances, and 1,191 hits, I have made the decision to hang up my cleats and retire from playing professional baseball.
Many an ex-teammate has said to me after their retirement, “Ride it till the wheels fall off Chase. Because once it’s over, it’s over.” Well I listened. My wheels may not be completely off, but there are a lot of miles on these tires, and they are running pretty low. My body just doesn’t do what it used to do. I’ve always said that if I couldn’t play to the level I’m accustomed to, then it was time to walk away. And I’m okay with it. I’m more than okay with it. I have been BLESSED beyond measure. My cup has runneth over with good times and good fortune. I have chased the coolest of dreams for the past 13 years, allowing me to travel the world, meet the most amazing cast of characters you could ever imagine, and push my mind and body to levels that most people could only dream of.
I can honestly say that I played, prepared, and competed as hard as I possibly could have. I always respected the game and tried to have as much fun as possible. (Even when the game kicked me in the guts, and God knows how many times this game has brought me to my knees.) I got back up every time I was knocked down, and will be able to look my two beautiful children in the eye one day and say, “Dada never gave in, and Dada never gave up.” I can look in the mirror and know that I played the game the right way, leaving it all on the field, and have zero regrets.
Although I will dearly miss squaring up a 95 mph fastball or making a diving play, what I will miss more are the little things. The stories on the bus, talking hitting in the cages, the pre game handshakes, the smell of popcorn and fresh cut grass, the top step of the dugout, “Put me in coach” blaring over the stadium speakers, seeing a kid’s face light up after signing a ball, a good fitting uniform, wearing eye black on a sunny day, the scraped knees and callused hands, the high fives after a big win, and the dog piles and champagne showers. But what I will probably miss most of all, is the clubhouse and just hangin with the guys. It’s where I am most comfortable and free. It’s where I am at ease and at peace. I don’t know what could ever replace the feeling of being completely at home while “at work.”
To all my teammates and coaches I had the pleasure of playing with and learning from over the years: It’s you who I will think of when I reflect on the past 13 years. It’s you who have filled my heart and soul with so many laughs and so much love. It’s you who helped mold me into the man I am today. Please know that you are all my brothers, and have a very special place in my heart. Tadlock, Robe, Mac, HoJo, Bobby V, Bates, Brad, Bear, Bowser, Ben, Burnham, Bacani, Byard, Gil, D-Wright, Simmons, Sulti, Dunc, Monty, Knick, EJ, Cervy, D-Mart, Quintin, Press, Whealy, Kole, McGinley, Hip-Hop, Bynum, Fletch, CC, Delaney…there are just too many to name. Thank you guys for grinding it out with me. You are all true warriors. I love you all.
I thank my parents and brother for instilling a work ethic and mentality that has served me my entire career. Y’all taught me how to outwork the rest and to be strong and tough in the face of adversity. Y’all have relentlessly supported my dream for over 30 years! Wow! What a lucky man I am to have had such an awesome upbringing, filled with so much love and encouragement. I love you guys.
I sincerely thank all of the friends and family who supported my journey. Following me through all the minor league cities and even overseas to Japan. Your kind words and heartfelt support has filled my sails all these years. Chasing my dream was much easier because of you. Thank you.
To my amazing and graceful wife Sara, Thank You. You have ridden this crazy roller coaster with me for so many years. You have been by my side through every 0-4, every error, and every tough loss. You squealed at my big hits and applauded my good plays. But no matter what happened in the game, you always had a hug and kiss for me, and you ALWAYS had my back. You are by far the best teammate I have had in my career. I love you more than you know.
I was once asked by a teammate early in my career, if I didn’t make it to the big leagues, would I consider my career, “All for naught?” Without hesitation, I said, “No.” Life (and baseball) is about the journey, not the destination. And what an amazing journey it has been!
Baseball is a microcosm for life. It teaches life lessons that I don’t think any other profession could teach. I look forward to teaching the lessons I have learned to my children and using those same lessons in my next profession. Thank you Baseball.
Sara and I are looking forward to our next adventure. I’m not sure which direction God will lead us, but I trust his plan and am excited to see what the next chapter has in store for us. I just thank the Good Lord for making me a ball player. And I thank you all for taking this journey with me. I am, and have been, TRULY blessed.
Big Love to all…See ya on down the road…
If this were a movie, that’s where the credits roll. Because it’s real life, I found myself faced with the decision of what I wanted to do with the next chapter. I had some possibilities in sales, possibilities that would have paid quite well. At the same time, I had opportunities to continue to stay in the game as a coach…but making much, much less.
I called some ex-teammates who had crossed the line into the “real world” to pick their brains. They were nearly unanimous in their opinions. They simply weren’t nearly as happy making great money as they were when they were poor and still playing. The money couldn’t compensate for the lack of fulfillment.
It wasn’t just my decision, however. My wife stays at home with our two children, and I’m the sole provider of income. That is a pretty big obligation, and made my decision much tougher. I had some soul searching to do. Do I take the money and financial freedom that it would provide for my family and me, or do we live on a “shoe string” budget while I stay in the game that brought me so much joy and fulfillment?
I asked myself what I really wanted to do on a daily basis, and a quote from Ray Lewis kept popping in my mind. I heard him once say in an interview, “I just want to impact lives, plain and simple.”
In the end, having meaningful connections with people and impacting lives in a positive way is what it all comes down to for me. Sales could not provide me with the same platform to make a difference. I want to motivate and mentor young men. I want them to be successful at navigating the gauntlet that is professional baseball. The game isn’t just about making it to the big leagues; I want the chance to help mold players into better men, friends, spouses and fathers.
The decision was made.
I am happy to say I am in the middle of my first season coaching with the Texas Rangers organization, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. I truly haven’t had a bad day yet. I make those meaningful connections every day, with players, coaches and staff. They have impacted me, and I hope that I have made a positive impact on some of them as well.
Coaching can be a thankless job. The players are the ones actually playing the game, and I won’t know until much later, if at all, if I had an impact on a young man. What I do know is that I’m controlling what I can. I give a great effort and bring a great attitude to the ballpark every day.
When my family gathers around the table to say prayers each night, I always end the prayer with, “Thank you Jesus for all the blessings you have given us. We trust whatever path you put us on.” I believe God instilled in me the ability to connect with young men, and I TRUST with all my heart that God will continue to guide and provide for us. I urge everyone reading this to do the same.
See ya on down the road,