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Legends On Deck

This Game of Baseball Saved Me

It wasn’t just a sport or a game I went to watch as a kid — it was more. It was therapeutic. It was my saving grace. I remember coming home from school and running off the bus or out of my moms car to run in the house and catch the Atlanta Braves last three or so innings on TBS with my granny as we heard the voice of legendary Skip Carey call balls and strikes or even criticize certain players on the Braves.

Sadly, baseball lost Carey at the age of 68 on August 3, 2008.

It wasn’t just baseball for me, or my family. It was life. If there was a baseball around, glove or no glove, rain or shine, I was outside pitching the ball off the brick wall on the side of the house learning how to take bad hops or slow grounders. I learned a lot about the game not just by watching it, but teaching myself.

In my life, I didn’t have the male role model that most did when I was growing up, so if I wanted to play pitch and catch sometimes it was with my shadow or myself; sadly my shadow sucked at catching or fielding grounders — I didn’t realize why until I was in fourth grade — crazy, I know.

When I say baseball saved me, I mean it.

Now that I have warmed up, threw a few sessions in the bullpen and took some practice swings at this story, I think I am ready to give this a shot. Hell if I cry, I cry.

Sometimes things happen for the good and the bad, both in sports and in life. It isn’t about how many times you get knocked down, it is about how many times you get up and fight the fight, or so they say. That wasn’t anymore true than it was from 2007-2009.

From that span of time I was playing travel ball, not AAU ball, but something smaller. At the time I was getting noticed by several small schools in D2 baseball. I never played a inning of high school baseball. All the scholarships I earned were through playing travel ball.

I had my life and everything I ever wanted in my hands. I was a so-so Christian athlete, I wasn’t legendary, I was far from special and as time and fate would have it, I was far from invisible — I surely lived like I was though.

Being invisible changed in the summer of 2008 when I went to slide at home plate to avoid a tag. What happened next would lead to this story.

*GULP* 

Somehow, someway, I have made it to this point… So let me continue… In the summer of 2008 I was playing on a team named “NRV Storm”, I don’t know why they called us that, but we were a team that was full of tremendous athletes from the ages of 16-18. I was 16… Let that sink in, 16 years old, going on 17 in the fall.

However, I had secrets. I had an untold possession that was ruining my life and holding me back from being happy. Then it happened… as I was sliding at home, trying to avoid a tag, I slid early and landed awkwardly on my left knee tearing my ACL and MCL. After numerous tests and over three doctor’s opinions, I knew I would not be playing baseball again. Hell, I could barely stand at the time, thinking about running made me sick.

Sick is what I got when teams that were hopeful for my talents to join their baseball program found out that I was using street drugs to cover up depression and a lack of having a father in my life. I remember getting a call from a team that wouldn’t be named here and they just said it was a sad day, but they were wishing me well.

Wishing me well. I didn’t want to be wished well. I wanted to be told I would be playing baseball again, I was told I was not able to do that.

The drug abuse turned more serious. By the time I was 18, two years removed from the injury, I was addicted to pain killers, heroine, cocaine and many other drugs that really took charge of my life. In December of 2009, I made a commitment with my family and friends that I would do everything to stay sober and clean, it was going to be a hard journey, but I would try it.

In 2012, I remember going to a Salem Red Sox game by myself and just remembering and having flash backs of where I could’ve been if I wasn’t taking drugs or abusing drugs.

That was then, this is now.

Now I am eight years sober, going on nine. I am better than ever. Stronger than ever. Healthier than ever. But most importantly, I am drug free. However, if it wasn’t for baseball, both the good and the bad, I wouldn’t be telling this story.

Baseball saved me.

JW Gravley

JW Gravley

JW has been writing about baseball ever since he graduated from high school in 2009. It all started with Baseball Essential but then moved to 27 Outs Baseball. While with 27 Outs, JW did numerous player profile articles, seeing his writings being shared on team websites, shared by players and their families. Also with 27 Outs, JW got fully credentialed to cover the Salem Red Sox in 2015 and has covered the team and most of the Carolina League since then.
JW Gravley