ACADEMIC INTEGRATION COMPETITIVE EXCELLENCE

IN DIVISION I ATHLETICS

 

Senior Essay: Joseph Pollard

Take each at-bat one pitch at a time. Focus on what you can control. Focus on the process, not the results. We’ve all heard these and countless similar clichés too many times, and though I always nodded when told these by a coach, I never completely bought into them. For much of their life, Harvard students have been conditioned to set a goal and then step up, compete, and find a way to succeed — not to just sit back and enjoy the ride. With that mind set, it wasn’t until my four years playing junior varsity and then club baseball that I truly understood what my old coaches meant.

In junior varsity baseball, regardless of how far I hit a home run, it’s not going to make the morning paper. Regardless of how epic an extra-inning game we played, the only lasting record of it is in the team’s memories. Thus, when the outcome becomes secondary to the process, I learned that you need not only to focus on the process, but to enjoy it. In club baseball, and more generally in life, you need to enjoy the doing, not just the result. And enjoy it I did, as I can honestly say that the past four years of baseball were some of the most fun years I’ve ever had playing sports.

Growing up, my dream was always to play college baseball, and when senior year of high school came, I committed to play ball at a small school. However when I got into Harvard, I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. At the time, I figured the right move was to hang up my spikes and focus on school.  Little did I know then that thanks to Harvard’s junior varsity program, I’d still be able to play a game I love — and I had a great time the first two seasons on junior varsity. Spring of 2009 came though, and with the recession, unfortunately internship programs weren’t the only thing cut — so too was the junior varsity baseball program. Again, I figured I was done with baseball, but thanks to the work of a few friends, Alex Ahmed ’10, Andrew Prince ’10, and Nick Purcell ’11, and the help of the athletic department, we were able to start a club team.

Looking back, I wonder why I kept coming back, why I had to keep playing at some level, and I’ve realized it’s something irresistible that I can’t really explain. It’s a mix of the competition, camaraderie, and sheer enjoyment of the game. It’s the fact that no one at club baseball has any obligation to be there. No one is there because their parents are making them, no one is there out of obligation to a school or coach that recruited them. The members of the club baseball team are there solely because for those hours spent on the field, there is nowhere else they would rather be.  

In the end, my baseball “career” turned out far different than I ever could have imagined, but it really couldn’t have ended up any better. The perspective I gained about how to properly focus on the process proved useful in other aspects of life at Harvard as well. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to take care of business and make sure you’re doing everything possible to win, but it’s also important do have fun and do it the right way. So go ahead and have a barbeque in between games of your doubleheaders, but don’t start the grill until you’re up by 10 runs. And even though this team never made the paper, it will still live on in our collective memories. Not for the strikeouts or home runs, but for the mob at home plate after our first win, for the night spent sleeping at a fraternity house on a road trip since we couldn’t afford anything else, for the karaoke performance at a charity fundraiser, and mainly for the great time we all had getting a chance to extend the dream of playing baseball just a little longer.