I still remember my assistant coach telling me that there was some guy from the Perfect Game League that wanted to talk to me. I had already set my mind on finding an internship for the following summer and moving away from life as a baseball player. My first two collegiate years didn’t go as expected, and I was ready to begin moving on with my life. I told my coach it wasn’t going to happen.
But that didn’t stop Kevin Hinchey. A few weeks later I received a phone call…
I had already made up my mind that I wasn’t going to put myself through another situation with people who didn’t believe in me and what I could do.
But my mind was quickly changed. It was something about how he talked to me. I could feel that he meant what he said. He was sincere and honest. He told me he was looking for a shortstop (and for some reason he was searching for that at the University of Minnesota). And here he was, promising me a spot on a team I’d never heard of, in a league I’d never heard of, and in a town 20 hours from where I live.
How did this guy possibly find me? Can I give it one more go? I had been struggling with the fact that I never thought anyone would give me a chance to show what I could do, that I would waste away my collegiate career because nobody ever took a chance on me. I was always trying to prove myself so somebody would notice…
But I didn’t have to prove myself to Kevin or the Saugerties Stallions. He believed in me before I put up any numbers, before anybody promised me anything. He was willing to give me an opportunity.
I still remember Kevin texting me before the school season started. “You’re going to be the starting second basemen at school, right?” And I would always respond with, “I don’t know what their plan is.”
What he didn’t know was that I was worried that I wouldn’t get the spot, that I wouldn’t play much. I was preparing for coping with another letdown of a season. I was planning to play when I was in the lineup and cheer on my teammates when I wasn’t. And in the back of my head I thought, at least I get the summer. At least I know they are going to give me a chance.
He believed anyway. And he promised me that I would be his shortstop. Just some kid from the University of Minnesota.
He believed in what I was capable of without needing anything from me. This was five months before the start of my junior season, five months before I started that season 13 for 17. And five months before the season that I led the BigTen in hitting.
I didn’t need to prove myself to the people of Saugerties because they believed anyway. You have no idea the kind of impact that made on me.
When I hugged Kevin after our last game, he said, “Thank you for believing in us.” That’s what he said!
Throughout the summer I wondered why I came here, what my purpose was being in Saugerties. And I realized it in that moment. It wasn’t because Kevin convinced me, and it wasn’t dumb luck. It was because two paths met at the perfect moment along their journeys. Saugerties needed someone to believe, and so did I.
I won’t stop believing. What Saugerties and Kevin Hinchey have is special. So continue on. Continue providing kids with an amazing place to play. Continue smiling and creating an atmosphere that draws the people of Saugerties…And always remember why you started on this journey in the first place.
I’ll never forget Saugerties! Roll, Ponies.
Shortstop Luke Pettersen attends the University of Minnesota.