In the middle of each game, usually around the fifth or sixth inning, I stop and take a moment to look around. I've now played in nearly 400 games and had over 1,500 at bats in my career, but I still take the time to appreciate where God has brought me. After how long it took me to get here, I want to soak in every moment I can.
My name is Whit Merrifield and I play for the Kansas City Royals. Life is great these days, and I just signed a contract over the offseason to keep me here for the next several years, but it wasn't that long ago that I was ready to quit the sport for good.
In fact, I played that conversation in my head multiple times. Six years in the minor leagues will do that to you. I never questioned God's plan, but I did question if that plan included a career playing major league baseball. The funny thing was, the closer that I got to the big leagues, the more I started to question if it was ever going to happen.
When you're starting out your minor league career, the big leagues seem like some distant dream in the horizon. When you're in Triple-A, everything is more tangible...including every strikeout, every error, and every roster move. I can honestly say that if it wasn't for my family, especially my Dad, I might not be sharing this story with you today. But my Dad didn't raise me to casually quit something I had worked all those years to achieve.
"Once you take your cleats off," my dad warned me, "That's it. You can't put them back on."
If you would have told me back in college that my relationship with the game would become that complicated, I would have had a hard time believing it. Until that point, things had all gone according to plan. I excelled in high school, and received an offer to play at the University of South Carolina - one of the most prestigious baseball programs in the country.
Ray Tanner never had a losing season in 25 years as a head coach, and my first two seasons at USC were no exception. We went 40-23 in each of my first two years there, but it was in my junior season at South Carolina where I had the greatest moment of my career.
My last at-bat as a Gamecock was one I will never forget.