Everything You Could Possibly Want in a Player
The following story was sent to me as an email by a friend of mine. Coach Joey Sato shared the amazing story of one of his former players and I asked his permission to share it with others too. He was gracious enough to say yes. This story has stayed with me and I am sure it will for you too. It has so many teaching points to it I am almost not sure where to start. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Thanks Coach Sato!
The story is about Zach Degn (pronounced Dane)
Our first contact with Zach was in the fall of his 9th grade year in our instructional league program.
Zach was a physically mature freshman at about 6’2″ and 195 lbs. Zach played well and we hoped he would come back and tryout for our ball club in the spring. Toward the end of the IL season (October) we were made aware that Zach had a health condition. We found out that he had to quit playing youth football and basketball a year earlier because of it. When I talked to him about it, Zach stated that, “Yes, I had to quit because of a heart condtion.” Kidding with him, I said, “A heart condition ? You know, if you go down, I’m not going to give you CPR!” Zach said, “You won’t have to worry about it coach, my heart will just explode and I’ll die”. Zach went on to explain his condition to me, and said that he has learned when he gets physically taxed to a point, he knows when to stop and then when he’s able to start back up and get going again. I asked him if he was sure of this and he assured me that he had learned to recognize when to stop so he would not put himself into any danger. Thank Goodness !!!
Zach made our ball club the following spring. As he made our team, I visited with his dad and let him know that Zach was a “bubble’ guy, but we were going to keep him. The main reason was had he not had the heart condition, I’m sure he would have been able to play and contribute to both our football and basketball teams, but since he couldn’t participate in those sports because of the physical demands, that he deserved to be a part of a Bingham team and we were going to give him that opportunity. He played well during both the high school season and the summer season. He very seldom missed a beat.
Coming back the next school year, we go through a pretty rigorous off season program of weights and conditioning program from September to February. Zach was all in and taxed himself to the limit. He’d stop when he needed to. One of our seniors coined the phrase, “Don’t die Degn” each time he stopped, which became something familiar and carried on each year. Each February, just before tryouts, Zach would have to go for an annual physical and heart test. Each year he came back excited that his condition appeared to be improving.
In his senior year, Zach came back from his annual physical and when we asked how it went, he was disappointed. He said the technician had said that it didn’t look so good. He was to go back in 3 days and find out the results after the Dr. had evaluated it. One of the reasons Zach was so disappointed is that he was hoping to get a good physical so as he prepared to go on his LDS mission later in the year that he would be able to go anywhere in the world the church could send him. Well 3 days later, Zach returned with the results. As you’ll see, we had some pretty good days coming in the upcoming season, but this day will go down as the best. Zach smiling from ear to ear said the Dr. told him that his heart had improved enough that he would not be restricted to staying close to home or home entirely. He could be sent anywhere in the world to serve his LDS mission. Awesome !!! We were so happy for him.
As we rolled into his senior season, Zach was in line to compete for the starting 1B position and we hoped would have a `great year. Unfortunately for Zach, we made a position change with another senior, who was our #3 pitcher and moved him to 1B to take some stress off of his arm as he was a guy who also hit near the middle of our order. Zach was reduced to playing every 3rd game, and usually being DH’d for also. However, as I said above, Zach was all in and became an important leader on our ball club through his example of work ethic and accepting a role that helped our team be successful. Zach played extremely well in his role and saved us many a base or run with his defensive work at 1B. He was already a role model on our team. I often used him as an example of perspective. Here’s a guy who could have been a possible 2 sport dominating athlete, but because of his health, was limited to 1 sport. He never complained of his situation and truly became a great example. When other players may have had issues, I frequently made mention of “compared to what”. Compare your situation to Zach’s, your life’s not so bad !
In the state final, we started our #3 guy in the championship game vs Layton High School. Zach, of course, was in the line up at first base. We led early in the game, but through the middle innings, Layton came back to tie and eventually take a lead. At a critical moment, Zach made a tremendous play at 1B, laying full out, robbing a Layton player of a hit and preventing more damage. It lifted all of us, I swear, 10 feet off the ground ! You should have witnessed the reception he got as he arrived at the dugout.
We were able to come back and win, earning our 2nd Championship in 3 years, but may not have if Zach hadn’t come up with the big defensive play.
This spring, another of our players father brought the attached poster to us that has the following quote from Winston Churchill. “To every man there comes in his lifetime, that special moment when he is figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a special thing, unique to him and fitted to his talent; what a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared or unqualified for the work which would be his finest hour.”
This quotes fits exactly to Zach. I’m sure he wanted to play full time. Every player does. But he always worked as though he was a full time starter and when the moment came, he was well prepared and performed brilliantly.
The poster (which is about lifesize 3.5 ft x 6.5 ft) will hang in a prominent place in our clubhouse as a reminder of a great young man and a great example.
What a great testament to a young man who did all he could to be prepared for his finest hour and was also one of the great teammates to his peers. By the way, Zach is currently serving his LDS mission in Uruguay.
WOW! GOOSEBUMPS…every time I read it! Use it to motivate those players who don’t think their contributions are meaningful. They may end up making all the difference for your team this season.