Lessons Learned: A Young Man's Difficult Journey in Baseball
A passion electrified at birth. That passion will never disappear.
My name is Jack Cote, a former Connecticut Moose athlete who had dreams of playing in the MLB. Sometimes those dreams don’t come true. But every dream has a reason, a path, a meaning. My meaning, baseball will be a part of my life forever.
I worked at this love as hard as I’ve ever worked for anything in my life. For 16 years, I dedicated myself to being the best baseball player I could. I pushed myself to the limit. I ran into obstacles. I disregarded pain. I ignored throbbing to compete.
Starting when I was ten years old, I threw the 75 pitch limit every week. Why? Because I was a competitive youngster who had no idea what was creeping on my shoulder. Summer of 10u, we won the district championship, got to the regional round, and I was sidelined because of arm pain. We lost the first two games in the regional round and were eliminated.
My 11 and 12-year-old seasons were terrific, but it was the beginning of the end for my baseball career.
In the fall of my first year out of little league, I met the Perry Brothers. A Fall camp, surrounded by kids four to five years older than me, was one of the best athletic experiences of my life. It put things into perspective. It showed me how hard I would have to work to get to the point of contention for a college scholarship. Imagine a short, shy 13-year-old Jack Cote, preparing a long toss after 17-year-old Chase Jeter. Interesting. I’d say there was a slight gap in velocity.
I began my spring season with the West Hartford Lightning, and that’s when it all went downhill. I wish I had sat out that season. I wish I had realized, lessons from the Perry Brothers in the spring were ten times more powerful than overusing my arm for yet another season.
One doctor visit led to 4 months of Physical Therapy after being diagnosed with Multi-Directional Instability in my shoulder and what my grandpa calls “Little League Elbow.”
It was devastating. I thought I would never play again. The sport I had played my entire life was put on pause. So what happened next? Perry Brothers to the rescue.
During my freshman year, I was able to reconnect with pitching genius Mike Perry, someone who had been through a few arm injuries... If you ever see Mike Perry, ask him to lift his right arm, listen carefully, and let the crackles echo throughout the field.
Mike was able to get me back to 100 percent. Or so we thought. Looking back, I don’t think I ever returned to being 100 percent healthy; I don’t know if it was possible.
I was able to play freshman baseball at Hall, after a year of rehab. Midseason, I secured the starting shortstop role, as well as batting leadoff. I felt great. First game starting shortstop, I made every play, I went 4/4 with a couple of doubles. I was back. In the 6th inning, as the game went back and forth, a liner was poked to shortstop, forcing me to layout to my left. I made the greatest catch I’ve ever made. But there was one problem when I caught it, I came down on my right wrist. I channeled my inner Kobe Bryant, and played the rest of the game. It was later revealed that I had a fractured scaphoid bone. I couldn't catch a break.
I was preparing to play my first healthy summer season, but instead, I was sidelined for the first tournament. I recovered in 6 weeks, the minimum time because I was so excited and anxious to play for the Moose.
I finally returned to action for the Moose. Shortly there after, my shoulder and elbow pain returned. I wasn’t going to sit. I powered through it. I got back to feeling healthy by the end of the summer. I pitched the last three innings of a pressure-filled tournament game. That game is tough to talk about because it was my last high moment on the diamond. I will never forget it.
My baseball career was filled with a lot of memories, many good, some not so good. The last four or so years of my career were challenging. I was miserable at times. I didn’t see the JV field during my sophomore year of high school. My sophomore summer, 16u, was the last hooray. Hanging on by a thread after a painful spring season, I was looking to get back on track. The summer started as planned, but I wasn’t the same. I didn’t feel like myself. I felt like I had lost a lot of the skill and talent I had worked so hard to get the past ten years of my life.
I arrived at the Firecracker Baseball tournament in Rhode Island, questioning my future in the sport. That weekend I realized I was done. It has been a year since that weekend, and still, to this day, I feel like my arm problems were the result of a torn labrum. I left Bryant University that weekend and said goodbye to competing in my first love. Baseball will always be my first love, but to be completely honest, it broke me, it pained me. The game of baseball that I loved, I then had begun to hate. I was done.
In a year of reflection, and I miss it like crazy. I wish I could be out on the field with my teammates. But I know deep down, my days competing on the baseball field are over. So what’s next? Apply a growing passion for sports journalism, and give back whatever I can to a program that has helped me, changed me, and strengthened me into the person I am today. Without the Moose, the Perry Brothers, I don’t know where I would be. Thank you, Moose baseball. Antlers up.