Numbers Game

Athletes are weird people. Many find motivation in the smallest things… whether it be something someone told them seven years ago, an opponent, a recent game, superstitions, and so on. For a good handful of athletes, their number means a lot to them. Some don’t care, and just take what they’re assigned… but others will offer cash payouts and trades to their teammates to ensure they get the number they want.

Numbers are in essence a form of identity. They’re simply in place for statisticians, fans, and observers to be able to tell who is who on the field of play.

For me, my number has always mattered. From my very first day of baseball until the time I graduated high school, my number never changed. When I was preparing for my first coach-pitch baseball experience at six years old, my dad got his old softball bag out from the garage for us to use. It was black with a white embroidered 14 on the side. I obviously wanted to be just like my dad, so I decided that this too would be my number.

My dad wore 14 for the handful of years that he played highly competitive softball in memory of his father, who passed on March 14th, 1990. Obviously I had never met my grandfather, but this too became my cause. For some reason I felt that it was my legacy to continue to carry on. Ironically enough, I drew a lot of comparisons to my grandfather from a young age, with people who knew him often citing our shared sense of stoicism, compassion, and demeanor.

When it came time for my brother to pick his number in that same year, he wanted to be number 3, in hopes of imitating the great Babe Ruth. My brother Kyle swung from the left side, that being the only thing he ever did left-handed. He had a naturally sweet swing, much more smooth and natural than mine ever was.

It wasn’t until two or three years later that we further recognized the significance of our choices. A family friend pointed out in conversation that even though I thought I was the only one honoring my grandfather, it turns out that we both were. Again, 3/14 was the day that he passed. As I explained, this wasn’t intentional of us, but rather a mere coincidence that a five year old wanted to be like a legend whose number played right into our family story.

We took immense pride in this, and throughout my youth it became my ‘fun fact’ when being introduced to groups of people in school or elsewhere. It lead to numerous pictures of us facing away from the camera to show off our story. Those pictures then entered frames that were updated every once and a while on my grandmother’s bedside windowsill.

When I decided I was going to Dulaney to continue to play in high school, my first question to Coach Wolf was if 14 would be available. I continued to wear it with pride so much so that one of my teammates in the class above me changed his number for his senior year once my brother made the team as a freshman. He gave 3 to Kyle and decided to don 21 instead. It was the first time since those coach-pitch days that Kyle and I got to play together in our original numbers.

After I graduated and left Dulaney, circumstances got the best of the both of us. The injury bug took Kyle out of commission for his junior year, which was ultimately canned after one game due to the pandemic. Down at Radford, 14 wasn’t available in my first year, so I sent in my three top choices and ended up with number 8.

8 is a pretty good number, worn by the likes of Cal Ripken, Lamar Jackson, and a collegiate Alex Frederick (I think). I liked it, it had some swag, but it didn’t have a ton of meaning to me. I wanted to make something out of it, but I didn’t quite know what. I went through my fair share of previously documented struggles at Radford, and by the time I came back for my second semester, I just didn’t feel like myself.

I was introduced to the Super 8 by a family member, and figured that it might have some meaning, but I admittedly wasn’t living those ideas to the fullest. I had been kicking around writing for a while, but I didn’t have any keystone ideas to base anything on. It all kinda clicked for me at the same time.

The Super 8 could become a multitude of things. It could become meaning for my number. It could become a reminder to myself on who I am. It could give me a set of ideals to finally set my ideas around. It could become concepts that are worthy of sharing with the world. It could become a reminder to everyone else that as I lost my sense of identity, I’m still here.

I ran with it. Those ideas really excited me, I got to define what all of these concepts meant to me, and I got to run with it. I knew it would become something that would last way longer than anything I did in that number on that uniform. Which is entirely true, because that uniform is long gone from my life.

When I got to Towson, I knew 14 again wouldn’t be in the cards. I obviously liked 8, but wanted to shed that number and leave it in the past. I thought about 24, because 8 to 24 is what a young Kobe Bryant did, but that wasn’t available either. I just left it up to dealer’s choice, and they gave me 46. 46 is the number of a practice squad linebacker. What legend in any sport has ever worn number 46?

After I signed with Towson, a few other players from the years before dropped off, opening up some new numbers here and there. 26 popped up and I thought that was perfect. That number memorializes another special figure in my young life, someone that I believe still is my guardian angel in a sense, and someone I hope you know good and well about. His story is documented in one of our top posts ever on Super 8, https://thesuper8.blog/2020/09/14/logan-love/

This time I decided to honor someone not in their death, but in their birth. Logan was born as a miracle in the first place on the 26th of March. I myself had to go through my own rebirth as a player and a person, and I found this to be extremely fitting at that point in my life. To me, Logan was a figure that represented so many values to me, well beyond the miracles of faith and love.

I was 12 when he was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS). Instantly, even at that point in my young life, I took that as a message to myself that what I had the ability to do was special. Often times we are so ignorant to the little, special things that construct our lives that we take entirely for granted. We all knew that had Logan made it through all of his surgeries and procedures, which he did with strength and grace, that he would never be able to take part in most athletic endeavors. That signaled to me that this game that I was so very passionate about had to be viewed as a blessing, because something getting to play a sport isn’t a gift for everyone.

After whatever trials and tribulations I had to endure to stay afloat in Division 1 baseball, I had lost some sense of my 12 year old self. I take comfort in knowing that every time I slide that number 26 down my back, I have two intangible figures with me; my young self, and that blessed baby boy, both telling me to not take any of this for granted.

It was then no coincidence that Kyle bounced back from the injury bug just enough to find the will to play again. The start of the public high school season was delayed just enough to allow him to sit in thought about his future as a baseball player. He came to just enough of my games to feel a yearning to want to play this game again. Two weeks before tryouts, in a surprise to us all, he decided he wanted to play his senior year, and once again wear that number 3.

Which this time, yet again, gave us our new date of rebirth: 3/26

Luvya. Talk soon,

Bryce

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