This is the third and final piece of the three-piece series Alex Oleszkowicz has written on his time in the California Winter League. We would like to thank Alex for sharing his experience, and highlighting the opportunities out there for aspiring professionals.
Months prior to departing for California, I began calendar watching in hopes of an unrealistic simulation of time.
Before trekking out to the West Coast, a handful of friends and family members asked "are you nervous?" Each time that question arose, I remained consistent with my answer. No, nervous wasn't the word for it. "Anxious" was a more accurate term. I was ready to jump onto a plane, step into a warmer climate and enjoy America's Pastime on and off the field.
Once I touched down in California, looking at the time was a treat in itself. After a long morning of travel, time barely moved on from my original departure, or at least it seemed that way with the three hour time difference between Michigan and California. It seems like such a small thing, but getting to deal with that was pretty cool.
Upon chatting with friends and family members at points throughout the day, I often forgot about the difference in time. There was one moment, only one, when Pacific time really bit me. At the start of every month, a payment of my student loans are due. I waited until the day of in February and kept forgetting to jump online to make it happen. Eventually, 9:30pm rolled around, I logged in and saw a late notice. My oh my, I felt as if I had been cheated.
So no, not everything was fun and games in California, there were those humbling moments, especially on the diamond. There aren't many that are able to slide away from baseball's reality checks.
With that said, when something didn't go your way, forgetting about whatever happened was a bit easier in California. If you just took a deep breath, looked around the outskirts of the stadium, mountains surrounded you in every direction, then, glancing back down at your feet to realize you were wearing cleats on a ball field.
It doesn't get much better than that, especially when competing with as well as against others from all over the country and world, even.
Getting back onto the field to play at what was a taste of the professional level was mesmerizing, something I plan to intake for the foreseeable future.
Once the month winded down and the British Columbia Bombers (the team I played for) were eliminated from the playoffs, it was just about time to head back home, but not before adding lifelong contacts.
Throughout the month, I had the privilege of meeting several outstanding individuals, many in whom I've spoken to daily or at least weekly, since returning to Michigan. One being Dalton Cozart, another Great Lakes Bat Company user, who played on the Bombers as well.
Backtracking to one of the first couple days in the league, while standing in line at the batting cage, I heard an unfamiliar voice behind me. "Nice bat", Cozart said. I turned, looked at him to match the unfamiliar voice with a face because I had no idea who he was. Upon doing so, I noticed he was holding his own Great Lakes model. We shared a laugh before figuring out that we grew up 30 minutes from one another.
It really is a small world.
Looking back, journeying out to California for a month to play the game I love was an outstanding decision. An experience that won't ever be forgotten.
For now, I'm back at the drawing board, working on my baseball craft as a free agent, looking for the opportunity to catch on somewhere.
Alex Oleszkowicz is a writer for Cleat Geeks and Detroit Sports and Entertainment... but right now he is an aspiring professional baseball player. He agreed to document his journey as part of the California Winter League in a three-part series for us. This is Part One, with a day-in-the-life piece coming soon, and a summary piece at the conclusion of his experience.