When I woke up this morning I asked my 11 year old daughter, “what should I write about today?” Without hesitation she said, “Don’t Doubt Yourself!”
The first thing that came to mind was Jerry Blevins of the New York Mets. Lock it in and give me 100% of your attention right now because this is a made for Disney story that will give you goose bumps.
Today, Jerry is one of the premier left handed relievers in Major League Baseball. And he was actually in town this past week as the Mets were playing the Cubs. Which is part of the reason his story came to mind when my daughter said, “Don’t Doubt Yourself!”
My relationship with Jerry started in 2001 when he decided to walk on the University of Dayton baseball team as a non-scholarship pitcher. I just so happened to be the pitching coach at the time. Despite all the odds against him, Jerry toed the rubber on that fall day and he threw a couple of erratic pitches that registered 86 MPH on the radar gun that caught my eye. Along with his 6’6 160 pound frame, it was enough to garner him an opportunity to be part of the team for at least the fall.
This was just the start of Jerry learning to not doubt himself…
Over the next two years Jerry only pitched 15 innings with most of his appearances ending in disappointment outside of an outing or two. Needless to say he was pretty low on the totem pole and was even told by the head coach that he was mentally weak and needed to transfer to another school if he wanted to play.
Half way through the spring season of his sophomore year Jerry was faced with a decison to either battle through the discomfort and doubt or change his scenery and transfer to another school at years end?
Today, most of us would choose to run away from this situation and jump ship… Not Jerry! This is where the real Jerry Blevins was discovered!
Knowing that something had to change if Jerry was every going to thrive, I decided to get to know who he was at his core. After a couple of uncomfortable one on one skull sessions I discovered something about Jerry that I would have never known otherwise. Since age 4, he was without a father figure in his life and every time he tried to reach out his pops didn’t want much to do with him.
Instantly I knew that tough love wasn’t the right route for Jerry. He needed something with more meaning and substance to build his internal confidence. With his approval we decided to read Dorfman’s Mental ABC’s of Pitching together, chapter by chapter for the remainder of the spring season at Dayton.
Three major AHAH Moments for Jerry came as a result of our sessions…
I’m responsible for my confidence and success.
I control how I’ll respond to my results.
I need to do this for something greater than myself – my teamates!
Armored with his new mindset Jerry decided to stay at Dayton for his Junior year and fight through the adversity and prove that he belonged. At no point did he or I ever imagine that it would be his last year on a college campus.
That next fall as school started you could immediately see the difference in the way Jerry carried himself. His work ethic went through the roof. By the time conference games rolled around in the spring Jerry had worked his way into the #1 Starter on the team. Pitching over 5 times as many innings he logged in his entire collegiate career Jerry started flashing signs of the dominate lefty that he is today. On top of that he was touching 94 MPH on the radar gun pretty regularly. All because he made the decison that it was time for change and he was responsible for it!
After his breakout season in June, Jerry was selected by the Cubs in the 17th Round of the 2004 MLB Draft. After a couple of weeks of weighing his options he decided to start his climb through the minor league system and to one day pitch for the MLB Club.
During his first year and a half of pro ball, Jerry climbed from Rookie Ball to AA Ball which put him on the fast track to the MLB Club. Or that is what it seemed? The next year in 2006, losing command of his pitches and being tinckered with by some unknown pitching coach, Jerry found himself being demoted all the way back to Rookie Ball.
Demoralized to say the least, Jerry was ready to hang em up. But before he was going to make this drastic decision, luckily he decided to lean on where it all started… with his college pitching coach… me!😉
I simply reminded him that he was responsible for his confidence and success. I told him that if he was going to bow out at least do it on his terms. Which meant go back to pitching your way, the way that elevated you to AA Ball during the previous year. He decided to do just that and spent the last month of the 2006 season back in AA Ball!
In 2007, still pitching well in the Cubs system, Jerry was traded to the Oakland A’s and made his major league debut on September 16th against the Texas Rangers. He proceeded to spend the majority of the next 5 years in the MLB with the A’s with an occassion bump back to AAA earning the league minimum. By 2013 he signed his first contract over the league minimum netting $1.1 Million. Choosing to adapt and change along the way was now paying huge dividends!!!
Jerry hasn’t looked back since and has used adversity to spark change to become one of the premier left handers in the MLB. Garnering a 7 million dollar salary!
Self Doubt is a figment of your imagination created by you…
Don’t run away from it…
Attack your doubts head on & Encourage those around you to do the same!