Halfway through the season Coach Villano started sending us video clips and questions to help us understand ourselves and what we were trying to accomplish this season. I will always remember one of the first ones he sent, of a speech by Kirk Cousins of Michigan State. He addressed over and over what a privilege it is to be an athlete and what an honor it is to represent something bigger. I speak for each of my teammates and anyone that competes with Western on their jersey, that it is a privilege to be a Leatherneck.
Every day for the last two years, my teammates and I have poured our heart into the Purple Army. We have given everything, both physical and mental, for the opportunity to proudly represent Western on the field and off. Our record does not reflect that talent and ability my teammates have. Sometimes things just don’t work out the way we expect. This is why baseball is the one sport that really teaches you about life. Everyone is going to fail, over and over and over. But how will you respond? What will you do next? What I learned through this season is that no matter how bad things may seem, no matter how bad I played today, when the sun rises tomorrow, it’s a new day and a new opportunity to succeed. This game has taught me how to overcome failure to succeed to the best of my ability, a valuable asset for anyone.
Last Saturday, like many of my teammates, I walked off the field for the last time as a member of the Western Illinois baseball team. I had spent a lot of time thinking about what my reaction would be. Whether I would break down crying that the game I love had come to an end, or if I would smile thinking about all of the memories I have made. To be honest, giving all of my teammates hugs after the win did not feel like the end. I was not sure how to respond and I still don’t. All I know is that I am happy to have had the opportunity to be a part of something greater. It is a privilege to play with 32 guys that I know would be there for me in a heartbeat if I ever need them. 32 brothers. That’s what I will remember from being a Leatherneck; the family I was a part of and what an honor it was to compete with them.
I want to thank everyone who supported us throughout the season, everyone who helped make Western Illinois University baseball possible. My teammates and I know how much truly goes into making our season happen and we appreciate each of you.
Over the years, Western has had thousands of athletes come and go, each of whom have moved on in a different direction with their lives. The one thing that unites each of us is the family we formed here in Macomb, Illinois. No one will ever be able to take that away. I will go on as well, but I will never forget what an honor it is to be a part of the Leatherneck family.
“If you don’t like purple, then I feel sorry for you.”
Senior Relief Pitcher Gabe Long