Through The Eyes

An Oakland Athletics site presented by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

Through The Eyes

An Oakland Athletics site presented by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

Through The Eyes

An Oakland Athletics site presented by
United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

Nothing Is Impossible

By Ben Paugh

This series is brought to you by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

I remember the moment I learned my football career was over.

Time stood still when my doctor told me I’d never play contact sports again. It was one of those moments you can never prepare for. Here I was thinking I’d be back on the field in three weeks and prepare for my journey to a Division I school.

And now, this dream vanished in thin air.

How do you put something like that in perspective?

My dream essentially died with one sentence. Everyone was counting on me—my school, family community, and teammates. Deep down, I knew it wasn’t my fault, but I also couldn’t stop thinking about how I let everyone down.

It was a darkness that might have swallowed me whole if I didn’t have another outlet. It might have left me in a bad place if I never found baseball.

A jack of all athletes

Football might have been my first love, but I was fortunate that it wasn’t my only one.

I played a bunch of different sports when I was younger, including soccer, basketball, and tennis, and I even gave Taekwondo a shot.

I just remember playing football in fifth grade and instantly falling in love with the sport. I loved the competition the sport offered, but most importantly, I was just happy to finally find something that fit my body type.

My body wasn’t made to run long distances for soccer, and I certainly couldn’t jump out of a gym as a basketball player. I always had a larger frame as a kid, and football put me in the best possible position to succeed.

Well, football and baseball.

I just wanted something to do during the spring, and some of my friends were already on the baseball team. Not to mention it was easier on the body than football.

I really liked the fact that baseball was completely skill-based. My size and physical abilities didn’t matter nearly as much. But my heart still belonged to football. As the years passed and my body started to grow, I began pondering a future as a Division I athlete.

Little did I know that future would be cut short by the one defensive play that changed everything.

The day the dream ended

I was getting some serious interest from colleges heading into my senior year, but outside of a few visits, there was never anything finalized. That’s how it goes sometimes when you’re playing for a city league conference.

No matter how well I performed, there were always questions regarding the level of competition and whether my abilities would translate to the next level. 

So I admittedly entered my senior season with a bit of a chip on my shoulder—or rather, a massive one.

I came into the season bigger, stronger, and faster than I’d ever been. I knew I needed a big year for a Division I school to really take notice. I was on my way after a strong Week 1 performance, and things were really looking up for me.

Well, at least until I injured my shoulder.

It just gave out during a tackle attempt in a Week 2 game. I knew I dislocated it, but I never in a million years would have imagined it’d bring an end to my football career.

But the MRI confirmed it—a 90 percent tear in my labrum.

Even with surgery, my doctor informed me the shoulder wouldn’t be able to withstand the demands of contact sports any longer. If you think of the labrum like a clock, mine was torn basically from 12-to-10. It was pretty much hanging by a thread—just clean off.

The first few weeks after that injury were really hard. It was basically a hit to all of my aspirations of playing a Division I sport. Yes, I was a good baseball player, but I didn’t initially think I was good enough to go anywhere with it.

But there was also this drive burning within me to prove my doctor wrong. I wanted to prove the entire world wrong. I wanted to show my athletic career was far from over.

And so began my baseball journey.

This wasn’t the side treatment I’d previously given the sport when football was the main focus. No, I was all-in on being as good as I possibly could in baseball. I even started working with a rehab specialist for one of the Los Angeles Angels’ farm teams.

I put my head down and worked my butt off.

Not even the sling on my non-throwing arm could stop me. I was determined to remain consistent with my rehab exercises and throwing arm. That determination drove me until another opportunity finally came knocking.

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The first pitch I threw at the camp was 90mph. It felt amazing and helped with my composure and confidence. And then I even hit 91mph.

You can do it

In February of my senior season, I decided on a whim to attend a baseball camp at the University of Akron. I never put any expectations on myself, and it was strictly one of those situations where I was willing to go with the flow.

Anyway it ended was fine with me.

The first pitch I threw at the camp was 90mph. It felt amazing and helped with my composure and confidence. And then I even hit 91mph.

So an impromptu trip ended with me not only resuming my sports career, but I had also found a college. 

Of course, I’d eventually end up transferring and joining coach Jordon Banfield at Oakland University when he was named as the new head coach for the school. I thought it was a really good connection, and he offered me a spot on the team.

I knew that was something I couldn’t turn down.

Being at Oakland means everything to me. I think me being here is a testament to how hard I’ve worked. 

I know, every athlete works incredibly hard and I’m certainly not an exception here. But I had my dreams crushed completely out of nowhere and managed to find a new path simply through grit, determination, and a whole lot of willpower. And because of that, I couldn’t be more proud to be wearing a Golden Grizzlies uniform now.

It really is a dream come true, even if things didn’t exactly go according to plan. It serves as a constant reminder of where I came from and how I want to keep working to be better. I’m going to continue chasing my dreams and see how far I can go.

The fact that I stand here today in a college baseball uniform is proof that nothing is impossible. The only limits in life are the ones we set on ourselves.

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