In life, all good things must come to an end. For an athlete, the ending of their career is one that often comes with a lot of emotion -- good or bad.
Sometimes you know when you're last game is happening or when your last time on the field is, in fact, your last, but sometimes life takes us by surprise. An injury, a rainout, a loss in a tournament -- play as if every second is the last time you'll ever get to.
To you athletes, never hold back and love every moment because these moments will all too soon become nothing but your past.
When you lace up your cleats for the last time, remember exactly how it feels -- the stiffness of the laces, maybe even the smell. Admit it, your cleats smell disgusting, but you secretly love it.
When you lace up your cleats for the last time, lace 'em tight because you probably won't ever wear them again. They'll sit in your bag, probably with your glove, for years without being touched, but you won't dare give them away.
When you lace up your cleats for the last time, give everything you have; don't leave any room for regret. No one is going to remember you half-assing it or missing the ball; no one is going to remember the things you didn't do. But you will.
When you lace up your cleats for the last time, play with your whole heart. You've played for so long, so no matter what you say, you know that you love it more than anything, even on the days that you feel like giving up.
When you lace up your cleats for the last time, step on the field with more confidence than you've ever had. You own it. You've put in the work, and regardless of how good or bad you think you may be, you deserve to feel like you're a champion. You've put in the work to be there.
When you lace up your cleats for the last time, take a look at your teammates. Remember them. After this chapter closes, the last inning is played, and the last out is made, your brothers and sisters that you've played with aren't going to be your teammates anymore -- just someone you used to know. You may say you'll be close forever, but so far I've learned that to be a lie.
When you lace up your cleats for the last time, smile for your mom or dad taking pictures in the stands. It's not as dumb as you think it is, and someday you'll regret not taking those pictures they begged you to take because you won't have much to look back on. Those pictures will be so precious to you. They are to me.
When you lace up your cleats for the last time and step up to the plate to hit, don't worry about striking out or not hitting the ball to the right place, or not getting that bunt down. Unlike life, you get three strikes, if you don't get the first or the second, swing your hardest and hit the third.
Like I said, no one remembers what you didn't do. You will, but you're really going to remember the moments you did something big.
When you lace up your cleats for the last time, hug your coach. Sometimes you may love them, and sometimes they may be the person you hate more than anything, but regardless, he or she is the one that puts you on the field. Be thankful for the opportunity to even be playing. Dalton Compton used to say, "Hey Coach, we get to play baseball today!" That's how you should look at it every time.
When you lace up your cleats for the last time, get dirty. Dirt washes out of the uniform, skinned knees and bruises heal, but the memories you have being scrappy will last a lifetime.
When you lace up your cleats for the last time, remember the weather. I know this sounds crazy but every time the weather is the same way as it is the day you played for the last time, you're going to be brought back to that place. I know I am.
Remember the smell of the grass, the smell of where you're playing. If its' later in the evening, the smell of dew in the air. It doesn't seem like much but you'll miss it. And like the weather, every time you smell it, you're going to remember that exact moment.
When you lace up your cleats for the last time, be thankful for the life lessons you've been taught. You'll never forget those. How to work hard, how to be a good leader, how to be a friend, how to get through something when its tough, how to be humble in victory and how to hold your head high through a loss.
When you lace up your cleats for the last time, be obnoxious. Be LOUD! Let everyone know you're there to win, cheer on your teammates as if the play they're making is the game winner. Go crazy, because after this moment in your life, if you act like that as a fan, people are going to think you're seriously crazy.
When you lace up your cleats for the last time, drink the water from the cooler or the Gatorade your coach mixed. It doesn't taste the same from anywhere else. (Coach Peeler, I miss the Gatorade...)
When you lace up your cleats for the last time, don't be scared. Nobody is ever successful when they fear they're going to fail. Softball/baseball is a game of failure. You fail more times than you'll succeed, but that's what makes it so great because you learn how to get through that, and everyone has to learn the same way.
When you lace up your cleats for the last time, don't take them off until you have to.
When you begin to unlace your cleats, do it slowly. Take as long as you can because this is the last time you'll ever do it. Remember the sound of the spikes hitting the concrete; you'll miss it. Remember hitting them together to get the dirt off.
When you no longer have your cleats on, go to the stands and thank your support network. Whether that be your mom, dad, aunt, uncle or even just a family friend, thank them for everything. For every ride to practice, for every late night helping you wash your uniform, for cheering you on in the all the different types of crazy weather -- they were there.
Thank them for bringing you cold drinks on hot days of practice; thank them for spending the money on years of equipment; thank them for driving you across the country for tournaments and for lessons. Thank them for everything.
When you no longer have your cleats on, you'll go take off your uniform for the last time. That number on the back of the jersey will be special to you for the rest of your life. You're going to remember it, and maybe someday your kids will wear the same one. When they do, you'll be so proud.
When you take off your jersey, hold it tight. Next year it'll be someone else's.
As you unlace your cleats, take off your uniform and start to leave the field, look up at the field lights because the next time you'll be under them, you won't be an athlete anymore. You'll be on the other side of the fence.
The love for the game will never leave you, nor will you leave it. There's always a time and place to move on, and sometimes we aren't ready for it. But it happens. Each year so many people close this chapter of their lives and have to move on to the next.
It can be really hard trying to find something to invest your newfound time in because it just won't be the same. There will be a void, but you'll learn to fill it. When you can find something that makes you happy, use the skills you've learned from playing over the years to make it even better.
Always give 100%, be wholeheartedly invested, be a good teammate to whoever you're working with and always, ALWAYS, remember who you are and where you came from.
When you lace up your cleats for the last time, lace 'em tight because you're not going to want to take them off. When you do, go out and conquer the world--you've trained your whole life for it.