Baseball’s Greater Impact, 3/14/19

Have you ever thought about how an insignificant decision that seems trivial at the time could actually impact the course of your life forever? Maybe you’ve experienced making what seems like a quick decision in the moment and having that choice alter you or your family’s life, whether positive or negative, forever. Although, I hope that you’ve made more decisions that carry positive connotations rather than ones that inflict negative repercussions.

As I’m sure you’ve made more good decisions than bad (however, this is a never-ending battle that we should strive to improve all the time), it is impossible to predict whether our decisions will render the expected outcome or one that we had not foreseen in a million years. While it is not plausible for humans to predict the future, sorry Miss Cleo, we continuously try our absolute best to make choices that will better ourselves and the lives of others we love. What I thought was a simple decision to embark on a month-long trip to Puerto Rico turned out to be the most life-altering choice I had ever made, and I was completely oblivious at the time.

The year was 2016. It was early fall, a beautiful time in central Pennsylvania, and Gilbert Vega and I were getting a taste of how difficult it was to start a small business. Even though our hearts were in the right place, we were not seeing the results we had anticipated. Masterful Mechanics Baseball was not growing in popularity like we had hoped. To be frank, our expenses were outweighing our earnings.

We had just started our baseball instructional company (we were still in the process of getting certified), designed to resonate a positive impact on youth baseball players in the central Pennsylvania area, and the process was not as glamorous as you would think. While we had a few clients paying for consistent lessons, we had just purchased our licensing from an online company (which turned out to be a money-grab for them and unnecessary for us) and paid for several different pieces of pertinent equipment that we would need to provide proper instruction.

Without question, we were making a positive impact on the few players we worked with (thank you to parents such as Blaire Young, Mike Delancey and Danielle Kough for sticking with us during our beginning phases), and their baseball skills were definitely improving, but the business was not yet financially beneficial to us. It can be discouraging when a lot of your time and money is flowing into an entity that is not reciprocating the same type of return back. Thankfully, Gilbert and I were persistent, and we were always positive with long-term and short-term goals while never giving up the dream.

At this point, we were trying to figure out something we could do to expand the business and give us more credibility. We had both played collegiate baseball at Kutztown University, and I was currently playing local men’s league baseball, but we needed further and more impressive experience. So, this was around the time that Gilbert mentioned an instructional baseball league taking place in Puerto Rico that he had heard about. Somehow, he convinced me to take the trip to his native land (Gilbert was born in Puerto Rico and moved to the states with his family as a small child) to play in this month-long baseball league. Great, more money that we are going to spend with little chance of anything in return. Man, did I turn out to be wrong about the lack of return part.

Playing baseball in Puerto Rico turned out to be one of the greatest experiences of my life. Not only was the scenery beautiful and the people friendly to show me the wonders of their enchanted island, the Puerto Rico Instructional Baseball League (PRIBL) jumpstarted my professional baseball career. So far, it has allowed me to visit the tropical island of PR, the northern tip of Maine and other various locations in the northeast United States to the west coast and the gorgeous vineyards of the Napa Valley in Northern California. And let’s not forget, I’ll soon be embarking on a trip to Europe to play in the Czech Extraliga Professional Baseball League and coach the Czech U21 and U18 national baseball team.

When they say it only takes that one coach or scout who is interested in you to jumpstart your career, it is not a lie. While in Puerto Rico, a man by the name of Jim Hayes promised me a spot on his team in the Empire Professional Baseball League. He did not disappoint, as he took me as his first pick out of the league’s spring training camp. Huge shout out to Jim, as he is one of the most honest and genuine baseball managers, albeit people, that I’ve ever met. We still keep in touch today, as we are both always trying to improve our game and learn more about the professional baseball world.

While catapulting my baseball career, the choice to take the trip to one of the most scenic U.S. territories also took Masterful Mechanics Baseball, LLC to another level. The instruction we received while playing in the PRIBL gave us valuable knowledge of the professional baseball, especially the independent baseball, world. Also, playing pro ball improved my baseball resume and made us more attractive to potential clients. Because let’s be honest, parents are more apt to pay for lessons from an instructor with professional playing experience than one who doesn’t have it. While the coach with little to no playing experience COULD actually be a better coach, parents and players want to see that pro ball experience on their instructor’s resume.

Now you know how the Puerto Rico trip gave me infinite baseball experience and helped cement Masterful Mechanics Baseball as a more popular option for baseball instruction in the Harrisburg area, but the other little nugget that I received from this journey was something that none of my family and friends (especially my mother) and I could have predicted we would gain.

My beautiful daughter was born Mila Zoe Felo-Nieves on October 1, 2017. She was born in Rincon, Puerto Rico (the same town our baseball league was in and about 9 months after the league ended). By putting these context clues together, you can probably figure out that, yes my daughter was conceived while I was on the baseball trip to PR. While she was not in my plans, she was definitely in God’s plans and has turned out to be the greatest gift I had ever received. I learn so much about her, myself and fatherhood every single day.

So, this somewhat spur-of-the-moment trip to Puerto Rico not only jumpstarted my professional baseball playing and coaching career and my small business, this journey also provided me with something that I would have forever, my love for my daughter, Mila. Although I could have never foreseen her existence in a million years, the fact that it happened while on this trip proved that it was meant to happen, and God had planned for me to be a father to a very energetic and inquisitive little girl.

The decisions we make today will undoubtedly impact our lives in the future. This impact could resonate for years to follow or fizzle out in a few moments. We can never be sure how long its impact will last, but we should be prepared to carry the weight of every decision for years to come. No matter what type of decision you’re currently wrestling with, whether it’s to start a family of your own, quit your job and launch your dream start-up company, invest more time in your favorite hobby or finally take that trip out of the country that you’ve been planning for years, try to make every decision based on what your heart desires most. While the outcome of your decision could be frightening, it is usually the choice which scares us the most that causes us to grow as a person. Make every choice in love, love for yourself, your family, your friends and mankind in general, and trust that God will steer you on the right path no matter where life takes you.