13.5 C

    There’s No Great Without Grind

    I’ve played sports as far back as I can remember. I started with golf at the age of about two, but that didn’t last long. I also played basketball for a couple of years, but early on I realized that baseball was really the thing at which I excelled.

    My dad has been both my inspiration and my guide. I started playing baseball because he had played while he was serving in the army, but it became pretty clear early on I had some talent for the game, which he has helped me develop. After I’d played Little League for a time, he created his own team to provide an opportunity to see how much further I might be able to go.

    I started out as a shortstop, but people who saw me play advised me to move to center fielder. It turned out to be a fairly natural switch, but I learned one thing about that new position: you have to be the leader. You have to talk like it’s your grass.

    As I continued to progress, I got the chance to play in some national tournaments, which led to an invitation to camp and then an offer from Florida State University, which I accepted. It’s a great school with great coaches, and the campus is only 90 minutes or so from my family in Georgia, so they will be able to see me play.

    I know that Dad’s involvement has been a real advantage—lots of young people don’t have a father figure in their lives like I have had. He didn’t treat me any different than any of the other kids on the team, though. He had high expectations: he’d move me down if I wasn’t playing very well. But he would spend time with me for extra practice, just the two of us. When I was in third and fourth grade, we would get up at 6 o’clock in the morning and he’d have the lights of his vehicle on in the parking lot so I could practice before school.

    My father hasn’t just taught me about how to play ball; he’s taught me about life. From him, I have learned about respect for the military, for the men and women who serve to protect the rest of us. I should also be clear that getting to where I am has been a family effort. In addition to my dad, I am grateful for the support and encouragement of my mom and my stepmom, who have always been so encouraging. Then there’s my sister, Morgan, who is my biggest fan, and all the coaches who have helped me along the way.

    The main lesson I have learned so far is that natural ability will take you only so far. You have to work at sharpening that talent. If you want to be great, you have to be willing to grind. That means making choices. When you’re practicing for six or seven hours a day, like I do, there’s not a lot of spare time. I used to enjoy playing video games when I was younger, but these days I am just too busy. Baseball is a seven-days-a-week commitment.

    While pursuing my dream of playing Major League Baseball is demanding, don’t get me wrong. I am enjoying it all. If you’re not having fun at baseball, I don’t think you should do it because this game is fun.

    Justin Best has been named one of the top 50 best high school baseball players in the country. A class of 2023 senior at Combine Academy in Lincolnton, North Carolina, he has committed to Florida State University.

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