When I first started reaching out to former teammates and players, I wasn’t sure who would be interested. It takes a while — at least a month or so — for us to get back into shape because it’s very competitive baseball. But it was so cool to see how many of the guys responded!
It’s so much fun for us to come back to college level baseball and play again. We enter the semi-pro stadiums and walk into a really small clubhouse with itty bitty lockers, where it’s all about the game we love. It’s refreshing. Very different from the major leagues.
Last year, we all had a blast and a ton of the same guys came back, as well as some “new” former pros. It’s awesome to see old teammates who I haven’t been able to see for a while. And the truth is, you just can’t replace this type of competition by going out on the golf course or anywhere else. We’re all itching to put the cleats on one more time. We might be old men out there, but we love it. Yes, we’ll all need to call our trainers and chiropractors afterward, but getting the chance to experience the competition we’ve been missing for a while is well worth it. It’s also about all the baseball we need for the rest of the year.
The 25 of us (give or take) on the team had a blast. Not only did we love lacing up one more time to compete, but we could see the younger athletes light up at the opportunity to pitch against Chipper Jones and hit off Roger Clemens. It’s a dream come true for most of these kids! Sharing the appreciation with these kids is really great, but we try to explain to them that we’re not doing this for them, we want to do this. We love it.
NBC’s board was pretty excited to have us back too. I believe we sold out every game, filling every seat in a 8,000-9,000-person stadium each night. It was a great way to bring out the people from the community and give them a chance to see their favorite former players back on the field. We had charity dinners and autograph sessions, and a Stars and Stripes Benefit Concert to support our E3 Foundation, at which former MLB pitcher Jake Peavy (who was also pitching in the tournament) opened for country music star Craig Morgan.
I never played in the NBC tournament when I was in college, so I guess I’m making up for it now. I’m incredibly thankful and consider myself lucky to have had the career I had in baseball. To be able to play a game I love and call it work for that long was a huge blessing. Having 12 months without playing and then coming back to be surrounded by old teammates, great memories and new stories is amazing.
After winning and reaching our ultimate goal, I don’t think any of us would say that was the most satisfying part of the week. We would say the time we got to spend together was much more gratifying than holding that trophy. It’s just a great reminder that none of our earthly goals will truly satisfy. Spending a week together where we relived our careers, talked about the old days, and played the game we love — that was the real blessing.
— Adam LaRoche is a former 12-year MLB veteran. He’s a regular contributor to The Increase, providing monthly articles and opinions.
The National Baseball Congress has hosted the North American championship tournament for college athletes annually since 1935. For the past two years, a new team has entered the pool — a team of older, more seasoned players. After former major league players Adam LaRoche and Nate Robertson approached the Congress last year, the group agreed to let these men put together a roster of retired pros to challenge the up-and-comers. Known as the Kansas Stars, the old pros took on the young athletes once again this past August, and went home as the 83rd NBC World Series champions.