Inside Pitch Magazine, January/February 2022

Last Inning: Puttin' in the Work

by Jason Kuhn

Tyler Matzek fist pumping in celebration at the pitcher's mound in white Braves uniformYears ago, a mental health pro told me my system for the yips wouldn’t work. A MLB Mental Skills coach once asked me why I felt qualified to teach “mental skills.” I smiled. Critics and low odds are natural properties of difficult tasks, not defining characteristics of your capability to accomplish.

People told us we had lost our minds, that it was impossible. Another MLB mental skills guy said that Tyler Matzek should move on from baseball for his own well-being, and that we were doing him a disservice by attempting a comeback.

I’ve shared these stories not out of spite, but to inspire others. Your value comes from God, not man. You have intrinsic worth and you don’t need anyone’s permission to honor your passion. Don’t be imprisoned by the opinions of others.

Because here we are. Tyler Matzek is a world champion, and his story has and will inspire countless individuals for many, many years to come. 

As for me? I’m overwhelmed with joy. I’ve wanted my love for baseball to truly be back for many years. It is now, and I have Tyler to thank for it. Heck, even my wife is now an avid baseball fan, and I love it. She’s talking “baseball speak” and was locked into every pitch of the Braves’ playoff run. During Game Six of the World Series, I got up to sit by her during the game and she made me go back to my chair––she wanted me to sit in the same spot so I wouldn’t jinx it!

Some great people helped me through that difficult time in my own life battling the yips, and I’m very grateful. I’ll continue to work and pay it forward. I know that God’s purpose is fulfilled in His beautiful timing. In tough times, remember nothing lasts forever and there is purpose to everything and value to be gained from every outcome. After all, that is how we live fulfilling lives. 

Watching Tyler dominate with tears coming down my face was more fulfilling than I can describe, and it closed a chapter in my own story. One of the most painful things I’ve experienced has become one of the best things to ever happen to me, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world and that makes me richer than all the treasures on earth. 

Tyler did it. The guy is all heart and a good man, and he deserves it. When we worked together, I just shared what I had learned along the way. He decided to stare the odds in the face. He decided to do the work when most would have given up. And there’s no question––Tyler helped me as much or more as I helped him. 

There’s so much more to his story. It wasn’t easy. I’m so proud of him not for his performance on the mound, but for his heart during all those days we spent putting in the work, when many thought it was “impossible,” that my system “wouldn’t work” and that Tyler should just “move on.”

Fighting for your dream is hard. But quitting is hard too, so ultimately, you have to make a choice, “between a rock and a hard place.” One leads to resentment, the other to fulfillment. You see, without the struggle, there is no reward. How we respond to the struggle is how our stories are written. So be forged by adversity. Don’t let it break you. The adversity provides greater meaning to our pain. Dare to dream and trust His timing, because it’s always beautiful.

When we suffer well, we grow in character. A growth in character makes us more capable. More capable people can achieve more and through achievement and the lessons learned along the way, we can then help others on a meaningful level. But you have to get in the fight. If we retreat, we don’t give God a chance, and you never know what may be right around the corner for you. And it pays to be a winner.

Jason Kuhn is a former NCAA Div. I baseball player and Navy SEAL. Visit his website to learn more.

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