Jon Huizinga throwing a pitch for the Brewers single-A team at age 34
I first met Jon Huizinga years ago. He was in his late 20’s and rehabbing quite a horrific elbow injury. In fact, he was told that he’d never play baseball again. But there he was, sitting in an indoor baseball facility in Scottsdale, Arizona, getting ready to throw a bullpen. We shook hands and talked, and we saw each other there quite a bit through that winter.
Then I got signed to play for the Lincoln Saltdogs of the American Association. He got signed by the St. Paul Saints of the very same league and I made my professional debut against his team. A few years later, we played together on the Calgary Vipers and, more recently, we were teammates in Arizona playing for the upstart Freedom League. We even got selected to participate in a baseball reality show hosted by Cal and Billy Ripken for CBS, though I don’t think that will ever air.
We’ve crossed paths quite a bit over the years and remain in touch. And as a conventional pitcher some two years older than me, I thought Jon’s professional playing days were over. His local independent league, the Freedom League, folded. And with two young kids, a profitable self-employed coaching job and a beautiful wife, I thought for certain it was done.
But he kept throwing into his Pitching Tunnels. He kept working on his body, through nutrition and new-age workouts. He kept practicing exactly what he preached. And, most importantly, he never lost his positive attitude. He believed, against all odds and reason, that he was going to make it. Every time that I saw him over the years, he’d have a smile on his face and say something along the lines, “One step closer to the Major Leagues, buddy,” and give me a high five.
And that’s where his real power shows — his positive attitude. Baseball is always fun for Zinger. A bad day at the ballpark beats the best day outside of it. And I believe that his positive attitude willed what happened last week.
Last week, against all odds, the 34-year-old signed a minor league deal with the Brewers. And he wasn’t even playing independent baseball. He didn’t get “picked up” out of a pro indy league. Rather, they just signed him because of a tryout that went well in Arizona.
Jon Huizinga’s prophecy, the one he spoke of positively every time that I saw him through the years, is coming true.
The question is, do you believe that you can do it, too?