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The story below is from reader Rick Kosek from Atlanta.
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I never planned to go to college. Sports gave me the opportunity and I seized it.
Played baseball and only that until 10th grade whenthey talked me into playing basketball. I wasn’t very good at dribbling or shooting, but I learned how to rebound and set picks to free up the good guys. I probably scored 5 points a game.
Our senior year in 1981 we were 17-0 trying to extend our streak. We were losing the entire game, but I tied the game with a three-point play with seconds left.
At the end of second overtime, I took a charge, but their basket was good. No time left on the clock. I shoot a one-and-one with no one on the paint and playing on the road. It was loud. Make both. We go to third OT and win. Finished the season 21-0.
My grades were not good, and my ACT score was terrible. Too hyper. I guess they call it ADD now. I didn't apply to any colleges. Instead I was working in a metal fabrication plant welding and burning beams for new construction in summer of 1981.
Rick Kosek's championship ring from the University of Miami (Fla.) baseball team in 1985. (Photo: Rick Kosek)
While playing summer baseball after barely completing high school, a competitor's parent asked where I was going to college. I said I was not. He said, "You have some of the most talent around here. My son is going to a JUCO in Florida so tell your mom to call me."
We called and booked six JUCO tryouts for the next week in Florida. School was going to start in mid-August and I received four or five scholarship offers.
I became the first in the 100-year family tree to go to college. I picked Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Florida. It was a first-year baseball program. The coach pointed to the forest and said our field will be there. I helped build it.
I did well and received my two-year degree. I had to study into the wee hours every night. Years later, JUCO my coach told me that my mom told him I wouldn’t make it.
Now what? I had a lot of back and forth on what do, but the short story is I found my way on to the University of Miami baseball team and we won the College World Series in 1985.
Rick Kosek pitching for the University of Miami (Fla.). (Photo: Rick Kosek)
You had to be good and have the right fit to be on a Division I team. I was good but not great like many of the others on the team. I graduated with an accounting degree and passed the CPA exam same year.
I pitched in men's baseball leagues until 53, and coached all my kids in baseball and softball for 10 to 15 years.
I was giving back to the sport that gave me the opportunity. My oldest just graduated college last week and she is fourth in family to do so. My son found some of my grades and ACT score about a month ago and asked how I got to where I am.
All heart, buddy. Like sports, give it your all and you can overcome adversity.
That’s why I like (any) sports every day and that’s my story.
Rick Kosek grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, and currently lives in Atlanta.
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