In just a few days, St. Louis Cardinals All-Star outfielder Matt Holliday will head to Jupiter, Fla., for spring training to begin his 10th major league season.
The product of a baseball family, Holliday's brother, Josh, is now the baseball coach at Oklahoma State, where his father, Tom, previously held the same position.
Matt Holliday has had eight consecutive seasons with at least a .295 batting average, 19 home runs and 75 runs batted in. For his career, he has totaled 1,525 hits with a .313 average, 229 home runs and 872 RBIs and six All-Star appearances.
So it looks like that baseball thing is working out OK for him and his family, which includes wife Leslee, sons Jackson, 9, and Ethan, 5, and daughter Gracyn, 3.
But the questions always lingered as Holliday came up through the minor leagues. Outsiders kept waiting for him to leave baseball and return to be a college quarterback.
An All-State football player and gifted passer at Stillwater High, many fans thought he'd ultimately end up quarterbacking Oklahoma State. And the questions followed him, maybe a little longer than you might expect.
I had to answer that question a lot. I looked at it as a compliment. I always thought it was pretty neat that people still thought I could potentially play at a major college football program.
But there were times after a couple years in the major leagues when I thought, you know, this question should have died out, but it hasn't. I've got a couple years in the major leagues and people are asking me if I miss football, or if I ever think about going back and playing. I'm thinking, ‘No, I'm doing all right. I'll probably stick this deal out and see how it turns out.' (laughs) But I always looked at it as a nice compliment.
The trial-and-error coming up through the minors was always difficult. You're a kid growing up. Then all the bus rides and long travel. But you look back on it, and it makes you appreciate some of the things you went through in the minor leagues, and some of the failure.
There's a lot of sleepless nights in the minor leagues, and a lot of failure. You're just trying to make it or figure out if you're supposed to be doing something else.
We were married young. So I'm trying to figure out how I'm gonna take care of my wife if this doesn't work out. Those things, going through those struggles, really made me grow into the person I am.
When I was growing up, my mom, Kathy (who underwent successful surgery for colon cancer in October) was, as you see with a lot of coaches' wives, the one taking my brother and I to practice, running us around town and making sure we were fed properly. Making sure we were showered and where we were supposed to be. She did a great job of raising my brother and I.
We spent a lot of time at the ball field with my dad. He was working so hard trying to build up that program at Oklahoma State, and we wanted to be there and spend time with him. So my mom did a tremendous job of keeping the family together, being the backbone of our family.
Being raised in a competitive sports environment, I felt, was always a blessing. It was something I cherished, and I think my brother feels the same way. My parents did a great job of keeping it fun for us, and letting us go out and play, not putting extra pressure on us just because dad was a baseball coach.
I think that's one of the cool things about Stillwater and the community there. We were never treated differently. We were able to enjoy a great upbringing in a really fun town.
I wish I had played basketball my senior year of high school. I played my freshman, sophomore and junior year on the varsity team. For some silly reason, I didn't play my senior year, thinking I had to get ready for the baseball draft. I really wish I had played.
If my kids are interested — and hopefully they will be — I will always encourage my kids, or any kids, to play all the sports you can. I think nowadays, with so many kids getting in one specific sport, and people encouraging it, trying to make a professional out of a kid — for me, I always looked forward to the next season, whatever it was, basketball, football or baseball.
I think kids get burned out these days, playing one sport year-round. Kids should play as many as they can. It's fun. You have that competitive spirit that you're using all year-round. It doesn't get old. You don't get tired of taking batting practice or working on your jumpshot or throwing footballs. Especially with younger kids, sometimes it's overkill, and kids will walk away from sports all together.