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There Is More to Life Than Baseball

As 2006 drew to an end, a little over 200 high school baseball players from across the country opened their mail to discover they had been selected as Under Armour Pre-Season All-Americans by Baseball Factory and Team One Baseball.  One of these players was a 17 year old junior from Cedar Rapids, Iowa named Brent Warren.  Brent was just as excited as any of the other 200 players.   However, as those players prepared to travel to Arizona for the three-day Under Armour Pre-Season All-America Tournament in front of over 25 professional scouts, he was busy preparing for an even bigger challenge.

On November 1st, as Brent was receiving a routine physical, it was revealed that he had a congenital heart condition.  The Warren Family met with several doctors before it was determined he would have to undergo open-heart surgery.  The family traveled to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota where Dr. Thoralf Sundt performed an aortic bypass.  Before the surgery, Brent was told that he may never play baseball again.  The surgery was a success and Dr. Sundt revealed that there was chance Brent would be able play again.

I was able to spend some time with Brent, albeit over the telephone, in order to get an idea of how the experience has influenced his life.  I prepared to interview a kid who had all the right in the world to be depressed and disappointed, but instead I found myself engaged in one of the most positive conversations I have ever had.  Brent is one of those kids you want your children to be friends with; a selfless, easy going individual who puts family first.  Speaking with Brent, you would not have known he had gone through such an ordeal.

When I asked Brent how he felt when he received the Under Armour All-America selection, he simply responded, “It was awesome!”  I was blindsided by the reply.  One would expect a more downcast response since Brent knew he immediately couldn’t attend, but Brent was ecstatic just to know his baseball ability had been recognized.

“My goal was to be an All-American.  It has always been a dream of mine.”

I had spoke with Brent’s father, Chris, before I sat down with Brent for this interview.  Chris informed me of Brent’s situation and how he was thankful for the All-America selection but he would not be able to attend the event.  I promised Chris that Brent would still be recognized.  Baseball Factory sent an Under Armour All-America certificate and an Under Armour All-America Jersey to Brent’s house.

“I wasn’t expecting it, so when it came in the mail it was a big surprise.  I framed the certificate and it’s up on my wall.”

Chris told me, “The jersey was on Brent’s back within two seconds.”

Baseball Factory, Team One, and Under Armour weren’t the only ones reaching out to Brent.  Many of the local professional scouts were checking in to make sure Brent was recovering well.  Also, some of the nation’s top Division 1 programs were sending “get-well” letters to Brent.

“A Yankees’ scout from the area has called a few times.  I received letters from UCLA, Boston College, and Arizona State saying, ?we hope you’re getting better,’ and,  ?we can’t wait to see you play again.'”

As one of Iowa’s top prep prospects, Brent still hopes to play at one of those universities.  Brent is very optimistic about playing baseball again, but this experience has opened his eyes on life.  He realizes that there is more to life then just baseball.

“I’m not sure if I will play again.  The feeling to step onto the field again would be indescribable.  The doctors said that being so young it is easier for me to heal from a surgery like this.”

March 20, 2007 is a date clearly marked on Brent’s calendar. It is inscribed in his mind every day.  The date is when Brent finds out if he will ever have that opportunity to suit up and step back onto the field.  Brent is more anxious than anything, but he remains confident.

“I think I will play again.”

When I asked Brent about his next goal, he presented a very humble answer, “I want to graduate high school, enjoy life, be there for my friends, be there for my family.  There is no real event I strive for, just enjoy life.”

Being such a young kid and already having to overcome much more than most people, Brent has grown up a little quicker then those surrounding him in the classroom.

“My maturity level rose.  Petty things and high school drama don’t affect me anymore.”

No one should ever be forced to grow up too early, but Brent says the experience has had a constructive outcome.

“I have a better perspective on life.  I learned how to live life and I know what’s important in life.”

Brent and I became a little sidetracked and started discussing our hobbies.  I was interested to learn how a 17 year old from Iowa keeps busy.  Being an East Coast guy myself, I joked that it was probably hard to conjure up means of recreation when living in the Midwest, even before the operation.  Brent had taken up the guitar since the surgery, but he laughed when he declared, “I’m terrible, but I’m trying.”

It’s challenging to keep busy while recovering.  Lucky for Brent he is in the presence of his #1 motivation and #1 fan every single day, but he just calls him Dad.

“My dad is my motivation.  He has always been there for me; before and after the surgery.”

A hardship like the one Brent has endured can only bring a family closer, and several times through my conversation with Brent, he mentioned his family and their importance to him.  The special thing about Brent is that he believed in the meaning of family way before the heart ailment was discovered.  Brent possesses the attitude that should be reflected by an All-American.  Instead of feeling sorry for himself, Brent tried to find positives in a damaging situation.  Regardless of what is revealed on March 20, Brent’s story should inspire us all.  Not because of what he went through or what success story may follow, but because of the attitude and approach to life Brent has exhibited.

“There is more to life then baseball.”

Baseball or not, Brent Warren will leave a mark of success on life and will continue to be a constant source of dependability to the ones closest to him.  Brent, everyone at Baseball Factory, Team One, and Under Armour would like to wish you a quick recovery and we hope to see you on the baseball field again soon.

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Division I Head Coach on player Chris Givin


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