One of my favorite teammates of all time was Mike Grady. His positive attitude, work ethic, and ability to go out and get the job done was phenomenal. He would find a way to get batters out, and help us win many ballgames. Now, many years removed from those days I watch him follow his passions creating his pitching school. Just as he did as a pitcher, his attention to details has developed into a masterful creation. When he asked me to contribute some of my experiences for his blog I was honored and excited.
You may already know my past, and the course I have taken. Now, in my tenth year traveling the Country to share my story to High Schools, Colleges, and specifically, college athletes, I have had the pleasure of being the student athlete and now work with Athletic Administrators, and athletes. During that process I have gained valuable insight to so many facets of college athletics. I have been to 40 states and have spoken to some of the country’s elite athletic programs (OSU, Georgia, Florida, Auburn, TCU, and Kansas.) In addition, I have been to several in between.
I will spend as much time as I can covering an array of topics until Grady tells me to stop. To that point, it is imperative I spend time sharing how I got to this juncture in my life. I am a 35 year old married man, with a daughter and a dog. I currently reside in New Jersey and as of July 29th 2015 I will be in my 14th year as a felon, my 14 year with no driver’s license, the 14th year without my best friend, and most painfully, the 14th year her family remains empty without their daughter.
I am a firm believer in getting to the point in life. With that being said, my name is Aaron Cooksey, and at one point in my life I was known as inmate #422208. The most critical component to my story is: I grew up with two of the most caring, loving, and supportive parents any kid could ask for. Lessons learned, some the easy way, others the hard way. They taught me that actions have consequences, both GOOD and BAD. Practice hard, study hard, treat people right, and good things can happen. The opposite? That can lead to a path of destruction.
Understand this: I knew right from wrong, I just thought I knew it all. As a young kid, I was a high strung, super active, and had bright red hair. That alone taught me a valuable lesson. First, I would have a hard time getting away with anything……“The tall red head kid did it”, that eliminates 98.9% of the field. Secondly, if I would stand out I needed to stand out for the right reasons.
In life there are a million things we can be passionate about. For some it is education, art, music, computers, sports, animals, or anything that consumes you. I like to call it the “competitive gene”. I am a firm believer it lies within every person, but as athletes, it fuels us. It is why we love the game.
Competitive Gene: As an individual we live for the very moments where we can step up and take control of a situation when something is on the line. Whether it be the final batter faced, a final shot, defensive stop, or a Walk-Off HR (Sorry pitchers). It is that moment where you can take control. In your head, you cannot nor will not fail. It is the thinking that AS LONG AS I AM IN CONTROL, NOTHING CAN GO WRONG. It is confidence, not arrogance (There is a difference). It is the insatiable need to be the best. A great quality to have when channeled correctly.
For me, it was sports. I tried them all. I ended up focusing on Football, Basketball, and Baseball. From a young age I knew I was highly competitive and 2nd place was no good. From my earliest memories one season intertwined into the next. Before I knew it, I was very structured in my routines. Specifically when I entered HS and each season blended into the next. Summers were jam packed. Football workouts in the morning, basketball summer league in the afternoons, and baseball games at night. I had no time to get in trouble. In fact, I did not do anything wrong in High School. Our code of conduct was very strict. I never wanted to have someone look me in the eyes and say “You broke the rules, you cannot play”. The decision was easy.
The summer of my sophomore year I began to get letters in the mail from schools from ALL divisions in football and baseball. The higher the division, the less of a chance I would have at playing two sports. At that point I thought “What do I want to do when sports are over?” My dream job was to be an elementary teacher. First grade specifically.
I have what some will call an addictive personality. Whether something is good for me, or bad for me, if I want to do it, I will do it. As of the completion of my senior year in HS I only knew this to affect my life in positive outlets (school, sports, fishing, and golf). Soon, that would all change. It took me 19 years to become “A good guy with tons of potential and a decent reputation.” In only 1 ½, I would smear my reputation, hurt hundreds of people, and have to spend the rest of my life trying to make amends. To this day, I continue to deal with the consequences and try to prevent others from making the same poor choices.
During my senior year of HS I was fortunate to be a part of 3 fantastic teams, well, two fantastic teams. Basketball was a blast despite our record. I would call our team a version of the “Bad Boys” with very little offense. I was primarily a rebounder, and dirty work kind of guy. Maybe averaged 10 points, and 10 boards a game. It kept me busy and in shape between my two loves; Football and Baseball. Either way, each team was unique and filled with talent, personality, and truly great guys. After weighing a number of options, I decided to stay close to home and play two sports at University of Mount Union. Sensational football program, and an average baseball program, which I saw as a great chance to make them better. In addition, the elementary education program was superb.
I will never forget my visit with Coach Kehres of the football team. I was in his office January 1999. He tossed his National title ring to me. I caught it, and looked at it, as he said, “Do you like that?” Goes on to tell me I can have a chance to earn 4 of those under one condition: YOU DO NOT GET CAUGHT UP WITH DRUGS AND ALCOHOL WHEN YOU GET ON THIS CAMPUS. I HAVE SEEN IT TEAR A LOT OF ATHLETES DOWN. My reply, “Coach, I don’t even drink or do drugs. That will NOT be an issue for me.”
It was set, I was going to Mount Union to play Football and Baseball and become an elementary education teacher. At this point in my life all was perfect. That does not mean I did not face obstacles and challenges. I never looked for the short cut. Always knew I could persevere through it. I would soon face my biggest obstacle ever.
Coming in part 2: How one poor choice started a vicious cycle of addiction and the consequences it has had.
Coach Mike Grady
Coach Grady has 10 years experience working with pitchers of all ages through private and group instruction, including 6 years experience as a college pitching coach. This blog is dedicating to helping pitchers of all ages improve their game.
7530 Tim Ave NW Unit A
North Canton, OH 44720
What others have to say:
"The velocity program not only helped increase my velocity, but it also helped me develop good throwing habits through proper arm care and recovery. I gained a ton of knowledge from this program, and it made me a better pitcher." Ty Drabick, RHP, Kent State University
"Four of our pitchers trained with Grady's Pitching School in the Velocity Development Program in 2016. By the conclusion of the 2017 spring season, we saw an improvement in numbers across the board, increased velocity, improved arm health, and an overall improvement in confidence on the mound from our guys. The Velocity Development Program exceeded all expectations with the individualized attention that was provided, competitive work environment, professionalism, and knowledge of the staff. Coach Grady and his staff will continue to play a vital role in the overall development of our baseball program." Shane Byler, Head Baseball Coach, Lake Center Christian.