Finding your Niche

I was playing professional football for the Carolina Panthers when…

Surely you aren’t going to believe that – I’ve never played an organized game of football in my life. Professional level football is full of guys who weigh upwards of 275 pounds and hit hard; I’m a guy with a bad heart who weighs about 160 pounds. I’d get killed!

I’ll never play football. And I’ll never be able to work at a job that involves heavy physical labor – oh, I can work, in spurts. But I would have to take a lot of breaks to rest, way too many to justify anyone having me on their payroll. So I would have to find a job that doesn’t involve a lot of heavy lifting. A desk job would be fine, but I’d prefer something like my old museum job, since I love history so much. I’d have to find my niche.

That’s what a lot of people with Chronic Illness have to do – we have to find a job that may not be a perfect fit, but one that we can do and we can make our own. A lot of self esteem flows out of a person’s ability to find and hold a job, and it is thought that good self esteem can actually lead to better health. But finding that job may mean finding that space that only we can fill, and that may mean redefining our goals.

Working With Chronic Illness recently highlighted the career of Rocco Baldelli, a Major League Baseball player who broke into the major leagues with Tampa Bay. Rocco was something else – he contended for the Rookie of the Year award and was favorably compared to Joe DiMaggio. But after two good years, Rocco couldn’t stay healthy. And he was saying that even light workouts were making him exhausted. So when his contract ran out, Tampa Bay didn’t renew it, and Rocco looked like he was just another hotshot ballplayer that looked good in the minor leagues but couldn’t make it as a pro.

Doctors finally determined that he suffers from Channelopathy (Channel-WHAT? fans across the country said) a disease that affects how quickly you can recover from exertion. Baseball players play 162 games over six months, a lot of baseball… it looked like Rocco’s career was over for sure.

But then the Boston Red Sox picked him up. Certainly more than one baseball fan or official had to wonder if the Red Sox management had lost their minds; Rocco Baldelli couldn’t play a full season of baseball.

But they didn’t want him to play all the time. Boston was looking for a 4th outfielder – someone who can pinch hit when needed, or step in for one of the regular outfielders for a game or two. Fourth outfielders don’t play often, but when they do play, they have to produce.

Boston looked around, and there was Rocco – almost the Rookie of the Year, two great seasons under his belt, but no longer with Tampa Bay. They signed him! They know about Rocco’s illness, and how it limits his ability to play every day. But they aren’t asking him to play every day – just to stand in when needed. Boston had a niche that they needed someone to fill, and Rocco is the guy for the job – despite his limitations.

If you find yourself in Fenway Park or watching the Red Sox on TV, you just might see Rocco Baldelli. If you do, give him a cheer – he’s found his niche!

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3 Responses to “Finding your Niche”

  1. katedaphne Says:

    Great post! But as a TB Rays fan, I must say — Rocco wasn’t thrown out like yesterday’s garbage! There’s a lot of goodwill for Rocco here. He’s a stand-up guy. But as you say in your post, he has a certain niche and unfortunately it wasn’t one the Rays had a need for at the time. But a lot of us were sorry to see him go and glad he is finding success, even if it does have to be with our rival Red Sox!!!!

  2. katedaphne Says:

    Awww, thanks Steve!!!!

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