I actually didn't start playing baseball until sixth grade. It was just in-state, though, in the Lower St. Croix Valley in Minnesota. I played soccer in grade school too, starting in fifth grade, I think, and I played through seventh. But it was just too much running. And I started basketball in fourth and played for five years, but Dave Winfield, who's a Minnesota native, his brother opened a dome where you could play winter baseball. That, well, ended my basketball career.
The middle school days
I realized that baseball was my sport when I played in that winter league. I got invited to an all-star league the following fall because of it. I played with the Lower St. Croix Valley guys from sixth through ninth grade, when I started playing VFW baseball. I went to a lot of college camps in the winter, and I'd throw with my dad pretty much every day. He coached my teams until I started playing at Stillwater Area High School.
The high school years
I remember in 10th grade, I thought I should've been on varsity, or at least would've gotten called up as the season went on, but I didn't. That was when I really felt like I had a chance to play at the next level, when I saw that I was as good as the guys above me. My senior year was the best time I had playing baseball. I'd been playing with that group of guys for six or seven years, and I had everything in front of me. No pressure; nothing to worry about on the mound. That pressure didn't come until I had a family, and baseball became the way I took care of my wife and kids.