Houston Summers: From Throwing Baseballs to Javelins
- Name: Houston Summers
- Age: 25
- Organization: UNC, Arizona Diamondbacks
By Marilyn Payne, DNAOfSports.com correspondent
(Houston Summers was drafted by MLB's Arizona Diamondbacks in the 47th round in 2005, playing portions of six seasons in the minors before retiring after 2010.)
Houston Summers could’ve stopped after having a professional baseball career.
It would’ve likely been enough of an accomplishment to then stop after being accepted to the University of North Carolina after that professional athletic career ended.
And maybe he should’ve realized that above-average baseball speed did not cross over to track speed.
But the things Summers would have, could have and perhaps should have done are not what he did and instead, the 25-year-old is entering his second year at UNC pursuing dreams of becoming a doctor while competing on the Tar Heels track and field team as a javelin thrower.
When Summers approached UNC’s track and field coaching staff, he intended to join the team as a first-year sprinter. The logic seemed sound in the rookie-runner’s mind — he was considered an about-average runner as a professional baseball player, so he thought he had a chance to compete on the track. Coach Josh Langley told Summers that at best, he’d have the opportunity to compete on a B- or C-level relay team in the indoor track season, but would not make to the outdoor squad, before he suggested the former pitcher try javelin.
Although Summers didn’t immediately find success, his first throw is not one he’s proud of, he did ultimately reach the goal set for him by December 2012.
“(Langley) wanted me to throw 60, but I wanted (the goal) to be 70,” Summers said. “I ended up throwing right around 68.”
The ability to pass the coach-set goals comes from a mindset that Summers is also using in his schooling at North Carolina, one that follows a preparation-based philosophy and positive thinking.
“As long as I’m prepared everyday and I’m doing my work and I study outside of class, then I’m fine,” “I don’t think any class is going to be extremely challenging,” he said. “It’s the same way athletically — as long as you prepare away from competition time and you do the little things right, when it’s time to perform, you just go out there and do it.”
Doing the little things right — not only in the weight and classroom — is something that Summers also strives to do as he learns about a new sport from younger teammates who have years of track-specific experience on him.
He says that supporting his teammates by “encouraging them to really believe they’re better than they are,” allows everyone to reach higher heights and potentials.
The mental preparation is the aspect that Summers sees carry over most from his time playing baseball in high school and in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Organization.
“I’ve played baseball for 16 or 17 years, seven of them professionally, I literally know nothing when I weigh the two out about javelin or track so I try to stay in my place when that’s involved,” he said.
“I jokingly put in a lot of, I guess, ‘wise advice,’ away from the track — but in an extremely joking manner — that can relate to track. But it’s all about those life lessons that athletics can teach us and I feel like I’ve had time to learn a few more of those that what an 18-year-old kid has.”
At the NCAA Outdoor Regional meet, being more mentally tough because of his baseball background was something that Summers specifically felt helped him have success despite an intimidating wind factor during the competition.
“Because I could handle myself from the mental aspect, it sort of allowed things to happen there the way that it happened in practice,” Summer said.
That mental toughness is something Summers hopes his track teammates will continue to develop over their athletic careers, it’s something he’s hoping to also spread to the Diamond Heels.
Summer has enjoyed spending time with some of North Carolina’s younger baseball players — who he’s had the opportunity to get to know better through long-time family friend, Landon Lassiter — during this summer’s off-season.
One of the UNC-related perks for Summers is being able to see some of the NCAA’s best college baseball even though he is no longer playing.
“They are some of the best college baseball players in the country, and they’re still not very good (by professional standards), but they have potential to be unbelievably good and I think sometimes they get lost in that,” Summers said.
“I did, coming out of high school, I thought I was the best high school player in the world and I knew I was that good, and then I got around some older guys who in some cases may not have had as much talent as I did, but they were way better players. They understand how to handle the game mentally, physically, emotionally and I had no idea about those things.”
The opportunities around Summers at North Carolina — whether they be through track, baseball or the academic foundation that will set the stage for his medical career — and the recognition the opportunities bring him only continue to remind the non-traditional student-athlete of one thing.
For Summers, who survived a benign tumor as a teen, all of his life experiences culminate to one on-going realization and philosophy — that in the end, the talents and experiences are about more than athletic and superficial success alone.
It’s a mindset that helps him keep sight of the ultimate medical school and doctoral degree goal.
“I know that there’s always a greater purpose, there’s always something bigger. I don’t think I was put here on this Earth to throw the javelin,” Summers said. “(Having had that life experience) helps things stay in perspective, if I’m in the weight room and don’t do what I wanted to do, or if I have a bad practice, it’s like, ‘This is not a big deal, this is still a sport, it doesn’t really, truly matter in the end.’”
(Photo courtesy: Houston Summers.)Tweet
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