Updated: Apr 5, 2022
I developed a very simple mindset whenever I was younger, which is what allowed me to persevere through adversity and failures that come with playing baseball at any level. But before I share with you my story, I’ll tell you who I am.
My name is Carson Lee, and I have been playing independent baseball for the last 3 years (4 if you count the COVID-shortened season I am playing in right now). I consider myself lucky because growing up in Houston, not only was I surrounded by a hot pool of talent to play against, but as most kids do, I was blessed to have a dad who taught me the game from an early age. So I was fortunate to grow up under his roof where I could learn from.
After growing up playing select tournaments every weekend, across the nation against the best teams and best players in the country, is what set the foundation stage for me to be comfortable playing at high levels of competition, but high school is where I first learned how to fail. As all kids do, I had dreams of playing professionally, I wanted to play division 1, and I simply wanted to be the best. But during this time I had people telling me that those dreams were too big and I wasn’t good enough, and that’s what lit my fire, to think I would let someone else tell me what I could and couldn’t accomplish. So I set out on a personal mission, I wanted to find a way every single day to get better than my peers, because I knew what I lacked in talent, I made up for with my heart and work ethic. As a Freshman I was already in the gym pushing myself everyday to get stronger. I started researching dieting and how to eat properly, I had the cage set up in the back yard to get swings everyday, and I obsessed over baseball. I never stopped watching games and the breakdowns MLB Network would do. But I didn’t just watch the games, I analyzed them. I was trying to figure out what I could do everyday that was going to make me better than my peers because I knew that would propel me to the next level.
My Junior year I took things to the next level and started working out with a strength and conditioning coach to train specifically for baseball. It was with a lady named Heidi Johnson and her resume speaks for itself. She played college Volleyball, Softball and Track at Cal State Fullerton, she was an Olympian and worked for MLB clubs and College Programs, so she was an absolute bad***! As her training started taking my game and body to the next level, so did my mentality because she gave me the exposure of working out in the “Pro Time Slot” - maybe she saw something in me from the beginning - now I looked around and, not only am I training with guys who are in Junior College and some at big D1 schools, but I’m also training with Minor Leaguers and Big Leaguers. To name a few: Jason Bourgeois, Michael Bourn, and Chris Young. Now as a young high school kid, my mindset shifted because I understood how I needed to start prepping my body the way a professional does and this is where I really started believing in what I was telling myself on the mission of “getting better than my peers everyday." I still remember a specific conversation after a workout with Jason Bourgeois. I asked him what it took and what I could do to make it to the highest level, and he told me to “keep on pushin'.” I still remember those exact words, and that it didn’t matter what anyone else said. I just had to keep working hard and not to give up. That conversation for whatever reason stuck with me.
Fast forward to my time at Tyler Junior College, where I really set the foundation for what my career stood on. I was the first person to practice and the last one to leave every day. Everyday I got extra reps in the cage and on the field. Every night I was in the gym at 9:00 and would be there until they closed at 11. I lived in the weight room so much my teammates jokingly nicknamed me "Muscles." I was the guy walking around campus eating my meal prepped chicken and green beans out of a plastic container, I was going to every length to make sure I became the baseball player I wanted to be.
And then it happened.
I got redshirted my freshman year, and that was the single best thing that ever happened to my baseball career. I could of taken that moment and crawled up in a ball and pointed fingers at everyone who’s fault it was and just be filled with pitty, but I did the opposite and it fueled the fire inside me. I was determined to come back better than I was and prove everyone wrong. I ended up being the emergency injury replacement guy had someone gotten hurt, so I traveled and practiced with the team. They never did, so I kept my redshirt, but the amount of reps I was getting on a daily basis plus sitting back and mentally allowing myself to develop just from watching the game is what changed my career. That summer as I always did, I went home and trained with Heidi and I went back to TJC a different person than when I left, so much in fact that even the coach made a comment. We would play our Juco Fall schedule until the end of October and then go strictly into the weight room from November till Christmas Break, and I tore it up that fall. I played well and I was happy with my performance. We got in to the weight room for team weights and I pushed myself to the limits, so much that if I felt like what we did in the weight room as a team wasn’t good enough to make myself better, I would go back to the gym that night to finish working out on my own.
I was obsessed.
Then at the end of our team training program, we were out on the football field running 60’s and “testing” our progress, and for someone who’s 60 yard time was anywhere from a 7.0 on a good day to 7.2, I blew our coach's mind. I took off and ran my 60 and as I ran by him he stammered, "No way..." H stood there in disbelief. I was instructed to run it again. I ran again and put up the same exact time, a 6.50 60 yard time. That summer working with Heidi, I knocked my 60 down from above a 7 to a 6.5, and he couldn’t believe it. The fact that I did it back to back times and it wasn’t just a fluke of the stopwatch, that felt good. Ultimately, it didn’t work out because I ended up being told there wasn’t going to be a roster spot for me and I would have to find somewhere else to play. Once again staring in the face of adversity, I ended up transferring and playing at North Lake College in Dallas, but it was bittersweet because every teammate I had was upset hearing that I wasn’t going to be on the team. It proved to me how much they respected me and my work ethic even as much as they joked with me. I did, however, end up getting my moment as we played TJC during the season and I went off... 2 doubles, a line drive up the middle that almost knocked out their ace pitcher and made all my plays including a diving catch at 3rd base (which is a position I was told I couldn’t play). I must admit, that was a sweet moment. I ended up getting an offer at the end of the season to play Division 1 Baseball at Prairie View A&M outside of Houston, which was an easy decision because it was close to home and was accomplishing one of the goals of playing Division 1 baseball. I knew if I kept getting better everyday, then I would accomplish the goal of playing professional baseball, which almost didn’t happen... But I was one step closer.
Playing Division 1 baseball was an amazing experience, playing teams like Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma State, and Texas A&M when they are ranked #1 in the country, on a 19-0 win streak and were sold out at Blue Bell Park. These were unbelievable experiences that I could talk about all day. But I want to go to 2016 when I thought I was gonna accomplish my goal of getting drafted and getting a professional opportunity.
I had put myself in an situation to have a shot as long as I had a good season... and I started the week off hot as I was Player of the Week. Then week 2 rolled around and I had a great game against Texas A&M. After, we went to South Texas to play UT-RGV and I was playing right field. In the 2nd inning there was a shallow pop fly behind 2nd. I was easily camped under it, until I feel the second baseman collide into me. I ended up completely tearing my MCL and damaging my ACL and completely ending my season which I knew at the moment was the end of my chances of getting drafted. After a grueling 5 months of rehab, seeing a knee specialist and my team doctor, I was able to get my Medical Redshirt and was able to play again as I played rehab games in the Texas Collegiate League.
Fast Forward to the end of my college season and when I got an opportunity with the Monterey Amberjacks to play professionally, which is what creates this journey, and the grind hasn’t stopped. I’ve driven all up and down the west coast to play a season. I’ve lived in the middle of the California Desert. I've driven up to Dallas once a week for a 2 hour workout for 6 months to get in front of a Manager that would wind up signing me in Florence, Kentucky. I've gone to individual workouts. I’ve gone to team workouts. I’ve gone to Florida two years in a row to play for two months to get prepared for the season. It's safe to say I’ve endured the baseball grind.
During this journey, I’ve seen how the simple principal of focusing on winning the daily tasks quantifies over time and becomes something much bigger. My daily focus since High School has been just to get One Percent Better Every Day, and that daily motto has allowed me to live the experiences I always desired. I persevered and I kept on pushing, no matter what’s been thrown at me, I’ve kept moving forward. Too often I see people who have goals, but they never end up achieving those goals because they keep looking at the big picture - and it scares them. Instead of looking at the daily tasks they need to do to get there, they try to accomplish everything all at once. But that's not how it works. How they can break that goal down and focus on it day by day is what really equates to success. As corny as it sounds, at the end of the year, you will be 365% better than you were to start the year.
So I wanted to share my message. I wanted to share my inspiration and I turned it into a brand - One Percent Athletics - and we are striving to get One Percent Better Every Day. I created this brand because I want to inspire people. I want people to look at themselves in the mirror and have the self belief they can achieve whatever they set their mind to. I’m not trying to brag on myself or talk about myself, I just like sharing my story because I’ve seen it all. I’ve had everything thrown at me. I’ve faced adversity over the years, I’ve kept pushing forward and I haven’t given up, and I want someone to look at that and use that as an example to fuel them forward.
That’s what One Percent Athletics is about. I want to see everybody achieve what they desire
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One Percent Better Every Day.
Thank you Carson for sharing your story. If you guys want to stay updated on more from Carson and others, make sure to subscribe to headcasebaseball.com. Thanks for reading!