NEWARK — Being a professional athlete definitely has its perks, but it also comes with some challenges.
Newark High School graduate Derek Holland, who is set to begin his third season as a left-handed pitcher for the Texas Rangers, said his first year in the major leagues was a learning experience.
“The nightlife in the major leagues is rough, and you are basically living out of a suitcase,” Holland said. “You have to make right decisions because you are the face of the team. You have to be careful what you do off the field and be smart about it.
“I can say the first year I had a little too much fun because I didn’t know how to handle it. This isn’t just a job; it’s everything. I’m doing this because I have a gift, and it could all be taken away at anytime if you make the wrong decisions.”
Holland credits his teammates for showing him how to handle himself on and off the field.
“They have definitely shown me the way as far as being a professional,” he said.
Holland said he also confides in American League Most Valuable Player Josh Hamilton, who has dealt with his own off-the-field problems.
“This guy has been through a lot and he’s not afraid to share with you, and he’s not afraid to help you get through anything,” Holland said. “One thing he’s done is he has showed me the religious side of things. It’s good to have someone like that on your side. He’s a great leader, and I really respect that.
“He kind of showed me the light. He’s there to help and support you, and he’s a great teammate. He’s like a brother to me. He’s great guy, and you couldn’t ask for anyone better to have in the clubhouse.”
Holland has had his share of ups and downs in his first two seasons at professional baseball’s highest level.
He’s won 11 games, was the winning pitcher in relief when the Rangers clinched a playoff spot and picked up a win in Game 4 against the Yankees in the ALCS.
He’s also had his share of struggles. He spent some time in the minors in 2010, and he walked the bases loaded against the San Francisco Giants in Game 2 of the World Series, throwing only one strike in 13 pitches.
Through it all, regardless of his success and failures, Holland wants to remain humble.
“I’m a goofy kid, and if you ask any of my friends today if I’ve changed from how I was before, I guarantee they would all say he’s still the same goofy left-handed kid he was in high school,” Holland said.
During a monthlong stay Newark before leaving for Arizona on Thursday, Holland worked out every day with trainer Clint Cox at Total Athletic Development.
Cox has been training Holland for the past four years. He said it’s been a joy to watch Holland mature.
“I can see where he’s gone from a college kid to a professional athlete,” Cox said. “In the three or four years that I’ve known him, he’s grown, not only physically, but mentally.
“When he comes home, it’s the same kid, and he hasn’t allowed the success to go to his head. I’m more impressed with that than anything.”
Tom Wilson can be reached at (740) 328-8558 firstname.lastname@example.org.