When I get off the elevator and walk into the Busch Stadium press box with a media credential around my neck on May 15, I’ll look out across a perfectly manicured baseball field with the St. Louis skyline above and pause for a moment to reflect.

I’ve never covered a Major League Baseball game before, and it’s hard to know exactly what emotions will overtake me in that moment, but I know that among them will be an overwhelming sense of gratitude to all who have invested in me over the years.

My high school sports career ended in May of 2011, causing a brief identity crisis that the University of Tennessee — and the Beacon — quickly helped solve.

From age 5 until my senior year of high school, there was always another baseball or basketball season to look forward to, and I filled the gaps in between with golf and soccer.

That ended when my 2011 baseball season did.

But as I took off my cleats for the final time with a lump in my throat at the conclusion of the homeschool world series in Auburndale, Florida, I never could have imagined the adventure that was about to begin.

I made the trip from Memphis to Knoxville for freshman orientation just a month later and caught a glimpse of what the future would hold — even if I didn’t realize it then.

Former UT athletic director Mike Hamilton announced his resignation on June 7, 2011, which happened to be the second and final day of my orientation session.

Rather than sit through another mind-numbing session about the importance of civility and the dangers of drugs and alcohol, I decided to sneak away and somehow immerse myself in an important moment of UT sports history.

I chickened out just short of walking into the Stokely Family Media Center at Neyland Stadium to see the press conference and instead settled for a spot on the ground beside The Sports Animal’s live radio broadcast on the outskirts of the stadium.

The guys on the radio that day, Jesse Smithey and Vince Ferrara, soon became more than just voices on the radio. They became colleagues.

Nine months later — after paying my dues on the volleyball beat for the Beacon — I sat courtside at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville as then-SEC commissioner Mike Slive handed Pat Summitt her 16th and final SEC Tournament trophy.

I was no longer an outside spectator of history, but a credentialed media member charged with documenting it for a media outlet.

A little more than three years removed from that moment, I have been blessed with countless more opportunities in journalism — and not just sports journalism — that have brought both personal and professional growth.

At my core, I am defined by my faith, and regardless of what happens in my career I know that my faith and family can sustain me and bring a fulfilling life.

But what an incredible bonus it has been to find a profession that evokes the same passion from me that competing in sports once did (I can’t even play intramural softball without pulling a hamstring these days).

Yes, there is at least one more season to anticipate. This one doesn’t end until you have enough money saved for retirement, though.

It’s called a career.

Thanks to the incredible opportunities I have been granted over the past four years, I am ready to embrace it.

David Cobb is a senior in journalism and electronic media. During his time at the Beacon he has worked as a staff writer, assistant news editor, sports editor and senior columnist. He may be reached at dcobb3@vols.utk.edu.

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