by Mark Jent
Today marks the official beginning of Season 2 for Simply A Fan. Although we won’t celebrate the company’s 1st birthday until mid-July, with a full slate of 15 trips on the 2019 schedule it’s almost like today’s Nashville Sounds vs. Texas Rangers Exhibition Game surrounded by 96 friends and family members is my personal Opening Day!
As I reflect on the journey of this past year, I find myself grateful for so much:
- for all those who believed in me and cheered us on, both near and far
- for the few people who “gave of themselves” to help tangibly build it; you know who you are
- for the 133 different people who went on an adventure last season
- for our families who helped out at home while I was away traveling
- for an amazing wife in Beth Jent who said yes to supporting me chasing this crazy dream and passion as I quit my full-time job in 2017 to build a baseball business from scratch, along with starting 2×2 Global.
The vision of what you’ve seen so far with Simply A Fan in the past nine months is only the tip of the iceberg as there are plans for growing the business over the coming years that often keep me awake at night. I continually find myself excited about the potential, yet I know I must be patient to build it as the bricks of the foundation are laid one at a time.
Like any type of start-up business, this whole adventure has been unchartered territory and has not been without its challenges. I would be remiss if I made it sound like it had been easy, as it’s been anything but that. Not only are the bullet-points above highlights from 2018, but so are the valleys that we walked through. For example, I almost shut down the idea of Simply A Fan before it ever officially launched. Then a friend came alongside me and helped me build it. I almost quit again a few weeks in to it as the fear of the unknown was overwhelming and seemed like it was too much. Then friends came alongside me and asked to lead their church groups on day trips to Atlanta. I had moments of horrendous anxiety where the fear of failure was paralyzing. Then a friend would sit and listen and help discern and dispel the lies from the truth. I battled depression for long stretches as I often found myself waiting in the pit of darkness for the light to break through. While waiting, we had family and friends who prayed for us on days when we didn’t have the strength to pray ourselves.
Sometimes when I got to the end of a day of trying to build this baseball storytelling and travel venture, I would tell Beth that not quitting that day was my biggest victory. Thankfully as time wore on, the excitement and passion outweighed the fear. Thanks to those who have walked with us on the journey, I never lost sight of the vision that gave me the courage to take that step of faith back in June 2017 when Beth and I walked away from the comfort and security we had always known.
As you can see, this Opening Day story is different than most I’ve written as you aren’t reading about Ichiro’s retirement, Jackie turning 100 or me meeting a Brooklyn legend. By pulling back the curtain a bit, my hope is that those of you who have or will take similar steps of faith, will be encouraged in your own journey.
With all that said and with the regular season upon us, my goals for 2019 include what I call my 20 – 30 – 300 plan. I figure if I “put it out there” for all to see, then that will make me chase it that much harder to try and make it happen:
- 20 adventures (2018 = 11 trips)
- 30 games (2018 = 20 games)
- 300 people (2018 = 133 people)
The picture of this baseball I’m holding (in the featured image) is from April 2017 at Wrigley Field. It is a ball that was thrown in the stands pre-game by Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio. It was my first adventure I took after the idea for Simply A Fan had really been born. Me and four others took a road trip to Chicago to see the Cubs Ring Ceremony. A few days before this Beth Jent looked at me in the kitchen one day and said, “You can do as many baseball trips as you want to, if you’ll figure out a way to replace my adjunct teaching income.”
“You’ve got a deal!” I told her. You see, she didn’t make a lot of money teaching social work part-time. I knew the numbers, I do our family budget! At that time, I had no clue how I’d make it happen, but it was then in that exact moment that my creative wheels starting turning in such a way that they had never turned before. How could I take my passion for being simply a fan, and make it into something that didn’t currently exist? Could I really one day make a living as a baseball fan? I did not know the answers, but they were similar questions I asked nearly 15 years earlier and that chapter of my life turned out so much better than I could have ever dreamed or expected. As I pondered those questions I decided that I was willing to swing for the fences, or else I knew I’d wake up an old man one day wondering ‘what if’ and regret not even having tried.
So the journey began.
Welcome to the 2019 season with Simply A Fan. Wherever you may be, go enjoy your Opening Day!
April 2017, Wrigley Field
a ball I caught thrown in the stands by Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio
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Mark Jent is the chief trip planner and designated storyteller for Simply A Fan. He lives in Nashville with his wife Beth, and their three kids, Brooklyn, Harrison and Zach. He enjoys cheering on his Dodgers, reading baseball history, hiking at Radnor Lake and chasing waterfalls throughout Tennessee with his family. He launched Simply A Fan in July 2018 with the two-fold purpose of taking people on adventures to ballparks across the country and providing fans a platform to share their baseball stories. He is currently on a quest to meet as many of the living Brooklyn Dodgers as possible.