Couldn't finish your homework because the game went into overtime last night? Be glad Brian Shubsda isn't your teacher.
Shubsda, a first lieutenant with the New Jersey National Guard, doesn't believe in excuses. That's something he learned from his dad, a New Jersey highway patrolman. Shubsda's father had spent much of 2001 undergoing surgeries, and he was supposed to be recovering when Sept. 11 hit. Instead, Brian remembers coming home from school to see his dad shining his gear, getting ready to go back to work early.
"That image stuck with me ever since," Shubsda said.
After high school, Shubsda played catcher at The Citadel, a military college in South Carolina. He went on to play professionally for two New Jersey teams. But he never shook the feeling that he should be serving his country instead. "The whole time I played baseball, it bugged me that my buddies from college were fighting overseas and I was playing a game at home," he said.
So in 2011, Shubsda put his baseball aspirations behind him and joined the National Guard. He's currently in flight school to become a Black Hawk helicopter pilot.
Though he no longer plays professionally, Shubsda still makes time for baseball. Since joining the National Guard, he's served as the captain of the U.S. Military All-Stars team, and he finds time to play on weekends.
Not that it's easy. Every weekday during flight school, Shubsda is up by 4:30 a.m. to get grilled by instructors on emergency procedures until the sun rises. He then takes on a mentally exhausting hour-and-a-half flight. Shubsda eats lunch in the car on the way to the classroom, where he attends in-depth lectures for the rest of the afternoon.
While most of his classmates spend their precious few hours of free time in the evenings recuperating and studying, Shubsda heads to the gym to train. He's in bed by 9:00 p.m. so he can do it all again the next day.
Shubsda makes a lot of sacrifices to play sports and serve his community and country at the same time. Are they worth the reward?
"There are a lot of baseball players," Shubsda said. "I don't know any who also get to fly helicopters."
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