Building a Multi-Camera System to Videotape Pitching Mechanics

On Twitter, a few people have been bothering me to talk about my two-camera system on our PlyoCare wall at Driveline Baseball. It looks something like this:

PlyoCare Wall

It’s not too hard to build – the toughest part was figuring out how to actually assemble and hack together all the random stuff. Fortunately, I’ve done that for you. This guide isn’t meant to be 100% comprehensive; there’s going to be some troubleshooting and guessing on your end since we don’t have the exact same computer setup and the drivers that run the cameras are a little finicky… so if you don’t like rolling up your sleeve and using Google big time, you’ll want to skip this build. But if you need a computer-controlled multi-camera system like I did and don’t want to spend $5,000 (which I later did for my mound setup… that’s another story), this is for you.

We’ll be leaning heavily on the Playstation Eye camera for the Sony PS3. Believe it or not, these things work REALLY well.

PSEye Camera

You’ll Need This Stuff, and Here’s Where You Get it

  • A decently powered computer that runs Windows 7 or higher
    • Should have an i3 or faster processor; ours runs on a i5-2500k, 8 GB RAM, 128 GB SSD, Windows 7
    • It must have a solid state drive (SSD) to save video, a spinning hard disk drive (HDD) is too slow. A decent option if you don’t have one is this Kingston SSDnow 300 at 120 GB – $50 from Amazon
    • If you ask how to get this running on OSX/Mac I’ll ban you from the Internet
    • If you ask how to get this running on Linux you already know enough on how to build this, so go away
    • And no you can’t get this working on a laptop. I mean you could but I’m not gonna help you if you go this route.
  • Two PSEye Cameras – $10 each from Amazon
  • Two PSEye Tripod Mounts – FREE 3d plans, pay to upload/print them at makexyz (cost is variable but around $30-40 for two of the CamHolderTripodMount.stl file)
  • Two Arkon Camera Wall Mounts – $38 each from Amazon
  • Two CL Eye Camera Driver Licenses – $20 for a Two-Pack from Code Laboratories
  • (optional) PCI USB 2.0 Port expansion card – $13 on Amazon
  • (optional) Two ACTIVE USB Extension Cables, 32 feet each – $14 each on Amazon (Use these if you need longer cabling for your cameras. You can daisy-chain more if you need to cover longer ground, but I wouldn’t exceed 3. Note: The BlueRigger cables work best in my experience. Other cables may be cheaper but we’ve seen major failure rates with them.)

Alright, most of you stopped reading. But for those who really want to do this, you need all that. Here’s an explanation on why and how the system works:

Your computer connects the PS Eye cameras to what is called the Universal Serial Bus. It’s probably what your mouse and keyboard are plugged into and potentially your external wireless modem adapter. This bus was brilliantly designed to allow 100+ things to connect to the computer and share bandwidth, which is basically a street where the cars (data) can drive on. However, using webcams like the PS Eye and recording data to disk is like dumping 10,000 cars on the highway at one time. Sure, it CAN hold that many cars, but the likelihood of accidents (packet collisions) and problems is really high. So, you probably need a separate highway (buses) for each flood of cars you unleash on the computer. Hence, the optional PCI USB 2.0 Port expansion card. This gives you a second highway in your computer for the data to flow over. You don’t NEED this, but I guarantee if you try to dump the data over your singular USB bus or split it across the USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 bus, you’ll have problems. So buy the card and install it. It’s pretty simple, use YouTube to watch someone install a PCI card into their computer.

The above paragraph also explains why you can’t have a hard drive accepting all this data. It’d be like an exit ramp that forces cars to slow down to 5 MPH before getting off the highway. Not gonna work. A solid state drive (SSD) can process all the data quickly. You need one. Technically you could write everything to a RAMdisk if you wanted to do that (and you will need to do this if you go to 4 cameras), but that’s outside of the scope of this guide. If you’re nerdy enough, you can figure it out.

Now, the PS Eye was developed for the Sony Playstation 3, not a computer. You can try plugging it into your computer, and it will not work. To understand why, do you think the PS Eye should work with Microsoft’s Xbox? No, there’s really no reason this should work. The software that allows the camera to talk to the computer is called a driver. Back in my day, we had to manually install drivers before anything got plugged in; today, most everything is “plug and play” and easy to configure. Today, you get to learn the pain of everyone in the 1980s and 1990s felt when putting a damn sound card into their computer. Enjoy the history lesson.

These drivers take a lot of time to write and reverse engineer. Fortunately, Code Laboratories did this and made them available on their site. You can get the free licenses but that won’t work for multiple cameras, and if you are really reading this far and trying to get $20 out of the budget, seriously stop it. So buy the licenses, install their software, and open up their license manager. You can then plug your cameras into the computer and the license manager will allow you to “activate” each camera. This gives you access to use them in various applications. Hopefully nothing goes wrong in this step, because Code Laboratories’ customer support is absolutely terribleIf you venture into their forums you’ll see tons of posts by yours truly from years ago that went unanswered. So you can post here but I probably won’t help you either; the difference being that I didn’t charge you for any of this stuff and thus you have no expectation that I might actually help you.

If you use them, the extension cables need to be ACTIVE. This means the signal is repeated across the 20+ feet the cable runs. Imagine yelling at someone 1,500 feet away about how ugly their girlfriend is. Chances are good he won’t hear you. But if you yelled at him over your cell phone, he’d hear it loud and clear and be over soon enough to kick your ass. That’s what a repeater is. A cell phone. Kinda. This analogy sucks but I’m leaving it in; the whole point is to not get a PASSIVE USB extension cable. Get ACTIVE ones. And get a Blue Rigger cable, the other ones are terrible. Including Monoprice, and nothing they make sucks. But their USB cables sure do.

The tripod wall mounts allow you to put anything with a tripod screw into the wall. Simple enough. Get the ones linked above and screw them into your wall. You could use drywall anchors if you need, but the PS Eye is really light and there’s no load on them, so you could ride dirty and just use drywall screws like I did. I’m sure in six months it’ll fall out of the wall and I’ll be mad but for now, wheeeeee

PS Eye in Tripod Mount

Anyway, the 3d printed stuff is probably a little complicated for you. You need to download those files from above and send them to a place near you that prints things in three dimensions. Or you can do what I did and paste that URL to the plans to makexyz and buy the models. Remember: You do NOT need the Camera Holder plan, you need only the CameraTripodHolder plan – and two of them. How it works is… well I don’t really know how 3d printing works, something to do with heat and carving stuff out of a block of plastic. It’s cool. Your local hacker shop can help you with it.

3d Printed PS Eye Holders

So connect it all up and drill everything into the wall and run the CL Eye Camera Test program. Do you have an image? Awesome! You can test recording using the software.

Software: Or How to Actually Process Data

Alrighty. Now you have everything wired up and working, so how do you capture synchronized video across the two cameras? I recommend using iPi Recorder v2 because it exports individual cameras to AVI if you want to make GIFs of the stuff. It’s hard to find this version, but you can get it from this weird spammy looking site. You want the version that is 2.2.3.X or whatever; here, look at the screenshot below. When you click “download” the file will start downloading and it will prompt you to share your download success to Facebook, what the fuck is the point of this, I hate the Internet sometimes. Anyway don’t do that, or do, I don’t care.


Now you should be able to run iPi Recorder 2 and click through all the calibration and “background” checks. This is software that is used for motion capture and the actual mocap software is incredibly expensive, and the developers are sometimes total dicks about off-label use of the software. I am telling you this because I dealt with them a lot in the past, and while I’m sure it’s good stuff, it’s wildly overpriced. Theoretically you can use their stuff for biomechanics breakdowns (if you go to their site you can read all about it) but I’m not into it. The PS Eye isn’t good enough for that, and neither are Microsoft Kinects, even model 2. Not for baseball anyway.

From here, you should be able to record the videos – be sure the file location is saving to the solid state disk drive letter – and double-click them to open them and play them back. You can also export each camera to an AVI file. Why can’t you export both cameras to an AVI file combined? I don’t know, the developer told me he’d charge me a few thousand dollars to add this feature into the software which seriously can’t take more than a few hours at most. Whatever. To stitch them together, export both AVI files and put them into Kinovea (dual playback mode) and click “export combined video” or something like that. Bam.


This works pretty damn well, believe it or not. It’s completely hacked together but it’ll get the job done. Let me know if you have any comments or questions, but no technical support is offered. You’re GOING to run into problems, I guarantee it. If you aren’t the tinkering / DIY type, forget it.

Best of luck!

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Your Marketing Earns You the Clientele You Deserve

I consider myself a guy that tries to read and consume a lot of information on everything entrepreneurship and small business. It was my original major in college, I was a co-founder of a successful financial firm, I did consulting for myself, I was a professional gambler, and worked for a bunch of startups making executive-level decisions as well. A message that is often repeated in the bubble of the dotcom/startup scene is to “sell benefits and not features.” This means that no one wants to hear about how powerful your new Dell PowerEdge server is in terms of a quad-core Xeon processor, but rather that this processor enables you to run 27 instances of Photoshop faster. You want to sell them a better version of themselves, so to speak.

Just google search that phrase and you’ll find plenty. Here’s one from HelpScout, which is actually a service that Driveline Baseball uses:

Apple understood the appeal of outcomes when they released the first iPod. MP3 players were nothing new, and the technology trounced CDs. The problem was marketing; the right pitch hadn’t been made to explain just how much better customers’ lives were going to be once they owned an iPod.

How do you think Apple decided to frame the magic of the iPod? Around its technical prowess, or what customers could do with it?

Credit to HelpScout

Here’s the problem: That advertisement is simply false. 1 GB does not store 1,000 mp3s. It might not store 500 mp3s either. It just depends on encoding, length of playlists, etc. But “no one wants to hear about that.” So you sell the benefits of having the iPod in your pocket with some slightly fudged words, a small percentage of people return your product, but a larger percentage decide to make the call and purchase your product, so at the end of the day when you net out support costs and return costs, it’s clearly a winner. And – probably – there was minimal damage to your brand for including this slight lie.

This model works when you are selling items. But it doesn’t work when you are selling relationships. Consider the amount of gym membership turnover and why places like LA Fitness and 24 Hour Fitness make it impossible to cancel – they inherently know they are selling you a package of lies. Sure, if you come in all the time and use their equipment, you will get the results you want. But most won’t. Now, that’s not the gym’s fault – well, it sort of is – but they weren’t being 100% honest and forthright with their service. Fortunately, this is an accepted fact in the gym industry, so everyone is free to be a scumbag and nothing is really worse for the wear.

Why I Fight Selling Benefits as Much as Possible

I’m not totally naive. Our websites sell the benefits of training at Driveline Baseball because it does work and hook the person. However, we also are very upfront with our clients about the fact that they probably aren’t Casey Weathers (30 year old with two elbow surgeries going on to throw 97+ MPH for strikes after training here) or Caleb Cotham (completely remapped his arm action and mechanics in 4-5 weeks before the 2014 AFL). Those things don’t really happen that often.

Or do they?

What I’ve seen on the Internet about our program – in comparison to others – is often that Driveline Baseball does a better job than your other random pitching guru out there. And while that might be true (and it probably is), we also do not use marketing on our site that is built for fast conversions and poor lead generation. We realized years ago that culture is the number one reason that people want to train at our place, and that is NOT dictated in large by the employees – it is dictated and shaped by the trainees.

So if you are in a business where you need constant relationships with a person and they will affect the culture of your business simply by having a physical presence, then you need to screen and treat your clientele almost as if they were employees of your company. This starts with your marketing. If you are using giant flashy banners that generate a strong “call to action” and optimize your site in such a way that manipulates people into believing something they may not really understand, then you will get a client base of people who are motivated by text on a website and who are not fully bought into what you truly have to offer. You can have the best of intentions and want to do things “the right way,” but if how you sell it is inherently dishonest, how can you not see this is a serious divide and will cause problems in the very near future?

The applicability to baseball is strong. The professional baseball community is very tight-knit, very resistant to outsiders who usually just try to make money, and very responsive to word of mouth and referrals from trusted sources. Knowing this, we set out to do right by those that matter – pitching coordinators, college coaches, and professional athletes. Instead of marketing to them like they’re 14 years old with an attention span of a monkey trying to sort colored blocks, we described our features and how we go about things and offered to demonstrate and send out free product for them to see for themselves if it was a good idea to use our stuff. And you know what? This turned off a TON of coaches. Which was great, in my mind – these are the people we DON’T want to do business with! We do not want those who do not buy-in and are actually interested in player development to represent our brand and use our products. No matter how much we can make off that deal – and it won’t be enough – it can never overcome the potential damage to our brand and reputation, which is all you have in this business.

A noted pitching guru has ridiculous ads plastered all over his site, pop-ups, and insane marketing talk all over the place with email captures, email spam, and crazy tricks to get someone to just get in touch so he might sell something. When I spoke to this guru’s assistant, he couldn’t understand why he was getting a lot of dead leads, bad press, and worst of all, a clientele that didn’t match his desired group of trainees. This guru is actually well-intentioned and a smart guy, but the way he conducts business earns him people that are looking to get rich quick. And no amount of money is worth training those people.

We send out email maybe once every two weeks and we try to turn around support requests in < 24 hours with someone that I actually pay who is knowledgeable to respond to emails. I am very responsive on Twitter and social media. And what we found out is that these “expensive” and “wrong” ways to go about marketing and support actually generate us a ton of sales and strong interest in our company from the places we really want to be known at.

Without question, this is a slower way to build things and it can be frustrating. I wrote 75+ blog articles over years and never had more than 5 trainees at one time in my chicken wire-enclosed place in North Seattle. But eventually, in this community, the best product/service and most straightforward guy starts to win. And I’m happy that we went this route to begin with, because it makes conducting business in the future so much easier – I never have to lie to my clients and I never have to make excuses. We tell them upfront the risks, caveats, and be as honest as possible. And our clients love us for it. Mostly.

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Backups and Paranoia

Lately I’ve been on a big paranoia kick when it comes to backing things up after a long time of not caring. I’ve had my fair share of disasters and close calls, but one day I just up and started backup plans for all my servers and personal workstations. Here’s what I’m doing:

Personal Computers

I have a Macbook, home battlestation, and work battlestation. I use Dropbox and Bitbucket, but as wise people have said, source control management is not backup. Everything important on my Macbook and work computer are saved to my Dropbox, and on my home machine (with 3+ TB of storage), I use Backblaze [affiliate link – click to get a month free, and I get a month free] to back everything up – minus VMware images, which are shipped to a 5 TB external drive. It took me over 40 days to get the initial backup into their cloud. But at $5/month, it’s a hell of a deal.

Backblaze Stats


Driveline Baseball’s servers are hosted at various places depending on the application. We have one dedicated server with OVH, two VPSes with Digital Ocean, and a handful of cheap Low End Box style VPSes for one-off tasks. All servers on the OVH and Digital Ocean platforms are backed up weekly using standard imaging techniques (usually their native dashboard’s implementations at reasonable prices), and all code obviously goes through git/SCM. The databases are replicated in a master-slave setup.

However, weekly imaging is definitely too low for critical areas even with SCM and replication, and after being barraged with love for Tarsnap on Hacker News, I finally got off my ass and set up nightly backups of assets, code, and a database dump. After searching the Internet for script examples, I ended up with this:

This script will:

  • Dump all of your databases to a file
  • Compress it with the date label appended
  • Remove the database dump
  • Ship the archives of the webroot, assets folder, and sql backup to tarsnap’s servers with a date-labeled note

Remember, since Tarsnap’s service does deduplication, there’s no risk of paying a ton of money by sending the entire webroot or assets up every night. You only pay transit and storage for blocks that show a delta between changes – which is the beauty of the service.

Stick it in crontab and be sure to set your PATH to see tarsnap’s binaries and set MAILTO in case of explosions.

Eventually you’ll want an automated way to prune backups on tarsnap’s servers so you don’t end up paying excessive amounts of money for very old backups (not that the picodollars you end up paying costs a whole heck of a lot).

I’m pretty happy with it so far!

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Scrapped Intro to My First Book

The following is the scrapped introduction to my first book on training pitchers. There’s a good story or two in there which is why I decided to keep it. The remaining 100+ pages needed a lot of help, and if I have anything to say about it, will never be seen by anyone. Ever.

Anyway, enjoy!

As a young boy, I didn’t have a lot of athletic prowess to speak of. This didn’t stop me from participating in sports at all, though – I made a fool of myself on the baseball diamond, soccer field, and basketball courts throughout my youth. Growing up, I lived on a block where all my friends were a few years older than me, so they had a decided physical advantage in all the sports we played. It mattered little, as I always loved a challenge. My father would play basketball with me in the backyard, usually allowing me to shoot over him, but would cover me closely enough where I would complain that my competition wasn’t going to consist of six-foot-tall, two-hundred pound men. He would remind me that eventually, they would.

That lesson didn’t take root for me until years – decades – later. As I grew older, my desire to compete in athletics waxed and waned, until I competed primarily for fun and turned my focus towards schoolwork and academics. When I eventually hung up the spikes and moved to Seattle, I had a lack of hobbies to occupy my time with. My girlfriend (now wife) suggested that I do what all former athletes do: Start coaching. So, I contacted the local Little League and was swiftly put in charge of a Little League team full of 13 and 14-year old boys that I would have to evaluate and draft.

It was about this time that I started to fall in love with sabermetrics – the analysis of advanced baseball statistics. I understood the concepts of scouting for the undervalued assets – at the time, on-base percentage was the stat du jour. I went into the evaluations assuming that parents would carry a lot of bias towards players they knew and wouldn’t account for puberty or large growth spurts correctly. However, besides this very basic concept, I still believed in the majority of old-school theories, having been taught by those types of coaches all my life. Batting average, speed, power, velocity, and the “good face” were what mattered – and those tools couldn’t be taught.

At the draft, I evaluated many of the players with the other coaches – mostly fathers of kids in the league. I identified the best player in the group with relative ease; all the parents knew it too. His name was Corey, and he had everything you’d want in a youth baseball athlete – smooth glovework, great contact skills, early growth spurt, and most importantly, the good face. Corey just looked like a ballplayer, and he carried himself like one, too. There would be no chance I’d be able to draft him, as I was picking at the end of the round, and so I identified some of the other first-round talent.

If Corey represented everything that traditional baseball scouts love, then Sam was his polar opposite. Sam wasn’t naturally athletic; this much was obvious. Sam didn’t have a rocket attached to his arm, and his swing was a little unorthodox. But Sam didn’t make mistakes in the field, Sam poured strike after strike over the plate, Sam flashed the ability to throw a slow curveball that would be effective, and most of all, Sam played the game intelligently.

I chose Sam with my second round pick, and he would carry my Little League team to the last round of the district playoffs – where we would lose a one-run heartbreaker to eliminate us. We had a flamethrowing righty – Sean – who could touch 80 miles per hour with his fastball, but it was Sam who would anchor our rotation. We had two players – Adam and Jeff – that could rival most Little League shortstops with their range and arm strength, but it would be Sam who would commit the fewest errors in the field. Sam batted third for us, displaying outstanding plate discipline, contact skills, and enough power to drive in the speedy runners at the top of our lineup.

After the season, I would elect Sam to the All-Star team, where he would barely play, despite being one of the best players in our league – leading almost all pitching categories and finishing near the top in both batting average and on-base percentage. When I talked to him about this, he told me something I will never forget: “Coach, no one else will give me a chance. You’re the only one who gave me the opportunity to play.”

I write these words about Little League and Sam to illustrate why I chose to study the nuances of developing baseball athletes from the ground up. For every “naturally gifted” player like Corey, there had to be countless dedicated intelligent players like Sam, just looking for the guidance – and the chance – they needed to turn into great baseball players. But how would I learn how to teach the Sams of the world?

I started by spending hundreds of dollars on products from various pitching coaches and gurus out there – Tom House, Ron Wolforth, Paul Nyman, Alan Jaeger, Dick Mills, Len Solesky, and Paul Reddick. I then spent hundreds of hours reviewing their material, and the material of “crazy” theorists out there like Dr. Mike Marshall and Fritz Outman. I even purchased texts only available in Japan from Dr. Ryutaro Himeno and Dr. Kazushi Tezuka and had them partially translated so I could better understand how the Japanese taught pitching mechanics and to learn the secret of the “gyroball.”

From these materials, I learned a great deal of information about pitching mechanics and how to prepare the body for pitching. Most of the coaches believed in throwing and a strict adherence to the specificity of the sport – that is to say, they generally denounced lifting heavy weights and that training in the weight room didn’t have much carryover to fastball velocity.

I believed in this for some time, and trained many pitchers under these operating theories. However, I chose to get involved with barbell training as a way to develop overall fitness for myself. Seeking recommendations, I found the very complete book on basic barbell training – Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe. After I read this text, I immediately began the novice training program outlined by the book. After a period of six months, I ended up significantly stronger in all the core lifts outlined in the book – the back squat, bench press, strict overhead press, deadlift, and power clean. Stronger than ever, I took the field and started throwing much harder and hit for far more power than I ever had in my life. All I had done in that off-season was focus on maximum strength training and took very little batting practice and threw very little off a mound.

Convinced that maximum strength training could play a major role in how I would train pitchers going forward, I then purchased and reviewed the material of general strength and conditioning coaches and instructors like the aforementioned Mark Rippetoe, as well as coaches like Eric Cressey, Glenn Pendlay, Dave Tate, Greg Glassman, Jim Wendler, Dan John, Greg Everett, Kelly Baggett, and many, many others.

I revisited the works of the pitching gurus and turned my head towards original research, digging up well over fifty research papers by anyone who had published biomechanical research on pitching mechanics or training methods to improve fastball velocity. Dr. Coop DeRenne’s work showed that various forms of resistance training combined with throwing programs improved velocity over simple throwing programs themselves. His work also outlined how weighted baseballs could have a positive effect on release velocity for pitchers. From these texts, I developed experiments and protocols to test on myself and willing clients for case studies. Sure enough, our first tests worked – extremely well. Pitchers and position players alike were putting 5-7 MPH on their fastballs in a matter of a few months.

It’s these results that have led me to write the first comprehensive book on exactly how to integrate the concepts of maximum strength resistance training, speed and agility, core work, weighted baseballs, long toss, and mobility and flexibility into both off-season and in-season programs to develop elite fastball velocities for those pitchers who just need the appropriate guidance to take them to the next level.

However, this is not an easy program. You will have to work extremely hard to develop the fastball velocity that’s required to compete at the college and pro ranks. All I can do is show you the way. Let’s get started.

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A number of baseball writers have spoken out about their anxiety-related conditions in order to spread awareness, and probably to help themselves out. I will be doing the same!

If you believe the statistics, around 18% of American adults suffer from some form of anxiety disorder. The symptoms are different in each person, and the best way to treat it is generally individual as well. In my case, I suffer from general anxiety symptoms and have had bouts of clinical depression as well.

I first suspected this was a problem when I was 12 or 13 years old. I was having a hard time in school, both socially (normal) and academically (not normal), and my parents didn’t seem to support my life choices at the time, choosing to punish me for my slip-ups rather than investigate further into the root cause. I grew up Roman Catholic and was framed by guilt about actions that were “bad.” I remember asking my mother point-blank:

Is it possible that I am depressed?

She didn’t know what to say and flatly denied it, and I went on my way. I grew up with a very strong sense of family hierarchy, and this was reinforced by attending Catholic school and mass – that those above you in authority knew better, and you should accept their statements as fact. Today, I find myself to be a liberal/libertarian-leaning person (I avoid labeling) in most aspects of my life, and this sense being repressed in me at a young age further confused and angered me. I kept a diary of how I needed a change of pace but had no idea how to explore these feelings; remember, the Internet wasn’t a big thing until I hit high school, and even then, it was primarily centered around instant messaging and e-mail – the web had yet to really take off, so research wasn’t readily available. And at any rate, I felt the problem was with me, not something that could be fixed.

My family could not afford a private high school education, and as such, I attended the local public high school with nearly no friends going there. This ended up being one of the better things for me, as I realized I could choose who I wanted to be for the first time in my life. While I discovered who I was and met more open friends, I began to drop my religious beliefs on my own accord and become a much more social person – going from one extreme to the other, priding myself on collecting a rolodex of contacts and always having things to do across many groups of friends. My disappearing faith and changed social attitude ran afoul of my family here and there, but mostly we got through it without major intervention.

I accepted a large scholarship to Baldwin-Wallace College (now University) in Ohio and attended there, thrilled to be living out of the house and on my own for the first time in my life. The years went by as I struggled to figure out what I wanted to study, moving from Computer Science to Computer Information Systems to Business Administration to Economics to Philosophy in a desperate attempt to graduate on time. From age 17 and on, I held a full-time job and was expected to graduate on time, especially considering I had AP credits and college credits out of the way from my Running Start / PSEO option I selected in HS. So much of my self-worth was wrapped up in expectations from my family and society, that I had to finish school despite the fact I was increasingly unhappy with the traditional model of education. I kept repressing it all, lying about attending class, hoping I’d eventually get over it, until I just told my parents that I no longer wanted to attend college because I was a wreck. They were stunned, but mostly supported me, though it was clear it was a large disappointment. I had spent five years in college (including my SR year of HS) and finished just over three years worth of credits.

It was around this time that I began spiraling downwards in a depressed haze. I claimed insomnia and got a doctor to write me a script for Ambien/zolpidem, and I took it to pass out and ignore the thoughts in my head. When the side effects hit me super hard – severe short-term memory loss, blacking out while still remaining awake – I started destructive behavior, like calling my therapist at 3 AM and leaving insane rambling messages on his phone. When he’d call me back and leave a message on my voicemail, I’d have zero recollection of doing this, and I’d refuse to call him back, embarrassed. My mother said she heard me crying late at night, perhaps while on the phone with someone.

I told my long-distance girlfriend (now my wife) that I wasn’t suicidal, but that I really didn’t care if I got hit by a bus tomorrow. It wouldn’t be good, but it wouldn’t be a bad result.

It was around this time I decided to try medication and more scheduled therapy with someone to talk to. I was put on Wellbutrin/bupropion and scheduled to speak with my therapist more regularly. He more or less told me that my most meaningful relationships were online and that this was a real problem. When I pressured him into telling me why these “ephemeral” relationships were no less real than in-person relationships, he insisted that they were. I dropped him immediately; at this point, I had a very healthy disrespect for those who invoked their authority without backing evidence.

While working one day, a friend (a real life one!) pulled me aside and asked if I was OK. I told him that I was doing fine and asked why. He told me that I seemed much… dumber… over the last month. That I wasn’t as sharp or as intelligent as a person he had known for years. I immediately suspected the Wellbutrin and flushed my medication. My mood did not worsen, but my intelligence level gradually came back per my friends, who I did not tell I was stopping my medication.

Still depressed and borderline-abusing Ambien, I had a stroke of luck – in a sleep-drug induced haze, I wrote a cover letter and edited my resume to send to PokerStars for an open job in customer support and sent it off. Somehow, this started a chain of events and landed me the job there, traveling to Costa Rica for training. With the new job and money, I moved to Seattle and the depression went away, now that I was with my girlfriend and away from the toxic environment of Cleveland.

For awhile.

Then it came back, because it always does. A change of environment only helps because it doesn’t change the root cause, and I had not yet realized that I was responsible for my environment’s design!

How I got it under control

I quit the IT industry entirely. The environment around most software development companies was eroding my soul. I knew I wanted to work in baseball full-time, and my wife somehow allowed me to take an 80% pay cut with a family to feed to change this in my life. I started experimenting with grey-market chemicals and “smart drugs” to see what the effects would be. Eventually, I found a combination that I’ve been on for years with varying levels of discipline. I learned to control unnecessary anxiety through breathing techniques and logical thinking in combination with the drugs.

Most importantly: I found meaning in my life. I love what I do. For someone with a strong internal locus of control, this was the biggest answer. I was denying what I knew my whole life.

Not everyone is the same. What worked for me may not work for you, and you may want a more traditional route. Heck, without the traditional methods failing, I would have never figured out to move to alternative methods to help combat my anxiety.

Today I am the President and founder of a modestly successful baseball company, I have worked for three MLB organizations, and I have two healthy sons and a caring wife. Do I have problems in life and with anxiety? Absolutely. But it no longer is the primary thing that defines my life. And that’s freedom.

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