The 2018 Senior Perspectives is the 13th in a series of annual collections. Senior captains and representatives of teams at Harvard have been invited to contribute viewpoints based on personal experience from both their senior seasons and full varsity careers at Harvard.
Noah Zavolas, Baseball
Hometown: Acton, Mass.
House Affiliation: Eliot
Printed on a pane of glass above the back door to Dillon Fieldhouse, there is a quote.
Small white lettering on a clear backdrop, legible only as you enter, easy enough to miss.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
Each day when I walk through the Dillon doors, I reach up and put my hand on those words, words that have motivated, inspired, and humbled me. To tap the quote is to understand the value of effort for its own sake, the combination of passion and perseverance. To tap the quote is to recognize that the man in the arena is there alone. His domain is the extra mile, the early morning, the late night, the empty gym. Putting a hand on those words is a reminder of the lows and the highs, the wins and the losses, of the setbacks and the comebacks, of the pain and the pride. Roosevelt’s words speak to the dreamer in me. They remind me of the little boy that fell in love with baseball eighteen years ago.
The quote stands as an enduring reminder that all I’ve ever wanted to do is play baseball. The fresh white of a new ball, the gentle curve of its seams, the resolute pulse as it hits the mitt. The soft crunch of cleats in dirt. Grass stains smeared across jersey fronts and pant legs. I loved everything about baseball, and I loved it immediately.
For eighteen years, baseball has been the one true constant, the dream above all the others. At Harvard, I have been the man in the arena, marred my face with dust and sweat and blood. I have striven and failed. I have dared greatly and I have known triumph. I bet on myself when I was a bad bet. I made myself when even I didn’t know if I could make it. I figured out how to figure things out and I leaned into the many challenges I encountered. It has been a tremendous struggle to play the game, an exercise in tradeoff and sacrifice. But it has also been an honor to play for as long as I have, a privilege to button up a jersey, lace my cleats, pull my cap down low, and step inside the foul lines.
Baseball is the first thing I think about in the morning, the last thing I think about at night, and what I dream about in between. The game has taken me to a school with a big name and summer town with a bigger heart. Teammates, coaches, and host families have shown me kindness, generosity, and acceptance that transcend the white chalk foul lines. I will cherish these places; they are home. I will honor these people; they are family.
Today, the many games that have come and gone, the faces that go with them, the scores and teammates, the plays and coaches, have melted into memories.
I am four, ears tucked into a brand new hat, a much-too-big jersey hanging down to my knees.
I am eleven, grinning ear to ear, hoisting a trophy, covered in Gatorade and glory.
I am seventeen, shaking the hand of a college coach, thrilled at the prospect of four more years of baseball.
I am twenty, handing my dad the ball from my first win, my voice catching as I embrace him and thank him, for everything.
I am twenty one, tearing up on the mound, surrounded by a town of people that accepted me as one of their own and believed in me, humbled and proud and wondering how I got so lucky.
These moments, and many more, are the fabric of a career.
They are indelible reminders of simpler days, of each and every season, of a lifetime of a little kid’s big dreams.
Thanks for always believing, dad.