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Steubenville CC grad doesn’t need stats to enjoy success in sports

MARK REST

When Mark Rest graduated from Steubenville Catholic Central in 2016, he was not unlike any future college athlete.

Rest envisioned himself going to Muskingum University and making an impact for the baseball program for four years, helping the Muskies to achieve as much collective success as possible. Whether or not individual accolades and honors came his way remained to be seen.

Fast forwarding to the present and Rest is part of the 98 percent of college athletes who do not go on to a professional career. But, he’s also part of a small percentage, unfortunately, of athletes who went to school, played a sport for four years and made it all the way through academically without quitting or transfering.

“I know that only 2 percent (of Division III college athletes) make it to their senior day,” Rest said. “I take pride in being part of that small group.”

And, as he finishes up his final semester online at Muskingum and begins to think about the process of transitioning to law school at Ohio Northern, Rest is proud of that fact, too.

“Having to say good-bye to baseball is tough, but I am ready to move on,” Rest said. “It’s been a huge part of my life for 17 years.”

During his career at Muskingum, Rest appeared in a total of four games and had nary a stat that would catch anyone’s attention.

For many, the love of the game wouldn’t have been enough. After all, in this transfer portal era of college sports, the grass is seemingly always greener on the other side.

Rest didn’t lie when asked. Quitting crossed his mind, but it was simply a passing thought that he never took seriously.

“It would have been easy to quit because I didn’t show up at Muskingum just to be on the team,” Rest said. “There were two times I wanted to quit, but I didn’t have guts to walk into my coach’s office and do it. I loved the guys I was playing with more than I loved the sport, and I think you need that.”

During the course of his career, Rest altered his pitching style with hopes of being called upon on more out of the bullpen. Clearly it wasn’t because of effort, but it just wasn’t meant to be for him.

“I realized I wasn’t going to play, so my biggest goal became helping the younger guys,” Rest said.

Rest realized that players come and go. Wins and losses are counted, stats are kept and sometimes records are broken. But, he also believed the impact he made as a person or teammate would be felt far greater than any inherited bases-loaded jam he escaped on the mound.

“You always remember the people in your life who helped you get to where you are, and I hope that some of the younger guys on our team or some of the other guys I met through baseball remember me for that reason,” Rest said.

When Rest began his baseball career at Muskingum, he was part of a freshman class that numbered 26. When the Muskies went their separate ways last month, there were four still in the program.

“I know it’s cliche, but these (teammates) are my brothers,” Rest said. “I honestly got to play with some of the best guys in the world. We made relationships that will last forever.”

Rest, like so many other athletes, had his season railroaded by the coronavirus pandemic, which has paralyzed sports at all levels.

“Everything ended, for us, in a span of seven days,” Rest recalled. “Seeing what happened on the news is a lot different than actually feeling it. To spend hours and hours for four years on baseball and school and then to lose it in a matter of seven days is hard.”

Knowing the season was ending, the Muskies played one final weekend doubleheader at Denison University. Both teams’ seniors were recognized in what Rest called a “white-out snowstorm” prior to first pitch.

“They absolutely were not going to call that game,” Rest said. “The seniors were going to get their moment one last time. The reality of it really hit when we shook hands after the game. Baseball was over in March, and for us four seniors, it was over forever. I just felt sadness and disappointment.”

∫∫∫

Prior to the interview for this column, I had never met or talked to Mark Rest in my career. I honestly don’t even remember covering a Steubenville Central game in which he played.

However, he reached out to me, via social media, and asked if I’d be willing to help share his story because he thought it might make a positive impact on current high school and returning college athletes.

I am honestly glad he reached out because Mark Rest gets it. His message needed to be shared and hopefully it resonates.

Staskey can be reached via email at sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com or at twitter.com/TLSportsSeth

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