Sam Koenig faced many adversities throughout his five years on the Milwaukee Panthers baseball squad, but his determination and outstanding work ethic paid off, as the Los Angeles Angels selected the outfielder in the 27th round of the 2015 MLB First-Year Player Draft.
It was a special moment for Koenig, who battled injuries throughout his entire time at Milwaukee. Unfortunately, those injuries came back to haunt Koenig, as he officially decided to retire from professional baseball at the end of May.
“It has been a long time coming,” Koenig said. “Through college I had three surgeries and then I had a fourth surgery in my first offseason last summer. My body has taken a toll and it was becoming a grind to get through everyday with the aches and pains. I just felt the best thing was to move on.
“I felt like God was telling me to pursue other things in life. Obviously it is a decision when you play the sport your entire life that you don’t want to make, especially so soon. But, I felt it was in my best interest to do it at that point.”
In 37 professional games, Koenig hit .240 with one home run and eight RBIs in 121 at-bats between Rookie and Class A ball in 2015.
The thought of retiring from professional baseball didn’t become a serious option until this spring when he was struggling to return from offseason double hernia surgery.
“It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made in my life,” Koenig said. “That’s why it took so long for me to come to that conclusion. I had been feeling it for a few months and thinking it for even longer than that.
“I’d call my parents and talk to them about it every single time I called them when I was out in Arizona for Spring Training. It wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. A lot of thought went into it.”
Koenig will return to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the fall to finish his degree in elementary education and will graduate in spring 2017, after completing a semester of school and a semester of student teaching.
He’s looking forward to completing his degree and would someday like to get into coaching. But in the meantime, he’s enjoying his time away from the game and plans to use the experiences he’s learned in baseball in everyday life.
“Baseball teaches you so much about life in general that, especially at Milwaukee, you do so much maturing within baseball and going to school,” Koenig said. “That’s where people who aren’t in it or experiencing it sometimes it’s hard for them to understand that it teaches you so much about being a man and being ready for when the sport is done.”
Check out the feature articles I did regarding Sam Koenig last year: