There was a time last year when Ethan Ledbetter thought he didn't want baseball in his life. Now that he's changed his mind, Ledbetter is relieved baseball still wants him.
After taking a year off, during which he spent more than a semester off at UNC Chapel Hill, Ledbetter is playing for Concord's American Legion Post 51 this summer.
More importantly, the 2010 Mount Pleasant graduate accepted an offer to walk on at Pfeiffer University next season, renewing a love for the game he once dedicated most of his life to.
Starting with T-ball at age 4, Ledbetter's summers have been filled with baseball. He moved up to AAU and travel ball when he was 8 years old and was coached by his father, Jerry, between the ages 6-14.
Playing for the Carolina Angels, Ledbetter was on AAU state championship teams when he was 11 and 12. The second year, his team finished fourth at the AAU national tournament in Minnesota.
"It's been pretty hectic playing every summer and fall," said Ledbetter. "I can remember when I was small, I had to miss so many events with friends and birthday parties because I was out playing baseball every weekend."
Ledbetter blossomed into an outstanding player in the process, becoming a four-year starter at shortstop at Mount Pleasant. He was a member of several championship teams, earning all-conference honors as a junior in 2009.
The Tigers won a conference tournament his freshman year and won regular-season championships when he was a sophomore and a senior. During his junior season, Mount Pleasant advanced to the 2A West regional final but fell in a best-of-three series to Patton.
Ledbetter missed the first half of his senior season due to a bout with mononucleosis. But he returned to bat around .600 for the rest of the year and drew an academic scholarship offer and a walk-on baseball spot at Campbell University.
Having worked part-time at a Mount Pleasant pharmacy, Ledbetter decided he wanted to pursue a career as a pharmacist. He turned down Campbell's offer and went to school at UNC.
Ledbetter received an acceptance phone call from Chapel Hill the same day as a Post 51 game and was told he needed to report for college orientation immediately. Ledbetter explained the circumstances to the Concord coaching staff but also told them he wouldn't be returning to the team.
He declared himself "burnt out" on baseball. Ledbetter's father and Post 51 coach Jaymie Russ both cautioned Ledbetter about making a rash decision. They warned him he may not get any more opportunities to play baseball.
At Chapel Hill, Ledbetter completed one semester and returned for the spring semester. In addition to having a hard time fitting in, he said, he was having trouble concentrating on academics. Ledbetter described it as a form of depression; he withdrew from school on medical grounds.
He also missed baseball, and when he returned home, Mount Pleasant coach Bryan Tyson let him work out with the team. Junior varsity coach Tommy Small told Ledbetter he could get him a tryout at Pfeiffer, Small's alma mater.
After a March workout, in which Ledbetter felt his bullpen work as a pitcher may have given him an advantage, Pfeiffer offered him a chance to join the team as a walk-on. He's hoping to make enough of an impact to earn scholarship money at some point.
Russ said he is pleased Ledbetter returned to baseball. He now has a steady middle infielder, batting .305, whose use of the entire field as a hitter is the example Russ uses with younger players.