GALESBURG — Kadin Spencer is pretty open about the challenges he faces on a regular basis.
The 2021 Galesburg High School grad wasn’t always that way. He kept his severe anxiety mainly to himself.
“I always kind of held it in. I didn’t really like telling people because I felt like they’d judge me on it,” Spencer said Wednesday afternoon at Lake Bracken Country Club after working a shift as a member of the golf course maintenance crew. “After telling all my friends and all of them saying it’s not that big of a deal, I’m open about it.
“It’s really not that big of a deal telling people. I do and then that way they don’t think ‘he’s a weird kid. He’s awkward. He doesn’t talk at all,’ ” he added.
The coronavirus pandemic changed Spencer’s mindset.
“Just a light switch type thing,” he said. “It was probably about the summer of last year when COVID happened. It just clicked all of a sudden and I was like ‘I’ll just be open about it. I’ll go back out for baseball. I’ll tell people more about it.'”
Spencer was a member of Galesburg’s sophomore baseball team in 2019 but he didn’t try out for the Silver Streaks’ varsity team as a junior because he was afraid of a negative outcome. In the end, Galesburg’s 2020 season was nixed due to the coronavirus pandemic anyway.
“It was just the build up of thinking I wasn’t going to make it I thought it was better to just quit right then and there and they couldn’t cut me,” Spencer said. “I could have just had the mentality like ‘I’m going to make it’ but I didn’t go out and then COVID happened and it kind of brought my attention that maybe it was a sign to go out senior year, so I got into the weight room a bit. I started hitting at the cages and I was like ‘I’m going to go out my senior year and make something happen.'”
And Spencer ended up becoming the Streaks’ starting third baseman. He played in 27 of 28 games for Galesburg this spring, and Spencer finished with a .283 batting average and .643 on-base percentage.
“Going into the start of the season I didn’t know where I was going to play. Everybody had their positions figured out. I was just kind of second base and that was it,” Spencer said. “I got moved to outfield for the first couple games and I thought I did pretty well there and then half way through the year they tried me at third and it just felt natural.”
Spencer started showing up for baseball activities last fall and Streaks coach Jeremy Pickrel wasn’t sure what role he’d fill in 2021.
“Going into the season I’m not sure we were expecting him to be as crucial as he was in our lineup,” Pickrel said of Spencer. “He was in the outfield and we were having trouble finding someone who would solidify themselves at third so we gave him a shot there and our defense just got better. He took the opportunity and he ran with it.
“I think the surprising thing for us was he gave us a bat at the bottom of the order. He was a tough out,” Pickrel added. “He did exactly what we needed him to do both offensively and defensively. He came in as a senior and had a mindset that he was going to find a way to contribute and he ended up being one of our key guys.”
Spencer, who is taking the diamond for the Oneida American Legion baseball team this summer, kept an open mind when it came to playing collegiately and had a few schools he considered. When it came down to it, William Penn University, an NAIA school located in Oskaloosa, Iowa, felt like the best fit for Spencer.
“I was trying to keep it open to see what everybody had. I visited two other colleges and it just didn’t feel right at home, but William Penn as soon as I got there it just felt like it was my home away from home,” the 18-year-old said. “It seemed like they’re really focused on school comes first and baseball comes second and it sounded like they were going to be helpful for me as far as my anxiety.”
“I couldn’t be happier for him to move on play college baseball,” Pickrel said.
Spencer isn’t the only one his age who deals with anxiety. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 31.9% of adolescents between the ages of 13-18 have an anxiety disorder. The prevalence of any anxiety disorder among adolescents is higher for females (38.0%) than for males (26.1%). The prevalence of any anxiety disorder is similar across age groups.
“It’s always been a problem. Schoolwork wise like tests I get super anxious. My heart starts beating and stuff and I get super nervous,” Spencer said. “Talking to new people and meeting new people I get nervous.
“Going to William Penn I’m probably going to be pretty nervous but I’m excited at the same time.”
Spencer isn’t picky about what position he’ll play for the Statesmen. He just wants to see action.
And what’s Spencer need to work on moving forward?
“Definitely the weight room. I definitely have to get bigger for college,” he said. “I need to work on getting the ball in and out of the glove because guys are going to be quicker and stuff like that.”