High school rounded me into the paranoid person I am today. I knew that between the ages of 15 and 18 any slight tweak in appearance or personality could drastically alter someone’s future, for better or worse—it’s right there in The Breakfast Club and Can’t Hardly Wait, if you don’t believe me. The life paths are too many, the popularity stakes are too great. Would you rather have a prom night filled with fun/bad decisions being made at your rich friend’s raucous, inground-pool afterparty? Or would you rather be lying on your couch alone at 1 AM, watching reruns of Newhart on Nick at Nite, and eating an uncut, frozen pizza off your bare chest? I didn’t want regrets.

I was at a crossroads prior to the start of my freshman year of high school. My best friend—basically the only dude I ever hung out with—had moved to Naperville, Illinois, just after eighth grade (I was living in Cincinnati at the time), and I was left with a dull summer existence that had topped off some time during my third screening of Independence Day. In an attempt to stave off high school obscurity and maybe even gain some sort of muscle, any muscle, I decided to try out for the junior varsity baseball team.