Field of Dreams

Well, I beat the drum and hold the phone, the sun came out today.
We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field.
– John Fogerty, lyrics from Centerfield

For Eric Cohen this is his place of peace and serenity – his field of dreams. Out there on the diamond Eric gets it, the beauty of life, the beauty of the game. Baseball is just like life, there’s no clock to mark time, since you don’t know when the game or your life, for that matter, will end. So while you’re here, you had better play full-out.

For much of his childhood and even into his teens, Eric did just that, marking time and getting a break from what can can be the monotony of life by playing baseball. “It was my only escape from the everyday stuff,” says Eric. “The chores, homework, eat dinner, go outside, play with my friends, it was the same routine day-after-day. On the field the only worry I had is where the ball is going to be hit next and where I was going to be when it is. I wanted to better myself in the sport and continuously learn about the game.”

Playing the majority of time at shortstop, Eric was the leader of the defense on the diamond. It’s a position he took-to-heart, and as life would soon dictate, one he would be forced to embrace off-the-field as well.

An excellent student, Eric actually started school earlier than most. “I vaguely remember when I was little my parents had someone come to my house and give me an IQ test,” says Eric. “Being born in January and with certain cut-off dates you could start school early. That’s what happened to me.  I was placed in a mentally gifted program. I ended up graduating high school just five months after I turned 17.”

Throughout elementary and high school Eric worked hard, earning honor roll almost every year. He also made it happen out on the baseball field, perfecting his skills, even though the teams he played on were less-than-the-best. “I played travel baseball in little league,” says Eric. “The teams were not very good, but it was always about building relationships and finding new friends. Once I hit high school we had better teams, and we ended up winning the city championship.”

Eric says once he got to college it was more of a struggle. “Now I wasn’t forced to go to school,” he says. “You could come and go as you please. I had to fight to make sure I got to class, do my homework, prepare for my finals and mid-terms and still be a kid.”

But it wasn’t far into his college career that any thoughts of holding onto the energy and carelessness of being a kid, of the innocence of youth, quickly vanished. During his second semester at school his girlfriend gave him some news – she was pregnant.

As well as he could position himself on the baseball diamond, this was a curveball Eric couldn’t see coming and there was trouble with the curve – Eric was 19, his girlfriend, still a high school student, was only 16.

“I was shocked, which is probably the best word to use,” says Eric. “I was scared. How do I tell my parents, what is my life going to be like? My parents cried, but they were very supportive. They said this is something we will deal with. My girlfriend’s parents were also there for her. We had a really good support system at the time, which made the transition from teen to teen-parent, easier.”

The support was needed, since it was up to Eric now to go out and get a job – as well as go to school full-time. He ended up transferring from Penn State, where he was majoring in business, to Temple University, where he decided to follow his passion – so he enrolled in the Kinesiology program, losing all of his 60 business credits in the process. “I was young and naive when I enrolled in the business major at Penn,” says Eric. “All of my parents’ friends owned businesses so I figured they would just hire me when I left school and I would live this comfy life. But I wanted to do something that interested me, human science and the body, which was much more interesting to me than business.”

By the time he hit his senior year in college Eric was working two jobs to support his young family. It wasn’t easy. Eric only saw his son on weekends, while his girlfriend took care of their son during the week, while she too attended school to earn her nursing degree. Eventually, when their son was five, the couple married.  After graduating, Eric ended up starting a personal fitness training company with another partner – helping people to come back from serious health issues, but when that business became a struggle he was offered the opportunity to help run a medical company – a full-time job providing a steadier income.

During that same period Eric and his wife welcomed three more children into the world – two girls and a boy, now there were four children in all. But in 2012 the marriage took a hit and the couple separated and eventually divorced. Eric says it was tough. “It was a very dark time in my life,” he says. “It was a struggle emotionally and financially. Divorce can get nasty, I hope nobody has to go through it. My oldest son, old enough to make his own decisions, chose to live with me – with my other children we split custody, 50-50.”

Eric & Tyler
Kyle, Ashley & Jayelyn

Eric says being a single dad is his greatest challenge and greatest reward. “I get up at 5am, prep for work, then get my kids up and help get them ready for school or camp. I go into the office, do my thing at work, get the kids off the bus and help them do their homework. I’m also very active in sports. I help coach softball and baseball for two of my kids. And I still play softball on Sundays. My kids come with me and are my biggest cheerleaders.”

 

In 2015 when the medical field changed because of the repercussions of Obamacare, Eric ended up finding an opportunity with USHEALTH Advisors, helping other people everyday to gain access to affordable health coverage. It’s a company and a culture he has found to be emotionally and financially rewarding. Eric says it gives him the flexibility to live life on his terms and as a Field Training Agent, to walk-the-walk and talk-the-talk when others he is trying to recruit into the business tell him about their own problems. “I had a recruit recently tell me he’s divorced with four kids and can’t have a commission-only career. I told him I’m living it, you are preaching to the choir, this is the best move I’ve ever made. Plenty of people can tell you why they can’t do it, I’m looking for the people telling me why they want to do it.”

Steve, Higgs & Eric

As a leader with the company, Eric says he uses his sports and coaching skills to help his agents as well. He says it’s about motivation and encouragement. He also says it’s about watching other people win. “I get more enjoyment out of coaching my kids and seeing them play well, as I ever did out on the field myself and it’s the same with my agents. We are human beings, we all get frustrated with underwriting, or setting an appointment, or getting stood-up. It’s at that moment when someone needs a pep-talk, a pick-me up, a little shot in the arm. I see new agents succeed and give me a call and say, ‘I just want to thank you for sticking with me, for not giving up on me. You changed my life.’ When you hear that, you know you are really in the right place with what you are doing.”

Eric continues: “It’s one thing we touch on in our office. Everybody has their own problems. You don’t know what someone else is dealing with and their situation could be 10 or 20 times worse than mine. We must use it as motivation. We can’t let it affect us and say, ‘poor me, poor me.’ We must use it as motivation to make us a better father, or mother, or friend to somebody. The one thing I took out of my own situation, is when I hit rock bottom and was in the darkest of places – there was only one way to go – and that is up.”

Eric says his career gives him the opportunity to be there for his greatest joys – his four children, 19-year-old Tyler who played travel baseball, 10-year-old Ashley, who plays softball and soccer,  8-year-old Kyle, who has played baseball since he was 3 (and Eric says his token lefty) and 6-year-old Jayelyn, who Eric says is not playing sports yet, but is simply the life of the party.  What his current career with USHEALTH has done is allow him to be there to coach and to see his kids play. “When I was in high school and played ball, my dad was the only one who worked and he saw maybe one of my high school games. As I got older and wiser I realized he had to work and to provide for the family – but at the same time I will never miss my kids games because my dad missed mine and I know how it made me feel. It wasn’t his fault, but I want more.

   

Got a beat-up glove, a homemade bat, and brand-new pair of shoes
You know I think it’s time to give this game a ride.
Just to hit the ball and touch ’em all, a moment in the sun
It’s gone and you can tell that one goodbye!

It was on the field where Eric learned so much about life – about teamwork, relationships and committing to your craft – his place of peace and serenity – the goal now is to bring it all full circle and touch ’em all in his adult life – truly living his field of dreams.

  

Until next time thanks for taking the time,

Mark Brodinsky