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A letter to Michael

Michael,

As I watched you walk towards the dugout after a magnificent performance in your last home game as a Gamecock – feeling the energy as the crowed thunderously cheered, listening to the announcers praise you, watching your teammates embrace you – there was something I knew I wanted to say:

Thank you.

Thank you for your time, thank you for your effort, and thank you for the memories.

When Gamecock Nation needed you the most was when you were at your best. When the program was in danger of having its season ended by a bitter rival on the sport’s biggest stage in 2010, you put the team on your back and pitched one of the most brilliant games in College World Series history. You brought more joy and pride to fans in garnet than you could possibly imagine.

It wasn’t as much about South Carolina beating Clemson, it was that you showed us how anything is possible. When you came out pitching with a new angle Clemson had never seen before and sat down batter and batter, you taught us all the value of putting effort in when nobody is watching.

Then you showed us the value of building upon previous efforts, consistently putting in the time and energy necessary to have success after success.

Week-in and week-out you played great baseball. You became a type of “brand” in Columbia. People always knew what to expect on Fridays when Michael Roth was pitching. It wasn’t that you never let fans down (which really…you didn’t), it was that you allowed fans to build up confidence – the likes of which have never been seen before in Columbia. We could always count on you.

You were the type of player - of student athlete - that parents could point to as a role model for their children. You kept your nose clean and your grades incredibly high. An All-American on the field and in the classroom you somehow played a full-time sport and yet still found time to be a valuable part of society. You were the type of person who led by example.

Then, after you showed us all of the value of hard work, you showed us the importance of having fun. I am sure you don’t want to take all, most, or maybe even any of the credit for the success of the South Carolina baseball program over the last few years but I am going to give it to you here. When every other team played tight, played nervous, looked rigid, the Gamecocks had fun. That attitude originated with you – just ask your coach. You literally changed his opinion on the appropriate attitude in the dugout. That hopefully won’t end with you, and I am sure the team had fun before you, but you showed everyone the importance of smiling.

You were the face of the program, and you represented it perfectly.

Your Twitter profile reads “Baseball is not who I am, it’s what I do.” and I think I am beginning to understand what you mean by that. Gamecock Nation will forever treasure the games you won, but it was the lessons you taught us all that really mattered.

Now, as you prepare to lead the Gamecocks to another potential College World Series trip then finally embark on your well-deserved professional career, I leave you with this:

Players come and go, Mr. Roth, but legends stay forever. Thank you for your character, thank you for your dedication, thank you for your heart.

Thank you.

Be sure to visit Justin King’s Facebook page and follow him on Twitter.

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