Ethan Escue was prepared for life after baseball – he just didn’t expect it to happen this soon.
The White House High School graduate was in the midst of his senior season at Lindsey Wilson College when he received devastating news: the NAIA was canceling the spring 2020 sports season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I found out through social media that the season had been canceled,” he said. “It was rough for a couple of days. But I’m dealing with it pretty well now knowing that everything happens for a reason.”
Fortunately for Escue, he already had a plan. The NAIA granted all spring athletes an extra year of eligibility, but he is not taking advantage of that.
Instead, he will graduate from Lindsey Wilson on May 2 and become a songwriter for Smokeshow Entertainment, an artist management label in Nashville. That route will allow him to start his career and take care of his fiancé, Chandra, and nine-month-old son, John Ryder.
“It was an easy decision for me already knowing my future,” he said. “I knew I couldn’t put my family through another year of not supporting them financially.”
Baseball brings ups and downs
Escue struggled at times during his Lindsey Wilson career. In 23 pitching appearances over his first three seasons, he carried a 1-6 record and an 8.62 ERA.
His rotator cuff required surgery last July. The recovery went well until cold weather hit in October and November. After that, he couldn’t get loose and experienced shoulder pain nearly every time he threw.
The pain continued in his lone relief appearance on Feb. 2. He lasted just one-third of an inning and took the loss at Reinhardt University.
He rested for a few weeks before getting an idea. During most of his high school and college career, he had been a starting pitcher. The role allows for proper warm-up time, and Escue thought his shoulder would be better off if he went straight into the game instead of waiting in the bullpen.
Lindsey Wilson coach Cody Andreychuk agreed to let him start against Miami University-Hamilton on Feb. 23. The result was 5.2 innings, three hits, one earned run and a 5-2 victory.
“I had to change my pregame routine,” Escue said. “I had to make sure I was completely warmed up and stretched out before I went in, or else I wouldn’t be able to throw that day.”
Escue delivered two more quality starts and earned wins over College of the Ozarks on March 1 and Pikeville on March 7. He combined to toss 10.1 innings, surrender two earned runs on five hits and strike out eight batters.
“He was always a starter for us,” White House coach Seth Long said. “He had grown into that role of being a big-game pitcher. In our district games, he wanted the ball in his hands. I think he’s more comfortable in that position.”
Escue didn’t plan for a music career as a kid. He didn’t start playing guitar until age 16, when his older brother, Zack, left White House to play football at Austin Peay. The younger Escue needed to keep entertained and decided to teach himself the instrument by watching YouTube videos.
He eventually began writing his own songs and posting clips of them to social media. His followers were impressed.
“People were like, ‘You have a talent for this,’” Escue said. “And I really enjoyed it, so I pursued it. When I got to college, I gained a pretty large social media following. Smokeshow contacted me and it all worked out.”
He got his break when he signed a development deal with Smokeshow last summer. He will soon be working with artists to help them write country songs.
Escue is also a musician in his own right. He spent his college summers and winter breaks performing live shows at Tootsies Orchid Lounge in four-hour shifts, which gave him enough money to pay rent and buy groceries throughout the school year.
Escue describes his style as a revamped version of outlaw country somewhere along the lines of Luke Combs, Jon Langston and Morgan Wallen. Though he could see himself on stage at some point, his focus is on songwriting for now.
“I would love to be a musician. I think that would be great,” Escue said. “But I’m really big into songwriting. If I was never able to be a performer, I would love to just write songs. I really enjoy that process.”
Escue will finish his final month of college online after Lindsey Wilson canceled all in-person classes. He just moved back to Middle Tennessee and found a rental house in Goodlettsville. Once the pandemic fizzles out, it’s full steam ahead toward being a songwriter.
“Everything is kind of on hold because of the virus,” he said. “I’m still working on songs so that when this does blow over, I’ll be ahead of the game.”
Time previously spent on baseball and school will now be dedicated to music. Long said he is excited to see what his former player can produce off the field.
“The music industry has always been something that’s there, but he has really poured his blood, sweat and tears into being as good as he can on the field,” Long said. “I have no doubt that when he takes that same level of dedication and puts it toward something else, he’ll become really good at whatever he chooses to do next.”
Escue admits that he wasn’t ready for baseball to end. He will miss the road trips, taking the mound for a weekend start and becoming friends with teammates from different backgrounds. But he takes solace in knowing that the next time he throws a ball, it will be with his son.
“I think that’s every dad’s dream – to play catch in the yard with their son,” he said. “That definitely eases things for me.”