My dad ran on the field and held me in his arms.
I wondered if I was dying….
This is from The Boys of Summer a book by Roger Kahn. I’ve recently finished reading it and it got me thinking about the lasting impact that baseball has had on my life. With all rememberances it might be a little romanticized, but then again so is baseball…
1 Baseball Taught Me Patience
Most of the time you go out on the field of play and then you wait. And wait. And wait…
Then on the bench when your team is up to bat, you wait.
In the batter’s box you wait for the pitch.
When you get on base, you wait.
You get the idea.
There is a reason they say baseball is a mental game. You have to get your mind right to play it and to enjoy watching it. There are subtitles like signs from the coach when to steal. There are small movements by a pitcher indicating a pick-off attempt.
Then there is the need to know what play to make in any given situation. Are there runners on base? Any outs? What’s the batter’s count? All factors to keep track of during the heat of battle.
And by heat of battle, I mean while you stand around and as Pee Wee Reese so honestly stated, “hope he doesn’t hit the ball to me.”
All of this long suffering led to an understanding of the word “patience” and how to apply it.
2 Baseball Taught Me Independence
My parents were at nearly all of my games. Or at least one of them was present. Or a sibling. The thing is that it is not that they didn’t want to be there or that they didn’t care or love me… They had 7 kids! I being the middle child had times when I would have to be alone at baseball practice. No parents. Nobody I knew.
Coach would even give me a ride home. Some times I would even walk to ball practice and then home again.
When life puts you in situations where you have to learn to be without a close confidant, you can choose how you handle it.
As for me it gave me a taste of independence.
Baseball is a team sport. But each player must act and think alone on any given play. Although the team aspect wasn’t lost on me, neither was the opportunity for autonomy.
3 Baseball Taught Me Responsibility
Part of the freedom of autonomy comes the vary real requirements of responsibility. The team depended on me making the right play at the right time. The Coach expected us to practice to improve. The mental aspect caused me a need to pay attention and know what was going on in the game.
4 Baseball Taught Me About Long Term Entertainment
They say in a 3 hour game of baseball that there is only about 18 minutes of action. But that depends on what exactly you are watching for in a game. Is the action the main focus or do you prefer sitting back and talking with friends while something interesting may happen at any moment?
There is the build up of the count in the battle between pitcher and batter. The tense moment when the bases are loaded. The excitement as you recognize a ball about to clear the outfield fence…
What may prima facie seem to be boring, baseball has a different type of entertainment built in.
Just like reading takes time, the unfolding of a baseball game takes its time.
Plus realistically, NFL games are just as long.
They just have much more “action”.
Appreciating the entertainment value of baseball has given me a different perspective on the whole concept of entertainment in general.
5 Basball Changed My Mind
As mentioned above, baseball is a mental game. And to win one must have in mind a big picture game strategy. But the players also must have a tactical mindset for plays that may need to be made a various situations during the game.
This taught me a preparedness mindset and way of thinking out the possibilities of any given state of affairs.
This skill translates to everyday life when things go wrong and I’m able to quickly think of solutions or other contingencies.
After playing baseball, I think differently.
6 Baseball Brought Out My Flaws
When I reached the age of 13 I decided to quit baseball.
Because I was lazy.
I got put on a team with a coach who understood that to get better the team needed to practice more. He wanted us to practice everyday. Well maybe not everyday but to a 13 year old it felt that way. The thing was I just wanted to play for fun. I had gotten old enough to realize it was just a game and I probably wasn’t ever going PRO.
Instead I wanted to goof off and play ball.
The coach had other ideas…
So I quit.
It wasn’t until last year until I was able to lace up a pair of cleats again and get out on the diamond. This time in on a Men’s Softball team. Who went 1-9 for the season. I had a blast!
But from this I learned that I have a tendency to quit things if I am not good at them right away. Turns out I am not good at almost anything right away. So I learned that I have to learn. I have to practice and I have to hone my skills and abilities.
Or keep searching for the unicorn…
7 Baseball Taught Me To Hope
There are so many instances where the game can take a turn of events to favor one team or the other. One pitch could be the difference between a win or a loss. One throw could be caught or dropped. One inning could make all the difference.
When playing or watching a game I’ve often been filled with hope.
Right now my team, the Texas Rangers, are behind 0-7 in the top of the 5th.
Right now I have no hope.
But there are times I do. We are down by a run and have one last inning to score. When there are two strikes and I hope the pitcher gets the third. Or when a ball is hit high and far and it looks like it will be a home run!
Or there is more long term hope. Hope that my team can make up ground in their division. Hope they can win 11 more games to make a wild card spot. Or whatever the case may be.
When there is the chance for something good to happen, then there is a reason for hope.
8 Baseball Taught Me Politics
Politics is about Power.
Who gets to play what position?
Who gets to be in what order in the lineup?
What does is take to make the team or who do you have to know?
I’ve never played long enough for the last one, but the others taught me that politics and power deserve attention. This is shown through R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Be a jackass and you’ll sit on the bench. Watch your temper and your words and you might be able to pick your position.
This honest isn’t adding up right now but when I wrote it down it made sense at the time.
9 Baseball Taught Me How To Take A Hit
I got hit by a pitch what must have been a million times. No joke. Well again it seemed like a million times, but it was probably only a thousand…
I learned that after crying because it hurt, I had to stand up shake it off and “walk it off”. And get to first base, because come on your in the middle of a game of baseball here…
This was definitely a lesson in tenacity and determination.
Stand there in the batter’s box and don’t move. You are going to get hit by the ball and that’s good because then you get on base. Well what the hell man! Ok, they never told me to do that, but I got a strong feeling that I should in order to get on base.
I was the lead off hitter and that was priority one.
Get on base.
Learning how to roll with the punches helps in life because it is messy and you are going to get hit.
When hard times come or something unexpected happens (it always does), knowing how to take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’ will help cope with the reality that life doesn’t always go your way.
10 Baseball Taught Me When To Talk And When To Shut Up
“Hey batter batter! Swing batter batter! Ah come on…”
“We want a pitcher, not a belly itcher…”
“Would you just shut up,” called our Ace pitcher over his left should to me at second base. I had been particularly chattering too much that game and enough so to be told to stop it. We were in a playoff game and where about to be city champs of our division.
I was just trying to help.
But I learned there are times to talk and then there are times to shut up.
The trouble is knowing which is which.
Most people error on the wrong side of that equation one way or the other… but I like the old saying that “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Use them in that proportion.”
11 Baseball Taught Me Anonymity
Sometime in middle school my grandmother died. I was not super close to her because she lived in another state. After her death we all took a trip to the funeral. When we got back I had a baseball game.
The thing is that my assistant coach didn’t realize that I was back for that game that day. Even though I was at the warm ups before the game. Right before the game started we had a team meeting and I heard my coach share about how I would be away for the loss and that tonight our team should “win it for [my] grandma”.
I wasn’t sure what exactly that was supposed to do to encourage our team. But I thought it was weired he didn’t realize I was there…
“Um, coach… I’m back.”
Coach just looks at me funny and then says something like “alright then.”
From this and the aspect of being one member of a team, I discovered what it was like to be in the background.
12 Baseball Taught Me How To Take A Loss
It’s easy to get discouraged after a strikeout.
Even easier after getting run-ruled.
The thing about little league is that the season is short. Making a loss easier to get over, but more impactful to the team record and chance at the playoffs. In the major leagues a loss sucks, but getting over it matters more too because they have stretches of 10 consecutive games in 10 days.
Dwelling on a failure is not helpful.
Trouble shooting is. (h/t MarsEve)
Finding out what went wrong and making adjustments is much more helpful than being a sore loser.
In baseball a loss happens frequently. Unless your team is great, but then even great teams get swept by the worst teams.
In life failures, setbacks and stumbles happen. The real deal is to troubleshoot what went awry and then get back on your horse and ride.
13 Baseball Taught Me How To Be Brave
I have already mentioned the bravery need to step back into a batter’s box after being hit by a pitch a million times. It can really get to your head if you let it. I had to over come the fear of the ball. But not just at bat…
In the field I played second base.
One game, the same game I learned to shut up, I got the wind knocked out of me.
The batter hit a sharp one hop grounder right at me. Through my practice and training I learned to be brave and to stop the ball. Even if that means using my chest and body if the ball misses my glove.
And stop the ball with my chest I did.
It hit me hard. I struggled to pick the ball up and flip it to the shortstop on the bag before the black closed in around my eyes and then I fell backwards unable to breath.
I’m sure everyone else panicked.
My dad ran on the field and held me in his arms.
I wondered if I was dying….
After an explanation I probably sat out the rest of the inning and possibly the remainder of that game.
But not without a lesson and a story.
14 Baseball Taught Me Play
Play is lost in our world. Especially as we grow older. People have a tendency to take themselves and others too seriously.
Life can be fun.
But it requires a playful attitude. My dad always suggested that no matter the outcome of the game I should have fun out there.
Which I didn’t most of the time…
I was afraid of the ball. I was afraid of losing. I was afraid of being around other people that I wasn’t as cool as on my team.
I was awkward and small.
But through it all I learned how to get over these things. I learned how to have fun in life by playing baseball.
Playing is another change in mindset. Looking at the world as a place to learn and explore.
Cracking jokes on the bench as we wait to bat.
Whatever goes on in life it can be fun or not. It all has to do with the desire to play.
15 Baseball Taught Me How To Get To Know People
Being afraid of strangers is probably healthy for a child.
Not so good for an adult…
Every day is an opportunity to have small talk with strangers. If you grew up like I did you were told to never talk to strangers. Sure you end up talking to them periodically, because hey all of your friends were strangers at one point.
And that’s my point.
Without talking to strangers you would have no friends.
No friends and who wants that?
Talking to strangers is a missed opportunity for most people. I am not suggesting to become friends with everyone you meet, although I do advocate being friendly. Just be open to talking to someone you might not otherwise talk to in your everyday life.
For most people it can start with a cashier as you are waiting in line. Sure you could just awkwardly stare around while they ring up your groceries. Or you could engage that human being standing across from you.
No need to get highly personal.
Start with something small. Be vulnerable.
One word answers kill small talk. And people kill small talk on purpose.
I say engage in it.
You never know what you might find out about someone and you may make a connection (although sometimes brief) and know that you are part of something greater in the world.
Life is worth taking the chance for and small talk bridges those gaps of time that occur between two or more people. The choice is yours connect or miss out. And hey, you might just make a new friend or two along the way.
Baseball taught me to do this as I had to meet new teammates every season. Or be driven home by my coach. Which reminds me that with GPS now kids don’t have to give directions in a car the same way we once did. Turn left at the stop sign. Then the 3rd right.
This skill is dying. But then again maybe it should.
As long as the skill of getting to know people who are different from you doesn’t die, I think we will not die.
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