My Father's Words: A Lesson About Baseball and Life
I recall when I was a little tyke of five or six. My dad introduced me to my first baseball glove and ball and he took me out on the front lawn and played catch with me. It became a tradition for us. Each night after work dad would go get the gloves and we would head outside where he would throw me grounders, toss flies over my head, and work with me on throwing accurately. He never pushed me to like baseball, a sport he loved as a boy, but rather made it a time when we could bond and enjoy each other’s company. The end result was that I grew to love the game and our times together and could hardly wait for him to come home in the evening so we could continue our tradition.
By the time I was twelve I told him I thought I’d like to turn out for a team that summer, but that I had doubts that I was good enough, doubts that I would fit in socially, and doubts and fears about being ridiculed if I tried and didn’t make the team.
Now remember, my father had been working with me for close to six years by then and he was pretty sure I had some decent ability, so he sat me down and said, “Bill, as long as you have a baseball in your hand you’ll never have to worry about being accepted.” So I turned out for the elite Babe Ruth team that year as a 5’1” 105 lb pitcher, made the team, and ended up garnering the MVP trophy at the end of the year.
When the season was finally over my dad and I were playing catch one evening in September and I thanked him for his advice and support but told him I was a little confused by what he had told me back in April, about having acceptance as long as I held a baseball. I asked him what happens when the day comes that I can no longer can throw a baseball? Where does the acceptance come from then?
He ruffled my hair and said, “Bill, when that day comes, you’ll no longer need a baseball or anything else to give you self-worth and confidence.”
And he was right of course. I went on to pitch in high school and two years of college before a rotator cuff injury to my pitching shoulder ended those baseball dreams. By that time I no longer needed the aid of baseball to find my way through life. My self-worth and confidence were badly shaken because of alcohol for a couple decades, but once alcohol was taken from the equation the confidence that I had found so many years ago returned.
Over the years I have met quite a few people who were sorely in need of that lesson that my dad taught me long ago. Life had beaten them down and no matter what they tried, no matter what the remedy they employed, they could not seem to stand on their own and find their way. It’s a sad thing to witness and an even sadder thing to realize that you can’t save everyone. We each have to find our own “baseball” that helps us gain self-confidence. Sometimes it is a person, or group of people, who provide that foundation for us, a safe place where we can make mistakes and know that it’s okay. Sometimes it is a special talent that allows us to establish roots of confidence and gives us stability until those roots have grown deep and strong. But for some, that special talent or those special friends are missing from their lives and then where does the strength come from?
The only thing I know for sure is that it is in each of us, no matter how deeply it may be buried in our subconscious. We all have the ability to stand on our own, to face the toughest challenges, and to do so with pride and self-assurance. There is no shame in reaching out for help until the day comes that you can stand alone. There is no shame in saying that you simply can’t make it on your own. There is no shame in admitting that you are, after all, only human.
2012 Bill Holland (aka billybuc)