Life's Lessons I Learned From Baseball
THE GAME I ADORE
I was five years old when my dad bought me my first baseball glove. I was forty-seven when I stopped playing the game I adore.
I loved everything about baseball. I loved the smell of the glove after it was oiled. I loved the feel of the baseball as I gripped it for the next pitch. I loved looking at the clear, blue sky, hearing the hum of voices in the stands, and feeling like I was part of the American fabric of life.
I have played, coached, and been an avid fan. I have collected baseball cards, memorized player stats, and played fantasy baseball. I marveled at the tenacity of Bob Gibson in the World Series, stood in awe next to Willie McCovey in Tacoma, and hated the Yankees for most of my life.
How many games have I played? How many games have I witnessed in person or seen on television? I couldn’t even venture a guess, but I know it has to be in the thousands…..quite possibly close to ten thousand.
Yes, I love baseball. I still get a thrill from walking out on a field, smelling the grass and digging a toe hold next to the rubber. The feel of rosin on my hands, finding the right spot for a four-seam fastball, it all comes back to me at the mere sight of a ball park.
So it should come as no surprise that I have learned a few lessons about life during my time following and playing this great sport. Kick back, grab yourself a cold one, and allow me to share those lessons with you now.
THE PUNY SOUTHPAW
I didn’t make the team the first two times I tried out for Little League. Too small….not aggressive enough….nice kid but doesn’t have the tools.
I wanted to quit trying out for teams by the time I was eleven years old. Fat chance of that; my dad sat me down and told me if I wanted something bad enough then I needed to work for it, and if I didn’t want it bad enough then why didn’t I? He knew I loved the game, and he knew, from playing catch with me for six years, that I had skills. All I needed was a little kick in the butt, which my dad was more than happy to provide.
My training began within a month. Night after night I could be found on the side lot to our house, throwing a baseball against the cement retaining wall. When I was done with that I would call my dad out and have him throw me grounders and fly balls until the sun went down. I wrapped up the day with a series of pushups to increase my strength. This went on for six months until the next Little League tryouts.
I was the starting pitcher that next summer; then I went on to play four years of high school and three years of college until my rotator cuff decided that pitching was no longer an option. I had to impress my high school coach, who thought I was too small, and then I had to impress the college coach, who thought I was too skinny; that was fine by me. I had a secret piece of knowledge that they didn’t know about. I knew that hard work and determination are often more important than talent.
Another story about my dad and baseball
- My Father's Words: A Lesson About Baseball and Life
The parental support and advice that this author received from his father was invaluable during the course of his lifetime.
DAD, CAN YOU PLAY CATCH WITH ME?
I wonder how many times my dad heard those words? Fact of the matter is, my dad played catch with me at least five times a week, weather permitting, from the time I was five until I reached high school, and many times I didn’t have to ask him.
I would wait in the living room around five-thirty every night, watching for his car. As soon as I saw it I’d grab our gloves and a ball, head out the front door, and as he got out of the car I would toss him his glove. He would always greet me with a smile, set down his lunch box, and we would head over to the vacant field to toss a few.
Fact of the matter is, my dad worked hard. He was a common laborer in a sand & gravel pit, outside every day no matter the weather, and I can’t remember him ever saying no to a game of catch no matter how tired he was.
Dad never forced the game on me; his love for baseball was contagious and because of that it was contagious for me as well. He was always encouraging, always gave gentle advice, and through two years of Little League and four years of high school he never missed a game I played in.
When my friends and I were sophomores in high school we read about a world’s record being set by a bunch of kids in New Jersey. They had played one continuous game of baseball for forty hours. Being kids with few inhibitions, we decided we were going for that record. We contacted a local park, was given permission for our stunt, told the local newspapers about it, and a week later we began our quest for the record.
We set it….forty-two hours….and my dad was there for the entire game.
What’s the point? Quality time spent between parents and children is priceless, and a parent’s loving support is something that will last a lifetime.
WE’VE GOT YOUR BACK
In April of 1965 I pitched a one-hit shutout in our high school game. It was a pretty good month for me;
I pitched four games that month and gave up eight hits and two runs total, and I was riding high and feeling a bit full of myself as April came to a close.
Next up was the May 2nd game for the city championship, and I was primed and ready. The little kid who had to continually prove himself to every coach he had ever played for was scheduled to pitch the most important game in team history, and I was convinced that nobody could touch me. I was painting the corners, my knuckleball was dropping a foot, and heaven help that other team when I took the mound.
Oh, the hubris of youth! Somebody had forgotten to tell the other team how great I was. By the end of the first inning I had given my three runs and our team was facing an uphill climb. My knuckleball suddenly looked about as straight as an arrow with no drop, and I couldn’t find the corners with a seeing-eye dog. I remember walking back to the dugout with my head down and a great feeling of embarrassment.
One of the seniors walked over to me while I was in the dugout with a towel over my head. He sat down next to me, tapped me on the shoulder, and told me that I had carried the team for a month and don’t sweat the small stuff. I had a whole team behind me and it was their turn to help me.
By the third inning I had found the corners again and my knuckleball was dropping off the face of the Earth, and the game was tied 4-4. The same senior walked over to me, winked, and told me that if I was done fooling around then it was about time for us to win the damn game.
And we did, 7-4, and after all the congratulations and butt-slapping had ended, and I was riding home on the team bus, it hit me…..baseball is a team sport. No one person really carries a team; each and every person is an integral part of a finely-tuned machine. I would look back on that game several decades later and realize that baseball in that instance was a beautiful metaphor for life. No man is an island and we all need others to achieve our fullest potential.
For more lessons about life
- Lifestyle Choices: William D. Holland: Amazon.com: Kindle Store
Lifestyle Choices: William D. Holland: Amazon.com: Kindle Store
SO MANY OTHER LESSONS
I wrote once before about something my dad told me. I was a shy kid when I was younger and I lacked self-esteem big time. He told me that as long as I had a baseball in my hands that people would respect me. After that talk I had a great summer of Little League, and one day after the season had ended I asked my dad what happens after my baseball days are over? How will I earn respect then? He just smiled at me, ruffled my hair, and told me that by that time I wouldn’t need a baseball, that a man earns respect by being a good man.
Yes, I love baseball!
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)