Take Me Out To The Ballgame: A Moment With Bill Reflection
SET THE SCENE
“Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday's success or put its failures behind and start over again. That's the way life is, with a new game every day, and that's the way baseball is.”
Bottom of the ninth inning. Bases loaded. Two men out, the count at 2-2 and my team was up by one run.
I am fifteen years old and the year is 1964. I am standing on the mound at the ball field adjacent to Mt Tahoma High School, and I am pitching for my high school junior varsity team, the Bellarmine Lions.
The sky was a deep blue that afternoon and the sun was glaring. I’d been having trouble gripping the ball because of the sweat, and consequently my curve ball was all over the place, seemingly everywhere but its intended target.
I had two choices, then, regarding which pitch to throw. I could throw my fastball, a two-seamer that had great movement that day but was flattening out as the game wore on, or I could go with my knuckleball, my out pitch, which had been dipping out of the strike zone and was anything but reliable on that afternoon.
There were maybe fifty people in the stands. Junior varsity games do not draw big crowds, but those who were there were suddenly quite vocal and all were standing and cheering. Among the fans was my dad. He had taken off work early for the game, as he always did, and he was standing with everyone else and smiling. I remember thinking it was an odd time to smile. I could find nothing to smile about as I looked at the catcher, who was asking for the fastball, knee high on the inside corner. He might as well have been asking for a replay of Jesus walking across the sea.
One more look back at my dad, who was still smiling, but now he was nodding his head and had flashed three fingers at me. Knuckleball…the out pitch…and as schizophrenic a pitch as there is in baseball.
With a deep sigh I shook off the catcher, waited until he signaled the knuckleball, and went into my stretch.
I Hope You Dance
STRIKE THREE AND CHALK ONE UP FOR THE LITTLE GUY
Yes, I won that particular battle on that late May afternoon, but there were many others that I did not win. Two years later that same batter who I had struck out got his revenge when we were both playing on our varsity teams. In a similar situation with a similar count he was looking for that knuckleball and I did not disappoint him. When his swing was completed and he had begun his trot around the bases, the baseball landed four-hundred feet beyond the fence in centerfield, and I was left reflecting upon my future and my frailties.
That quote by Feller pretty much sums up life, does it not? There is a new game each and every day, and we can wallow in the defeats of the past, or live in the glories of the past, or we can strap on our cleats and prepare for that new game, the only one that truly counts.
I loved being a pitcher. Perhaps that says something about my personality. I loved having control of the game. I loved being the catalyst that started the action, and I loved being counted on by my teammates. Standing on that mound, twirling the ball in my hand, determining which pitch to throw and knowing that my decision would affect the outcome of the game….well, that was a rush!
It was also an illusion!
No one player controls a game. Baseball, like football and basketball, is a team sport. Once that pitch is released the game is out of my hands. I then have to rely on my teammates to field the ball cleanly, throw it accurately and move around the diamond in a pre-arranged choreography designed to play with the upmost efficiency.
It is much the same in life is it not?
A Moment with Bill
Baseball was always a lesson in perspective for me, and my dad, more often than not, was the tutor assigned to make sure I learned the lessons.
I would take losses hard. I would sulk and chastise myself, and for days after a loss I would be beside myself. How could I have been so stupid as to have thrown that pitch? Why couldn’t I find my control that game? If I had just laid down that bunt properly we would have won that game.
After one loss turned into four days of me cussing life and everything related to baseball, my dad told me to grab my mitt one evening. He said we were headed to the park to work on that pitch that had deserted me four days earlier.
When we got there he walked me to the mound and told me to sit down. He asked me if I loved playing baseball, because if I didn’t love it I needed to quit playing it. He told me that baseball was just a game, like Monopoly or Scrabble, and as such it was meant to be enjoyed and not treated like the death of a family member. And he told me that in the grand scheme of life, what I did on that mound would have no impact on civilization as we knew it, but it would always impact what kind of person I was and how I lived my life. He told me that baseball was a metaphor for life, and life a metaphor for baseball, and it was high time I learned from both.
Love life and love yourself
APPROACHING THE SEVENTH INNING STRETCH
“Do what you love to do and give it your very best. Whether it's business or baseball, or the theater, or any field. If you don't love what you're doing and you can't give it your best, get out of it. Life is too short. You'll be an old man before you know it.”
So now I find myself in the 6th inning of my game of life. In my earlier innings it appeared to be a sure victory, a blowout of the competition and a smooth ride through life. By the fourth inning the tide had turned, and the opposition was scoring at will on me. I finally found my control again so that now, in the sixth inning, it appears I’ll be able to go the distance and notch up a win.
How did I make it this far? I learned to love the game. I find joy with each day, and I embrace the wonders of life and treat them as the miracles that they are. You gotta love what you are doing or you are simply existing. Life is meant to be enjoyed. Life is meant to be rode hard and put away wet, and life is meant to be a finger in the light socket and the frizzy hair that follows.
And if it isn’t then you still have time! You can choose to be a bench-warmer and sit this one out, or you can stride out on the field, ask the coach for the ball, and pitch the game of your life.
What say you? Are you going to be a spectator or the star of your own personal game?
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
Dedicated to my buddy Joe on HubPages. You can find Hawaiianodysseus here.