Sometimes I stay up quite late just so I can let my mind run away from the real, and approach subjects that I would much rather touch, or certainly feel.
Then there are times when I lengthen the day just to wrestle free from the noise, you know, to get out from under the distractions, and that which just annoys.
So, what. So I can prove that, maybe, something good happens after midnight, and I descend to the depths of thought, just to get to the core, then I sit and write.
This time I find myself, at the base of a mountain steeped in thousands of thoughts, and I honestly don’t know where to start. In this case I look back in order to get ahead, in order to begin. The log jam of thought surrounds one of my lifetime passions, the great game of baseball. And in writing those simple words I realize that some of the foothills I aim to traverse are summed up in the way I feel about the game in comparison to those thoughts of the ones I look to assist through the minefields of failure while still working to achieve perfection for a moment or two within the imperfect game.
And so I begin. Are we not giving our best effort if we don’t first recognize the impact of our every action, that rolls away from us in every direction, like the circular ripples of a stone crashing through the glass-like surface of the placid pond? Impact runs from us in every direction whether we know it or not. Someone is always watching, and for athletes, that might be even more true than you realize. Look it up. There are articles everywhere about the recruiting of student athletes based on their impact, their parents impact, and so on.
But tonight, I ask you, as you put the uniform on; you know the one that everyone looks at so they can confirm for themselves, who do these folks play for? Who do they represent? When you suited up, did you think about the mother who sits along the baseline, mostly by herself, so she can blend the past with the now, because she likes it that way? See, she’s here because the generation playing today is hers just as the one before you, was a part of every fiber of her summers as a child. And maybe even before her, she was born into a tradition that required her attendance and attention once she arrived, and she grew to love the game, and the places where the game is played. Did you ever think that she might like this old game for more reasons than just because you chose to play it? Did you think that your actions today would impact her?
What about the old man who is hard to find? Did you see him tonight? Or was he missing, or maybe even coming and going like some kind of ghost? See, he knows how the game is played, he knows how the game demands respect, and not being quite ready to give up on the grand old game, he drifts into the ballpark silently, like a friendly ghost, but he also vanishes in thin air as he battles with what he sees before him versus the joyful memories that still dance in his memories. Did you think about how your actions might impact this man and the decades of players he watched before you?
Somewhere down one of the baselines, there’s a dad with his hands full, looking after his children, while another of his kids, plays against you. He, made the effort to be here tonight because he knows the community you are from and he thinks, if I could only get my kids into that school system, and this program, maybe I would have to worry a little less. Then he watches the game, and wonders if his son that is playing is already better off where he is, because what he observes across the way leaves him more uncertain than he was before. Did you even consider the name on the front of your jersey, when you took action today?
Then there’s a family that decided to spend a beautiful summer evening at the old ballpark. Their kids are excited to see the greens of the grass, the whites of the foul lines and bases, and hear the pop of the mitt or the crack of the bat. Even more than that, these uniformed performers are on this symmetrical stage only feet away, and they think you and your mates are bigger than life. Perspective being what it is, says, in that moment you are bigger than life to these young, adoring eyes. And what exactly did you do in your actions? And how exactly did you impact those staring up at you?
From one side of the field, or maybe the other, there’s a sore older gentleman, who feels every step he takes. His body aches to move across the lush carpet of green grass as he, in all of his instincts, paces the green to keep from turning around and leaving for good. He played this great game a long time ago, and he’d tell you that you all couldn’t hold a candle to the teams he played for. He’d never say that to you though, because he learned long ago about respect, honor, integrity, example, and impact. Even now though, his muscles still twitch when a pitch is released, because he’s locked in and ready to make the next play. He could tell you without hesitation where the next play should go, and who has the best arm, the best footwork, the best swing, and so on, because he learned everything he could about this game, and he learned it well. He’d love to even talk to you about it now if you ever asked. But did you even know he knew so much? Did you know that he was even watching you? What would your actions have told him about you without having to even open your mouth?
Should we consider the game itself? Baseball was here before you and it’ll be here long after you. Were you too caught up in your own thoughts and concerns to consider that the game itself is the reason that you and all these other people are gathered in this sanctuary? Did you consider that if it were not you, it would be someone else? Did it ever dawn on you that there are other kids who would take your spot on the roster in a heartbeat, but here you play? Given the privilege that has been afforded you, to play this great game and pursue the highest level that you can attain, would you agree that maybe the game deserved the utmost respect and reverence? Maybe a simple question or two would shed some light. What is the game without you? What are you without the game? Outside of a concerned parent or two, you might be on your own on this one.
Somewhere in a backyard nearby there are several old high school buddies gathered tonight to celebrate their respective graduations from colleges scattered around the country. As dinner winds down and they reminisce of their old playing days together, they remember that one year when they played on the old ballfield and won a state championship. Then one of the guys suggests they take a ride over to the ballfield because it’s been years since they got up close and personal with the haven they knew as their home field. As to keep to themselves and maintain their own little party, they pull in and seek refuge along the outfield fence. As they watch the game, and the actions of the home team, the same team they once played for, what should they see? Did you realize there was a player from years ago that wore the same number as you? And maybe he played the same position on the field that you do? Did your actions today honor that player and all of the players that played here before you? If roll call were taken, would the players of past step forward and recognize your efforts, your impact, as worthy? Did you ever think of that?
- Today, did you and your ego have to squeeze into the dugout, or did you recognize that the game is bigger than you? Any of you.
- Did you stand at attention during the playing of the National Anthem, and block out all other distractions while it was played?
- Did you have your uniform shirt tucked in, so that not a single soul could question your place in the history of the game?
- Did you hustle in and out of the dugout for each half inning? If you didn’t I bet there’s someone watching who would have.
- Did you lift up your teammates in your words spoken, your words unspoken, and in your every effort? Wouldn’t you want the same?
- Did you look up and down the dugout and resolve to be the best player you could be for you, for your team, for the game? You should have.
- Did you give full attention and awareness to every pitch, every play, and every interaction? Why not? What else would be more important during the couple of hours committed to playing the game?
- Did you focus on your opponents positioning, warm up throws and warm up pitches, batting stances, reactions, swings, etc? Why wouldn’t you give yourself every opportunity to succeed? Or is it that you’d rather chat it up with your friends and make these moments exclusively about yourself?
- Did you know that you can do all of these things and more, while still having a blast working together with a group of people who are unified in achieving the same goal? So, why wouldn’t you?
- Did you pay attention to every detail, leaving nothing to chance, so that you and your team, would be the best representation of the community and the proper way to play this game? I certainly hope so, because it’s really up to you. If it didn’t matter, everyone would stay home and nobody would measure the results.
It’s true, someone is always watching. And while not many folks are against having some fun, it shouldn’t be at the expense of respect, or the right way to go about your business. If you’re not sure what that means, or how to go about things in the proper way, just ask. There are people all around who are biting their tongue at what they see in this day and age, just hoping that things aren’t as bad as they appear. So get that advice, and be better for it.
It’s a beautiful game. It’s perfectly fine to be impacted by the game, and to fall in love with it. Somewhere along the way, at a very young age, I was swept off of my feet by the great game of baseball. My heart has been skipping beats ever since. No matter how many times I convince myself there are other things I’d rather be doing, deep down, I know that I would be lost without it. That’s true.
It’s okay. Do it right. Do it with respect. Learn some history, because everything will mean more. It’s hard to find your way if you don’t know where you are coming from, and someone has already traveled your path. Learn. Play the game with passion and the sheer joy that should accompany playing a kids game as long as you are able. Play for one another. You’ll spend the rest of your life doing things for yourself only to realize it was the moments like these that meant the most to you. Remember, we all have bad days, and then someone gets our back, and we live to see another day, and earn the chance to pay it forward. Don’t miss that chance.