Dad, who’s on first?
(6 lessons a 13-year-old baseball player has learned from the game and inadvertently taught me about life)
Every parent loves watching their child contribute to the baseball team they’re a part of. I’m not sure what I enjoy watching most, witnessing a powerful hit, or making a fine play in the field. But something else has helped me enjoy the game of baseball more; some principles my son has learned from the game that I’ve been able to apply to my everyday life. Here are six of them I’d like to share with you.
“I’ll run hard until I see the out. “
It fires us up every time our athlete punches the ball safely through the infield, or hit a line drive between the outfielders, or, even better, clears the fence and brings home a few base runners for the effort. Unfortunately, most of the time, that doesn’t happen. What happens is they ground the ball to an infielder and get thrown out at first base.
On a few occasions, you’ll see a batter ‘bust a gut’ to get to first base no matter where they’ve hit the ball into the infield. Even when a ball is hit down the throat of an outfielder most batters see the probability of the out and therefore don’t move at full speed to first with the option of second base on their minds.
My son told me that until he sees the out, he won’t stop running hard. He’ll never presume he is going to be out until the umpire has raised his fist. The amount of times I’ve seen him barely scrape into first is a credit to this motto.
Run hard until there is a result. Run hard with no assumptions of a bad possibility. Run hard until the end. Run hard and don’t give up. Run hard and presume you will make it. Run hard and let the others make the mistake. Run hard to where you want to go. Run hard and show you mean business. Run hard and don’t lose heart. Run hard because you want it more than them. Run hard because it is intimidating.
Run hard because that is the way you play the game of life.
“And if they get me out, I’ll compliment them in my mind.”
One game I was watching, he grounded out three times in a row: all thrown out at first; all giving the umpire an anxious decision to make. He then went out onto the field and talked up his teammates and each innings made some fine defensive plays.
I asked him afterward in the car on the way home how was he able to deal with feeling down after getting out and then getting the mind back into gear to focus on the fielding. He said, if someone gets him out he simply says in his head, good on you for getting me out.
No trash talking here, or I’ll get you back next time, or anything like that. Just the attitude of if you get me out you better work hard at it because I’m not going to give you first base for free. And if you get me, well done.
He said this helps him keep his mind free for his next job at hand and so not falling into the trap of allowing one small part of the game to affect his whole game.
We can’t win at everything in life. Not all our gambles on ourselves, or plays we make will come off. Life is too long (and possibly too complicated) to get hung up on our failings, or hung up on someone else beating us to the punch. Be free to give out a compliment to someone who may have beaten you -- whether you know them or not. I’m not necessarily meaning saying it directly to them, just in your head.
If you didn’t give it your all or were merely being a wishful thinker, then you deserve to be beaten.
But if you’ve done your best and you don’t succeed and you want to free your mind without dropping your head, compliment who or whatever got you and move on quickly in life. We will fail more than we succeed, that is life, and how we deal with the failures will show what sort of character we want to develop.
“I’ll not talk another player down if they make an error.”
Errors at the ballpark happen all the time and all players feel bad they have made them. He told me we don’t need each other highlighting the mistake. We need each other letting us know that it’s ok and we will get the next one.
What does someone need to hear when they’ve made a mistake? Or completely messed up? Often times what is said is not what the other needs to hear but what we feel we need to get off our chest.
Most of the time a person needs to hear nothing if they know they’ve made a mistake. However, it is reassuring to hear some words of encouragement knowing you still have someone on your side right when as you wish the earth opened up and swallowed you.
There’ll be some mistakes in life that are fatal and irreversible. Most, like in a game, are not fatal. Therefore, we should take on the role as one another’s biggest supporters instead of one another’s biggest shamers. Shaming easily rolls off the tongue, but to support somebody, that takes consideration on the other’s behalf.
“I’ll not respond back to any criticism from my own teammates when I make an error. I’ll only lift my glove to my face and express my response there.”
There’ll always be kids criticizing others for mistakes they make on the field. They’ll show their frustrations in words and gestures that don’t help anyone, let alone allow the team to prepare mentally for the next play.
I noticed one game that my son was talking into his glove after he made a mistake on the field. He told me this way he doesn’t show his emotional response by venting his anger back at the kid who criticized him. He said he was close to tears for making the error and then had his nose rubbed in it. He said it was better for himself, the other kid, and the team, for him not to respond.
We live in a world of continual conflict and criticism. There are those that want to make us feel worse for the mistakes we make. Don’t stoop to their level. It is immature and shows we are no better than the accuser if we let our emotions run away and we belittle back. Courage and self-control are the key ingredients here.
“While fielding, before the batter has had a ball thrown at him, I’ll place my mind in the zone and consider all options what I’ll do when the ball is hit into play. I want the ball to come to me.”
There can be times in a baseball game when nothing is happening -- absolutely nothing. Meaning, the ball hasn’t been hit or thrown in your direction for what seems like an eternity. It’s easy to let the mind wander and, when something does happen, we are then a good half a second behind where we should be. And in baseball that is a lot.
Most of us know what it feels like to be ‘in the zone' or lost in the moment in a particular thing. Whether that involves an all-important work matter, trying to attain another level in a video game, or wooing the one we love is something we all do.
So learn to be still, be quiet, breath deeply, and, if you love something, your options and opportunities will abound your way --thus you’ll be ready for the ball to come to you.
“I’ll always train and play like I never know who’s watching.”
This was first taught to my son when he was eight by his first qualified coach from the Castle Hill Baseball Club. And to this day, my son has attempted to embody this message and therefore taught me to always give my best especially when no one is watching. I fall short quite often.
It is easy to drive the speed limit when you know a police car is nearby. It is easy to say yes to the boss when you know you’ll be rewarded with a pay packet or lack thereof if you don’t comply. We are different people when we want something or want to impress and we know someone is watching.
And when no one is watching… this is a true test of our character, a test of our integrity. This is the sort of person we desire to be like, who doesn’t take shortcuts, who sets high standards for him or herself, and wants to be an example for others to follow. This is an important characteristic of being a good leader.
You may think this 13-year-old kid is too good to be true and has one too many wise thoughts for our liking. Truth be known, he is just like many other 13-year-olds who enjoy their sport and whose parents wish he applied his passion for baseball to other areas like homework and keeping his room clean.
We can observe and learn something from everyone we meet. We can learn about ourselves and life from watching any sport, from playing a sport, and we can learn especially from watching those whom play their sport with passion and want to go somewhere with it.