Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Baseball Lessons

It doesn't matter if you're decked out in blue, orange, red or pinstripes; this is the time of year when life takes on a fresh start. The crack of the bat, the smell of cut grass, and the springtime anthem "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" all mean baseball has finally arrived! Hot dogs piled high with sweet and savory fixings, chilly beverages, salted peanuts in the shell -- all add to the exuberant feeling. Fathers toss out grandstand clichés like "Good eye!" and "Be a hitter!" and "Wait for your pitch!" as they instruct their sons in the finer points of the game. Scorecards are dutifully kept and then tucked away for safekeeping, to be treasured later by the son who serendipitously finds one in the bottom of a drawer and remembers his day at the park.

That's the beauty of baseball. It isn't just the game played in monster stadiums by the pros. It's summer camp and city park games, Little League and T-Ball competitions too. All these offer serious competition, bleachers loaded with enthusiastic and loyal fans, and a chance to snag a hot dog, a bag of nuts, or a Popsicle. Baseball, it has been said is "America's pastime." Its popularity is firmly entrenched in the American psyche and, like spring, renews itself every year.

As I was thinking about the upcoming season I was struck by the life lessons that baseball teaches.

1. Just because you fail doesn't mean you are a failure: Ty Cobb holds the all-time batting average with a .366; that means he got on base less than every four out of ten times at bat. Ty Cobb failed to hit 60 percent of the time, yet he wasn't a failure. We shouldn't beat ourselves up for failing, as long as we keep trying.

2. Be ready, stay ready: of the nine players on the team, only two are guaranteed to touch the baseball in any given inning. Those two are the pitcher and the catcher. If the pitcher is doing an exceptional job, then it's possible an outfielder can go the entire game without ever getting near the ball. However, if the ball is hit to him, he better be ready. Whether we're at home plate ready to swing or out in left field, we need to keep our eye on the ball.

3. Strategy counts: a two-strike bunt may not be the best move, but if it's unexpected, it can be a game winner. In life we need to plan our strategy accordingly; sometimes the unexpected is just what we need.

4. Bad manners get you tossed: a player or a coach expressing foul language, excessive arguing over an ump's questionable call, or displaying poor sportsmanship generally gets booted from the game. It's important to exercise good manners and use appropriate language.

5. Take a seventh-inning stretch: nothing is more fun than standing with 45,000 other fans and singing, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game!" We need to gather our family together to take a seventh-inning stretch too.

6. A walk is as good as a hit: a player can only score if he gets on base. Walks and hits accomplish the same thing: they get you on. Sometimes we look for the big solution to our problems when a simple one will do.

Perhaps the best lesson baseball gives for life is that a game is always better when shared with family. Men, take your family to a game; you'll be glad you did.

Play ball!

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