My Family (a long time ago)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Play Ball

Baseball is back! From the time the snow starts flying, I look forward to the start of spring training. That helps me get through the dead of winter, knowing that at some point in the not-too-distant future, in far off, warm, sunny places, men are playing baseball. So while there is snow on the ground here in Massachusetts and most of us don’t want to spend too much time outside, they’re playing baseball in Florida and Arizona. As spring training goes on I start looking forward to Opening Day.

When I was a kid, Opening Day for the Boston Red Sox meant a couple of things: Spring was officially here and my baseball season was just around the corner. I loved baseball so much growing up that I truly wanted to be a major league baseball player. I played with anyone who wanted to play, even if it was just playing a game of catch. I played any time someone wanted to play, even if it was so cold that I still needed a winter jacket to keep warm. Heck, I loved baseball so much I played all by myself by making up games. I would throw a rubber ball off the house and catch the “grounders” that came back to me. I would throw the ball up in the air as high as I could and catch the “fly balls” hit to me. Once I started Little League, I don’t think I missed more than a couple of practices and never missed games. I just loved to play ball.

The cool thing about Opening Day is that every team is equal. Sure, everyone is 0 – 0, but at least for one day every team is the same. Until the games are played, every team has an equal chance to win it all, even if odds-makers say Pittsburgh or Cleveland have no chance. At least for the first day, every team has a chance to win it all. When a team that has been given absolutely no chance to win half their games, let alone the World Series, pulls off a come from behind, walk-off Opening Day victory, their fans start to think, “Maybe this is our year!” In most cases, a month later they’re saying, “Wait ‘til next year.”

Another thing that comes to mind regarding Opening Day is hope. Who doesn’t hope that their favorite team wins the World Series? I don’t know anyone who says, “I hope my team comes in last place this year.” No, everyone wants their team to WIN. When I was in Little League and Babe Ruth League, I hoped my team would win the championship that year. I was lucky enough to play in two championships and win one of them and it was incredible to be a champion. Even though I thought it would never happen, I was able to see the Red Sox actually win not one, but two, World Series. Many people went to their grave waiting to see the Red Sox as champions, yet I got to see it happen. It’s something I won’t forget.  

Here’s the thing about baseball and all sports: You’ve got to go out and play and win the games! Just because your team is picked to win it all, doesn’t mean it will happen. Just because your team has the most talent, doesn’t mean it will be the best team. There are injuries to deal with, slumps, bad breaks and sometimes everything just comes together all at once for another team and they win. It’s a long season. What could have been and should have been wasn’t.

There are parallels to life itself. Some people are designated to be successful when they’re younger because they’re so talented, intelligent, handsome/beautiful, or driven. But you still need to get out there and live your life and fulfill those possibilities (I would say potential but I actually hate that word because it has a negative connotation to me, like you’re a failure if you don’t live up to what someone else thinks about you. Maybe that will be a post at some point in the future.). As in sports, there are injuries in life to deal with, slumps where things just don’t go your way, bad breaks that are out of your control and times where everything just comes together for someone else instead of you. It’s very easy to be all smiles and happy when everything is going your way, but how about when it’s not going your way, when it seems that everything you’re trying is failing? Do you want to just give up, throw in the towel and quit? If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve all been there.

I know I’ve been there a few times. But somewhere in the back of my head I heard my Dad telling me that you finish what you start; that if you make a commitment to something, you give it your best effort and see it through to the end. Sometimes just starting something is a victory. Sometimes just finishing what you started is a victory. For some people, just making it through life is a victory. As I get older, I find myself not looking at the scoreboard of life as much as I used to. Instead, I find myself just enjoying the game, life, a whole lot more. Enjoying life – that’s a victory in my book.  

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