All I really needed to know, I learned at the baseball park
FacebookTwitterGoogle+DiggPinterestBloggerAfter a brutal, crushing winter, summer has come to our small, American town. Up and down Main Street, flowers bloom, splashing color, dripping happiness from hanging baskets and overflowing boxes.
From my quiet spot overlooking the yard, I recall the ruthless winter storms that threw down layer upon layer of white, fluffy snow like so many down comforters, burying The Three. Now, an emerald carpet spreads, vibrant, alive, and morning dew catches the sun, glittering like a “fousand million” diamonds spilled by the Jeweler’s hand.
From up the road, shouts from a different kind of diamond drift from nearby baseball fields on lazy summer nights. We’ve spent hours there already, hollering for a certain young man who wears the number one, blue eyes shining beneath his cap. His strike zone’s a little bit wider than it was last year, and he’s running the bases in cleats.
It’s elemental, the Pee Wee League. It’s Baseball 101. But from where I’m sitting in the stands, it’s more than mere baseball. It’s Life Fundamentals 101.
When the season began back in May, Little Schrock, who’d been hitting last year, suddenly found himself struggling. Night after night, he fanned out, unable to touch bat to the ball. “His timing is off,” Coach said, assessing, and took him aside for instruction.
That was all it took. After some extra practice and Coach’s focused attention, it clicked. And all at once, the kid who’d struck out every time was hitting. Nearly every time, and tearing up the baseline in those cleats.
Right there is lesson one, which I learned in the stands on my seat. When we’re experiencing failure, you and I, we need help. There’s no shame in seeking it, so that stinkin’ thinkin’ needs to go. Somewhere, there’s a “coach,” an expert, a wisdom person who is strong where we’re weak and can help. Find that one. If you’re troubled about it, ask God to send the right person your way. He’s faithful and kind, and He’ll do it.
Sometimes, you need extra practice. That’s what else Coach and Little both taught me. Michelangelo didn’t start out with that ceiling. His family pictures had stick people, too. But he practiced a lot, and it surely paid off. That’s how he got to the ceiling.
That’s how it is with us. Even in faith matters, practice perfects. Don’t despair if you’re not yet a giant. Seek wisdom, keep swinging and you’ll get there. Like Little.
Sometimes, you win. Sometimes, you lose. That’s how it is in baseball, and that’s how it is in life. Being a little bit (okay, very) competitive, I love to win. The winner’s circle is sweet. It feels great to stand at the top of the heap, to give your best and to win. But no one wins all the time.
There are lessons to be gathered in losing that cannot be learned other ways. Put simply, there are times when someone’s just better than you, and you’re outside the circle, looking in. As one churchgoing matron might say to another, “Excuse me, but your slip is showing,” a loss does the very same thing. We can throw our gloves in the dirt and run home, or we can say, “Way to go! It’s your time.” And mean it. “Excuse me, but your character is showing.”
“You can’t get ‘em all.” That’s what Coach said every time Little swung and missed. He’s right. You can’t get them all. You will never “get them all.” And that’s okay.
The thing about missing a swing is that it always comes back down to attitude and beliefs. The Little Leaguer who strikes out in a game isn’t doomed to be a strike-out in life. Neither are you, and neither am I.
When we strike out; when we step up to the plate, take a crack and we miss it, there are three choices that immediately present. We can blame everything and everyone else. It was a bad pitch, a bad call, or the sun in our eyes; i.e., it wasn’t our fault.
Secondly, we can jump straight to discouragement, and discouragement, we know, clouds our thinking. When we fail, it says, “You’re a failure.” When we disappoint, it says, “You’re a disappointment.” And when we lose, it says, “You’re a loser.” Terrible messages, all of them, and none of them are true.
Standing there at the plate, there is one other choice we can make. We can pick up the bat and try again. We can take the second chance that’s offered and give it another whirl. No failures, we. Not disappointments, either, or strike-outs or losers or bums. Just…people.
We are people, imperfect, but accepting of grace, grateful for second and third chances. Not passing the blame, not believing the lies, but receiving His great grace and mercy.
“Excuse me, but your character is showing.” If you’ve messed it up, just admit it. Then pick your bat up and try again. You’ll never know what could happen if you don’t. You can do it. Yes, you can.