Baseball and Life

After the beautiful candlelight ceremony last night, I found myself tossing and turning until 2:00 in the morning. I decided to get up and not fight it anymore. I was remembering Brandon and all the pictures of the lost loved ones we had honored. Then my overactive, stimulated mind thought of baseball. You might ask why, in the middle of winter, I was thinking of baseball and not hockey or football.

It might be that I’m already looking forward to spring, but I think baseball was on my mind because I feel there can be some similarities to how it mirrors life. Let me explain.

When we start our lives, we go into what is the equivalent of spring training. We learn about the different positions life can offer. We learn how to hit, to throw, and about the rules of the game. As a baseball player learns from the old pros on the team, we in life (if we are smart) learn from our parents and grandparents. I realize that most of us come away from this process saying, “No way am I going to make the same mistakes that they did,” but I think this is part of the exuberance of youth, and once spring training is over and we get into the game, these thoughts begin to change.

The length of spring training is different for all of us. For most, it ends when we graduate from high school, go off to college, or get married. Eventually, we join the big game, and we find that the learning continues. We learn about our teammates, opposing players, and where the game is going to be played. Most of the time we find that the position we trained for is not the one we end up playing. In fact, we find out that as we go through the game of life, we may play many different positions. Sometimes we find ourselves sitting on the bench because of injuries and wondering, “What am I doing here?” We don’t even know how many hits, errors, or runs we’ve had, or how long the game is going to be.

In my case, I started the first inning and got well into the game just being fat, dumb, and happy. I had some hits, scored a few runs, and definitely made some errors. Then four years ago, or somewhere in the middle inning of the game, it all changed. It was at that time that I was faced with nine pitches and three strikeouts; the last due to a curveball. The death of my son Brandon changed the whole makeup of the game. The rules changed, and I found myself going back into training.

I woke up and found that the inning was over and a new one was about to begin. I found that I had to re-lace my spikes even tighter, and that pounding my glove may have formed a new pocket, but it hurt my hand. I could have chosen to get a new glove or new shoes, and for some people, that is the way to stay in the game. But I found comfort in a glove and shoes that were well worn. I found that I may have been knocked out of that inning, but the game was still going on and I had to learn the new rules, I had to try to get more hits and score more runs. The errors are another issue.

Although the game is still going on, I do not know what the score is or what inning I’m in. Like when I was hit by a foul ball in high school, I now know that I’m better at keeping the scorebook than backing away from a sweeping curve. So now in the later innings of life, I keep the bench warm, my laces tight, my glove next to me, and my pencil sharp. As a scorekeeper, I’ve tried to use the eraser to wipe out that one really horrible inning, but the home plate umpire keeps reminding me that he is the one who controls the game. He reminds me that he will decide when the game is over, who’s out, or if we play extra innings. In the meantime, I’m ready to go in to pinch-hit, to be the pro. I know that my other children have already said that they are not going to make the mistakes that Dad did. They have had the same bad inning in their game that I have had with Brandon’s death, but that is where the similarities in our games end. My hope is that I will be able to be there for my grandchildren and give them the opportunity to say, “I’m not going to make the same mistakes that Grandpa did.”

Baseball is a great game, while the game of life leaves a lot to be desired.

In baseball, there are very few perfect games, very few no-hitters. The same thing is true for life. We know that our perfect game was spoiled by the death of a loved one. We have had one bad inning, but the game still goes on to give us many more opportunities to score in future innings.




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Comments (1)

  • Richard, this is so meaningful! So well put! So wise! Even though you couldn’t sleep, the thoughtful, deep reflection you did makes you all the more valuable as a player-coach. You’re still in the game, but you’re coaching other players in the game too! That for your grandkids, to be sure, but also for any of the rest of us who are listening (reading this).

    I like your reference to the home plate umpire also. He’s ultimately in control of the game alright. We’re all better off if we recognize and accept that…and the earlier in life, the better. Our kids and grandkids will live their own lives, make their own decisions, make some of their own mistakes and maybe even commit some errors on the field. That’s part of living and maturing…but it surely helps to have a good coach!

    Keep up the good work, Coach! You’re shaping the team for the upcoming season!

    ~ a high school classmate ~

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