I played the game of baseball for 15 years. In fact, I grew up on a baseball field. My dad was the varsity coach of the local high school in the town where I grew up. So everyday after school I would go over to the baseball field, sit in the dugout, and watch them play. I was a fly on the wall in a dugout full of high school players and my dad was their coach.
I didn’t realize it at the time but what I learned on the baseball field after school would serve me more in life than anything I had ever learned in school. I witnessed and learned group dynamics in action, I saw what discipline looked like, and I saw the respect that the players showed to each other, their coach, and to the game itself.
Most importantly, I was able to feel that baseball was so much more than just a game. I was just too young to fully understand why. When I was a kid, maybe around 10 years old, I used to have a t-shirt that said “Baseball is life” on the front. As time went on and I got older, I slowly learned how true that really was.
You can spot anyone who has a love of the game because of how they talk about baseball. There’s always a touch of of reverence and romanticism. It is a game that will make young kids play until it’s too dark to see the ball anymore. It will make those same kids sleep in their uniforms the night before a big game, and it also has the power to make grown men cry.
I always remember my dad telling me he preferred to watch little league games instead of MLB games because “those kids have more heart” he said. “No one is paying them to be there”.
The reason I think baseball is so special is because it teaches you about life, through emotions. I’ll never forget the way I felt the first time I let my team down. I got a routine ground ball and all I had to do was throw it to second base to get the runner out. The second baseman was on the base with his glove out, ready and waiting for me to throw it to him.
This should have been an easy out but I made an error. I threw the ball in the dirt and the runner was safe. I felt embarrassed and I felt ashamed. It made me wish I had focused more and tried harder during practice that week. One seemingly simple baseball play taught me what it felt like to let people down when they were depending on me.
Once when I was in little league, I was playing third base and the batter hit a hard line drive straight at my hand. It jammed all of my fingers on my throwing hand. I managed to throw the ball to first base through the tears welling up in my eyes, to get the runner out before my hand swelled up with pain.
Just like in life, the game wouldn’t stop just because I wanted it to. This play taught me to complete the job at all costs because my team was relying on me. There’s no time to complain. Just get it done. I also remember the feeling when I hit my first home run and how good it felt to succeed when others were counting on me.
Baseball also taught me to be able to trust and rely on my teammates and know the feeling of being let down by them if they failed as well as the feeling of security that came from them pulling through when we relied on them.
Baseball teaches preparedness. Knowing how many outs there are, where the runners are, and where you plan to throw the ball if everyone does what you expect. As well as the ability to adapt and run plan B executions in your head, if they don’t do what you expect.
In any good baseball player, there are a dozen action/outcome scenarios that go through their mind all within the span of 10 seconds, the amount of time it takes to field the ball and make the play.
Baseball not only taught me what it feels like to win and what it feels like to lose but also that losing is inevitable. I learned to use those losses to my advantage. After a loss, I would evaluate why we lost and what we could do differently next time. I would make the changes that I needed to make in order to improve myself.
This game gave me the opportunity to learn important life lessons through emotions, all by the time I was 11 or 12 years old. I think the reason many ex ball players get emotional when reminiscing about baseball is because baseball taught them the highs and lows of life, through emotions. So it’s hard to separate the two. Baseball and emotions will forever be synonymous in the heart of a baseball player. When a child is learning to play baseball, they are learning life.
In baseball, the key to victory is in the seemingly unimportant, incremental steps. Baseball is a game where there is always more going on than meets the eye. The excitement is in the things that you don’t easily see. It’s not in the hard hits, the knockout punches, or the the slam dunks. The excitement is in the situation itself.
It’s in the circumstances and the intensity that comes from being fully aware that if the ball is one inch too far to the right or left, it will change the course and outcome of the entire game. As in life, baseball is a game of perfection. It requires precision and mastery.
Baseball teaches you discipline because the only way to master that precision and perfection is through practice and dedication. Baseball teaches you that heart and attitude count just as much as speed or strength. In baseball, just showing up won’t cut it.
Baseball in my opinion, is the only sport that teaches integrity. There is no such thing as a tie in baseball. There is no clock to run down. There is no running out of bounds or taking a knee. You must face your opponent until the very end.
Each team gets their 27 outs. No matter how much of a lead you have, you must give the other team their rightful chance to defeat you. This ensures that you never win by luck or chance but only because on that day, you were the better team and you deserve your victory. In baseball, just like in life, it’s never over until it’s over.