Baseball never fell on my radar let alone my schedule until my youngest son started playing Little League. It continued through his years of travel baseball and while he was on the school team.
Regardless of the level of play, basic character-building principles are inherent in the game of baseball. Advice shouted by coaches and parents on how to best play the game correlate well with how to live a life of excellence.
- Get dirty! While this may be a mother’s laundry nightmare, getting dirty in baseball generally means a player went “all out” to make a play. Sometimes in life, we need to “get dirty” in order to make a real difference.
- Make a play! Making a play can change the momentum of a game. When we find ourselves feeling stuck, sometimes the only way to break free is to do something out of the ordinary.
- Keep your eye on the ball! One of the most common mistakes in baseball comes when a player takes his eyes off the ball. When we lose focus, making progress and achieving goals becomes difficult at best and often impossible.
- Shake it off! While hopefully less common as the season progresses, mistakes do happen. Someone inevitably drops the ball or strikes out. The best approach when we make a mistake is to admit it, learn from it, and move on. Don’t let it snowball.
- Down and ready! Some of the most embarrassing moments in a baseball game come when a player isn’t ready and sees a ball too late to stop it because he failed to pay attention. Life continually throws unexpected struggles at us, but many trials in life also come as surprises simply because we weren’t paying attention.
- Everybody moves! When the ball is hit, every player needs to move accordingly. Sometimes, just going in the right direction is all we need to do to move toward excellence.
- Put it in play! Hitting a baseball is probably the hardest task in all of sports, and a professional player who gets a hit half the time is considered productive. Simply putting the ball in play presents a solid chance at scoring. In life, some seasons are survived simply by putting yourself in play and seeing what happens.
- Get there! As fast as most players throw at higher levels of baseball, all out effort is required just to make it to first base. What would happen in your life if you gave all out effort?
- Be a wall! One of the positions my son enjoys most is catcher. The catcher must stop every ball from getting by him to prevent base stealing. Hopefully, the mitt stops the ball, but often the catcher’s body must do it. Some seasons in life certainly require that we stand firm even as the hits of disappointment, fear, and failure strike us one right after another.
- Smother it! Another phrase relating to catchers, this means covering the ball as it hits the ground in front of you. In life, some days come filled with needing to simply protect your time, your family, and your faith. Some days, we just need to smother what’s important to keep it from getting away from us.
A teachable baseball player takes these foundational principles and builds on them in order to become a better player. Tommy Lasorda made the distinction this way:
“There are three types of baseball players. Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happens.”
A person who realizes that baseball – actually, any sport – provides character building opportunity for a life of excellence, understands how watching or playing the sport really transcends the sport itself. The late, great Ernie Harwell brought the point home well when he said:
“Baseball is a lot like life. It’s a day-to-day existence, full of ups and downs. You make the most of your opportunities in baseball as you do in life.”
Harwell’s quote brings Ephesians 5:16 to mind.
“Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.”
Opportunities such as the character-building lessons discussed above exist in every sport and in many other activities in life. Are you taking advantage of those opportunities?