It might be the smell of fresh cut grass, the way the dirt fills the air when I slide into home or the sound of the crack of a bat when I have the walk off hit to win the game but it is much more than all of those things that keeps my passion growing for playing baseball. Baseball has taught me more than just catching, pitching, defense, offense and hitting. It has taught me how to lead, how to follow, how to win, how to lose, how to challenge up and how to be a team player but most importantly it has taught me about life.
It started from the time my hand could grasp a baseball. Most babies have rattles, teething rings and stuffed animals, but I had foam baseballs, plastic bats and a room full of New york Yankee blankets, towels and clothing. Some might say that my die hard dad was brainwashing me from the start but my Mother also slipped in some Minnesota Twins onesies! Instead of watching Baby Einstein and Sesame Street, I watched over 100 Yankee games each season. As soon as I could stand on my own, I had a baseball tee in my living room to practice swinging. It was a way of life and it was my time bonding with my father. He taught me baseball mechanics and I learned quickly when I did something right as my dad would grab me, throw me up in the air and catch me with kisses on my cheek. It was my first taste of positive reinforcement and making my dad proud and it fueled my desire to keep learning and keep getting better.
From there the lessons of teamwork worked into my love of the game as I played on teams for the first time. I learned that winning wasn’t because of any one person’s skill or ability during the game but a culmination of working together and supporting each other to each do their part to achieve the ultimate goal. I learned that the stretching and flexible nature of the first baseman was complemented by the quick hands and arm of the short stop to field the ball. This same ball was put into play because the pitcher was able to throw a strike right over the plate to where the catcher had his glove lined up while all players were “baseball ready”. We needed each other and we learned to play together as one cohesive unit instead of 11-12 players all looking to be the next Derek Jeter. It meant cheering for your teammate when they get on base even though you may have just struck out. We became a second family on the field and the desire to succeed fueled my passion to keep playing and keep learning.
As I have continued into travel and modified seasons of baseball I have learned to not become complacent. Playing well - catching, pitching and hitting - wasn’t a reason to not go all in at practice. It would be easy to stop learning, stop trying and believing that the effort I was giving to the game, to my coach and to my teammates was all that mattered. But what I have learned is that people are watching. What I want people to see is a baseball player that never gives up, goes all in and refuses to stop learning or working hard. A baseball player that encourages his teammates and makes others feel empowered. I will never be perfect and I will never know everything. But I will never achieve my potential if I become satisfied in the face of success and wins. It is in the face of defeat that you learn to rise above and grow to new levels. Baseball has taught me to play harder, lead by example and rise above defeat to new heights.
I once heard a quote by Maya Angelou. She said “Nothing will work unless you do.” Baseball has taught me to work and keep working to better myself. I hope to continue playing this game and helping others fall in love with the game the same way I did - from baseball rattles to proud smiles on a parent’s faces to cheering on a teammate who just broke out of a batting rutt - baseball has taught me many life lessons that I will continue to carry with me and that continue to push me to “step up” to the plate in the game and in life.