As my excitement grows daily for the start of another baseball season, I realized I have played on a baseball team nearly every year of my life since I was five years old. From Tee-ball to Little League, Babe Ruth, High School, a brief college stint, and now men’s fast pitch leagues, baseball has been one of the few constants in my life. This great sport has uplifted me during personal tragedy and provided some of my greatest joys and for this I am eternally grateful. The friendships, emotions, and learning experiences have transcended the baseball field to help shape who I am today. Thank you Baseball for being with me stride for stride through this winding journey called life.
There is nothing quite like being part of a baseball team. Over the course of my nearly 30 years of playing baseball, I have had hundreds of teammates. As the saying goes, “Once a teammate, always a teammate”, and I can certainly attest to a long list of friendships formed on the diamond. Teammates come in all shapes, sizes and colors, which allowed me to appreciate people from all walks of life. This has served me well off the field, as I have learned to look past appearance and appreciate one’s true character. Once you step onto the field, race, social status and religious preferences aren’t important; all that matters is whether they are wearing the same color jersey as you are, and everyone is striving for the same goal. Many of my best friends in this world are guys I shared a dugout with and I’m grateful for the time we have spent together. The memories forged on the field are everlasting and friendships that stand the test of time. In fact, one of my groomsmen was someone I played Little League All-Stars with at eight years old. Thank you Baseball for giving me the opportunity to meet so many outstanding individuals.
Baseball, in part, has molded me into the person I am today and a direct correlation can be drawn from the ball field into my everyday life. Babe Ruth once said, “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run”. In essence, minor problems should not hold anyone back from chasing their dreams. Throughout life you will have setbacks on the way, and the same can be applied to the baseball field. There have been times when I’ve made a crucial error, or whiffed looking with the winning run on third base, but the ability to handle the adversity is what sets people apart. Handling failure in baseball, and in life, is an important step in achieving success. It has long been said that baseball is a game that can humble you very quickly. Just when you think you have it figured out, it will send you a not-so-subtle reminder to stay humble, maintain an even keel, and keep working hard. Thank you Baseball for teaching me how to handle both success and failure with a level head on my way to greater achievements.
Unfortunately, during my years of playing, I have lost two teammates to untimely deaths. It was very difficult for me to comprehend how a person so young and healthy could have their life taken so suddenly. Playing baseball was a major part of the healing process for me, and I’ll always have memories of the precious time with them at the yard, doing something we both love. It was heartwarming to see the parents come to the field and experience our baseball family along with a glimpse into the special bond baseball players share on and off the field. I will never forget the tears welling up in their eyes as we presented them with their son’s jersey before the game and each and every player from both teams hugged them one by one. Every year before our first game, I remind our team about my former teammates, encourage them to play the game the right way just as they would have wished, and to cherish our time together. Thank you baseball for being a great support system when I needed it most.
All of life’s troubles seem to go away during those sacred three hours on the diamond. My sanctuary is the baseball field, and it might be cliché, but I still have the same joy playing the game, as I did when I was five years old. Simply put, I live for it. The comradery in the dugout; talk about girls, parties, last week’s game, or the walk off home run we hit in High School are what every baseball player holds close to their heart. My only concerns when I’m between the white lines is having fun and trying to come out ahead after 27 outs are recorded. Relationship problems, work/school issues, or any of the other curveballs of life, all go out the window once I pull up to the field and see my teammates in the dugout preparing for the game. The baseball field is my own personal zen garden and my mind is clear of all that ails me once I hit the field. Thank you baseball for being my personal safe haven; a place I know I can always find joy.
Thank you Baseball for being the greatest sport ever created. Each pitch is a new game, a new possibility, an opportunity for greatness and a new reality. I appreciate all of your intricate qualities, grace, your intrinsic values, consistency and excitement. You have given me more than I could ever dream of repaying you for, and for that I owe you a lifetime of gratitude.
“You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around the whole time.” – Jim Bouton