Wednesday, January 29, 2014

We Need Three Strikes In Life

When I was a kid, my father drug me to baseball tryouts.

Yes ... he drug me. Kicking and screaming.

Hokay ... it might not have been quite that dramatic. But, as a kid and at the time and searching my memory, I was literally drug to tryouts. Drug kicking and screaming. (You know what I mean.)

I do remember there were tears. Genuine tears. Tears shed because I did not, did not, DID NOT want to go ... did not want to be there ... did not want to participate ... did not want to be put in a position where I didn't know what I was doing, did not know if I was going to succeed, did not want the humiliation of screwing up and being laughed at.

"Tough shit, son. Get out there and do your best," my father told me. "Just do the best you can." (He didn't say "tough shit" ... but he wanted to. I know he did ...)

I pleaded with him, begging him not to subject me to such mortifying abasement. The tears started anew.

"Don't make me mad. Get out there," he responded.

I don't remember the tryout itself. I'm pretty certain I was numb throughout the entire process. I remember catching a fly ball ... and being rather amazed I had done so. Grounders whizzed past me to the left and to the right and straight through my legs. I don't recall ever making contact with the ball solidly when I was up to bat, but I think I might have tipped it once. Barely.

I walked off the field when the tryouts were over and was directed to one of several groups of boys. Right then and there, post tryouts, a dozen or so coaches were picking teams out of the blue. All participants who had tried out on the field were being selected one by one and put on a team.

I remember I was one of the last to be selected. I can't rightly say, but I may have been one of the last ones picked.

I survived tryouts. Then, I realized much to my chagrin, I would have to endure an entire little league season. I didn't know if I had it in me to do so.

But I did have it in me. And, again, my father pushed me through my fear.

But it wasn't without consequence. I was one of the worst kids in the league. And I knew it, too. I dreaded going to practice that year, I hated being in the games. Mostly I was polishing the bench with my backside that initial season, though I was put in the game as required.

But I did have one thing going for me: Power. So as I learned to make contact with the ball, I did find - on that rare occasion - the ball flew off my bat.

And then came the turning point in my baseball "career" when I decided baseball wasn't so bad after all.

I was up to bat one inning late in the game. I remember I had two strikes on me and I just knew the next pitch was going to come down the middle and zip right past me. I just knew it. So, with adrenaline pumping wildly inside me, the pitcher wound up and flung the ball.  I closed my eyes tightly and let my bat fly.

In the movies when "that big moment" strikes and the sound goes mute and everything is in slow motion? That's what I remember happening. I opened my eyes and dejectedly put my bat on my shoulder, ready to take the walk of shame back to the dugout. But then the sound returned. I heard yelling and screaming and cheering. And I felt a hard back slap by a team mate who was out of the on-deck circle and suddenly right next to me with a big shit-eating grin on his face. I had no clue what everyone was going on about. 

Next, the home plate umpire told me "Go on ... round the bases, son."

I'd hit a homerun - my first - and I didn't even know it. I hadn't seen it. I had no clue what had just happened.

I trotted out to first base stunned and unbelieving but - as I made my way to second - a grin began to appear on my face. It was one of the few times during my rookie outing I enjoyed baseball.

And my love affair with the game continues to this day. (Regardless of the fact baseball is a whole different ballgame today than it was of yesteryear.)

Had my father not put his foot down, had he not forced me to get out there and try, I don't know if I would love the game as much as I do. Screw that enablement crap, the milquetoast attitude some foist on kids.

The fact of the matter is you don't learn from your successes, you learn from your failures and from your mistakes.

You do things yourself in order to fully appreciate them and understand them and relate to them. If I wasn't pushed by my father, I still might like baseball. But I don't think I would be the fan and student of the game I am today.

And that's why this post I saw - courtesy of my buddy Douglas Arthur - resonated so strongly with me.

.......... Ruprecht ( STOP enabling everyone ... kids and adults alike )

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