I hate baseball.
I know those are strong words, but it took me a long time to get here. I guess the truth probably is that I don’t really hate baseball – hate is such a callous word – so how about this: I deeply dislike baseball.
A little background: When I was a kid growing up in the Bay Area I played a lot of baseball. I played it at school and I played it in the neighborhood. And back then, in the mid 70’s, when the Oakland A’s were doing really well, I even watched it on television.
But it was not my favorite sport – I much preferred football and soccer. To me there just wasn’t enough going on in a baseball game. It seemed liked long stretches of boredom, punctuated with the occasional spurt of excitement – kind of like a fire station. You stood around waiting for something to happen, and then when it did you hoped you were part of the action.
But because I was not especially adept at the sport I usually ended up playing right field – the position that probably participates least in the game because typically the only ones who hit to right field are left handed batters, of which that weren’t that many. And kids didn’t usually hit all that far anyways – so mostly I just ended up standing there, for long stretches of time, watching everyone else play.
And with an attention span as short as mine I’d start daydreaming and staring off into space which, of course, is when some lefty, or a right hander who swung late, would smack a ball my way. At which point I’d hear someone yelling my name, and then see a ball go rolling by. Or worse yet, one soaring over my head after it was too late to back pedal fast enough to catch it.
Really the only part of baseball I was any good at was the running part. As a kid I was fast – fast enough to make it to first base even when I hit a dribbler to the infield. Plus I could usually steal second without much trouble. But as far as attention holding excitement, that’s about as good as the game got for me.
My running skills were put to much better use on the soccer field, where I could get to a loose ball before everyone else. Or in a football game, where there weren’t many kids around who, when I got a handoff, could catch me. But on the baseball diamond I was not a huge asset to the team.
Maybe that’s where the dislike comes from. Maybe it stems from me feeling like I wasn’t really contributing to the process, you know? I think we all like to feel as though we are playing a vital part in the endeavor we’re engaged in – or if not vital at least we want to feel like things are better because we’re there.
Recently I was in another situation where I probably wasn’t contributing to a successful outcome. I’ve been in a relationship with a lovely woman for most of the past year. We were having fun, and enjoying each other’s company – but then my focus started to wander, like it does sometimes, and I sort of stopped doing my part.
I was back in right field again, daydreaming and watching the clouds go by, as the relationship started to roll by me.
And then someone said my name, but this time it was my girl – as she broke up with me.
I have to admit that at first it was a bit of a relief. I was out of a situation I felt I was not up to. I had thoughts of wandering off to find another game to play in – one that I imagined would be better suited to my skills.
But then I remembered that one of my skills was running – and realized that is what I was already doing. When the going gets tough, sometimes I resort to running – it’s an old habit, and one I fall back on too quickly in some situations.
So instead of continuing to run this time I stopped and walked back onto the field of play. I pulled my hat down low to keep the sun out of my eyes so I could focus on what I had to do. I remembered all the good times I’d had with this girl, and how well she treats me, and how attracted I am to her, and got back in the game.
I reflected on what had led to my error. I conferred with her and together we developed a game plan.
It seems we had maybe hung a little too much of our lives on each other and were both feeling under pressure because of it. And sometimes too much pressure can throw a player off their game. So we decided to change the rules a bit – instead of worrying so much about how things were going to turn out we decided to simply live in the moment – and enjoy that moment – and be good to each other and do the best we could.
That advice is similar to what I recall giving my kids when they were in sports. I’d say don’t worry so much about winning, just go out there and have a good time. Enjoy the process. Do your best. And whatever the outcome, it will be okay.
So why was I not able to recall and follow my own advice? Why is it we can be so sage when advising others, and yet so myopic about our own circumstances? I guess when we’re on the sidelines we can see all the action, all the moves, errors and issues. But when we’re in the middle of play we can get so caught up with our own role that we lose sight of how we could be better interacting with others.
It’s at this point that I am tempted to use another metaphor about getting to second base or third base or such, but then I’m a guy and that’s how we think.
I guess what I’ll focus on instead is paying better attention, and doing my part as best I can. I have a teammate I care deeply about, and the most important thing I can do right now is make sure she knows how much I want this team to stay together.