“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it goes…And summer is gone.”
That about says it all. It is a quote from “The Greenfields of the Mind”, by A. Bartlett Giamatti, the seventh Commissioner of Major League Baseball. Today, for Baltimore, baseball begins again. Amen.
They say baseball is the sport most like life, and “they” are right. It is steeped in failure, I mean three out of ten can get you in the Hall of Fame? A thirty-percent success rate at the plate? Pitching to one spot consistently and with movement, versus throwing it as hard as you can, can earn you a Cy Young Award? One inch to the left, or right of either foul pole can change a game? A perfect relay to the plate and the fastest guy on the field is out? It’s a game of inches, it can turn on a dime, it is slow, it is boring, it is tedious, it defies time because there is no clock, and yet it is instantly and deeply exhilarating. The highlights show the grand slam, the game-changing home run, the big strike three that ends an inning, the dive at the hot corner that leads to a dramatic out at first. But the game is really won because of the things that happen between those moments, the little things each team does to get the smallest edge on their opponent. It is just like life. Too often in life we focus on the moments that take your breath away, but the majority of our lives are lived in between those moments. It is a small change, a tiny effort, the act of discipline, the positive thought, an encouraging word, the tiniest act of gratitude, that lead to the greatest change.
I have to tell you, and I am not ashamed to admit, (remember no fear here on this blog), I love football, but I adore baseball and I can’t get enough of the Orioles. Always have… well, sort of. I will also freely admit that I put my head down and stopped watching during a long stretch of the fifteen years in between winning seasons. A few seasons of bad baseball are to be expected, no team is a winner forever. But a constant, frustrating, unmotivated, depressing, monotonous run of season after season of failure is unacceptable. You can only hang around a loser so long, eventually it’s bad karma, it brings you down, it affects your own spirit. Misery loves company, and it’s all the more painful, especially when you know what it’s like to win, and win big.
Last season changed everything. I fell in love again.
Last season was exhilarating, inspirational, it made you believe in miracles, you had no choice. It was living proof you can do wonders when you take the talent you already have, people you know can do the job, put them in the right position, reinforce a positive and winning state of mind, keep them disciplined and always moving forward, looking ahead and never, ever, ever giving up. Do those things and you can be a winner. The Orioles were that and more, they fought until the final at-bat, the final pitch, the 27th out, and then beyond. The Orioles showed us what tenacity and desire are all about. And the man at the helm, Buck Showalter, showed an entire nation what leadership means.
This season, the quest continues. But there’s one more thing…
What brought baseball back into my heart was as much about what happened on the field, as to what happened to my own family. For longer than my girls, Sophie (13) and Emily (10) have been alive, the Orioles were a bad team. My wife Debbie and I had stopped watching, stopped paying attention, so what reason would my children have to do any different? They do what you do, they say what you say, they live by your example. But then last season happened, and everything changed. My daughters got to see what baseball means to myself and to Deb. They were able to understand the allure, experience the excitement of going to the park to watch a winner, they asked questions, they tried to understand the game, they paid attention, they bought in. I thank the Orioles for so much more than a winning season. For me it was baseball and life together, as it should be, because for the first time in my life, the loves of my life were all in one place, in perfect harmony. My girls and that game.
Yes baseball is life. And I’m all in… again.
Until next time, thanks for taking the time.