So the craziest thing happened. Since early yesterday I had thought about writing a blog for this morning, relating life to the Walk-Off Win in baseball. I had just finished watching weekend highlights of the Cleveland Indians doing it to the Seattle Mariners three times in one weekend. Holy cow. How often does that happen?
I enjoy searching for the parts of life which catch your eye, or make you feel good, and then try to find a way to wrap words around them. If the moment has power and significance, then the words about those moments might have the same. Or at least I hope. See once and a while I actually think this through before I sit down in front of the blank computer screen and bleed. I had half of this blog written in my head, then life stepped in to imitate art.
Orioles outfielder Nate McClouth went deep.
Bottom of the 10th inning at Camden Yards, the Baltimore Orioles, mired in a six-game losing streak broke out of it in dramatic fashion, as McClouth mashed a pitch from one of the Yankee relievers into the bleachers in a 2-2 game. Game over. The Orioles win 3-2, on a Walk-Off homerun.
Obviously McClouth knew what I was thinking and was about to write – so he obliged by leading off the bottom half of the 10th with an exclamation point to my blog. I appreciate that Nate, thanks. Life imitating art…see it’s so easy. It’s too good to ignore when the baseball team you have loved for more than 40 years caps off your night with a little magic.
So with that, the blog writes itself. The game which mirrors life quite like no other, provides proof that when you fight to the end, good things can happen. When you play every out, every inning and you are dead even, or even a little behind, if you reach back for something extra, don’t give up and don’t give in, you can make something extraordinary happen. Simply because you believed in yourself and your ability to shine.
How many of us would love to live one of sports greatest moments? To lead your team to victory in the most dramatic fashion and bring thousands of people to their feet, cheering in celebration and admiration for a feat most of us can only dream about. Point is, you can do it to. But will you? Do you? Can you walk-off?
It’s simply the act of doing something extra, something out of the ordinary, the extra in front of ordinary that makes you extraordinary. An extra act of kindness, going the extra mile for someone else, or figuring out what your true talent is in life and then using your passion to fuel your talent and your purpose to touch other people. As many people as possible.
It’s all possible if you are so aligned. Being that special person who other people love and adore because you give back, lift up someone else, make them feel important and find significance in their success. Sometimes that significance can be swinging a bat as a Major League Baseball player and launching a pitch over the fence to end a game and bring not only the fans in the park, but an entire city to its collective feet. Just like Nate McClouth. He is making the most of his G-d given talent to play a game he loves as one of the best in the world. What is your game? And who can you help to lift up, bring to their feet and bring happiness and joy into their lives.
A few years ago I witnessed dramatic evidence of this in my life. There was this man I adored because he made me feel good every time I saw him. And I was far from the only one. Hundreds, if not thousands of people he met in his life felt the same way about him. He was Jerry Gross, the man who eventually became my father-in-law. Three-and-a-half years ago, I stood by his bedside and watched him pass on, one of the saddest days of my life. Taken down by esophageal cancer, Jerry fought hard to the end. He endured all the long drawn-out chemotherapy treatments and then an eight-hour surgery to remove a chunk of his esophagus, and somehow he pulled through it all. But with two days to go before he was to be released from the hospital, he got an infection that his ravaged immune system couldn’t fight off. He was taken back to ICU, and slowly, over the course of excruciatingly emotional days, we watched him die.
But Jerry had played every inning of his life to win. I know because I was lucky enough to have the honor to play on his team, to be part of his life. He played the game, fought through wins and losses, made errors, got big hits, whiffed at the plate, and hit a grand slam or two. And then he got his chance, in the bottom of the ninth, with the game tied, facing a feared closer called Cancer…and from the story I just told you, you might think he went down swinging. You might think he struck out.
Not even close. Because a few days after his death I stood at the podium in a local funeral home and I watched as the people poured in, as walls were pushed open to make more room, chairs were added and eventually there was not a seat to be had in the home. It was standing room only.
Those people, those fans, had come to honor the man who made them feel good about themselves, who gave back to them and who, at that moment, brought an entire community to its feet, literally. Hundreds had come to say goodbye. In his last at-bat, Jerry Gross had won the game.
It was the greatest Walk-Off I’ve ever seen.
I miss you Dad.
Until next time, thanks for taking the time.