Nov. 17, 2016
One Extra Flare
I feel like baseball is the closest sport to real life. Football is only once a week and is just too intense for people to handle on a regular basis, so it is more like Church. Basketball is a few times a week, it’s really sweaty and seems geared for young people with its baggy shorts and fast pace, so it’s like partying or “going out”. Hockey is...well, it's cold, no one understands it, and has been around a lot longer than you would think, so it’s more like your mother-in-law. (Just kidding Pam, I love you!)
Baseball however, is everyday. It is a real grind to make it through spring training, 162 games and if you’re lucky, the playoffs. Not every moment is “exciting”, but you can talk about it with the people around you. People come from all walks of life. There is a huge range of ability, fitness levels, experience, backgrounds. That is why I see so much of life in baseball, especially here in America.
And what do we crave in the US? Success.
In the movie Bull Durham, the life long minor league catcher, Crash Davis describes success.
“Know what the difference between hitting .250 and .300 is? It's 25 hits. 25 hits in 500 at bats is 50 points, okay? There's 6 months in a season, that's about 25 weeks. That means if you get just one extra flare a week - just one - a gorp... you get a ground ball, you get a ground ball with eyes... you get a dying quail, just one more dying quail a week... and you're in Yankee Stadium.”
The difference between good and great is not much. In Crash’s example, it is one hit a week. That of course assumes that you are consistent about it. If you get that extra hit once, you’ll end up as a .252 batter, nothing special. You see, the difference between the greats and the goods is the ability to do the little extra on a regular basis.
Another reason baseball is so much like real life is that there is failure. Oh, so much failure. The best players on the planet get a hit in about 30% of their at-bats. That means nearly 70% of the time, they fail. It is a rare feat when someone hits .400. That means they still fail 60% of the time. That’s not even a 50-50 split!
My life is full of failure. I am a parent of 5 kids with wife that is due with our sixth any day now. I fail all the time. Unlike in baseball, where a well dressed man with a mask calls out each failure (Strike Three!), I have six people in my home that call me out.
“Daddy, you didn’t sign my homework!”
“Daddy, you put the wrong jelly on my sandwich!”
“Daddy, you were supposed to pick me up earlier!”
“Daddy, I hate chicken nuggets!”
“Daddy, you turned on the wrong episode of My Little Pony!”
“Sweetheart, you left the clothes in the washer too long, now I have to wash them again.”
Those are some examples of my “YOU’RE OUT!” calls from my loved ones. I get them a lot. It is okay though. I’ve learned a lot from my little umpires. I’ve learned that yeah it sucks when I totally mess up their little lives by accidentally packing a cookie with gluten AND dairy in their lunchbox, but it's also pretty great when I get a hit.
“Daddy, I love you.”
That’s the equivalent of the second base umpire rotating his hand and finger signaling a home run.
Do I get to hear that everyday? (And I don’t mean in the rote way they say it when they feel like they have to) No, but I’ve learned ways to hear it more.
I’ve learned to give just a little bit extra on a consistent basis. I’ve learned that taking my girls out of school to eat lunch together is a home run. Taking my boys to the park to throw the ball back and forth is a home run. Cuddling on the couch watching Pinkie Pie and Twilight Sparkle save the day is a home run. Cleaning up the living room after the kids thrash it and fall asleep is a home run.
I’m by no means a hall of famer in parenting or being a husband, but I’m improving. Heck, even as I try to write this, I strike out with my kids in handling their interruptions. I’m in the big leagues though, and I am trying to reach the level of All-Star, but it's a struggle. I’ve stopped comparing myself with those I view as perennial All-stars and sure fire hall of famers. I know that parenting and relationships are easier for some, but they still have to work. We all do.
If I had a standard I would like to achieve, it would be to be like Cal Ripken, Jr. He wasn’t the greatest baseball player of all time. He didn’t have the most home runs or hits. He was very good, don’t get me wrong, but his greatest asset was that he played every day. In fact, he holds the record for most consecutive games played, 2,632 games in a row. That’s the kind of dad and husband I want to be. I want to be the one that shows up every day.
Ripken gave some amazing advice. “Get in the game. Do the best you can. Try to make a contribution. Learn from today. Apply it to tomorrow.” I don’t think there is any greater advice for life. That is what it all boils down to in the end. As a husband, father, whatever, if we can do this, we’ll have success. I’ll leave you with one more gem from “The Iron Man” of baseball.
“A lot of people think I had such a rosy career, but I wanted to identify that one of the things that helps you have a long career is learning how to deal with adversity, how to get past it. Once I learned how to get through that, others things didn't seem so hard.” - Cal Ripken, Jr.