America’s pasttime: The nuances that lead to life stories

Baseball is often called America’s pastime. It’s a colorful game that has lost some of its luster and appeal in the era of short attention spans and fast-paced living. Football and basketball are more exciting, some say. Baseball is too slow, its critics believe.

Yet baseball stands out, filled with nuance and character the other sports can’t possibly possess.

Consider…

  • While football fields, basketball courts and tennis courts are identical in their sizes, each baseball field has its own dimensions. Yes, there are some basic similarities on each field, but the outfield walls are higher in some parks, deeper (or more shallow in others) and no two parks have similar foul territories.
  • Most sports have a head coach. They dress in normal street clothes, depending on the nature of the coach or the sport. Not in baseball. The head “coach” is called a manager and he wears a numbered uniform just like the players.
  • Other sports have a time limit and most games are divided into quarters or halves. Not baseball, which does not play with a clock or time limitation and generally plays nine innings.
  • Unlike most sports, baseball gives each team an equal amount of opportunities to score. Each team has 27 outs. In other sports, it’s a game of takeaway, keep away or giveaway.

And in keeping with its unique, almost exclusive, status as a sport, baseball includes a nearly rare and inimitable set of life lessons. Many baseball coaches use the game as a means to teach kids lessons that will carry them beyond the foul lines.

And, so, many of the baseball greats continue to teach years and even decades after they have left the profession, leaving their indelible mark on the game. Here are a few of those.

“Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” ~Lou Gehrig

Perhaps one of the most recognizable quotes from one of the most recognizable speeches in baseball history, Gehrig uttered this statement as he was being honored on the day of his retirement from the New York Yankees. Gehrig had enjoyed a long and storied career, but it was cut short by his diagnosis of ALS, or what has become known as Lou Gehrig disease. He died of the disease at 37.

Gehrig realized that there was much more to live for than just baseball, that there were more important things in life. He knew he had been blessed. He knew he had overcome many odds. He knew that the people around him were more than just friends. He knew he was favored.

It’s sort of like the old adage: “I complained that I had no shoes until I looked at the person next to me who had no feet.”

Gehrig could easily have taken the “Woe is me” road and you couldn’t blame him. But he rather set an example of how to live life to the fullest.

How ’bout you? Got many blessings that you haven’t counted just yet?

“Remember these two things: Play hard and have fun.” — Tony Gwynn

One of the things many fans will remember about Tony Gwynn is that bright smile that he wore in almost every situation. And, his quote above is true in baseball and in life.

Ecclesiastes says there is a time for everything, and some things you can do at the same time.  It was Mark Twain who said if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. Too many of us struggle with our work and never enjoy a moment of it. Why? Remember, “If you are doing anything other than what God created you to do, you are cheating yourself and settling for second best.”

Now, that’s not a license to go out and quit what you’re doing, but it is an endorsement to find out what makes you come alive, and go do that!

My life goals are quite simple. Make a difference and have the time of my life doing it. Yes, you can work hard and smile at the same time. Yes, you can leave it all on the field and have fun while you do it. Yes, it’s okay to play hard and have fun. At the same time!

 “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” ~Yogi Berra

Sounds a bit trite, but a lot of baseball games have been won in the bottom of the ninth inning. It’s why baseball players wear rally caps. Have you ever seen a football player wearing an inside-out cap? Or does a football player wear the same pair of socks for a week because they don’t want to jinx the winning streak? Of course not. Every manager worth his salt has told his team in that situation “Let’s just put some hits together and see what happens.”

The famed basketball coach Jimmy Valvano, in perhaps the greatest speech ever at the ESPY awards, closed his emotional speech by saying “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up!” Of course, he was battling cancer at the time and that was his passionate encouragement to those listening.

The same is true in your situation. It ain’t over ’til it’s over!

Your marriage, your business, your personal relationship, your job. It ain’t over ‘til it’s over. You may be at the positive tipping point, and all it takes is one more step, one more push, one more sale, one more effort, one more hit.

It ain’t over ’til it’s over! So don’t give up, don’t ever give up!

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