FEATURE: Dad, who's on first?
A valued contributor to Australian Baseball Alumni, Castle Hill Knights Baseball Club President Mark Maguire has provided us with a wonderfully reflective piece on what he describes as "six lessons a thirteen year-old baseball player has learned from the game and has inadvertently taught me about life".
Mark Maguire identifies a set of principles that can be applied to team sport as they can be applied to life.
We thank Mark for his contribution to Australian Baseball Alumni. We recommend his offering to our members and supporters.
SIX LESSONS A THIRTEEN YEAR-OLD BASEBALL PLAYER HAS INADVERTENTLY TAUGHT ME ABOUT LIFE
2 June 2016
Every parent loves watching their child contribute to the baseball team they’re a part of. I’m not sure what I enjoy watching most, witnessing a powerful hit, or making a fine play in the field. But something else has helped me enjoy the game of baseball more. Some principles my son has learnt from the game that I’ve been able to apply to my everyday life. Here are six of them I’d like to share with you.
1. “I’ll run hard until I see the out."
It would be nice every time our kids bat they punch the ball safely through the infield, or hit a line drive between the outfielders, or even better, clear the fence and bring home a few base runners for the effort.
Unfortunately, most of the time, that doesn’t happen. What happens is they ground the ball to an infielder and get thrown out at first base.
On a few occasions you’ll see a batter ‘bust a gut’ to get to first base no matter where they’ve hit the ball into the infield. Even when a ball is hit down the throat of an outfielder most batters see the probability of the out and therefore don’t move at full speed to first with the option of second base on their minds.
My son told me, until I see the out I won’t stop running hard. He’ll never presume he is going to be out until the umpire has raised his fist. And the amount of times I’ve seen him barely scrape into first is a credit to this motto.
Run hard until there is a result. Run hard with no assumptions of a bad possibility. Run hard until the end. Run hard and don’t give up. Run hard and presume you will make it. Run hard and let the others make the mistake. Run hard to where you want to go. Run hard and show you mean business. Run hard and don’t lose heart. Run hard because you want it more than them. Run hard because it is intimidating. Run hard because that is the way you play the game of life.
2. “And if they get me out I’ll compliment them in my mind.”
One game I was watching he grounded out three times in a row: all thrown out at first; all giving the umpire an anxious decision to make. He then went out onto the field and talked up his teammates and each innings made some fine defensive plays.
I asked him afterward in the car on the way home how was he able to deal with feeling down after getting out, and then getting the mind back into gear to focus on the fielding. He said, if someone gets him out he simply says in his head, good on you for getting me out.
None of, I’ll get you back next time, or anything like that. Just the attitude of if you get me out you better work hard at it because I’m not going to give you first base for free. And if you get me, well done.
He said this helps him keep his mind free for his next job at hand and so not falling into the trap of allowing one small part of the game to affect his whole game.
We can’t win at everything in life. Not all our gambles on ourselves, or plays we make will come off. Life is too long (and possibly too complicated) to get hung up on our failings, or someone else beating us to the punch. Be free to give out a compliment to someone who may have beaten you—whether you know them or not. I’m not necessarily meaning saying it directly to them—just in your head. If you didn’t give it your all or were merely being a wishful thinker you deserve to be beaten.
But if you’ve done your best and you don’t succeed (Coldplay) and you want to free your mind without dropping your head, compliment who or whatever got you and move on quickly in life. We will fail more than we succeed, that is life, and how we deal with the failures will show what sort of character we want to develop.
3. “I’ll not talk another player down if they make an error.”
Errors on the ballpark happen all the time and all players feel bad they have made them. He told me we don’t need each other highlighting the mistake. We need each other letting us know that it’s ok and we will get the next one.
What does someone need to hear when they’ve made a mistake? Or completely messed up? Often times what is said is not what the other needs to hear but what we feel we need to get off our chest.
Most of the time a person needs to hear nothing if they know they’ve made a mistake. However, it is reassuring to hear some words of encouragement knowing you still have someone on your side right when you feel you wish the earth opened up and swallowed you.
There’ll be some mistakes in life that are fatal and irreversible. Most, like in a game, are not fatal. Therefore, we should take on the role as one another’s biggest supporters instead of one another’s biggest shamers. To shame is easily rolled off the tongue, to support takes consideration on the other’s behalf.
4. “I’ll not respond back to any criticism from my own teammates when I make an error. I’ll only lift my glove to my face and express my response into it.”
There’ll always be kids criticising others for mistakes they make on the field. They’ll show their frustrations in words and gestures that don’t help anyone, let alone the team prepare mentally for the next play.
I noticed one game my son was talking into his glove after he made a mistake on the field. He told me this way he doesn’t show his emotional response by venting his anger back at the kid who criticised him. He said he was close to tears for making the error and then having his nose rubbed in it. He said it was better for himself, the other kid, and the team, for him not to respond.
We live in a world of continual conflict and criticism. There are those that want to make us feel worse for the mistakes we make. I wrote about this in lesson number three and how best to treat others. However, though we may treat others with a sense of dignity it doesn’t always reciprocate back.
The old saying, ‘eagles don’t fly with turkeys’ comes to mind. Don’t stoop to their level. It is immature and shows we are no better than the accuser if we let our emotions run away and we belittle back. Courage and self control are the key ingredients here.
5. “While fielding, before the batter has had a ball thrown at him, I’ll place my mind in the zone and consider all options what I’ll do when the ball is hit into play. I want the ball to come to me.”
There can be times in a baseball game when nothing is happening—absolutely nothing. Meaning, the ball hasn’t been hit or thrown in your direction for what seems like an eternity. It’s easy to let the mind wander and when something does happen we are then a good half a second behind where we should be. And in baseball that is a lot.
To expect the unexpected, well, that’s just a nice phrase a coach uses when he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
Most of us know what it feels like to be ‘in the zone’, or lost in the moment, in a particular thing. Whether that involves an all important work matter, trying to attain another level in a video game, or wooing the one we love.
But I must confess, to have to prepare your focus over and over again when more than likely nothing is going to happen, well, this is beyond my area of skill, and I have to place it in the ‘gift’ category of human capabilities.
Come to think of it, my son’s focus may have been developed when he was a toddler when his mum made him sit still on the lounge for long periods of time while she read to him or when she made him not move from the dinner table until every last morsel was consumed.
So learn to be still, be quiet, breath deeply, and if you love something your options and opportunities will abound your way.
6. “I’ll always train and play like I never know who’s watching.”
This was taught to my son when he was eight by his first real coach from the Castle Hill Baseball Club, Mr Peter Street. And to this day my son has attempted to embody this message, and therefore taught me to always give my best especially when no one is watching. I fall short quite often.
It is easy to drive the speed limit when you know a police car is near by. It is easy to say yes to the boss when you know you’ll be rewarded with a pay packet, or a lack thereof if you don’t comply. We are different people when we want something or want to impress and we know someone is watching.
And when no one is watching… this is a true test of our character, a test of our integrity. This is the sort of person we desire to be like, who doesn’t take short cuts, who sets high standards for him or herself, and wants to be an example for others to follow. This is an important characteristic of being a good leader.
You may think this thirteen-year-old kid is too good to be true. And has one too many wise thoughts for our liking. Truth be known, he is just like many other thirteen-year-olds who enjoy their sport and whose parents wish he applied his passion for baseball to other areas like homework and keeping his room clean.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this read and gained something from it. We can observe and learn something from everyone we meet. We can learn from watching baseball (any sport in fact), from playing a sport, and we can learn especially from watching those whom play their sport with passion and want to go somewhere with it.