Sometimes the Major League Baseball season seems too long–especially if you’ve been a lifelong Pittsburgh Pirates fan.
And sometimes the imbalance of team payrolls can make it seem like an unfair game.
But every spring there’s hope, and baseball is still one of the best ways to spend a summer, even if your team isn’t playing in the fall.
From the time I watched my first game on TV with Pap, I was sure stadiums were cathedrals.
Pap wasn’t an armchair coach. During most of the game, he was content to watch and eat his Cheez-Its. But occasionally, after a strike, he’d say, “See, he took his eye off the ball.”
He was my hero, and anything he said or liked was fine by me–which is probably how I also became well versed in boxing and “Sanford and Son” before I was 10.
I still remember the diner booth I was sitting in when I told him, during a gourmet meal of chicken nuggets and fries, that we were going to see every baseball stadium in America.
He died a year later, consumed by stomach cancer, but not before instilling in me a love for the columns of Mike Royko about his beloved Chicago Cubs or making me promise I’d see every ballpark.
I’ve not yet been to every ballpark, but I’ve been to many: Cinergy Field, Comerica Park, Fenway Park, Nationals Park, PNC Park (and before that, Three Rivers Stadium), Rogers Centre, Shea Stadium, Veterans Stadium and Wrigley Field.
And this year I’ll finally make it to Camden Yards.
I’m also making rounds at several amateur fields in York County this year.
My 6-year-old son, Ty, and 4-year-old son, Dimitri, played t-ball this spring, and my daughter is in the middle of her 10U softball season.
Cienna, who will be 10 this fall, was about 4 years old the last time she picked up a bat and ball, so I wasn’t sure how she’d fare this year.
We quickly learned she’s better on defense.
Though she’s hit plenty of balls during practice, she has struggled during games. She’s quite good at seeing the bad pitches, but she fails to connect with the strikes. In fact, during the first few games, she wouldn’t swing at all.
“I’m afraid of missing them,” she said.
I explained she was getting called out either way and shared the words of baseball legend Babe Ruth: “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.”
Sure, Ruth had 2, 873 hits, and Cienna’s just trying to get one, but the principle applies just the same.
As with anything in life, you can go to the plate and not swing, avoiding the disappointment of trying and failing. But you fail nonetheless.
Or you can go to the plate and take your best shot. You might fail, but at least you tried.
There’s still a lot of season left, and I’m sure before it’s over Cienna will get a hit.
Either way, it’s been a great learning experience for a kid who is used to doing well in everything. Struggling with something has helped her mature and learn how to press on in difficult situations.
It’s easy to have confidence when you’re good at something, but it takes a lot more courage to try when you doubt yourself.
When this season ends, I know Cienna’s tenacity will have won. Spend one minute in my home and you’ll know nothing motivates her more than a challenge.
Watching her swing and be off by a millisecond, I hear Pap’s words and wonder if she took her eye off the ball.
But I know she’ll get that hit.
I just wish he was here to see it.Read More