Extra Innings

I know my coauthor said yesterday’s title would be the last baseball reference for awhile, but I couldn’t help continue the baseball theme with opening day happening for the majority of MLB teams today. So I thought I’d take us into extra innings with some dad thoughts about things we can learn and apply to our lives from the national pastime.

#1) Tradition has value: The saying goes that the only constant is change. That hasn’t been true in the oldest professional sport in America. Some argue that tradition simply gets in the way of progress. In fact, I’ve used that exact phrase with my Navy colleagues when “discussing” the finer attributes of service rivalries. So please don’t pass this on to any of them, but I find great value in the consistency and foundational aspects of traditions. Maybe, it’s because I’ve been around too many people for too long who push change primarily for change sake (or for their own sake). Change has to be balanced by tradition—those things we can always come back to in the storm of chaos or look forward to as traditional dates on the calendar to help us connect with the people and things we love. Our trio’s journey this past weekend has become a tradition the value of which was described a few days ago. Think about your traditions and how you can maintain them OR create new traditions that bring you together with those you love or things you enjoy.

#2) Performance over the long haul matters more than the flash in the pan: Baseball’s season is 162 games long and every game matters. If you don’t believe that, talk to the ’69 Cubs. The baseball season is a grind. Each player has to be ready to perform at their best over the course of the entire season. Stars and other starters get into a groove through routine play, but they can hit a mental block when those cold streaks come—and they always do. Bench players or relief pitchers never know when they’ll be asked to enter the game, but must always be ready to perform. There are no short cuts. Baseball lore is filled with “athletes” who tried to cheat the game. Those players are forever tainted with a negative tinge and despite their prolific accomplishments will always be put in a separate category carrying the dreaded asterisk. Their “feats” simply don’t matter in the context of the game and those who worked so hard to play it at all levels.

#3) It’s okay to swing and miss: Even the best hitters over the history of the game have only hit about four out of ten times at bat. They fail at least 50% more than they succeed. Yet every new at bat brings a fresh chance to succeed. Think about names like Aaron, Ruth, Fisk, Morgan, or current players like Harper, Bryant, Posey and Cespedes. None of them go to the plate thinking about their last strikeout, ground out or flyout. They all walk up knowing they have a brand new chance to get a hit, drive in the run or crush one over the left field wall. We all make mistakes, lots of them, but they don’t define us…our hits do. Think about it. Batting averages are listed based on the number of hits you get, not the number of outs you make. Remember this next time you’re at the plate…whatever shape your plate takes.

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