thanks mom for the quote.
if you’re reading this, then you probably already know that i’m a baseball fanatic, at the very least baseball has a lot of meaning to me. the astros were in town a couple of weeks ago, and i went to another game this past weekend so i’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much i love going to ballgames, and the impact they have had in my life. mi padre had season tickets when we lived in san diego, and the story is told around our house that dad drew a circle on the map around the stadium to look for a house, and his first circle was still in the parking lot at jack murphy stadium. supposedly, the home we ended up living in was on the line of the second, bigger circle. at the very least, we lived close to the stadium when we lived in san diego, and i got to go to a bunch of ballgames growing up. so i’ve been thinking a lot about the wisdom that dad shared with me through the years lately, and how much of that came from our time spent at baseball games together. i guess you could call this part…
life lessons my dad taught me at baseball games:
NEVER LEAVE THE GAME EARLY. we would stay until the last out, because you never know what you are going to miss. it could be 10-1 and dad would still be in his seat, because until that last out was called, there was always a chance of something spectacular happening. such is life. there is always the chance that today is going to be an absolutely spectacular day, even if it doesn’t appear that way. never give up.
THERE IS MORE GOING ON THAN WHAT YOU CAN SEE. the thing about baseball that a lot of people don’t understand, is exactly how much thinking is going on at every moment of the game. sure, baseball doesn’t have the pace that other sports have, but there are so many subtleties that go unnoticed. on every pitch, every player has to make split second decisions on what they are to do if the ball comes their way, and keep in mind literally hundreds of little factors like speed of the runners, spin on the ball, texture of the grass… then there’s the whole decision making process of what pitch to throw, on what count, to what batters… and it should be mentioned that these guys are there for hours before the game actually starts practicing for that night. i think this is downright spiritual. there is so much more going on in this world that what we simply see. it would be foolish of us to assume that a pitcher is just arbitrarily throwing balls across the plate. it would also be foolish of us to assume that God is not involved with every moment of our lives. just because we can’t always see it, or don’t notice it, does not mean that it is not happening, and having a huge impact.
CHEER YOUR TEAM ON, NEVER BOO THE OTHER TEAM. i never understood this as a kid, but the more i look back, the more i realize that everyone mi padre knows, respects him. i think a lot of it has to do with that ‘never boo a person’ mentality that he had. i remember dad being angry at calls, frustrated at players, and distraught over losses, but he kept everything in perspective and never said anything derogatory to another person. if you make fun of someone else, then people around you are going to assume that you do the same about them. not a good way to build trust, but def a good judge of character.
THERE ARE SEVEN WAYS TO GET ON FIRST BASE: hit, walk, hit-by-pitch, fielder’s choice, error, dropped third strike, and catcher’s interference. there is more than one way to do almost anything, and we all have different God-given gifts to travel different paths. the important thing to remember here is, either way, you end up on first base. my life is not going to mirror your life, and truly being aware of that not only encourages acceptance of others, but it allows others the ability to chart their own course.
I BUY, YOU FLY. dad never charged me for a ticket to a ballgame, but it was my responsibility to go to the concession stands to get our food. he would give me the money, and i would go get two hot dogs and two cokes for us to enjoy. this sounds simple, but look at the trust mi padre showed from the eyes of a 7-14 year old. dad trusts me with his money. dad trusts me to get what he ordered. dad trusts me in this crowd of 30,000 people to be okay. dad trusts me get our food. you think i ever spilled a drop of his diet coke, or came back w/o the correct amount of change? not a chance. i wasn’t afraid that he would get mad, i just wanted to keep his trust, and show him that i was the right man for the job.
PARK AND WALK. we would always park on the outer ring of the parking lot and hike our way in to the stadium. i always complained about this because growing up, we’re typically taught by society to go after the best everything. dad never worried about the best parking spot. the people that did go after that ‘best spot’ typically had to spend a lot longer looking for one, and were usually stuck, in traffic longer on the way out. the first will be last, and the last will be first. it’s so easy to go after the things that appear to be ‘the best’, and spend a good deal of time letting that consume you. so much in fact, that you might miss what you were there for in the first place. we never missed an inning of baseball looking for a spot to park.
IT’S OKAY TO VENTURE AROUND THE STADIUM. i have to laugh at this one, because it probably caused mom a fair amount of stress. me and dad typically went to baseball games ourselves, but every season when the astros would come to town, mom and sarah would come too. when it was just me and dad, he would let me wander around the stadium (i knew every spot that sold the best baseball cards in the whole stadium) and chase after foul balls. can you imagine a seven year old sitting still nine innings of baseball? not happening. when mom was at the ballgame though, i always laughed, because dad would say ‘go have fun’, and mom would always say ‘be careful’. i laughed because if she knew how well i knew the ball park she wouldn’t worry about me, but here’s the deal. dad said what a dad needed to say, and mom said what a mom needed to say. i knew my mom loved me enough to be concerned about where i was going, and my dad loved me enough to let me have my adventure. God cares for us more than we’ll ever imagine, but he still wants us to go out and adventure, he never asks us to sit still through nine innings.
YOU DON’T NEED COTTON CANDY. i mentioned earlier that dad would buy me a hot dog and a coke at every ballgame, what i left out of that part was that anything after that was going to be bought with my own money. occasionally dad would buy me an extra coke or some ice cream, but we never spent money on stuff like cotton candy or those little bats, or pennants or anything we didn’t need. i wish i followed this lesson more closely, because it was truly an invaluable life lesson. call it the ‘value of a dollar’ lesson. the reason dad never bought me that stuff was not that he didn’t want me to have it, but he wanted me to earn what i bought. i can not recall dad spending a dime on baseball cards for me. but he did pay me to shine his shoes so i could have spending money. looking at my baseball card collection today you would assume that dad’s shoes are still holding their polish.
TONY GWYNN. one of the best hitters in baseball never really looked the part, but man could he hit. tony gwynn is a shoe in for the hall of fame, and was always the guy that dad told me to look at for examples on how to play the game. the thing about gwynn was that he wasn’t never much of a power hitter, but he always managed to hit the ball. fans are easily drawn to the home run hitter, but a true fan knows that someone who hits for average is much more valuable and consistent. gwynn was patient at the plate, had a discerning eye, and almost never struck out looking. he played for the same team his whole career, and he never argued a call. if he had played for a major market team like the yankees or braves, i have no doubt that he would have been much more popular, but he played every game of his career for the same team, and that earned him the respect of millions of san diegans. see, we love the people that get the most attention, that hit the most home runs, but often times it is the guy that is doing his job well, day after day, that we should look up to. tony gwynn was laughed at because of his size and shape, and i’m sure if he had the look he could have stretched a few more singles to doubles, but that wasn’t what concerned him. what concerned gwynn was putting that bat to the ball at every chance.
ALWAYS RUN TO FIRST. i remember dad used to say this a lot. his point was that anytime in baseball that first base was yours, you should get there as quickly as possible. if you had a hit, you obviously wanted to get there quickly, if you were leading off and you wanting to avoid being picked off, you would get there quickly, but there are sometimes we forget the urgency to get to base. if you get walked, don’t take your time, get to first. maybe the catcher dropped the ball and you can get an extra base out of it, or maybe it shows that you have no regrets and are ready to take advantage of your situation. an even better example was after getting hit by a pitch. before craig biggio shattered the hit by pitch record, there was a guy in san diego, tim flannery, who was always getting plunked. and he o matter how bad it was, when he made his way to first, he was always running. run it off, don’t dwell, don’t try and force sympathy, just take your base. dad had a lot of respect for flannery and his ability to shake things off and get to running the bases. i’ve got a lot of respect for people who don’t try and force me to empathize. you got hit, i feel bad for you, and i can’t imagine how bad that hurts, but you’ll be okay, it’s time to take your base.
FUNDAMENTALS WIN GAMES. this is probably my favorite of all of these, mainly because it is so true. the more errors you commit in a game, the more likely you are to lose that game. in spring training baseball players young and old start with the very basics of the game and practice them over and over. run. hit. catch. throw. when you execute the mundane, menial, necessary tasks, the likeliness of you accomplishing your goal is excellent. relying on grand slams, or next to impossible catches is a dangerous way to play baseball. if you want a great life, do your homework, go to school, continually learn, work hard at your job, and reap the benefits. dad was never one to play the lottery, he never relied on that one in a million shot to make things better. sure we had amazing things happen to us, but i think that was more a reward for his continuous execution of the fundamentals of running a family.
well this turned into something a lot longer than i had originally planned, but it’s all good. i think i’ll continue with a couple more things from my dad and then it’s time to head home. mi padre is full of all kinds of useful wisdom, and not all of it pertains to baseball. last week when i was back in texas with the fam, we were kind of joking about some of the little philosophies that pops has, so we came up with this:
THINGS DAD SAID, WOULD HAVE SAID, OR SHOULD HAVE SAID:
doing the right thing is always the right thing to do.
take every new couple at church out for ice cream.
beautiful is not a way to describe how someone looks, but a way to describe who they are.
you are more than your job title.
don’t let your work define who you are.
be more than nice and friendly, be memorable.
compliment the person on who they are, as well as what they have accomplished.
heart, action, attitude… in that order.
fight to live.
do not confuse being meek with weakness, it takes much more power to hold back when you are capable.
get up early on saturdays and spend the morning helping a widow.
respecting the elderly involves a cup of coffee, and a lot of listening.
and lastly, i want to leave you with a poem that my dad wrote for my sister about three years ago. like my sister says, coming from him these words mean mean a lot.
life is an opportunity, benefit from it
life is beauty, admire it
life is a dream, realize it
life is a challenge, meet it
life is a game, play it
life is a promise, fulfill it
life is sorrow, overcome it
life is luck, make it
life is life– fight for it!
one love, one heart.