Seasons bring with them a specific set of sights, smells, and sounds that are as rich as the memories they contain. For me, Springtime always rekindles a fond recollection of Hugh MacRae Park in my hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina.
The Park, as we called it, holds a certain, special place in my heart because it is where I learned to play the game of baseball.
Who knows what triggers the thoughts, but occasionally, if I pause for long enough and quiet the noisy world around me, I’m given a special opportunity: the chance to relive some of the moments that so clearly defined my childhood (despite the fact that they are now more than twenty years removed).
I can still see myself, in uniform, full of life and a love for the game, step into the batter’s box. I methodically kick and grind my foot to give myself a firm grip on the dirt beneath my feet. I go through my routine and lightly touch the outside of home plate with my bat and then, I slowly raise my eyes toward the pitcher.
Whenever I stepped over the chalk, the pressures of school and good grades, friendships and fitting in, would fade away. In those moments, everything else seemed to stand still.
Now I never achieved that boyhood dream of playing Big League baseball, but as I think back, there are a few things that the game of baseball taught me which I simply cannot neglect. The similarities are too poignant for me to pass them up as nostalgia.
Wether I knew it or not, my years at The Park were preparing me for life.
So here are a few life lessons we can learn from the game of baseball.
1. Hit Your Pitch
A great pitcher maintains the upper hand by trying to fool his opponent, catch them off-guard. Too often, an overanxious batter swings at bad pitches and in turn, become his own demise.
Life is no different: it tries to catch us off-guard and overanxious, leaving us rattled. We swing at every opportunity hoping not to fail.
Like a great hitter, we must learn the art of being selective—knowing when to swing, when our opportunity has arrived.
When your pitch comes, (and it will) swing with reckless abandon.
2. Wait for the Change
The change-up is a deadly pitch. Slightly off speed, it leaves the batter confused and powerless.
We don’t like change. Too often, we either avoid it altogether or we try to attack it with aggression. We should do neither. Rather, we should be ready to adapt to the change.
At the root of hitting a change-up is the discipline of patience. True patience reflects an inner confidence—we let the change come to us and then we respond.
Don’t freak out, don’t panic. Be patient and wait for the change.
3. Your Teammates Depend on You
Our society has become incredibly individualistic. We focus on my stats, my success, my, my, my. Baseball is the antithesis to that mentality, it is a team sport. But curiously, the team is made up of individual players, individuals that depend on each other for the greater benefit of the team.
Just as a pitcher’s effectiveness is limited by the defense that is behind him, the defense depends on the effectiveness of the pitcher. You should never devalue the importance of each and every player.
If you leave everything on the field. They’ll do the same in return.
4. Great Coaches Make Their Players Great
Great coaches have the uncanny ability to get the very best out of their players. Although their abilities may vary, players always respond to great coaches.
In your life, there are those you coach, those you lead. It may be your employees or perhaps you lead your peers, but the most important leadership role, the greatest coaching you could ever do, is in your family.
It is your responsibility as their coach to demand their very best. And you can do that because you give them your very best. You encourage, you inspire, you support, you challenge, you serve, you lead.
It should always be your goal to make those around you better.
5. A Game of Inches
They say that baseball is a game of inches: balls are just an inch from being a strike, base hits land within an inch of a defender’s outstretched glove, foul balls that pass within an inch of the inside of the foul pole become home runs.
In a sport where we cherish the fractional nuances, why do we live a life consumed with the exponential? In a world that demands everything big–bigger houses, better jobs–baseball reminds me to focus small.
It’s the intangible, the fractional where true accomplishments are made. Success is rarely achieved by a slew of home runs, but rather a barrage of base hits.
Big things are always made up of many small things–life is a game of inches.
Friends, in your own game of life, I hope that you take these things to heart. For me, they’ve made all the difference. If you learn to be patient, leave everything on the field, make those around you better, and focus on the small things, you’ll be wildly successful in any endeavor.
But I think legendary announcer and baseball great, Bob Uecker, said it best when he said:
“Where would I be without baseball?”
I feel the same way.
I’m sure I missed something. What has baseball taught you about life?
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Hey, thanks for stopping by. While you're here, feel free to check out my site. There are more than 250 uplifting, inspiring articles for you to read on my blog. You can also learn more about my book, Redefine Rich, or check out my speaking page for live video from one of my talks. I appreciate you being here. Richly, Matt