Coming up on 23 in the fall, I’ve taken time to look back on the most important parts of this first quarter-or-so of my life. Friends, family, faith, and school have all come in waves of strength and weakness. Relationships with each ebbed and flowed. However, one constant has stood strong for me as a baseline and foundation for growth and development: baseball.
The last four years—an accumulation of six seasons of coaching—comes on the backend of a nearly-sixteen-year playing career, which was cut short by a lazy recruitment process and a switch to collegiate rugby.
One may correctly assert that, at 22-going-on-23, with a baseball career old enough to drink a beer, I’ve learned a lot from the game. And, in a still-new-ish role, somewhat outside the baselines, my prescribed duty is to pass on these lessons to the next generation of ballplayers.
There is a lot to unpack about the lessons that baseball has to offer, which is not dissimilar to the physical ball itself—the tightly wound string core with the stitched leather cover. All in all, the most important thing to know, a belief I ascribe to and one I implore my players to mimic, is that life itself resides within that ball with a nine-inch circumference and 108 double-stitches.
This all being said, in so few words, it is difficult to transcribe all there is to learn, but in my work, I rely on three major points to help guide my players to an understanding of the principle.
First, greatness does not happen by mistake. One does not become the best on accident. It takes hard work, dedication, and all the other cliché tropes that coaches and motivators push on young athletes. This is true across sports, but, what is different about baseball is that the advantage of a +6-foot-200-lb frame is minimized. Baseball, “The Great Equalizer,” as I call it for my players, is everyone’s game. It as much belongs to past MVPs José Altuve and Mookie Betts (5’6” and 5’9” respectively) as it does Aaron Judge (6’7”). More than any other sport, baseball returns to you in reward proportionally to the work you put in.
Second—perhaps the most important lesson—is the recognition that in baseball and in life, you control the things you can, your “controllables,” and allow the rest to figure itself out. We can never control the play of the other team, the performance of the umpires, or the inclement weather that plagues Northeast Ohio, however, we can control our own attitude, our concentration, and the effort that we put into the game. If we put our best foot forward in each of these categories, good things happen.
Lastly, we acknowledge second chances and how they always have a knack for coming up so quickly. No matter the error that you make, the ball is going to come right back to you again, and you had better make the play the next time. Things have a funny way of working themselves out that way.