by Joe Mazza
(re-blogged from joemazza.com)
Summertime means baseball to me. It always has. And now that the MLB playoff push is beginning, my son’s Little League season over, and I'm on my second round of my favorite baseball movies, I’ve been thinking about one of the best life lessons I ever learned. The lesson came through baseball, but from my dad.
I wasn’t the greatest athlete on my Little League team (there’s a reason I’m a guitar player) but I loved the game and knew a lot about it, even as a kid. I watched a lot of baseball and picked up on all of the small things that make the game great.
I was pitching, which is to say throwing the ball slowly right down the middle. We were hanging on to a lead and the other team’s best batter was up. He was a great hitter but not that great of a runner. And there was a much weaker hitter behind him. I surveyed the situation, called time and summed my coach (my dad) from the dugout. I told him I’d like to walk the guy and take my chances with the next batter. A perfect strategy by all accounts. One so obvious that a major league manager wouldn’t even have to think twice about it.
My dad said no.
I protested and explained my strategy reasoning again, in case he was too slow to pick up on it.
Dad said no again. “This isn’t the major leagues. You need to pitch to him. Just throw strikes and see if you can get him out.”
I nodded my head reluctantly and said I would. After briefly thinking about unintentionally intentionally walking him, I stared down to my catcher’s target and threw my best pitch.
It hasn’t landed yet. Seriously, he crushed the ball. Knocked a bird’s nest out of a tree, broke a car windshield, and separated the cover from the core. Ok, those last three only happened in my mind. But he jacked the ball.
I felt like Charlie Brown in every game he’s ever played. In my head, I even said his classic line, “I could have been the hero, but instead, I’m the goat.” And I also felt a lot of anger toward my dad. I had been proved right and because he wouldn’t listen, we were now losing, and I was the reason.
Whenever my dad and I are together I find a way to work this story into conversation and claim extreme childhood pain and suffering. But I learned a great lesson that day.
You can’t always go around your problems. Often you have to pitch to them and see what happens. Sometimes they jack you for a home run. Sometimes you get them out. But you have to face them.Every time I watch a baseball game and an intentional walk situation comes up, I think about that pitch and what I learned. I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t realize the lesson until much later. But whenever I’m facing a problem and the temptation to find some way around it comes up, I hear my dad saying, “You need to pitch to him.”
What hard lessons have you learned? Let me know in the comments below.