Saturday, August 9, 2014

2014 Baseball



...and as quick as it started, it is over.
The baseball season has come and gone once again leaving us with this sort of vague emptiness...
Sure there will be some "fall ball" stuff going on and some camps here and there and we can always go to the batting cage and practice, but there is just something about the life that takes over the field during the season... The music, not to loud but just loud enough, coming from the speakers between games and the cheering and crack of the bat and slapping of leather during the games and the always friendly fans milling about...

But even in the off season the field has a quiet energy.
Being there alone reminds me of when I was younger, I used to go to church an hour early just because I liked the meaningful emptiness.

My own youth baseball experience was not a good one. (This was in a place far away from Ely). I think it ended after "T"-ball probably in about 1st grade, (although, if I remember right, we didn't use a "T", we used something called the Harman Killebrew Power-stride)
I was the kid they put in right field, (when they had to put me in), and hoped the ball would never go that direction. I was a daydreamer. Still am, I guess... The coach himself came up with a exceptionally clever nickname, he started calling me "pockets"... He was a clever, funny guy...I wish I could meet him today and have a talk with him about that.
...so I never really thought about baseball again, (or any other sport for that matter), till much later in life...


I lived in Ely for 20 years with only a passing notion that there was a big baseball field, behind the little league field across from the high school.
The older boys lost interest in baseball after a few years of Little League. I fear it might have been because of my attitude toward baseball at the time, (I consider myself to be merely an adequate father even at my best). So we did some other things, basketball, a little hockey, skateboarding, some figure skating and cross country skiing and even a horse...


A few years later, our youngest son took an interest in baseball.

The above picture, I believe, was in 2005, the American Legion had the regional tournament in Ely. My son, Patrick, (wearing the helmet), was still playing little league. It was our first real experience in the big field. That year they let the younger kids "shag" balls, (meaning go and get them), not only out of the field, (fouls and such things), but balls that were in the field but out of play, behind he plate or down the foul lines. Of course, for this, they were required to wear helmets.
Patrick was just happy to be at the field.
And because I didn't realize that this was a place I could just leave a kid that age and he would be fine, I would stay and watch the games.

I started to observe things...
An odd game, baseball. One of the few games that doesn't involve a competition where two teams try to move some sort of object from one end of a given area to the other.
A game with no time limit... (seriously, in theory a game could go on forever).
A game where you can't run out the clock if you are ahead, you have to give the other team a chance.
A game where if you can succeed in the key effort, batting, 3 out of ten times, you were doing pretty darn good.
A game that parallels life in a profound way.
Like life, A game largely consisting of a tense boredom punctuated by intense moments of heroism or failure... you have to watch the whole game or you will miss the important stuff.
A game that teaches patience, every failure brings you closer to the next success.. but there are no guarantees... You learn to work hard in practice and try to be prepared for the moments where opportunity presents itself...
A game that teaches that anger and self pity is destructive and contagious.
A game that teaches to play well, you need to look good. (I have often heard one of our coaches tell someone in the middle of the game to tuck in their shirt).
...on the other hand you are almost certainly going to have to get dirty.

I remember our first trip to the State Tournament as a high school team, and even before that, marveling as I watched the coaches on the sidelines in a nail-biting game. How are they staying so calm? I seriously thought I might be having a heart attack watching my son out there in a big game.
But I have learned.
Even at my age when I think there is nothing more to learn.
I am still crushed when I see a kid make a terrible mistake, (even on the other team), and I am still elated when I see an amazing play or a perfectly hit ball, (even by the other team), but I know now that it is just one play and it is over and now we will move on to the next.
It is a game where you have to take what comes.
Sometimes it's not fair. Sometimes there is a bad call by an ump.
Sometimes things go your way and sometimes not so much.

But you play the best you can day after day and you learn to take responsibility for yourself and your actions and your attitudes...

There are two teams playing.
As they say in baseball, one of three things can happen: you can win, you can loose, or it can rain.
You play to win. Every time.
But you might loose.
In the end, as corny as it sound, it really does matter how you play the game.
And how you loose is as important as how you win.

And those of us in the stands, even at our comparatively advanced age, without realizing it, are learning a great deal about life from watching these young men on the field.

Ely, Baseball, Eric Sherman, https://www.facebook.com/eric.sherman.39
Photo by Eric Sherman, 
Patrick Huisman, 2014 baseball season, Ely Minnesota