Reflecting beyond the day I found out why.

Pitch, Hit, Catch

Published September 19, 2014 in Daily Reflections - 0 Comments

I’m a firm believer that every American experiences several baseball games in their lifetime; starting in the outfield as a kid offers deep appreciation as you age in the bleachers while watching the pros.

Though I never grew up entrenched in or enamored with sports, and watched constantly as my brother played with dirt in the outfield rather than catching the ball, witnessing the great effort put forth by parents to ensure their children have an opportunity to participate has not been something I have truly appreciated until now.

There were countless times my mom would spend thirty minutes dressing me up for hockey as a youngster, making sure my laces were tight on ice skates, only to exhale deeply when my return ten minutes later was buried in excuses of tired aching feet.  Snow skiing in Colorado wasn’t much better, with complaints of numbness in hands and feet, until they handed us off to instructors and let them deal with the coaching.  Then soccer became the latest attempt at team inclusion, frustrated merely by overconfident parents who thought that 4th grade soccer would make or break young budding lives.

Finally, when junior high came around, they didn’t even attempt to make us try out for football.  Dad must have been disappointed in advance, knowing that between the lack of interest and inability to face pain in front of other kids, confidence in his cherished pastime was unlikely to occur.

Tonight, as I sat in the bleachers during a playoff game for the Cardinals, I was just pleased to be around people I enjoyed.  Whether next to me or behind me, there was great happiness in trading laughter, cheering for a common cause, and together experiencing the memorable plays of tonight’s game as our eyes shifted from each man’s individual actions onto witness the larger strategic picture unfold for our favorite team.

Short of catching a foul ball or getting autographs, there were so many firsts at the stadium, which I got to share with my friend next to me.  We shared a messy hot dog, won a t-shirt from the girls with slingshots, got a picture with Fredbird, and sat in the first row behind the dugout across from 3rd base.  But the best first of the whole evening was enjoying the first time (since reclaiming life) that appreciation came full circle from the days in the dirt learning the basics of pitching, hitting and catching.

It seems my dad must have been celebrating by finding such great seats, though I was the one now celebrating those special nights he spent teaching me these basics.  His hope was greater than my ability to catch hard throws without flinching, anticipating hands to sting so long as they grasped the ball.  Though I was not the dream player he likely hoped for in his early son, I do believe his dream of survival came true through my recent recovery.

This was one of those special games, next to the action, yet more energized by the crowd and the people who chose to be closest to you.  The game drew to a close, and fireworks were launched in celebration at the end of the night.  The psychology behind the win is most fascinating, with subconscious acceptance or rejection of one’s support in a team.  When a team wins, fans say, “WE won!” whereas when their team loses, fans say, “THEY lost!”  In every competitive sport there is a winner and a loser, a victor and their foe.  While we may build up childish expectations of patting people on the back when they gave it a good try, the real world is a lot more of a wakeup call than that.

Regardless of one season’s outcome, the lesson from a single event often boils down to its foundational elements.  In baseball: pitch, hit, catch.  The full circle of my appreciation for sports was obtained in much the same way.  The time and energy of my folks was pitched to me as a kid, hit several times through immense failure with negligible outcome, and finally caught in my mind as they sat behind me smiling, 28 years later, thinking that I might have finally caught on.  Pretty neat?

We won.