We’re a couple of weeks into the 2016 major league baseball season, a sure sign spring has arrived and the “boys of summer” are here to stay for the next six months.
I do not follow baseball as closely as I once did as a kid, although I admit to a spike in the interest level as my hometown team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, is doing well again.
Baseball elicits fond memories in my life.
From the time I was eight years old to the time I was sixteen, baseball occupied my thoughts as well as my spring and summer days.
When I was not playing organized baseball, I was playing pickup games with the guys in my neighborhood.
When the league games and pickup games were not on the schedule, I played imaginary games as I bounced a rubber ball off a wall for hours on a daily basis.
Not only did I play the imaginary games, I was also the color commentator and play-by-play announcer all rolled up into one.
It was as close to round-the-clock baseball one could get at the time.
In short, I loved it!
There were not-so-good memories, good memories, and GREAT memories!
In my first ever “at bat” as an eight-year old and member of the Yankees, I regretfully threw my bat in anger nearly hitting the coach, as my first trip to the plate resulted in a strike out.
We won the game and I was happy. Happy, that is, until I got home and had to face the music as my Mom read me the riot act for my embarrassing behavior.
There was the time I hit a grand slam in an all-star game – a good memory!
Lastly, 1974 was a very good year as the Colt League team (ages 15-16) on which I played won the regional championship – great memory!
During those years friendships were forged, memories were cemented, and the only cares in the world centered on baseball.
I was into all aspects of the game.
I loved playing first base in addition to defending several of the outfield positions.
I was Roberto Clemente making all kinds of circus catches and throwing runners out from anywhere on the field.
I ran the bases with a fair amount of speed and did so strategically, as only a baseball purist would have it.
My favorite part of a game was stepping into the on-deck circle, preparing myself to come to bat as the guy in front of me was at the plate.
I used the time to imagine how my turn at bat would play out.
Those close to me at the time can attest to the fact I was a very good hitter.
The greater the pressure the more I produced.
As with most ballplayers, a batting slump is part of the game.
Defined, a batting slump is a period of time (hopefully short lived!) when no matter what you do nor how hard you try, getting a hit seems to elude you as a batter.
As recounted in an ESPN article, a batting slump can be scary yet it happens to the best of them!
- When you are in a slump, doubts creep in.
- You begin to think you will never get another hit.
- You second guess every pitch, swinging at pitches way outside the strike zone and to make matters worse, not swinging at pitches over the heart of the plate.
- You break from your normal rhythm while overextending and underachieving.
Every trip to the plate is an excruciating reminder of your failed attempts of the last zillion times at bat.
What is the solution and what does it have to do with you and me?
Every good baseball coach knows one thing – slumps will end.
It is a matter of overcoming and persistence.
It usually has much to do with how we think about our dry spells at the plate than it does with anything else.
As Proverbs tells us, “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.”
In retrospect, I can recall some batting slumps I endured. Many times fear kicked in and I simply let the bat rest on my shoulder making no effort whatsoever to swing the darn thing.
I eventually emerged from my desert times at the plate by heeding my coach’s advice to “swing the bat!”
- Swinging the bat transitioned me from a passive participant to an active participant.
- Swinging the bat turned the odds in my favor; each time I did so helped me get closer to a positive result and at the same time allowed me to move away from a negative outcome.
- Swinging the bat allowed me to overcome the fear of failing and empowered me to bring my game back into equilibrium.
When I lost my employment in 2014, it was hard to “swing the bat.”
Many emotions surfaced, fears kicked in, and I wanted to give up.
You too may be facing an uncertainty or a plethora of them where it is difficult to imagine swinging the bat, let alone doing so.
I can relate.
I do understand.
Most of my adult life I have been gainfully employed despite several seasons where I weathered the storm of quitting a job, having a position eliminated resulting in a job loss, being reorganized to a completely different department (with a minimal skill set), and then losing employment at my last employer.
I have been grateful for both the seasons of employment and the lessons learned during some difficult times.
I have been with my current employer for one year and the experience has been mostly positive and encouraging. The role has been interesting and the people I work with very supportive.
Lately, I have been hearing the whispers of the Coach in my ear – “It’s time to swing the bat!”
However, I know there is a path I wish to pursue for the long haul. Every time I sit down and write a post it is a step in the direction I want to travel.
It is my attempt at swinging the bat.
I recently came across a card my youngest daughter and her husband sent me a few days after I lost my job.
It brought me to tears – again.
The message it conveyed echoed the same theme I have addressed in this post.
In effect it said to me, “Dad, swing the bat!”
My desire is to write professionally.
There, I said it.
At the end of this month I will be attending a writing conference using it as a springboard toward the greater goal.
It is a major step for me in getting the bat off my shoulder and swinging it.
Given the credentials of the person conducting the conference, I am simply ecstatic to get in this game and take my chances at the plate!
Your story most likely is different. That’s OK.
You are you and I am me.
You might be facing some challenges.
Life may be throwing some curves at you while you stand at the plate with the bat on your shoulder.
My encouragement to you has already been voiced.
Swing the bat!
It is the only way you will connect and have the opportunity to run the bases like the “boys of summer”.
It is time for you to get in the game.
Photos Courtesy of Creative Commons and Bruce R. Cross