Monday, April 25, 2011

Lessons from Baseball #1

Anyone who knows me well these days will know that I am not much of a sports fan. I’ll watch a golf tournament on TV occasionally; and once or twice during the regular season, I’ll watch a college football or basketball game. If a team I have some association with is playing in a bowl game, a championship tournament, or some other kind of post-season game, I might even watch most of a game. By and large, however, my interest in sports has been in a long decline.

Remarkably, my mind for some reason has been turning back recently to my personal experiences with baseball. Surprisingly I have recalled a number of great lessons that I gained from a rather minor engagement with that sport. I had no deep dedication to the sport that created longings for a major league baseball career, but I learned some valuable lessons from the game.

My first experience with baseball actually began when I was eleven years old living in Homewood, Alabama, a suburb on the south side of Birmingham. That year a Little League program was being formed in our community; and the local newspaper announced that try-outs would be held on an upcoming Saturday morning. Tommy Richardson, a third cousin of mine, invited me to go with him to the tryouts. Though Tommy was a couple of years younger than I was, he already knew a whole lot more about baseball than I did. When we showed up for the tryouts, each of us was told to go to a position in the field that we would be interested in playing. Tommy knew that he wanted to be a pitcher, so he immediately left for the pitcher’s mound. I had no idea where I wanted to play. The group that was gathering at second base looked like the smallest group, so I made my way over there to try out as a second baseman.

The tryouts consisted in one of the coaches hitting three or four grounders to each candidate. The candidate fielded the ball and threw it to first base. I obviously showed no great skill at this; for when the time came to go home from the tryouts, I had not been chosen for any of the teams. Tommy, however, had been a quick choice for the manager of the Pels (named after the then New Orleans Pelicans). A gifted nine-year-old pitcher seemed to be a prized candidate. As we walked home, Tommy expressed surprise that I had not been chosen. He said he knew that his team still had some openings, and he suggested that I go with him to his team’s first practice that afternoon. I decided to give it another try.

The coach of the Pels didn’t seem to mind when I showed up with Tommy for the practice. He put me at third base while the team practiced. Frankly, I made several outstanding plays during the practice (I even surprised myself); and the coach decided to put me on the team’s roster. He seemed especially glad that I was eleven years old, because each team could only have a certain number of slots for twelve-year-olds and he already had his full roster of twelve-year-olds. [More about this in a later post.] So I became a Pel.

I guess the lessons here are pretty obvious:
• Don’t be afraid of trying something new—something that you have never done before.
• If at first you don’t succeed, try again. (You knew that, right?)
• Drawing the attention of others to your particular gifts and skills is not always easy, especially when your confidence is low and your self-esteem is meager. Most of us are not flashy, but we often can make up in persistence for what we lack in pizzazz.
• Don’t turn down the encouragement of others. They may open doors for you unexpectedly.
• Managers, employers, and others often have hidden agendas in what they are looking for. Often you will not know why you were or were not chosen for a position. Don’t over-analyze the situation or assume that you know everything about the expectations. Often something unexpected will prove to be the main reason you were chosen rather than someone else.

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