Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Game of Life: Played on a Baseball Diamond

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The Game of Life Played on a Baseball Diamond

So there I stood palms sweaty, my beat-up brown glove in hand ready to make one of the biggest steps in my baseball career. With my bleached white baseball uniform I prepared to step foot on the coveted pitchers mound. With my body quivering it felt like an eternity walking the ninety feet, to where I would call home for the next seven innings. The next thing I heard was “Play Ball”, it was game time.

As the first batter stepped into the box everything grew silent. I was focused. Sizing up the batter in my mind, I was cycling through my repertoire trying to find the right pitch to serve my adversary. “Strike One!!” It was like music to my ears. From that moment on I was in the zone. I didn’t think about anything, I just envisioned those numerous hot summer nights of playing catch with Dad in the backyard, and let my arm take control. Finally after what seemed like a lifetime, the inning was over. As I sat in the Dug out resting my arm, I had a quick drink of Gatorade and began to plan my next attack.

Making my way back to the mound for the second time I knew I had nothing to prove anymore. I just had to take it one inning at a time, and I would do fine. This time though my opponents had my number. I started to get a little lazy, and as I gave up a few hits, I became discouraged. Luckily my defense came to play for me that day, and made some shoe-string catches to keep my momentum going. With my cage rattled a little bit I still managed to walk off the field with composure, and that did all my talking for me. Sure the other team had gotten to me a little bit, but I wasn’t going to let them know it.

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Though I was shook up I was still in the groove. My arm was very loose, and I was firing the baseball as if you would with a rock and a sling shot. Taking no mercy on the batters first I would set them up with my fastball, and finish them off with the curve. It was like clockwork! They didn’t know what had hit them. I knew this approach would keep my pitch count down, and that meant I could last longer in the game to reach that Pitcher’s utopia, that of the perfect game. With the idea of the perfect game within my grasps I clinched my fists, tightened my cleats, and saddled up for another inning of play, like I had for the past four innings.

I was starting to become sore, and I knew I didn’t have much left. So I was hurling the ball with all my might. I wasn’t exactly on my game plan, growing careless I gave up more hits. The eight guys behind me though weren’t ready to give up on me, and made some outstanding plays. At that moment I really had a sense of what team unity really was. It was apparent that our team was “gelling” together, and nothing was going to get in the way of our goal. As this inning went on, I just didn’t have it, I was so tired that I was just trying to do anything to get out of the inning. Everyone could see that I was lacking, especially my coach, and I could see him motioning to another pitcher to start warming up in the bullpen to relieve me.

I don’t know what happened at that instant, but this fire inside me came about, and I wasn’t going to let this game beat me. I was going to finish come hell or high water! I gripped the ball with all my might, and hit the catcher’s mitt so hard that the pop could be heard throughout the stands above all the chatter. I was ready, determined, and focused again. I went back to the yard playing catch with my father, and I forgot about what was at stake, and just had fun like I did earlier in the game. I was putting all this pressure on myself that wasn’t needed. I was becoming my own worst enemy. Starting to throw a little it better now I felt that drive that was present in the start of the game. I was back on top!! Or so I thought.

No sooner was I gaining my confidence back number thirty-two stepped up to the plate and swung with everything he had, holding nothing back. As I heard the crack of the ball hitting the bat, a million thoughts went racing through my mind. I was praying that it was just a routine fly ball, or maybe even a short grounder. I just wanted anything playable! I mean I have come this far, there is no need to for this now I thought to myself. The ball just flew with such ease right over the infield. My only hope now was my outfield. I was confident, my centerfielder was the best there was, and he could track any fly ball down. As I a turned around to see what was my fate of this game in the ball‘s hand, I was certain he had the catch. Running in a dead sprint, he was right under it tracking its every move. The ball though had a different plan, it just kept going, and found a home next to some spectators, and the scoreboard shortly after it went over the fence. I had given up a homerun, and I was devastated.

Now with the perfect game out of the question, I just wanted to keep my dignity as a pitcher and finish this inning out. My only problem was the heart was there; my arm on the other hand just didn’t have it anymore. Throbbing like a tooth ache, I still was giving it my all, but I just had reached the point where I could do no more. I had done all that I could do, it was time to put the relief pitcher in and save this game , and get the win for our team. Though unhappy with my coach’s decision, I reluctantly, but respectfully walked off the mound. Stepping off of the mound I was surprised to see the crowd’s standing ovation. It really hit home because they knew what I went though, and that I gave it my all, and even more so that I pitched a hell of a game! So without words right before I reached the dugout, I tipped my hat to the crowd, as a way of saying thank you.

Sitting there in the corner of the dugout icing my tired, and warn out arm. I started to think about my performance out there on the mound. I was happy with what I had accomplished, but at the same time I wasn’t. I learned a lot during that game for instance that you can’t win all by yourself, and that sometimes your greatest opponent isn’t the biggest guy on the opposite team, but instead it’s yourself. I was so caught up in the fact that I might have the opportunity to pitch a perfect game that loss sight of what was really important, and that’s concentrating and throwing strikes. Though I didn’t reach my intended goal, I still walked away with many life lessons that are still with me today. As my coach came over, I grew nervous wondering what I would say to him. I’ll never forget what he happened next, he just pat me on the shoulder and said” You don’t have to say anything to me; my performance had said it all! , and just like life, in baseball your actions speak louder than your words.

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