The Lessons of Baseball
Baseball is a game best enjoyed by fathers and sons together. Indeed, that is how the game has thrived for over 140 years- passed down from fathers to sons. My dad taught me to love the game from about age 6. I remember his rapt attention to the radio when he listened to Waite Hoyt and Jack Moran describe the 1956 pennant race. The Reds had not been good for many years, but that particular summer, they were in the pennant race until the last week of the season. My dad taught me to get excited about baseball, and the Cincinnati Reds in particular.
He related to me that as a young boy, he could get into Crosley Field free if he were accompanied by another paying customer. So, all the young boys would tag along after men who were walking through the gate, and they were able to get in free. That concept, unfortunately, has been lost on the present generation of short-sighted baseball owners who see only present financial gains, and do not have the vision for the long-term stability for the game.
As I began teaching my son about baseball, it was apparent to me that the teaching was not just about the fundamentals of the game. It is about life experience. The player who makes a diving catch at the end of the year in a meaningless game is practicing the value of doing one’s best regardless of the outcome.
The player who is cut from the team learns that he has two options- go out (or go to the minor league) and play hard, get better, and get back on the big team- or feel sorry for himself, blame the manager for his poor decision, become resentful and quit.
Injuries, losses, bad umpiring decisions, etc. are part of the game, and the young ballplayer learns how to face adversity. He will learn that unfairness in life will happen, but the game will endure. Quitting is not an option.
There is no timekeeping in baseball, so you are not playing against the clock. If you are losing the game, the only thing that will limit the possibility of a comeback is the skill of the other team, or the lack of production by the team playing from behind..
Baseball is a great vehicle for communication between fathers and sons. As we know, men talk better, usually, side-to-side than face-to-face. There is a lot of communication (and teaching) going on as dad throws the ball to his son in the batting cage, or simply “has a toss” with him. A quick glance at the “Field of Dreams” movie will make that very clear.
Dad tries to stretch his son just beyond his current skills in an effort to improve him. The wise dad will use encouragement rather than screaming and shaming to produce growth in the young ballplayer. And so it goes. The time spent together is the stuff of later memories.-memories which will be shared by the sons with their sons.
Baseball then has become a medium for conveying the love of father to son by the analogy of the love of baseball. If it works out the way it should, the son will grow to love baseball, but more importantly, he will know that dad loves him.