The Lessons of Baseball

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.

Leadership

My wife and I recently visited Springfield, Illinois as we meandered down old Route 66 on vacation. We visited a lot of the Lincoln spots in Springfield- the Lincoln museum, the Lincoln Library, his old residence, and his burial memorial site. We were moved by these visits. Abraham Lincoln was a study in moral leadership, statesmanship, courage, and a forgiving spirit.

Indeed, I have always been touched by his second inaugural address, delivered just weeks before he was assassinated. In that marvel of a speech, Lincoln stated that the nation needed to begin “binding the wounds” that four years of Civil War had wrought on the nation.

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Lincoln’s rhetoric here was a classic example of moral leadership. This speech was delivered on March 21, 1865, nineteen days before the surrender at Appomattox Court House which effectively ended the Civil War. The nation was still at war, in the most bitter confrontation this country has experienced. People on both sides were NOT in a mood of reconciliation and forgiveness. Lincoln’s bold proclamation may have even shortened his life since one of the attendees of that speech was John Wilkes Booth. This may have solidified for Booth that Lincoln must die for his belief about binding wounds and finding a way to move ahead with “charity, not malice”.

I was saddened again in visiting this great man’s grave, wondering how things may have been different had he lived to oversee a reconstruction that looked very different than what later happened under Andrew Johnson.

I also pondered the power of moral leadership and how it helps to shape a national psyche.

Leadership

My wife and I recently visited Springfield, Illinois as we meandered down old Route 66 on vacation. We visited a lot of the Lincoln spots in Springfield- the Lincoln museum, the Lincoln Library, his old residence, and his burial memorial site. We were moved by these visits. Abraham Lincoln was a study in moral leadership, statesmanship, courage, and a forgiving spirit.

Indeed, I have always been touched by his second inaugural address, delivered just weeks before he was assassinated. In that marvel of a speech, Lincoln stated that the nation needed to begin “binding the wounds” that four years of Civil War had wrought on the nation.

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

Lincoln’s rhetoric here was a classic example of moral leadership. This speech was delivered on March 21, 1865, nineteen days before the surrender at Appomattox Court House which effectively ended the Civil War. The nation was still at war, in the most bitter confrontation this country has experienced. People on both sides were NOT in a mood of reconciliation and forgiveness. Lincoln’s bold proclamation may have even shortened his life since one of the attendees of that speech was John Wilkes Booth. This may have solidified for Booth that Lincoln must die for his belief about binding wounds and finding a way to move ahead with “charity, not malice”.

I was saddened again in visiting this great man’s grave, wondering how things may have been different had he lived to oversee a reconstruction that looked very different than what later happened under Andrew Johnson.

I also pondered the power of moral leadership and how it helps to shape a national psyche.

So Here I begin…

I decided to write this blog because… well, so many reasons. One reason is, I am a writer, and writers need to write. Yes, I know, you are a reader and you do not HAVE to read this. Thank you for taking the time to do that! I am writing this because of the courage of my daughter who started her own blog over a year ago. I want to join her in expressing a Christian worldview of a world that is drifting far away from the Creator’s purpose. I want to share with you, my dear readers, what I have learned in 40+ years of professional counseling- counseling that is informed by that same Christian worldview which proclaims that we are three part beings, and that we must attend to our bodies, our soul, and our emotions. In this blog, we will discuss that at some length.

If you will join me on this journey, I will share with you what I have learned over the years, and I will honestly comment on what I believe we need to do in order to live in harmony with our Creator and our fellow human beings. Despite my obvious bias toward the Christian faith, I will not preach to you or at you, I will respect your worldview, whatever it may be, and I will try to speak the truth in love, but I will not try to convince you of anything. If you will join me on this journey, I would be delighted. I will post regularly, and I will even share some excerpts from my books which I will discuss at a later blog entry. So, thank you for joining me in this journey, and I trust that we will enjoy the ride.