Baseball is the most imperfect and perplexing, yet alluring of all sports. Hitting a round ball, whistling by at ninety miles-per-hour, with a round bat defies logic. I can then square this round ball as hard as I possibly can, but still get out? The opposing force of this contact may cause my bat to explode in shards. Actually, I don’t have to hit the ball to get on base, it can hit me. I can fail seventy percent of the time and be regarded as one of the best. There is nothing perfect about baseball, yet it continues to be America’s pastime and my greatest passion. Baseball, the game of failure, entices me because its imperfections have an uncanny resemblance to life and invaluable lessons to be learned.
Baseball is one of the only sports without a clock, but always has an end. There’s no telling how long a game could last, especially if it goes into extra innings. In this fast paced world people want a faster paced game, but they fail to see all of the intricacies within the long game. Jahred Adelman, Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Chicago describes baseball as “a beautiful game that allows people to watch and understand physics at work.” Adelman also explains that the same physics of hitting, catching, and throwing a ball can be found in the motion of roller coasters, rocket ships, and in the acceleration of a car. It is so much more than see the ball, hit the ball, catch the ball. It is mixture of mathematics, physics, and luck accompanied by rituals and dressed in tradition. The game is surrounded by sights, sounds, and aromas that stir the soul. The variables are endless and just as in real life, we never truly know when we will be thrown a curveball or when the game will come to a close.
Like no other sport, baseball keeps people honest and tallies their mistakes and imperfections. It is intimidating for most people to have to address their demons so to speak, knowing their errors are out there for all to see. However, we all face adversity. People and players that continually fail, often do the same thing repeatedly and expect a different outcome. The most successful people in life make many errors, but it is the ability to adjust that leads to further success. In life and baseball, it’s important to embrace mistakes and failures, learn from them, and improve for that next opportunity, that next at-bat. The beauty of baseball lies in going up to the plate after batting 0-3, making contact or better yet, hitting it out of the park. I never go down just “looking,” instead I observe and make adjustments.
Baseball is truly a game of failure! In fact, the best players fail at least seventy percent of the time. These same players have a .300 batting average putting them into elite company. Anyone who fails seventy percent of the time would be regarded as terrible in the private sector, but instead they are considered a leader simply because their peers are failing slightly more. In a world where everyone wants to be a homerun slugger and a hero, it is often a player that sacrifices their own personal gain that is the true hero. A sacrifice bunt, sacrifice fly, or getting hit by a pitch can be a game changer that garnishes respect.
The physique of the baseball athlete is also an enigma. There is no average body type as baseball invites everyone from the imperfect to the athletic, from short and stubby to tall and thin. According to Eric Ding’s 2010 Harvard study, over 55% of players are overweight. A seemingly out of shape and overweight pitcher in their late 30’s with a beer belly can have an amazing command of the game. Yet a seasoned physically fit athlete, such as Michael Jordan, struggled to find any success. Contrary to reason, baseball doesn’t encourage conditioning as much because fitness doesn’t matter in the traditional sense unless you are stretching a double into a triple. Heart, grit, passion, skill, and other intangibles make up for any shortcomings in physique and this is all part of baseball’s imperfect charm. It is a truly an American sport, played and watched by American bodies. All sizes, on the same field, compete together at next level. It allows the fans to think, “Hey I can do this too.”
Life and baseball can be disappointing and hard at times. Baseball is a game of failure and so is life with many unpredictable variables, but that’s what makes it so exciting! I may miss that fastball down the middle, my golden chance at success. In life, there are times I may have a great opportunity, but miss it. I may even drive a ball hard, but the competition makes a spectacular play. I gave my best effort, yet still failed! This frustration motivates me to come back and hit the ball even harder, strengthening my determination to improve. Author Malcolm Gladwell discusses the “10,000 hour rule” stating that most skills can be mastered by practicing correctly for 10,000 hours. So, I take responsibility and action through practice, pushing myself and trying new things. This beautifully imperfect game has taught me that despite one’s best efforts, things may not go your way. It has also empowered me to know that when life throws me a curve, there will be another at bat, and when that time comes, I will be ready for the long game.
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