Back when I was growing up I had a poster that proudly proclaimed “All I really need to know in life I learned from watching Star Trek.” Teachings such as “Remember the Prime Directive” and “Set phasers on stun” resonated with me then and still do today. As I start getting myself psyched up for the coming baseball season, though, I have found myself thinking that in many ways baseball, in addition to entertaining, can also teach us about life. Hence my thoughts on what I can learn about life from baseball.
1) Individualism vs teamwork – Yes, following individual statistics is fascinating, but at the end of the day how well an individual pitcher or hitter does is less important than whether the team wins. It is a reminder that success is defined more by what we can do together than by what we can do separately.
It is also a reminder that sometimes the “glory” positions aren’t the ones that make the final difference. Home runs and strikeouts are fun to watch, but sometimes it’s the outfielder throwing to the proper base that decides the game. Everyone has a contribution to make, and everyone’s contribution matters.
2) Errors happen – Even the best fielder is going to make a few mistakes over the course of a season. Nobody is perfect. And, yes, sometimes those errors will cost runs or even the game. The question is, will the players let those errors get to them and affect their performance, or are they able to shake them off? That’s what the best players do – they refuse to allow them to fester inside their heads. We are going to make mistakes in life. That’s human nature. We can choose to fixate on our mistakes, or we can learn from them and “play better” in the future.
3) Umpires too make mistakes – All of us remember the playoff game a few years ago when the outfield umpire completely blew it, calling a ball hit to left foul when it was easily fair. Almost invariably in a game one manager (or both) will rush to the field to protest a call. Just as a matter of practicality, though, how often does the umpire actually change the call? At the end of the day, you have to continue playing the rest of the game – you can’t just take your ball and go home. There will be times when life isn’t fair. That’s just the way it is. The best thing we can do is not let ourselves fixate on that unfairness and allow it to keep us from continue trying and working for what is right. Life isn’t fair – get over it.
4) You have to play all nine innings – Unlike other sports, there is no clock in baseball (part of why I like it). At the end of the day, you have to get 27 outs from the other side if you want to win. 26 won’t cut it. In the same way, until you give up that 27th
out, you still have a chance (think St. Louis in 2011 world series). Sometimes we do get to those places in life where it seems like things are hopeless. That’s the time for us to remember that there is still more “game” to go, and as long as we’re alive we have a chance to do it better, to make a difference, to turn things around.
5) It’s just a game – I am as passionate (or more so) than most about baseball, yet I always remember that, at the end of the day, this isn’t life. It’s entertainment. The point is to HAVE FUN! In the same way, life, while it is more than just a game, is meant to be enjoyed. Will there be times of pain and sorrow, times of frustration and anger? Absolutely. But I hope I never lose sight of the fact that life is ultimately a gift and a blessing, one that we are meant to treasure and in which we rejoice always.