This morning I was up early drinking a cup of coffee. I turned on the TV. I looked for something to watch. I ended up on the movie Bull Durham. I am one of the few people my age that never saw this movie.
The movie features Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins, and Susan Sarandon. And it's centered around baseball. When I was a boy and a young adult, I played baseball. My father taught me how to hit a ball at about age 4. From then on it seemed like every birthday brought either a new glove or bat.
In Bull Durham, Costner plays a seasoned, experienced catcher. Robbins is the young, hot-shot pitcher who hasn't quite got things figured out yet. But, like all those young, he thinks he knows all. Sarandon's character, while amusing, isn't necessary for this post.
At times in the movie, the elder player gives the newbie words of advice. I was reminded of my father's advice over the years while playing baseball. And though typically given in a sport's setting, the advice is applicable in everyday life.
My mother has given great advice over the years too. But she's from Brooklyn, thus more direct. "Pull your head out of your a$$!" I have had heard her say. It's funny, but my mother is like a drill sergeant. But she's a saint. I swear.
I was a pitcher. No matter the situation, I could always hear my father's voice from the bleachers. "Don't aim. Just play catch." I honestly never understood that. If I don't aim, how am I going to throw a strike?
Only now at 39 do I know what he meant. Aiming indicates purpose and planning. But just playing catch is easy and fun. I think he was telling me to relax and have fun.
When I was at bat he would yell "don't swing for the fences. Make contact." At 12 I digested that one, but there is a deeper meaning. I never hit a home run. Ever. I was small. But I rarely struck out either. I put the ball in play and hit a lot of stand-up doubles.
By not swinging for the fences, I played to my strength. Making contact. Hidden meaning: know yourself. Do what you're good at.
When fall rolled around, the baseball was replaced by a football. Two things I remember Dad saying. "If the ball hits your hands, it should be caught." And, "don't run before you catch the ball. Look it into your hands."
I think the first one means that life isn't perfect, but no matter you should do what's expected. And for me the second bit speaks to slowing down and not trying to do 2 things at once. Catch the ball, then run. Simple.
I never knew my father to be a deep person. I never saw him read any philosopher, but he read a ton of novels. I prefer non-fiction. But that's beside the point. I doubt he ever intended his words of advice to be applied beyond baseball and football. Or did he?
Until this morning, I had forgotten what I have just written. I can't remember the last time I thought about playing Little League. My dad never missed one of those games. When I was in my early 20's, I played in an adult league. He came to one game. I was pitching. And I heard it again, "don't aim. Just play catch."
I still think he was telling his son to relax and have fun. Thinking back, whenever I tried too hard, I pitched poorly. I thought about too many things at once: type of pitch, grip, mechanics, release, location, speed, and so forth. That's way too much to think about before throwing a baseball.
Thinking about last week's trial, I could have used my father sitting in the gallery. Quite a difference these days though. I am no longer in Little League. I am in the majors. The show. I am a pro. And he would have been thrown out of court for yelling at me.
But the next time I am working and start to feel out of sorts, I am going to remember playing baseball and football. I am going to relax, not over think things, stay within myself, and make contact.
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