Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category

Some of my fondest memories as a child were spent playing, studying, and watching sports. My two greatest loves were football and baseball; but as a child there was just something magical about baseball. I would spend hours either playing or learning about how to play these two sports. I was really into collecting sports cards not only for the pictures, but for the stats on the back of the card. I would memorize the information on the back of these cards. I knew players stats like I knew my phone number. I was amazed at how my brain remembered this information so vividly; yet I could hardly remember anything I learned from school. I had to be taught these sports on my own because my father was never really around and my step-father would rarely give me the time of day. As a child I would watch every game on television I could; I would study batters baseball stances, fielding techniques and the pitchers delivery. I remember playing sick just so I could watch the Cubs play their day games on WGN. I think because there was no one teaching me the game I learned from watching it.

My fondest of fondest memories come from when my dad actually took the time to take me to the baseball fields. I would get so excited and counted down the hours and minutes before we could go out and play. I would carefully pick out various different player baseball cards of players I knew the most about. I wanted to make sure I knew everything about these players so I didn’t waste any precious time trying to remember their mannerisms, and I also enjoyed this time to look smart in front of my dad. Before my dad would pitch to me I would grab a specific card and tell my dad that this is who I was along with some stats about the player. I would make sure I had the stance just right to simulate this player. My favorite was Kirby Puckett with his dramatic leg lift, or Julio Franco with his goofy stance. The one thing I remember my dad saying to me was “why don’t you just be Tim?” I remember thinking he was crazy; why I would want to be Tim when I could be Roy Smalley, Vince Coleman, Tony Gwynn, or Jose Canseco.

When my dad was not around I remember going in the backyard with a pocket full of cards and play homerun derby until the sun set. I would throw the ball high up in the air and try to smash it over the fence. Just writing about this brings such splendid memories to my mind. I loved baseball, and like millions of young children I dreamed of making it to the big leagues one day. I eventually ended up giving up baseball when I got hit in the face while I was pitching. Luckily the line drive was not hit to hard. I only suffered a black eye, and bloody nose but the ripple affect from that day is still with me. I never played baseball competitively after that because I was consumed with fear of being hit with the ball. Over time I stopped following the game like I did as a child. I am now a die hard football fanatic.

I still hold tightly to the memory of pretending to be Puckett while my father pitched to me. I pine over the nights where Wade Boggs would win the homerun derby, and I loved the days of playing sick to watch the Cubs. I miss what baseball meant to me as a child. It was a sport with so much dreams and possibilities. I have tried to follow the game today, but there are so many players who I have no idea who they are let alone memorized their mannerisms or stats. I follow the Twins, but my interests don’t go far beyond that. These memories come back anytime I play with or watch my son pretend to play baseball. To see his face light up anytime he is pretending to hit a homerun, or catch the wining touchdown. I smile and the fond memories as a child return.

“My motto was always to keep swinging. Whether I was in a slump or feeling badly or having trouble off the field, the only thing to do was keep swinging.”
Hank Aaron

Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron: (born February 5, 1934 in Mobile, Alabama) is a retired Hall of Fame baseball player whose Major League Baseball (MLB) career spanned the years 1954 through 1976. Aaron is widely considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time.

Sports figures have given us many memorable motivational quotes throughout history. These quotes not only give us motivation to keep trying on the field, but off it as well. An athlete may give us a quote that only pertains to on the field perspective, but we can always incorporate it into our personal lives. The lessons we learn about ourselves through participation in competitive sports reflects in our personal and professional lives long after we hang up the cleats.

In baseball if you are able to achieve a .350 batting average you just had an All Star season, you would be praised by the fans, as well as by your peers. If you are able to finish your career with a lifetime batting average of .350 or greater; you would have written your own ticket to the Hall of Fame. If we stop to think about this success to failure ratio, a Major League Baseball All Star only succeeds 35% of the time! I do not know many companies who would keep an employee who failed 65% of the time.

I use the batting average analogy with my children who participate in sports. They will get down if they have a bad at bat, fumble, or just an overall bad game. This success to failure ratio in sports will put a smile on their faces, knowing those they look up to also have bad games. They are motivated for their next at bat, next down, or their next game. I think this and the analogy of practice makes perfect have given my kids valuable lessons on how to succeed in sports and in life.

Sometimes failures can become our greatest lessons. In life we will make many mistakes. We should look at mistakes as learning opportunities. These lessons shape us into who we are through trial and error; success and failures. We learn what works and what doesn’t, and hopefully refrain from what doesn’t; sometimes that can be a mistake all on its own. The mistakes we make today will become tomorrow’s good choices. Imagine a world where everyone was perfect 100% of the time. In my vision this world seems dull, and not very much fun. The reason we cherish and remember successes so much is because of the lessons and stories behind them. Trying to accomplish a task or fulfilling a dream will result in many failures before you are successful. This builds character and teaches us about perseverance. Actress Julie Andrews (The Sound of Music) said it best.

“Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th

The nice thing about living creatures is we are resilient. If a lioness gave up every time she failed to make a kill; her pride would starve. If we were to give up every time we experienced failure in our personal and professional life we would cease to advance and grow. We are similar to our idols in professional sports; we will be judged on our successes and failures. In order for us to reach the Hall of Fame in life we need to keep swinging.

We all remember the greatness of Michael Jordan, the homerun power of Hank Aaron, or the finesse of Gail Sayers. I was having a conversation with a friend awhile ago about how Lebron James, and Kobe Bryant are far superior to Michael Jordan. He strongly disagreed with me, and so the debate went on. He is a hard headed sports nut so we ended up agreeing to disagree. Ever since this discussing two months ago this idea has been in my brain trying to come to my own personal resolution. In all of my reflections I have come to the conclusion the athletes today are superior to the athletes we idolized as kids.

I placed the athletes of old and tried to imagine what would happen if they played their sport today. I did a similar examination and placed the current athletes and placed them in the past. The only area where athletes of old surpassed our current athletes is in the toughness of the football players during the sixties to mid eighties. This is still up for debate; would they be able to take the punishment our current players endure? Here is my breakdown. 

  • Baseball: Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron are considered some of the greatest homerun hitters of all-time. Even though their records were broken, many people demand an * be used behind the name of Barry Bonds who took over as the single season homerun, and career homerun leader due to his steroid use. If Hank Aaron were to face the pitchers of today I would imagine he wouldn’t even hit half of his career homerun totals. Babe Ruth would not even hit five homeruns in a season facing the starters we have currently. These pitchers throw a variety of pitchers which were not even known then. The pitches have more speed, and more movement. On the flip side hitters like Joe Mauer would amass an unbelievable amount of hits and homeruns were he to face the pitchers of old. Our current players are far superior to the athletes of old.
  • Basketball: The greatest of all-time is said to be Michael Jordan, and the players of his time like Charles Barkley, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird are considered the greats. I can guarantee you if you were to thrust Jordan into today’s game even in his prime he would not have won six championships. If you were to place Kobe Bryant or Lebron James the success they would have would be indescribable. To take this a step further if you were to throw a mid-level player from today such as Richard Jefferson he would have been Michael Jordan. I do not think the mid-level players of old such as Horace Grant or Steve Kerr would have even been drafted by an NBA team today.
  • Football: There was a defensive end Jack Youngblood who played for the Rams. He broke his leg during a playoff game and continues to play with a broken leg the rest of the playoffs. In the late eighties early nineties Emmit Smith played an entire game with a broken arm. I cannot see players today staying in games with such injuries. These guys were tough SOB’s, but they were also not playing against players who are faster, bigger, and stronger. I look at Youngblood and wonder would he have made the Hall of Fame if he had to try and get to the quarterback playing against linemen like Joe Thomas, or Steve Hutchinson? Would Jerry Rice be a legend if he was covered by players like Charles Woodson? I think the answer to these questions is no.

The athletes of today are bred to be stars from the moment they show any level of talent. In basketball they have camps and leagues where the best of the best play to hone their craft. Lebron James was being covered by the likes of Sports Illustrated when he was only 13 years old. If you were to have a college football team of today play one of the great teams of old the college team would probably come out with a victory. I think we want to remember the athletes we grew up idolizing are the greatest of all time. The problem is the game has changed and involved in so many ways the greats just wouldn’t even stand out.