My love of baseball was one of the things that I definitely picked up from my Dad as I was growing up. He played from his youth, all the way through high school and to college on a baseball scholarship, his possible career ending in a bad motorcycle to automobile accident (the cars almost always win in those battles). He coached a number of my baseball teams as I was younger and I ended my playing days at the high school level.
So it was particularly appropriate that on the night before Father’s Day, I found myself in Seattle with no plans and only about four blocks away from the Safeco Field, which is one of the best of the new baseball parks in America. I walked on over there right around the time for the first pitch, bought a ticket in the upper deck on the first base side, bought a bratwurst with kraut and a large microbrew, and took my seat.
As I sat there watching the Mariners play the Phillies, I made some notes in my notepad on my rather large “to-do” list. I quickly had a complete feeling of peace wash over me.
It was just what I needed.
Sitting there, I flipped over from my “to-do” list and jotted down some notes about some life lessons I have learned from my favorite game:
* Multi-tasking in the enemy and pen and paper is your friend. I am one of the worst multi-taskers around. I have read the studies that say that though we think we are being productive when we multi-task, we are deceiving ourselves. I know those studies are right and I need to stop trying to do so much at the same time and concentrate on one thing at a time. As I sat in the stands, without a cell phone, without a laptop, without a camera, I quickly realized I need to function this way far more often. I watched the game, drank my beer, and occasionally jotted down notes, old-school style, and my thinking was so much less cluttered. Plus, I just felt better.
* Failure isn’t that bad a result sometimes. Even the very best hitters in the world make an out, which is basically failure, about 7 times out of 10. Even the greatest baseball hitters will occasionally go into slumps where they don’t get a single hit for days upon days. Still, they keep practicing their craft everyday, showing up for work knowing they might not be getting the results they want, but that they can’t always control results, but they can control their effort. Those of us that expect to knock every project out of the park or are afraid to put ourselves out there on the line unless we are almost 100% confident of the final results could learn something from their courage and tacit acknowledgement that results are far from guaranteed.
* Luck plays a large part of life. I have previously written about “The Good Fortune of the Geography of Birth” and the simple luck of where we were each born into, which is probably the largest bit of luck that 95% of those reading this will ever experience, but luck plays such a role in our lives. In baseball, you can hit or pitch a ball perfectly, but simply have a bit of bad luck that someone catches or drops the ball, totally out of your control. Or that the ball bounces a little crazy when it hits something on the field and either darts through for a hit or slows up so someone gets you out. We are in control of much of our lives, but most people I know focus much too obsessively on the things that are out of our control or just are simple, plain bad luck.
* Green is good. Just walking out of the stadium’s hallways and out into the bowl of the park and seeing the tightly mown grass was enough to cause a large smile to cross my face. Safeco Field is in the industrial part of Seattle near the docks, so going up the stairs to my upper deck seats also meant I could see the waters of Puget Sound off to my right before I walked in. Water and green — two of the things in nature that make me happiest.
* The joy of children is infectious. From immediately behind me at some point early on in the game, I heard the excited cry of a boy that was probably about seven years old, “that was a double play!!” Just a routine play in a regular season baseball game, but brought out the excitement and joy that only a child can bring to something. Later on, he was rooting for both teams alternately, depending on who was doing something interesting, and someone jokingly asked him, “which team are you rooting for anyway?” He just shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “just here having a good time, dude.”
* Obnoxious loud people can be really annoying. There were a few idiotic guys in their early 20s a few rows in front of us that keep inappropriately yelling obscenities, standing up and blocking people’s views and otherwise just being jerks. To the credit of the crowd and the Mariners, the ushers eventually escorted them out, after a number of people in the crowd complained. Side note: adding alcohol to the mix only increases all the negative components, especially the volume.
I have written about many of my loves at various points on this website. My love of my passport, my love of music, my love of wine. All of those and more are things that help slow the world down, in the way that only things that bring you peace can do. The heart of baseball has not changed since then, even through equipment like BBCOR certified bats, and high performance batting gloves exist.
But give me a bratwurst with good sauerkraut, a tasty beer, and a seat at a baseball game and all is right with the world.
Love this post. My dad took me and my brother to games all the time when I was growing up and some of my best memories are of he and I playing catch together (albeit it with a softball, not a baseball). We still try to go to games when he’s in Chicago or I head back to Minnesota.
Some good life lessons too, especially about failure and multi-tasking. My boss always likes to point out that in baseball, 1 out of 3 is pretty good, so we shouldn’t get discouraged if we only succeed 1 out of every 3 times.
Thinking next time I hit the ballpark, I may have to leave my blackberry at home…
yea, giving up my blackberry was great. I just need to keep going down that road. And remembering that 1 out of 3 kicks ass.
awesome michael! i read this as i sit in a vancouver coffee shop with every social media page open, yelp, and google, and still manage to feel like i’m getting nothing done- lol. time to take your lesson and shut them all down and take a walk…or at least break them down to one. so many of your other points feel especially timely in light of recent happenings in vancouver. we can all, but especially a select few, learn something beautiful from that little boy. 🙂
Yea, I really, really need to focus. Slow down. One thing at a time. Go back to basics.
I really love this post Michael! While I don’t really follow baseball, the life lessons you took from it are universal. It’s not too often that I am totally detached from technology but I’ve always noticed that when I am it’s always a great opportunity to observe the world around me.
This after I just finished a road trip with @skinnybackpackr and @driftingkiwi where someone asked if there was WiFi every time we stopped somewhere… 😛
I forget all the time, until I stop and do it. I am not a big “slow travel” person, but slowing down life… needed sometimes.
Loved the post-definitely made me crave a beer and a dog…sounds like a perfect day!
I am so happy you commended. Seriously. Made my week.
Engaging read! I´ve found that over the years my interests have changed and my obsession with travel has edged out certain other hobbies; however, my love for baseball and hockey is one thing that keeps me connected with what seems to be – at times – a distant past. Your points about being ´lucky´ to be born in a certain location really resonates well with me having traveled mostly in the developing world where opportunities simply do not exist for some. Failure, in my opinion, is simply a result that is not desired. It often signals stepping outside of one´s comfort zone by boldly taking on new challenges. It´s the pursuit of one´s passion with relentless desire and the ability to make necessary adjustments that will lead one from failure to great success. Without massive failures one will never experience ultimate success; more importantly, without overcoming the fear of failure one will never take those steps towards greatness.
Totally appreciate your thoughtful comments, Samuel. Love your passion for sport and your acknowledgement that just trying to succeed is the greatest part of the battle of life.
I have a lot of good memories of baseball and my grandpa. He was a lover of all sports, really, but especially baseball. The Cleveland Indians were his “team” until the day he died, and I can remember many Sunday afternoons at his house cheering on the Tribe. He taught me how to hold a bat, and even bought me my first baseball glove. I ended up being completely uncoordinated, of course, but the fond memories are there just the same. 🙂 Thanks for making me think about them.
Ahhh, even better than Dad memories… Grandpa memories. Lovely stuff. Now I am thinking of mine. Fondly.
I might have to reconsider my respect for baseball, which although I do find fun to plane it is a sport I cannot watch on TV, let alone live. Good life laws!
lol — no need to reconsider baseball. Football/soccer can do the same thing for ya 😉
Awww baseball reminds me of spending time with my dad. We still go sometimes too, hot dogs and beer 🙂
I think I find my zen with baseball more than I care to admit. I love to see games across the globe and nothing brings me inner peace more than a hot dog and a beer while cheering and heckling along with more most often than not terribad players. I always leave feeling refreshed and alive – and you really can’t ask for more than that.
My dad used to buy season tickets to our minor league team in El Paso, Texas since I was a wee babe. Nostalgia will get you every time!
Oh crap – my heartfelt post just didn’t go through.
My dad used to take me to baseball games as a wee babe – I think that is why I like to see games across the world with hot dog and beer in hand. Nostalgia will get you every time!
I chucked as I read that you are a bad multi-tasker… I am still waiting for you to publish your brilliant pie chart of procrastination in a post. (Hope I didn’t miss it).
good post. i feel the same way; nothing like a dog, a brew, and a live game going on right in front of you. as for multitasking, it’s true. people trick themselves into thinking they’re doing a bunch of stuff at once, but the most efficient of them is focusing on one thing at a time. They’re really doing a lot of things in secession. “Obnoxious loud people can be really annoying” made me laugh out loud. how novel!
This is a great post me and my father go to a few baseball games every year and being at a basball game with your father is a great experience