I often dream I play professional baseball. Perhaps it's because I spend most evenings cooing over a great play or lamenting over a poor showing by the St. Louis Cardinals, but baseball seems to sit on my mind.
I often dream I play professional baseball. Perhaps it’s because I spend most evenings cooing over a great play or lamenting over a poor showing by the St. Louis Cardinals, but baseball seems to sit on my mind.
Earlier this year, I took in a Cards/Cubs game at Wrigley Field in Chicago, my first trip to the shrine of baseball in the Windy City. Shortly thereafter, I dreamt I played for the Cardinals as a second baseman at Wrigley. I could smell the freshly-cut grass. I remember the crunch of the diamond dirt under my shoes. Yes, all this in a vivid dream.
Hey, I like baseball.
While my baseball dreams are the literal thing nowadays, things were a little more abstract in my youth.
Like most children at some point or another, I dreamt — perhaps envisioned is a better word in this context — of a life in baseball. While the Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees ruled the baseball roost throughout much of the ‘90s, the decade of my adolescence, my Cardinals still held their own. Particularly fun was the home run race between Mark McGwire of the Cardinals and Sammy Sosa of the Cubs in the 1998 season. We all know who won that contest.
Baseball was part of my childhood in the greatest baseball town in the country.
So naturally, my parents signed me up to play at the local YMCA at the ripe old age of six. Back then, the teams didn’t have fancy names or great equipment. Heck, I think I played on the “purple team,” the namesake of our t-shirt color.
I remember playing at least four summers on different teams. Navy blue, purple, white and gold. I remember playing mostly the infield positions. I was short and quick, but not particularly strong and couldn’t throw the ball with accuracy for any great distance, so coaches plopped me at second base and shortstop most often.
And while I played at the YMCA, not exactly known to be a boon for future baseball greats, I still loved it and fostered a dream to play in the big leagues.
As I got a little older and the competition intensified, we moved from t-ball to coach-pitch underhand to coach-pitch overhand to, finally, kid-pitched games.
Coaches at that age of ten or so, ran the gamut of letting kids pitch. I remember my day.
I ran out to the mound in my YMCA t-shirt and cap, ball in hand.
And I let it fly.
The baseball flew way over the catcher and hit the backstop.
I could feel the color rise into my cheeks as my embarrassing showing continued pitch after painful pitch. I wanted the coach to take me out and replace me.
I looked into the dugout and pleaded with my eyes to replace me before I accidentally pitched a ball clear out of the field.
But the coaches were staid in their decision until I finally cleared the inning. I had never felt so embarrassed in trying something I thought I would be good at.
I see the value in keeping me in the game now.
To succeed at achieving a dream requires hard work and perseverance, the ability to bounce back when faced with tribulations and the ability to control your own destiny.
But there’s another value worth learning: knowing when to give up.
That’s why I’m sitting at my desk writing this column instead of taking laps around the diamond.
It doesn’t hurt now, but it did then.