Baseball is Life and Life is Baseball
Several journalists, philosophers, and authors have compared baseball to life, probably because it is such a compelling comparison. I can look at major moments in Red Sox history, learn from them, and apply them to significant points in my own life, and given what many men my age have been through, they probably can, too.
The baseball season is the longest of any sport. Every year, from April to October, the Red Sox play 162 games (more if you include spring training and if you’re lucky enough to see some postseason). Life is also not a sprint, but a long (hopefully) endeavor in which you have to keep participating, no matter how tired or sick of things you get.
Life, like baseball, is a range of ups and downs, each day (game), each series (3 or 4 games) and each year (season). In baseball and life, there are amazingly beautiful moments such as Pedro dominating at Fenway in his heyday, or the birth of my two children. There are also horrible times like Aaron Boone’s home run off Wake in the ‘03 playoffs, or the recent collapse of my 9-year marriage. These are good and bad extremes, but it’s what goes on between the lines (to borrow a baseball term) where the day-to-day stuff happens.
To simultaneously enjoy and survive life, as well as a baseball season, you need a range of skills and outlooks that balance each other out. To illustrate each element, I’m going to use famous and infamous players and events from the history of the BoSox.
Combine Nomar’s steel and Pedroia’s fire. There is a funny line that I find myself trying to walk each day. Quiet patience vs energetic confidence. I try to wait for things to work out and trust my routine and instincts like Nomar back in his heyday. This approach, while comfortable, too often results in malaise for me. I wait too long for things to turn around. More and more in my life, I’ve found that I need to be a bit more energetic and confident, like Dustin Pedroia, and try to address uncomfortable situations before they turn into problems. Perhaps a bit more Pedroia and less Garciaparra is my key.
Don’t get too emotional, like Jurassic Carl. The Red Sox teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s were a motley crew, led by Carl Everett. While tremendously talented, he was known for denying the existence of dinosaurs as well as some epic tantrums, both on the field and off. As I mentioned previously, it’s a good thing to fully commit yourself to a task or a project, but not to the point where you get so involved that you lose perspective. After some early success in my career, I got too emotional and had trouble stepping back and making smart, strategic decisions because I let my emotions get the better of me.
Be careful not to throw away your talent. When you find yourself lucky enough to be in a stable, comfortable situation, whether it be professionally or personally, you need to be careful not to let important things slide. An over-confident outlook enables you to coast on your reputation and previous achievements. A perfect example of this is Clay Buchholz. While he demonstrated occasional moments of brilliance (throwing a no-hitter in his second major league start at Fenway, All-Star selections in 2010 and 2013), he never quite asserted himself fully as a professional, which is something that I also don’t think I’ve done yet in my career.
Continue the pursuit of your personal brilliance, like Pedro. In 1992 the Los Angeles Dodgers traded a skinny, short Dominican pitcher to the Montreal Expos for All-Star second baseman Delino DeShields. They had decided that the pitcher, named Pedro Martinez, couldn’t be a starting pitcher, mostly due to his diminutive stature. Twenty-three years later Pedro was enshrined in the Hall of Fame. His time in Boston was one of the most dominant pitching performances in the history of the game, and it was very much the result of Pedro wanting to prove the Dodgers wrong. Earlier this year I left a company, after 13 good years, and I’ve started my own business, in the hope that working for myself will do for me, what the Expos did for Pedro when they gave him the chance to be a starter.
Practice persistence and perseverance, like Big Papi. In the summer of 1992 the Seattle Mariners signed David Arias, a promising 17-year-old power hitter from Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Four years later Arias, now David Ortiz (his father’s last name) was traded to Minnesota as the ‘player to be named later’ in a minor deal that was made earlier in the year. After some modest success with the Minnesota Twins, he was unceremoniously released 9 days before Christmas in 2002.
Based on the advice of his friend Pedro Martinez after a chance meeting at a restaurant in the Dominican Republic, more than a month later the Red Sox signed David Ortiz to a $1.25 million, one year contract. But he had to make the team, which was not guaranteed. Three World Series titles and 558 home runs (17 in the post-season) later the lesson is to keep trying. Persistence and perseverance will pay off eventually. You do all you can to keep playing, you adapt and you do your best to have some fun and enjoy yourself. Embrace whatever opportunities come your way and maybe in your own, small way, you can become Big Papi.
While it’s great to be motivated by the personal stories of the game you love, it is also vitally important to check in on your mental health occasionally to make sure you are OK. Men in Massachusetts can do that by visiting MassMen.org and taking a free and anonymous self-assessment. You can also find stories of other men, resources, and more blog posts.