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National pastime teaches life lessons

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. James Downs
  • 60th Civil Engineer Squadron commander
Summertime means different things to different people: swimming, barbecues, vacations, moving to a new school. For me, summer also means baseball.

I won't mention my favorite major league team because it's in direct conflict with my wing commander's favorite team. However, I feel we can extract many life lessons from "America's Pastime," and I thought I'd share a couple of them.

Responsibility. As with any team sport, baseball is a game of individual and collective responsibility. One of the individual responsibilities that sets it apart is to stand alone in the batter's box to face the other team's nine players. In our lives, sometimes we have to stand alone - or we may feel that way - and how we respond has a direct impact on the outcome for the team. Each of us performs unique roles in our lives, sometimes because we're the only expert and sometimes it's a task no one else wants to do. Whatever the case, we have an obligation to stand tall in the batter's box and carry out that responsibility to ensure the team's overall success.

Maximum Effort for Maximum Results. My son's coach tells his players, "Half a swing is a half a hit." Put another way, if we don't give it our all the results will show it. Even pro baseball's best hitters spend countless hours hitting a ball off a tee. It takes lots of time and hard work to grow personally and professionally, regardless of our current talent level. In the movie The Natural, Ed Hobbs tells his son, "You've got a gift Roy, but it's not enough. You've got to develop yourself. If you rely too much on your own gift you'll fail." This lesson applies to our fitness test, education, relationships, primary duties and everything we attempt in life.

Things don't always go as planned on the field. Errors happen. Hitters strike out with runners in scoring position. The key on the field, and in life, is to dust ourselves off, learn from our mistakes and step back up to the plate. Hall of Famer Bob Feller once said, "Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday's success or put its failures behind and start over again." To me, this is one of the keys to being resilient. Resilience is the ability to grow and thrive in the face of challenges and bounce back from adversity. We can't bounce back if we're not willing to step back up to the plate.

There are so many other life lessons inherent in baseball, but I'll close with this one: have fun. The other night at my son's practice, some players were getting down on themselves, and the coach said, "Hey, have you ever heard anyone say, 'Work ball?' No. The phrase is 'Play ball!' Now let's have some fun and play ball."

Obviously, not everything we do is fun. However, I firmly believe we always need to find ways to have fun. Life is meant to be enjoyed. Play ball.