I feel hardcore baseball fans get asked this a lot: "How do you enjoy baseball?"
Before they can answer, this question is usually followed by: "It's so slow and boring. I always fall asleep."
And finally: "I don't even watch the game if I go to it... I go to hang out." If these are your thoughts about the game, it just means you don't quite understand all that baseball can bring into a person's life. I realize you can never expect someone to understand your personal "why" if you don’t share it. So, I'd like to share why I love baseball, what it's taught me, and what I still learn from it.
Ever since I can remember, I've loved sports – all games. But I've always had a different connection when it comes to baseball. Baseball makes me feel euphoric – like I'm on Cloud 9. I remember going to games since I was a kid. I'm sure my first game was in the old Kingdome in Seattle. As I grew and changed, so did the stadiums – and their names: I went to games at Safeco Field, which is now T-Mobile Park. I watched so many exciting and memorable moments in Seattle Mariners history:
The magical 2001 season, when they won 116 games.
When "The Kid," Ken Griffey Jr. came back home to end his career.
When Felix (Hernandez) played his first and last game for the Mariners as a Mariner.
When Ichiro left and then came back, the Mariners opened the season in Japan in 2019; Ichiro made me cry with his goodbye.
When Dan Wilson hung it up.
When the words "MY, Oh MY," were spoken for the last time.
These are some of the best parts of baseball – the memories it gives you. I remember where I was for so many of these moments and how I felt about them. As a Mariners fan, I can remember the great and sad moments. But baseball... man, it just gives you memories that you'll cherish forever. Where it All Started.
My grandpa raised me when I was 8, right around the time I started playing baseball. My first team was in PacWest Little League in Burien, Washington. I played for the Cardinals. My coaches were Coach Randy, the head coach, and Coach Billy. I know we had a third coach, but I can't remember his name. They had a tremendous impact on me. I played with these coaches for the next three years until we moved. I started as a Catcher. The other day, I found the only game ball I ever got during those early years. I got it in my second year. I'd been working on blocking the plate in practice that week, and preparation would come into play. It was a night game. The bright lights were on. We were the Athletics (no, not the Mariners), and the game was close. At the end of the game, I remember a play at the plate – getting the throw from Patrick, our Shortstop. I caught it (the most important part), dropped to my knees, and blocked the plate-like I'd practiced. When the ump shouted, "OUT!" I was lost in a haze of people screaming; my teammates were so happy; I remember them running at me. I had just won the game for us. Take this moment with the excitement of Mariners baseball during the early 2000s, and I was sold – in love with the live game. Fundamentals, Muscle Memory, and the Tiniest of Details During the time I played baseball, I took it for granted. I never took coaching seriously – the tweaks and tiniest of changes that can help a player improve. Looking back now, I wish I would have; I wish I would have listened. For example, when it comes to throwing, there are so many fundamentals we're taught at a young age that is supposed to become second nature – muscle memory. For Pitchers, it starts with how the situation tells us to pitch from the wind-up or stretch. A pitcher not only has to throw the ball but also has to be in sync with the catcher – on the signs, gripping the baseball, so it does what the Cacher has called for, tossing it at the right angle, making sure we throw the ball to the exact spot and at a certain speed. If we miss or do something wrong in the process, the ball can bounce in the dirt or fly over a catcher's head. I've taken this simple lesson into life: we must all pay attention to the details, no matter the job. We have to be aware of the proper processes and steps to deliver the right product on time and to the right place. Success, Perspective, and The Change-Up The typical professional baseball season is played from February to October, or November, if you're lucky enough to play and win the World Series – if there isn’t a pandemic going on. The regular-season schedule is 162 games. The typical hitter will only get on base about 34 to 40 percent. The other 60 to 75 percent of the time, they fail. The best pitchers give up three runs every nine innings. Put these numbers in the context of an entire season. If a player gets on base 37 percent of the time, they're considered elite; if a pitcher gives up 2.5 runs every nine innings pitched, they, too, are elite. Why tell you this? Because there will be weeks upon weeks that the best hitters won’t get on base more than 10 percent of the time, and they'll still be considered the best. They take every at-bat and opportunity one by one and know it’s about the final numbers (their average) and end goal of winning. That's life... your life! I have adopted this mindset as a father and coach – everything I am doing now is for the future, the end goal. When I have to punish my child, it’s not fun, but I know they'll understand how to act or treat someone in the future. Likewise, when I'm coaching a frustrated player who can’t get over striking out or not hitting the ball hard enough because they just tweaked their mechanics, I know they'll be better, healthier, and stronger later because of the changes. Don't be scared of change! There Comes a Time There comes a time when we can longer play the child’s game for all of us. The last thing I want to talk about that I've learned from baseball is gratitude. I was always grateful for being able to go and play another game. There was a time in high school when I thought I would never play baseball or even softball again. At the end of my senior year in the Championship game, I injured my throwing elbow. It cost us the game. Since then, I've healed up and played in several adult softball leagues and even in men's baseball leagues. I am so thankful that I can throw without pain; I still train my muscle groups for strength and to be able to compete at my absolute best in those leagues. With baseball, I have learned to keep my perspective intact. Being a pitcher, you see the game a little differently. You have to be able to see the game one pitch at a time – slow the game down to your pace and control what you can as much as you can. Like life, you will make mistakes along the way, but how you respond to those mistakes will make or break the game. You can either dwell on them and repeat them or fix them immediately and move on and not do it again. There comes a time when we can either be bitter about our past, which tends to lead to bad habits, or be grateful for all the struggles and experiences, move on and learn how to get better.