I married baseball when I learned to walk. My love affair with the sport lasted 20 years on and off the field through travel ball, high school, and college athletics. Baseball consumed my life. Everything I did revolved around the sport. Playing baseball taught me many life lessons including intangible values for successful interpersonal relationships.
It’s easy to love a sport when you’re succeeding. It’s hard to maintain good feelings during seasons of failure or frustration. During the good times and bad, I learned I needed to make the choice to commit to my sport if I wanted to succeed. Sometimes I questioned whether or not I loved baseball. Injuries, slumps and other issues made quitting appealing. However, I chose to love the sport beyond my temporary feelings. The ups and downs taught me love in relationships is a choice, not an emotion. Through seasons of joy and pain, love remains the same by choice.
Succeeding in a sport is the same concept as gardening -- you have to water the plant to see results. Unless you’re willing to work harder than your competition and improve yourself, success will evade you. In order for baseball to give me success on the field, I needed to dedicate myself to working toward my relationship with the sport. I’d spend hours outside of practice working on my craft and extra time in the weight room. In order for my relationship with baseball to breed success on the field, I needed to put in the work. The same is true with personal relationships. Going the extra mile and working for the relationship will grow its health like water for a plant.
I most enjoyed baseball when I stopped worrying about my own personal success and focused on the success of my team. Supporting my teammates through good times and bad gave me more joy than obsessing over my own personal stats. Personal happiness is best achieved through selflessness and caring more for someone other than yourself.
When I stayed faithful to baseball, it stayed faithful to me. I felt like quitting during moments in my career when I had Tommy John elbow surgery, got cut from varsity, sat the bench, or started a season with a bad slump. In these moments, it felt like baseball didn’t love me, so why would I love it? Despite my frustration, I decided I’d stay faithful to baseball and keep working and improving. By my senior year of college, I helped my team win a conference championship. These experiences helped me see the value of loyalty in a relationship. In order for relationships to survive, faithfulness is crucial. Neither good nor bad seasons should define affections. A relationship never dies when both parties are faithful.
Baseball is a game of beauty and cruelty. Victory and defeat. Beginnings and endings. Even as my playing career ends, I know baseball will continue to affect my life beyond the field. I love baseball, and always will.