“Baseball is hard. Don’t forget that. It really is a hard game.”
Rance has tried to encourage me with those words throughout this sprint of a season, after another groundout or strikeout.
I visited with BVG after one such groundout. (I like calling you BVG. I think that’s Rance’s official nickname for you. I apologize for laughing every time I hear Rob Neiss’s nickname for you.)
“You coulda fumbled the ball when I hit it to you.”
“Can’t help you on the fumbling,” he replied, “you hit it solid, though.”
There is some consolation in the solid contact.
“Who invented this game anyway?” I asked.
“Some guys who liked to fail 7 out of 10 times but still find it enjoyable.”
Baseball is hard.
There have been several studies on the science of hitting demonstrating just this point.
Like this video.
Or this article.
“You take a person like Michael Jordan [who] tried to play baseball. Michael Jordan couldn’t play baseball. You know baseball’s really hard,” said David Kagan, a physics professor at California State University.
When Rance encourages me with “Baseball is hard,” I immediately think of Jimmy Dugan’s quote from A League of Their Own, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”
Even on good days, baseball is hard.
Even on good days, Life is hard.
The difference between Life and baseball is that everyone does, in fact, live.
In A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller wrote, “A story is a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.” The “overcoming conflict” part is what makes Life hard.
The unexpected diagnosis.
The lost job.
The broken relationship.
Or when an uninsured motorist totals your favorite vehicle.
Life in the middle of the hard is an exhausting struggle and anxiety like chest-sitting elephants and nightmares that wake you up at 3 AM and keep you up for hours.
Life in the middle of the hard is stranded-in-nowhere lonely and there are so many twists in this tunnel you’ll never see the light again and your favorite meal doesn’t taste very good.
Life in the middle of the hard is when doubt is the answer to every question and pep talks are needed to put on pants and every at bat starts with an 0-2 count.
But the journey of “overcoming conflict” can make Life great, too.
That is not a reference to a Jacob Karlson or Chandler Veit or Cole Roark curveball in which my bat truly came over the ball and left nothing but a shadow and a whiff in its wake.
Overcoming is a state of mind, an attitude demonstrated with every breath you take. Overcoming is not a decision made once for all, but a courageous choice made moment by moment.
In the middle of the hard, lean into your teammates, that’s why God gave them to you, because it’s not good to go at this game or Life alone.
In the middle of the hard, remember. Remember all the other times you’ve faced obstacles and struggles. Remember how you found strength to keep going. Remember who walked through the hard with you. Remember, remember, remember.
In the middle of the hard, keep playing, keep swinging, keep praying, keep singing, keep dreaming, keep dancing, because the Story isn’t finished. A new day is coming.
Baseball is a zero-sum game. There will always be winners and losers. (The last tied baseball game was on September 29, 2016 between the Cubs and Pirates. Rain stopped the game in the 6th inning. The score was 1-1. It was the final game of the season.)
As much as I want to be on the team that wins the last game of the season, losing isn’t the end of the world.
Baseball is also a test. Tests by their very nature are supposed to be hard. Whether you win or lose, baseball reveals your heart. And, if you let it, it can help shape you into a humble, determined, persevering person who knows how to celebrate others’ successes while you wait for the coming new day.
And that is why baseball is a game of hope.
Baseball is hard.
Life is hard.