After striking out at the plate for the last seven weeks, I did something in the very last inning of the very last game of the season that dropped everyone’s jaws.
I was an outfielder in baseball. I joke that the only ball I ever caught was a pop fly to the face after losing the ball in the sunlight. I’m just bashful. I was good at outfield.
I don’t know how good I was, but if a player sent a ball screaming to left-field, my dad would smile, say “good” and start clapping before the ball started to come down. We spent hours in practice, and I had lost my fear of the ball after that pop-fly I caught with my face. Hitting the ball to left-field against our team was a bad idea.
But I sucked at batting.
I sucked so bad at batting; I would swing at the air and miss.
Because I always wanted to use my strength and send the ball over the fence. I did it all the time in practice, just never in a game. That led to a lot of lost singles or doubles that could have helped our team. The boring “just get on base” hits only make a difference if you try to hit them. I just swung as hard as I could every time.
I went the whole season without hitting one ball. But in the last game, I stepped up to bat for the last time. The bases were loaded. What did I do differently? Nothing.
I death-gripped the leather tape on my Louisville slugger and swung at the first pitch so hard that I could have knocked out a rhino. CHUUNG!! My hands hurt like hell. I open my eyes to see a ball hurtling over the Arkansas River. It had zero chance of staying in that ballpark. I had hit a grand slam.
I didn’t know what it was like to be a hero, but if it felt the way I did when I made it back to my screaming teammates at the dugout, then it was everything I hoped it would be as a kid. The gloves against my skin, the helmet being pulled off my head by my dad, my teammates, the people in the stands, everything in that park felt electric.
We lost that game.
We lost by a lot, actually, but it didn’t matter to my teammates. They showed up anyway and celebrated with me.
But the lesson for me was this:
“Grand Slams are pretty, but they don’t win games.”
Getting on base, hitting ground balls, and stealing home is what wins games.
Big goals won’t give you your best life.
Doing the little things, showing up over and over, and getting back to baseline after messing up keeps us making progress towards a goal.
It’s not the flashy stuff; it’s not the things sold to us in the highlight reels of social media. It’s the work in seemingly mundane and boring repetitive tasks, time and time again that bring us to a place of accomplishment. It brings us to the “after” portion of the “before and after-photo” that reflects the “real” hard work of doing the boring and being uncomfortable.
I didn’t want to do singles or bunt to get on base. I wanted to send the ball over the fence more than I wanted to win.
I got what I asked for. But I was a kid and could get away with it. Now I’m the ripe old age of 24 and a little wiser.
What will it take for you to win this week? This month? Through this trying time? I doubt it’s flashy. I bet it looks unappealing and even “too small” to matter. I bet it looks a lot like hitting to get on 1st base when you have the option to swing away.