Playing small ball
A few months ago, I wrote a letter to Chase about the dogged art of chasing dreams. I told him that if he want to be happy when he gets older he must, with all the energy in his “Labrador heart,” always chase his dreams.
Though I was urging him, I was urging myself to chase my dream of writing and publishing a book.
It’s a nice letter, but after the letter’s rah-rah, I failed to tell Chase how to achieve his dreams. I mean, we both know dreaming is easy. And we both know it’s doing the daily dream-work that is so soul-crushingly difficult.
Yet who am I to offer my son advice, or anyone else for that matter, on how to achieve their dreams when still working on mine? I entertain self-doubt over coffee every morning. I romanticize about the published book even though there are hours of editing and revising work still to be done.
Yes, I have this blog and, humbly, I’ve become a source for counsel to others, yet I often feel like an imposter.
Sometimes I need a reminder that dreams are not easily accomplished. That dream-work will break your spirit. And that to achieve a dream sometimes you have to resort to playing, what baseball enthusiasts call, “small ball.”
Chase walks to home plate. His third base coach begins an elaborate system of hand rubs, hat tugs, and ear pulls.
“Is Chase bunting?,” Cindy asks.
“I think so.”
Cindy and I have spent the last few weeks watching Chase’s baseball team advance to the Pennsylvania State Championship. It’s exciting, but like underwear, we’ve crammed our family’s lives into duffel bags. And our summer, our vacations, are at the gut-wrenching mercy of 11-year-old baseball.
The pitcher rears back, and throws, and Chase squares around to bunt. The ball tinkles off the bat. The catcher and the pitcher spring forward. Chase drops the bat and sprints down the first base line.
It occurs to me you might not be a baseball fan. I get it. Of all sports, baseball can be paint-dryingly painful. And most Major League Baseball games are over three hours long. Certainly, we all have more important things to do than watch someone in a helmet try to hit a small flying ball with a thin-handled bat.
However, in baseball there’s a strategy called “small ball.” That’s when a team relies on doing the little things–bunts, sacrifice flies, and base stealing–to score runs instead of hoping for the great American home run. Essentially, when playing small ball, a team manufactures runs by executing a less glamorous, and some might say an anti-patriotic, style of baseball.
Modern baseball, like the modern audience, has become impatient. We’re living in the time of instant gratification. Just like our Wi-Fi, our oatmeal, and our home runs–we want them and we want them now. Some say that the intimacies of small ball, grinding out a lonely run, has become a lost art. Some say patience is a lost art as well.
With his bare hand, the pitcher grabs the baseball, pivots, and throws to first. Chase crosses the bag. The first baseman’s mitt pops. The umpire shouts, “Safe!”
Three pitches later, on a single to left-center field, Chase crossed home plate and scored a run.
I don’t know if Chase will ever take my fatherly encouragement to chase his dreams. Yet in all likelihood, if he tries, he will fail and then he will get frustrated and then he will entertain self-doubt. Just like his dad.
But I want to remind him–and myself again–when chasing your dreams, sometimes you need to stop romanticizing about hitting a home run. Sometimes you just need patient and play small ball.
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