Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Giving Up 12 Singles: A Lesson In Faith

Standing on the mound in windy Colorado Springs I did something I've never done before. I gave up 12 singles in 5.1 innings, yet left the game in line for the win. The first two innings came and went without much fan fare, scattering a couple hits with a couple strikeouts and holding onto my slim 1-0 lead. Nothing felt discernibly different as the third inning rolled around. It was the same hitters and the same ballpark (if not a couple degrees cooler and a bit breezier). I began the third by attacking the strike zone just as I had done in the previous innings. With the pitcher leading off the inning I had the first out, a weak grounder, in just 2 pitches. After racing to an 0-2 count on the next batter, the tide of the game turned.

I tried to run a fastball under the lefty's hands leaving the ball over the plate just a couple inches. He swung defensively and the sound of the splintering maple could be heard 20 rows up where my wife sat bundled in whatever "cold weather gear" we could rustle up in Vegas. The ball, apparently blessed with 20/20 vision, found a hole past the outstretched glove of my first baseman. I winced, as only a jilted pitcher can, and got the ball back from my infielders. What ensued was pure baseball magic. The next 7 hitters reached base via the single base hit. Pitch after good pitch was capped or jammed into those microscopic vacuums that hitters dream of and pitchers have nightmares about. Broken bats filled the opposing team's dugout trashcan while their players methodically circled the bases one by one. My catcher came out once to encourage me, saying "Keep making good pitches. They can't get lucky all day."After three more singles that traveled a combined 100 feet my pitching coach made the long walk from the dugout. He echoed the catcher with, "Geez. Can't catch a break, huh?" It was at this point that I had a decision to make. I could give in to the self-pity that was brewing inside me, or I could stay the course and keep making pitches in the hope that this inning would end without further damage.

Now it's easy to stand outside of a situation like this and take the high road. The road that makes more sense. The road that shows character and strength. But take a moment and think back to a time in your life where you couldn't seem to get ANYTHING right even though you were seemingly doing EVERYTHING right. Our emotional response is usually much stronger than our rational one. Self-pity seems so justified and a bad result becomes expected. It takes something special to believe the best is still possible. Something not found in the heat-of-the-moment (que the music) but forged in the victories of the past. It takes Faith. The belief in something hoped for. The evidence of things not seen. There have been times in the past where I've given up and given in to the situations. Where i've accepted the sting of defeat before it was sealed. But on this day, at this point in my career, I clung to the faith I had. That my stuff was good enough. That I had succeeded in the past. And that if I consistently gave 100% my chances of success would be high.

Long story short, I got out of the jam with a strike out and an outfield assist (thanks Juan) giving up only 3 runs. Our team battled hard and came back to take the lead 4-3. I made it into the 6th inning that day, and even though we ultimately lost the game, I was reminded of what a little bit of faith (and a good arm in centerfield) can do in times of chaos.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

10 Ways To Stay Humble

2013 has the potential to be a very successful year. I'm attending my first Big League camp, with at least a puncher's chance of breaking with the Mets when they head north on April 1. I am into my 4th year of marriage with Ashley and loving every second of it. Her business, Buzzy Craftery, is expanding and she's got plenty of work. My Twitter account is well over 5,500 followers meaning that my observations about things like clubhouse toilet manners is being received pretty well. All in all, things are looking up and it might be tempting for me to get a big head. So for my own humility, and as a tool for my readers, I give you 10 ways to stay humble...

1) Listen: The greatest tools we have in our humility artillery are our ears. The easiest way to get the focus off of ourselves is to give attention to others. My good friend and Boosterthon CEO, Chris Carneal, always says "Show up, Pay attention, and engage." I like to think about those 3 things when my listening skills need sharpening...which is always.

2) Do things you aren't very good at: I'm not a very good reader and I'm not very disciplined to do it consistently. Because of that, I made it a priority to read one book a month this year. At the pace I read it's going to take me reading 20-30 minutes everyday to reach it. Humility is when you start reading a 200 page book and you wife finishes her 750 page novel before you get halfway through it. Thanks babe.

3) Surround yourself with people who do what you do...only better: When you are the best at what you do everywhere you go, it's easy to become complacent. It's also easy to forget that the next best (fill in the black) is working his/her tail off trying to beat you. You're never as far ahead as you think. It's like your car side mirrors. The people behind you are closer than they appear. When you surround yourself with more talented people, it raises your game and levels your perspective.

4) Learn to say "I don't know": It's really hard, for whatever reason, to answer someone flatly "I don't know." Probably because with all of the world's information at our fingertips, not knowing something seems like an excuse and not a legitimate answer. That's just not true though. Everyday I am learning how much I don't know, and I couldn't be happier about it. Life's full of questions we simply don't have answers to. It's exhausting having to know everything, so leave that to Wikipedia. Say "I don't know", listen, then learn.

5) Encourage others: As an athlete, you have people cheering you all the time, and let's be honest, it feels pretty good. Take every opportunity you get to cheer someone else. It might make their day and it'll make you appreciate those people who take the time to do it for you.

6) Drive used cars: People in Detroit are going to be mad at me, but there's something about driving a car that has a few too many miles on it. That makes a funny sound when you turn left. That stays in a continual state of "not shiny". These things, while frowned up by some people, are exercises in humility. When you have the money, it might be easy to go buy a new toy and keep it sparkling for the world to see. It's much harder to be content with what you have and take pride in having "just enough."

7) Call your Parents and Grandparents: I understand that talking to our older relatives can be time consuming, repetitive, and often underwhelming. But it is also vitally important! Not only did these generations take the majority of their lives raising you and caring for you (I do understand that's not always the case), but they crave relationship with us in ways we sometimes don't understand. Talk on the phone for 10 minutes every few days. Go to that family gathering...again. You'll realize you didn't get to where you are by yourself, and you'll be better off for it.

8) Learn to apologize: Don't just say "I'm sorry". Think about how what you did makes someone else feel. Empathize and apologize. Then figure out how to do it differently the next time (the conundrum of marriage). Apology does not equal weakness. Apology equals humility.

9) Hold a new born baby: Nothing freaks me out more in life than holding a baby. They can't protect themselves, they can't even hold their heads up. They put their entire security in your arms and you become wholly responsible for them. You can't help but look at a baby in your arms and realize you're not the most important person in the room.

10) Get caught singing something embarrassing everyday: Whether it's Gaga or ABBA, sing it loud and sing it proud. Then blush when you get caught and hurry off the elevator.