By Jeremy Blanco
“What were you thinking? They threw you out by a mile! We lost because of you” – Former Coach.
I represented the run to bring us within 1 in our second to last inning in a race to make the playoffs. I had so much confidence in my speed that when the ball left the bat I knew I would round 2nd base and go for 3rd if the shortstop went for the batter at 1st. It worked throughout most of my childhood and I could run a 100 meter dash under 12 seconds – so why wouldn’t it work against a high school team, which happens to feature a future Division 1 SS, year in and year out? They would have to make a good throw from Short to 1st, plus another on target throw to 3rd, and make the tag. I knew I could get to 3rd under 4 seconds, but can they make two throws under 4? That was my logic. It seemed risky but also made sense. I grew up learning from the decisiveness of Kenny Lofton, Ken Griffey Jr., and Vladimir Guerrero. They were risk takers and although it didn’t always work out, when it did, it paid off.They went for their dreams.
I had dirt on my pants, dirt on my face, and an ear ringing “Out!” We proceeded to kneel on the left field grass after the game to be debriefed by our Coaches. The blame was placed on our mistakes and lack of execution. Those few minutes were torture. Imagine a tobacco spitting coach staring down on you, in front of your peers, after a game which you already felt bad for losing, then highlighting your “risk taking” in contempt. The rest of the rant was a blur and my ears seemed to shrink. I wanted to turn around and let him know what I really felt about going for an extra base. Yet he continued. The creed being taught to me was that risk taking is left to others. Risk taking wasn’t for me, it wasn’t for my teammates, and it was why I would envy the other team across the way that was considered “scrappy,” year in and year out. Therein lies the problem however – what if only the very best like Juan Pierre, Joe Morgan, or Rickey Henderson stole bases? Well, I’m not sure I’d want to be apart of that world.
While Travelling however, there is a Golden Rule to success – take risks and accept the failure which is apart of your adventure. I have learned thanks to the failure of striking out, missing a routine fly ball, throwing the ball over the 1st baseman’s head, and of course from getting thrown out at 3rd base. In large part due to those failures, it has became possible to take on the challenging process of: learning a 2nd and 3rd language, learning how to swim in open water contest’s, participating in multiple marathons, and visiting mountain peak after mountain peak. Most importantly, just as we have to trust our teammates, both old and young, in travelling (and riding the pine) you begin to trust in people who may have been considered complete strangers. People who come from different backgrounds, whether it be in race, ethnicity, major, hobby, gender, or whatever you can think of. Those teammates, those strangers, become partners in your adventures.
I’m not saying disregard strategy, or disregard your team’s interests. I am saying, know what you are able to accomplish, know that you won’t always accomplish it, and go for it anyway. After all, isn’t this pastime a game that we are supposed to learn from? Instead of staring at the stats, enjoy the innate beauty of what the body and mind can accomplish – win or loss. Just take a look at the life work of Roberto Clemente in his pursuit to help people in need, beyond what he could do on the field. There is much more beyond the game of baseball, much more. Together we ought to pursue that knowledge. Baseball will give you amazing peripheral vision, it will help your body learn to balance, it will help you learn to become calm before, during, and after a challenge. It will help you share the spotlight, and of course it will help you learn to fail. Then you will bounce back from that perceived failure. So why limit that knowledge and thirst for adventure to the boundaries of the chalk you did not put down? Enjoy the game as what it is, a game, a pastime, but never forget to move forward and progress. Take a leap and go head first, just like you did when you were playing with your friends, for fun.
The following is a short film I made about living abroad in a rural countryside village and the benefits will show of what happens when you you are encouraged to take a lead, and go for 3rd. Even amidst the tough weather or the fear of the unknown and unfamiliar.