My Dad taught me how to properly oil and shape a new baseball glove; carefully and meticulously working the oil into the new leather, forming a perfect pocket for the ball. Many hours were devoted to punching my fist into the cradles of new gloves to ensure the perfect feel and wear. Life is eerily similar. If you work hard enough at something, life can bend to your will. I learned that the most rewarding things in life need to time to be cultivated.
He showed me how to wait for the perfect pitch, how to hit curveballs, throw a sinker, and 3 different types of fastballs. He showed me how to cut off a throw from the outfield, cover a base, sacrifice bunt, and steal bases. He also stressed that you don't always have to try and smash the ball, just make contact. You'd be surprised how far it goes when you just make contact with the sweet spot of a bat.
Timing is everything. Sometimes showing restraint in the present will produce the perfect set of circumstances in the future. Life inevitably throws you curveballs, I know how to wait them out. Life comes with its hitting slumps, I know how to keep swinging through them. When one strategy isn't working, have two other fastballs you can throw. There are moments when you have to step in and take over a situation, cover your buddy's back, sacrifice yourself for others, or take a risk. When I'm trying too hard to make something work, I know that sometimes just the right amount of effort or finesse, will garner the desired results, often exceeding expectations.
I remember my Dad liked to say that there will ALWAYS be somebody faster, stronger, and better than you. You have to work harder, work smarter, and although you might not always beat him, eventually you will. I learned that I didn't like losing, but that it's very much a part of life, and the smart ones learn from it.
He instilled discipline, work ethic, commitment, and courage. Being the coach's son, I was the first to arrive and the last to leave. I learned the value and responsibility of working hard to hone skills. It takes courage to stand in front of an 85 mph fastball. I learned that occasionally you get hit, and although it's painful, you can capitalize on misfortune. Life too can sting, but you have to dust yourself off and get back in the batter's box no matter what. And sometimes, you have to take one for the team.
From watching my Dad trek across the baseball diamond to argue a call with an umpire, I learned that you have to stand up for justice, fairness, and equality. I learned that there are times you have to question authority/government and that you have a voice. If nothing else, every time he got in an umpire's face, it demonstrated the quintessential example of commitment and loyalty. In life you have to be fully committed to your cause, your family, and what you believe in, others will loyally follow.
He conditioned me to be coachable. I remember he would also say that everyone you come in contact with in your life, potentially has knowledge or insight that could be useful and applicable to your situation. Different people have different vantage points, experiences, skill sets, and knowledge. Stay open minded, listen to what they have to say, consider their experiences and learn from them.
We played catch, pepper, hit batting practice, caught fly balls, and threw countless pitches. It still baffles me to this day, how after all of that, he was simultaneously molding my character and preparing me for life. I had to work hard at some things, while others just came naturally. As I get older and reflect upon these memories with greater frequency, I begin to understand the importance of the bond between Father and Son, and more importantly, how monumentally significant even the most trivial of activities spent with your Father can influence and shape your life.
I'll leave you with lyrics from a Kenny Rogers song that my Dad sent me one day. I think they sum things up rather well. You got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em, Know when to walk away and know when to run. You never count your money when you're sittin at the table. There'll be time enough for countin when the dealins done.