As a crazy, over-dramatic, over-sensitive, overly passionate sports fanatic there are a few days in the calendar year that I hold extra special. I love Sunday at The Masters, the first day of the NCAA Tournament, first night of the NFL Draft, Super Bowl Sunday and that Saturday every fall where Michigan and Ohio State take the field. And while there are a dozen others that I look forward to each season, none compare to Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season.
Opening Day, which, for those who lost interest after Little League, is today. In cities all across North America, fans will gather for that traditional first pitch as their team kicks off the 2013 campaign. For those in the Midwest and Northeast, Opening Day is often a chilly experience and nothing like the “Boys of Summer” moniker that baseball so proudly wears. But we’ll bundle up and brave the cold to go see our teams get a fresh start on the year. 30 teams with a clean slate. No matter what happened last year, they all come back with a blank canvas and the opportunity to paint their new picture.
While I know that the whole “baseball as a metaphor for life” thing has been done more times than “Take Me Out To The Ballgame”, I can’t help but continue to be struck by its application. A great… I mean GREAT… baseball team wins 100 games in their 162 game season. At least 62 times during the season they went out there and did what they’ve trained to do, but it wasn’t good enough to win. The best hitters in baseball only get a hit three out of every ten times they go to the plate (or for the Saber-metrics guys… a real value player only reaches base about four of ten times – OBP FTW). They do everything right. They go to batting practice. They watch tape on the Pitcher. They talk to their Hitting Coach. Most of the time they even do the toughest part of all and hit the ball. Yet, for all their effort, it’s still an out. They didn’t do their job. They failed to reach base.
I’ve been there.
Struck out in the 1st Inning.
Hit a lazy fly ball in the 3rd.
Maybe got hit by a pitch in 6th but got thrown out stealing 2nd.
But, when the 9th inning comes you stand there once again. A new opportunity. A new moment to do something. What you did the first three times don’t matter in that moment. You still have the chance to do something great. As we say so often around here… failure doesn’t have to be final. That is, unless you stop trying.
What if Miguel Cabrera… Derek Jeter… Bryce Harper… what if they struck out in the 1st inning and then took their bat and went home? What if they quit every time they failed? They’d never get the chance to get that dramatic 9th inning home-run. If they stopped playing every time they lost, they’d never have a chance to win.
Sometimes in life… like in baseball… you can do everything right… and still not win. You can do all the work, but go 0 for 4 at the plate. You can throw the perfect pitch… and someone still knocks it over the fence.
It’s what you do with the next opportunity that tells the story of your season.