Living a Legendary Life … November 8th, 2020

Thirty, Sixty and a Hundred

The Mandeville Marauders were a baseball team.  Last season they got a new coach.

Bob Stark.

Coach Stark took over a team that was always playing .500 ball—won as many as they lost and lost as many as they won. Of course, no aspiring coach plans on maintaining such a record. The goal is to win more, to justify both his hiring and his techniques of motivating a team. Coach Stark had one simple rule:  hit home runs.

The team practiced fielding and running, but during batting practice there would be no rehearsal of the sacrificed fly or even simulation of the bunt.

Nope. Home runs. That’s what Coach Stark wanted and that’s what they practiced. Coach Stark contended that this was the way the Marauders could be pulled out of the doldrums of a mediocre season.

There was an excitement all through spring training camp. All of the players became better at hitting the long ball and at judging pitches–waiting for the right one so they could smack it out of the park.

The chatter in Mandeville was incessant. Just on the strength of word of mouth, there were more people purchasing advertisement in the program book and vendors lining up to have concession stands at the stadium.  Every one was certain that Coach Stark’s “home run philosophy” would put the Marauders in the winning column and Mandeville on the map.

The first game was against the Adamsville Athletics. The philosophy paid off.  Six of the nine batters hit a home run during the game.  Exciting—Yes, downright thrilling to see those balls flying out of the park. That’s why it was so perplexing that the Marauders lost the game—8 to 6.  The Athletics had no home runs.  But eight men had been able to cross the plate.

Coach Stark celebrated with the team the six home runs and told them, “We’ll get ‘em next time.”

Well, next time they hit five home runs—big long ones—and lost 7 to 5 to the Terrapins. Three nights later, it was another loss, 9 to 7, to the Tigers. All in all, after six games, the Marauders players had hit thirty-four home runs, a team record, and lost all six games.

Coach Stark was at his wit’s end.  After the last game, a sixth loss against the Ducks, an old man emerged from the crowd and asked Coach Stark if he could have a moment of his time. He was a small fellow, the kind that would be almost invisible even in a room occupied by three people.

He sat down with the Coach and made his case. “Coach Stark, I’ve been watching your team for the past six games. I, myself, have never played baseball, but have always enjoyed the sport, although at times I find it a bit slow and dull.”

Coach Stark frowned at the little old man, so he hurriedly continued.

“It just seems to me, Coach, that if everyone’s always hitting home runs, there’s no way to get anyone on base, so that when you actually do get a home run, you don’t just score one person, but two, three or even four. You see, that’s how they’re beating you, Coach. One of their batters may strike out, followed by another one getting a base hit, and then the guy who got the base hit runs to second base, and the next guy maybe walks. Then somebody else hits a double and then the next batter hits a double, a runner scores, and then you have two runners on second and third. So your pitcher decides to walk the next batter, loading the bases. The next batter hits a fly ball, which your fielder drops, allowing two more runners to score.”

Coach Stark was annoyed by the little, old man. “What is it you’re trying to say, fella?” he demanded.

The old man paused for a moment and then spoke slowly. “I guess what I’m trying to say is, if everybody is trying to hit home runs, there’s not enough people getting on base to make the home runs mean much.”

Coach Stark piped in. “There is nothing better than a home run.”

The old man paused and then replied. “Well, I think there is, sir. And that’s a victory caused by the whole team working together.”

As in our story, we live in a world that extols the beauty and the power of hitting the home run. Fame and fortune are portrayed as the ultimate symbols of human value. But life really doesn’t work that way. Just like in baseball, life demands that we pick up the bat and take our chances. Sometimes we strike out, sometimes it’s a base hit. Sometimes we walk. And sometimes we hit a double, a triple, or even a home run. The only difficulty comes when we don’t recognize the value of each and every maneuver.

The Marauders found out that without base hits, home runs don’t add up to victories. Without bunts and walks and stolen bases, people cannot get onto the playing field—people who add up and make a difference, and not only make the victory sweeter, but actually make the victory possible.

Sometimes opportunities come in thirties, sometimes they come in sixties and sometimes they come in hundreds.  The legendary lifer knows that three thirties nearly make a hundred, and two sixties are even more.

Where are the people writing music that may never be heard by the entire world, but relished by a regional few? Where are the politicians who do not aspire to national office, but instead, make one little town a little bit of heaven? Where are the shopkeepers that will never appear on the stock exchange, but create jobs for a selected few?

Babe Ruth was arguably the greatest baseball player of all time.  He was called the Home Run King. He also had the greatest ratio of strikeouts.

So feel free to aim for the fences every time you come to the plate, but if you want to live a full, legendary life, you are going to take your place on first base, and let another person hit you in.

The true sense of success is in the value of the journey and the creation of the miracle–by our own hands and the helping hands of others.

 

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