You may not read this article until after the day has passed, but I am writing this article while bitter cold blows across the January landscape. As snow falls on already icy pavement, in many ways, it feels like winter has just barely begun. While most people are preparing for the Super Bowl in just over a week, and the more romantic among us think about the perfect Valentines day gift or date, my mind has already begun drifting to a very special day this month, February 12. You may or may not know it, but that is the day that pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training and the upcoming baseball season officially begins. It may not feel like all that long ago that baseball crowned another World Series champion, but players are already packing their bags, making their plans, and embarking on a journey that will shape their future.
For some long tenured veterans, this year may prove to be their last. For other, nearly unknown players, they might make just the right adjustments, and have just the right luck, to breakthrough into future stardom. For others, they may only get a few moments in the sun before their promising career burns out too soon. No matter the player and no matter the situation, they all come prepared to do everything it takes to make it to October. October is where only the best players get to shine. And what they do now, and every single day until then, can make all the difference in the world.
Believe or not, in Henry, pitchers and catchers have already reported. I'm helping coach the Henry Rec League 12U baseball team this year that my son is on. We had our first practice in the High School gym on a cold January Sunday a few weeks back. I watched as hopeful kids showed up to go through the tedious, repetitive routine of fielding ground ball after ground ball, their first game still four months away. Catching throw after throw, returning each with a snap of their own arm. I watched as they swung the bat with gusto, not really worrying about what each swing might mean for their future hitting abilities, but in those moments only seeking to have fun while they grow a little bit better with each turn of their arms. It takes a lot of swings, a lot of ground balls, and a lot of catches and throws before one of these 12 year old's becomes great.
As I watched this routine practice unfold, as it has season after season in community after community around the world, I thought about every throw I made every, every game I played, and every practice I went to in my childhood. And I thought about how far it got me, and how far it didn't get me. I never had a shot at being a pro ball player, no matter how much I dreamed of doing so. But I knew that each year, the better I got, the more I improved, the more likely it was that I'd get to participate the next spring, the next season, even if it was just one more time at one higher level.
These kids may not realize it, but there will be a last game for them some day. There will be a final time coming out of the dugout, swinging that metal bat and staring down that spinning leather ball as they seek to throw out an advancing runner. And so it is in our life. We spend so much time in preparation for who we become and where we are going. We go through repetitive motions, perhaps to become better at our career, perhaps to learn a new trade or hobby, perhaps to grow in love with our partner through acts of kindness or affection. But someday, at some point, all of those things, all of that practice, will pass away. Participating, building, saving, preparing, it all eventually leads to finality. All events, all relationships, all of our life experiences have an October. For many of our goals and dreams, we don't make it all the way there. 'We see some long distant success as being the only important outcome of our present efforts and participation.
But what if that is the wrong way to view our lives and our day to day activity? What if each swing, each throw, each catch, in each moment, is more important than what it all leads to? Do we find the glory in each tedious moment as it happens? Do we recognize and see the blessing and possibility of each day we're given to live and breathe on this Earth? How each tedious act of preparation, training, or repetition is itself a moment where we are participating in the beautiful gift called life? Or do we get so frustrated, caught up in all of the dreams of things we'd rather be doing, rather have, or used to have, that each day speeds by as though nothing productive has taken or could take place? Do we so yearn for something we used to have, or someone we used to be, that it seems useless to work towards something new?
This year, baseball will happen whether you show up a single game or turn on the TV to watch it. And in the same way, life happens whether we get up with intention, inspired to go out and live it, or whether we sit back dreaming of somewhere else we'd rather be doing something else we'd rather be doing. How do you find your next moment in the sun? More importantly, how do you make today, and each day, a moment worth living? I hope you decide that each today, no matter how cold, no matter how hot, is a day where you get to play ball. So...as they say...playball! Amen.