On Deck

There was a time when I enjoyed playing Baseball…

On Deck Circle with Ken Griffey…Mostly, now, I simply enjoy watching others play. I am almost sure I was never really good at it, but I remember several years of playing on Little League teams in Seabrook and Channelview. My brother, Vaughn, like to pitch, I like to catch, or play outfield.

In fact, as I think about it, I’m not sure why I never guarded the bases – I’m sure I was capable! Hmmm… Those were almost always the favored positions. They saw lots of action.

Back in those days I was fleet of foot. Loved to run. My glove was well worn in and ready to play. I truly enjoyed the game. 

Again, I’m not sure about my hitting memories, and I never remember hitting a home run, but I do remember getting on base a number of times.

One of the most exciting times of the game was the anticipation for approaching home plate with bat in hand. Your waiting location was called, “On Deck”. If the announcer knew who you were and when you heard your name projected, you thought about what was coming next. You took your warm-up practice swings. You pretended to swing a home run, all the while watching the pitcher load up his arm to throw the ball to your compadre at home plate.

These few moments of getting ready were the moments where you psyched yourself up for the big swing.

I never worried about getting hit with the ball. When I was a catcher I was more worried about getting hit by a swinging bat! As you stood at the plate, all of your practice, and mental acuity, prepared you for the moment when your eye caught the direction of the ball, and your brain put your body into synchronized motion to swing at the ball. Hopefully, your eye and coordination gave you an opportunity to connect with the ball and you watched it fly away from you, headed into play.

When we were not playing for a team we often played back yard baseball with neighbor kids. No legal dimensions of field were available, and we often played with handicaps so as to not hit or throw the ball too far, like, play your opposite hand – if you are right handed then you would hit left handed. Those kinds of handicaps. How many times did we have to climb the fence and go after a long hit ball, or a ball thrown too hard for the little yard! We would gripe, and complain, but this seldom stopped us from playing.

Why did we enjoy the game so much? It was pure activity. Socialization. Family connectivity. And good clean fun.

But many reasons come to mind later in life for the activity of baseball. It was a pure training ground for life in general. It was here that you learned to work as a team, or perform to your individual best but always with the team in mind. Scoring runs, sacrificing fly balls for your team mate to score, or even hitting a bunt for someone to steal a base and get closer to home plate.

Baseball was not an individual event. It was a team event.

Sure, there were times to shine in the spotlight of a well thrown ball, or a perfectly struck ball into play, but everything you did helped you learn how to operate for the sake of the team.

So, when it was time to step “On Deck”, you knew that you had an opportunity to do your personal best, but really you were operating for the sake of your team. Not only were you cheering for the person at home plate, but you were also readying yourself for that moment of truth! Can you hit that perfectly thrown ball? Will you not swing when it’s a poorly pitched ball? Will you swing with all of your might and smartly hit the ball where you wanted it to go?

So many questions!

Leadership Team Bill BethelI have been on a number of teams since those days. Some are connected to my career, church, and family. My best team members are those who know how to play as a team – they simply show up and know how to fit into the moment and perform as expected. But for those who are still learning then it is a good time to help them learn how to function on a team. Repetitiously practicing, practicing, practicing. Trying out for different positions, determining what you are good at, and then learning all the moves necessary for that position.

The other thing I was thinking about, you never really retire from Team Play. For the rest of your life you are on a team of some sort. I will always be on my Family’s Team – no matter the goofiness or distance. I will always be on my church team – and the older I get, the more positions I have had experience with and I’m sure I can cheer on the person in play for the moment!

Remember, your moment will come when it’s time to step “On Deck”.