I’ve been a baseball fan for as long as I can remember.
I had posters of Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth hanging on the lavender walls of my bedroom when I was eight years old.
I listened to my hometown Pittsburgh Pirates on the yellow Mickey Mouse radio that sounded more of static than the play-by-play announcers, and I saved my box tops to order that Wheaties’ collector’s edition Pete Rose poster when he broke the all-time hits record.
(That was before he broke my heart by getting thrown out of baseball…)
In 2013, just two weeks after my wedding, I made a quick 24 hour round trip to Pittsburgh to watch my team play in, and win, the Wild Card game, making the playoffs for the first time since I was 15.
To this day, it’s the coolest baseball experience I’ve ever had.
I struggle to explain to a non-baseball fan what it is that I love so much about the game. I love the pace - I love the strategy - I love the quiet rhythm of the crowd and the announcers on a summer’s evening drive home from the gym. I don’t know where I learned to love the game so much - but baseball is as much a part of my blood as my Irish and Welsh heritage.
Tonight, as I watch my guys battle the Milwaukee Brewers to get back to a .500 record, I’m struck by the one thing that keeps me tuning in for every pitch of every game, even when my team is, as they often are, losing.
I tune in for the possibility.
The possibility that my team, however long they’ve gone without a World Series win or appearance (40 years), might string together some amazing moments.
Like the time the Pirates scored six runs in the bottom of the ninth, with two outs, to defeat the Houston Astros in a game that didn’t mean anything to anyone.
Except some of us fans.
So yeah, I tune in for the possibility.
What I love about baseball, and just about any sport really, is the fact that the momentum of the game can turn on a dime. That one great defensive play can spark an offensive outburst the next inning - that one player can foul off nine pitches, find a way to get on base, and change the energy of his (or her if you’re watching softball right now) team.
The funny thing about baseball, is that those momentum and energy shifts are almost always the small things. The worst thing that could happen right now when my team is down by three? A home run.
Sounds strange right? I mean how can a home run be a bad thing? Because there is a different energy and feel to the game when the bases are empty. And if you’re down by three in the ninth, it’s hard to build a rally on a home run. But a bunt single? A hustle double? A batter working her way back from an 0-2 count to draw a walk?
Those are the moments that change the energy and momentum and ultimately, the outcome of a game.
I’m writing this tonight as a reminder, not just to you, but to myself as well, that it doesn’t always have to be the big thing that gets you going in the right direction. You can stack one small habit on top of another small habit and before you know it, you are making changes to your life that feel good for you.
But the one thing you do need?
Optimism. You need to be optimistic that you can change - that your life can be different - that, no matter what life has dealt you recently - that you can put together that one great at bat that will help steer you in the right direction.
And if that’s not something you can believe in for yourself right now, well, I’ll tell you what I tell everyone else - I will be optimistic for you until you can be optimistic for yourself.
In the meantime, the Pirates are losing 2-0. But I’ll watch the game to it’s end tonight, and I’ll tune in again to watch them tomorrow. Because tomorrow’s a new day, filled with new possibilities - and you never know when the momentum is going to shift.
But I believe it will. And I’ll be watching and supporting them when it does.