Freshman student Ian Roth reflects on a pivotal moment in his senior year of high school which brought with it sadness, yet newfound appreciation for the sport he loves.
“Don’t it always seem to go,
That you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”
That’s how it goes right? I should have checked a lyrics website. To be quite honest a third of that doesn’t really matter. I don’t know what they’re talking about with the whole “parking lot” thing but the part before that is pretty straightforward. “Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.” It’s saying appreciate what you have, because when you don’t have it, whatever “it” is, you’re going to miss it.
Last week, at a baseball practice of mine, I stood in for a bullpen session. The pitcher who was throwing was having a hard time with that particular sequence. The ball was constantly missing high or outside, sometimes incredibly low until the catcher called for a fastball inside. I saw it coming from a mile away; the ball ran in and hit me in the hand. I found out the next day that the ball broke a bone in my thumb and here I sit. I probably would have been writing on this blog anyway but the point is I now can’t play baseball for at least a few more weeks. Depending on how it heals, and if it’s strong enough, I may or may not be able to make tryouts, which could result in me not being on the team at all. Which could mean that my days in competitive, organized baseball may be over. I didn’t have much of a career in organized ball, as it was quite lackluster. I played t-ball and coaches-pitch, then I quit only to pick it up again when I was nine or so. I quit again, furious at the fact that I was getting the minimum one inning of playing time that was required. Looking back on that and the time I stood idle without baseball until I joined the baseball team my junior year in high school, I feel like a total fool.
One of my “it”s is baseball, going back to the song lyrics. In itself it means a lot to me, but playing it is special for everyone that can. And now that I can’t, I’m realizing how special it really is. I never was a star, or a starter, and when I played baseball my junior year I didn’t worry about that at all. I played to play the game, not to acquire personal stats or look to get scouted. That whole year I never felt that it was a burden to go to practice, I was going to play baseball with my friends, I was going to enjoy the sun, to hear the glove pop, and watch crisp line drive after line drive in batting practice. It upset me when I saw people on my team who looked like the fact that they played baseball was somehow a burden – extra baggage that they didn’t need. They showed up to practice with a straight face and put their cleats on without a word and looked like a robot walking out to the field. I said to myself, “They can’t possibly be this angry, for crying out loud, it’s baseball!” As if I was the all-knowing “appreciation guru” and felt it was wrong that they went about the game in that attitude. Baseball is a beautiful game played on lush green fields with men who are still boys or boys growing to be men. Baseball is a game where the tempo is never the same. It isn’t rushed, but at the same time it can’t be stopped. Baseball is the game that brings families closer together. And when I say family I’m talking about the whole picture, I’m talking about the great American family. It’s a game where there’s just enough time in between events to stop, breathe, and reflect. It just depends on if you actually do so.
So here I sit, an old outfielders glove sitting on the floor to my right, along with my hat. My bats tucked nicely away downstairs and spring training knocking on my front door of the house so brutally worn from the winter void. As my friends pack their stuff into their bags and head off to workouts I’m stuck here, unable to even put on a glove or grip a bat, stranded in my thoughts. Reflecting. And I’m a bit late, as if the fastball came in and hits the webbing in the catcher’s glove, and now I’m swinging. As much as I love the game I didn’t take the time to sit and tell myself that I’m playing the greatest game ever devised. The game I love could very well have passed me by and not once did I tell it I appreciated it. I’m afraid I am no better than the kids that showed up to practice miserable. And as I sit and ponder and write I’d like to extend unto you, the reader, and a share of my experience. It’s true, you don’t know what you got until its gone. So if you play the game, and you love it, and it’s a part of your life sit on the bench just for a second. Sit and watch the shortstop range over to the ball and gun someone out. Take in the sound of the crack of a bat, or the pop of a catcher’s mitt. Take your hat off, close your eyes and remember all the people who never got to play the game, or those who just can’t, and consider yourself blessed that you got to be a part of baseball. Your game. Our game.