October 11, 2010

Sometimes baseball provides all the answers

Why do you love baseball? It's really a simple question. The answers; however, are often deeper than one could imagine.

Today's post comes to us from Bill Ivie, who is the Executive Editor and Founder of i70baseball.com. Enjoy...

It was one of the hardest times I have ever experienced in my life. As my relationship, my family life, and my professional career were all upended very quickly, I was struggling to find answers to more questions then I had ever asked before.

Everything seemed gone. My children, my friends, my family all seem to have disappeared. Looking back now I realize just how mind altering depression can be as many of those things were still there and as strong as ever. But that is not what this story is about.

There are songs, articles, books and stories that have been told for many years about that type of situation. All of these situations were solved by a visit to the author's childhood home. They would sit in their old bedroom, under a tree, on a porch swing, or in a field out back and remember who they were and what they needed to be. As my world felt like it was falling down around me, I decided to try and take their advice.

There was a problem here, though. I did not have that home. We moved a lot when I was younger and many of the houses that we lived in were no longer there. Still, I set out to areas that I had lived, hoping to catch just a little bit of that magic. I drove past a small elementary school that I attended, remembering how big it seemed then and how tiny it was now. I drove through the neighborhood that I spent my junior high school years living in, but it had changed so much that it was hard to even recognize. I drove through neighborhoods of childhood friends' houses, past the high school I graduated from, and even walked around property owned by my ex-father-in-law. Still there was nothing.

I pulled into the park that July night around dusk. An orange haze cast over the sky and there was a slight, unseasonable, chill in the air. The outfield grass was freshly cut and the dirt had been drug over recently leaving a light powder across the infield. There were no other people anywhere in the area as I stepped out of my car and approached the third base dugout.

I sat on the bench, looking out over the infield, barren of lines, with stark white bases protruding from their positions 90 feet apart from each other. I remembered sitting in that dugout as a young man, my father coaching the team that had made it to the championship, having just struck out the inning before with runners on second and third and two outs.

My team trailed by one run with just a few innings left to play and I had let them down. My father patted me on the back and gave me the old "get 'em next time" look. The look was mixed between the strategies a coach had running through his head and the love of a father realizing his son was not sure what to do next.

I remembered vividly that day grabbing my glove to head to left field and my dad stopping me on my way out of the dugout. He told me, "do something amazing and no one will remember the strikeout." With two outs in the next half inning I made a diving catch in left center field with the bases loaded to keep it a one run lead. Two innings later I worked a walk, stole second, and scored on a teammate's base hit to left field to win the game after my team had tied it earlier in the inning.

I think I am the only one that remembers the strikeout.

I stepped out of the dugout and walked to the area where the on deck circles would be drawn in chalk prior to the next day's games. I squatted down and scooped a handful of dirt and let it sift through my fingers like sand in an hourglass. I was reminded of relationship advice, being told to "hold onto her love like sand, too loosely and it falls away, too tightly and it will run through the cracks of you fingers and hands. Gently, yet firm, and it will stay".

I walked the field that night, leaning against the slightly rusty, yet still firm chain link fence. Reminding myself of the times that I chased foul balls down the line to that fence, crashing into it. Reminding myself that I always stood up, dusted off, and got back into the game.

I watched the sun set over the field and buildings that bordered the park. I stood near second base, watching the fence and bleachers reflecting the moonlight. I walked through the dugout, remembering the countless games that I would pack up my equipment and head home. I walked through the grassy park back to my car, wondering if I had found any answers.

I drove home that night, not sure where life would take me, how I would put my family back together, or what I needed to do to become successful in life. I had found no answers despite memories that provided me with lessons I had learned throughout my childhood that applied in the present situation.

On that field that night, all alone walking around, I found something more important than answers. Somewhere amongst fresh cut grass, soft infield dirt, crisp white bases and rusty fences, I found myself.

Because, you see, dear reader that is what baseball is to those of us that love it as deeply as I do. It invents us. It supports us. It identifies who we are. If you dig deep enough, you will find a passion and desire that is second to none. Most of all, when we need answers, it provides us with the right ones, even if we are asking the wrong questions.

And that's what baseball is all about, Charlie Brown.

Submitted by:
Bill Ivie
Executive Editor and Founder | I-70 Baseball
Assignment Editor | BaseballDigest.com
Member of Baseball Bloggers Alliance
Twitter: @poisonwilliam

You should also check out his More Hardball blog as well.

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