Baseball is unique to any other team sport because individual accomplishments or failures, compiled over a season or in one game, determine the success of a team as a whole. Ever since I started playing the sandlot game in 2008, I collected numerous jerseys, pants, and knee high socks, and each stain or tear tells a different story.
One such story is of the unsure rookie who caught a deep fly ball over his shoulder in left field, and for his effort made a deep grass stain behind his left shoulder on a steamy Saturday afternoon in June. Then, there was the overconfident back shortstop one cold and rainy August, who muffed a catchable pop fly, tracked mud all over his gear, and watched as the next batter laced a triple in deep left centre field gap scoring the tying and winning runs in that game.
How about the mud splattered pants with the blue piping that were ruined six years ago, the black baseball socks torn the day the MCL went bad, or the blood-stained Colorado Rockies jersey (that’s a story for another time)? Keep in mind, there were more good stories than bad, such as looking at a black Pirates jersey with pride and flashing back to the night my old church team won the city championship.
A common thread links every baseball story, much less every baseball stain collected in the last seven years: That person, whoever they are, has a purpose, a goal, and a dream tied to every pitch, hit, and run, however that person was part of something much larger. True, the actions of that individual were integral to the success of the team, but just as significant the success of the team is integral to the development of the individual. Baseball is weird that way.
Facing 2016 and an uncertain future, I pray there will be opportunities to tell more baseball stories, and make more baseball stains. Living with the same hustle and heart expressed on the diamond is the best way to find more of those opportunities. That’s the only connection I have to the sandlot player, and I owe it to them and the team in this life to drive and succeed.
If you do play baseball, it’s best to dirty your jersey at some point during the game. Most people won’t remember how you dirtied your gear, but they’ll assume you did it doing something fantastic. 😄 ⚾️