Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Life’s Field of Dreams

I love baseball—not just the game itself—but what it symbolizes and the impact it has had on my life. Baseball is more than nine players between the lines trying to out best an opponent. Baseball is emotion, dedication and commitment. The game is an individual challenge fused to a team’s effort to achieve victory. Baseball provides kids of all ages with dreams. Regardless of one’s talent, ability or skill, the “WELCOME” mat is always on display at home plate.

What boy hasn’t fantasized about hitting one out in the bottom of the ninth to snatch triumph from certain defeat? What kid hasn’t pictured himself making a leaping game-saving catch against the outfield wall, or spearing a sizzling liner just as it tries to leave the infield? What tousled-haired slugger hasn’t dreamed of stepping up to the plate with the game on the line, the roar of crowd in his ears, with the winning run on base? The pint-sized all-star faces an opposing pitcher who throws baseballs that shatter the sound barrier. Our hero, narrows his eyes to razor-sharp focus, tightens his grip on the bat, and coils his muscles like tightly wound clock springs.

The pitcher sends the horsehide sphere spinning toward the plate. In the blink of an eye, the diminutive DiMaggio sights, senses, and signals his body that this fast ball is destined for outer space. The sound of swinging bat colliding with thrown ball fills the stadium with an exhilarating CRACK! Like a true Major Leaguer, the little guy hesitates a brief moment before beginning his homerun trot around the bases. He displays no outward evidence of his feat, but inside his heart is bursting with pride. He acknowledges his accomplishment by tipping his cap to an imaginary crowd as he returns to the dugout where teammates wait to greet their champion.

How many times have boys played the greatest baseball game of all time in their hearts? Soaring like an invincible Olympian, against outfield walls, hearing a welcomed thud as the glove interrupts the flight of a would-be homerun—turning it into an instantaneous, rally-ending out?

What other game provides a kid with such diversity of greatness? Why else do young boys clear vacant lots, mark off bases, tape coverless baseball, mend cracked bats, and fill sandlots with their spirit? Why do thousands of youngsters compete each year to earn the privilege of wearing a Little League uniform—to be part of the team? It’s because the game of baseball offers each youngster a chance to perform on the Field of Dreams. Baseball encourages dreams. It stimulates the imagination, exercises the mind, touches the heart, and leaves an indelible mark on the spirit. Baseball is more than just a game. Baseball is a metaphor of life.

There are players everywhere, with various levels of ability, talent and skill. Some make it all the way to the Majors; a few, to the Hall of Fame. Most, however, exhibit their limited talents in sandlots and local stadiums. The important thing about baseball is not the level of achievement, or, if you make it to the big leagues, but the quality of play. Each individual brings to his or her field of dreams; a specialness unmatched in the world. As in life, we’re granted a certain number of times at bat. Our chances for success are limited and the opportunity to advance life’s teammates—even more so. There are times when we are called upon to sacrifice ourselves for the good of the team. Once in a while, we are given the green light—to swing away—to do whatever we can for others. And, there are times, in spite of our most valiant effots, we are not successful—and fail to make a difference. And, sometimes, we make errors.

A productive life, like baseball, demands personal dedication, preparation, commitment and energy to meet unforeseen challenges. At times, we’re on the defensive, perhaps beyond our range, trying to keep opposing forces from victory. Even so, we are held responsible for our actions, and expected to do our best. Life’s Manager has done everything to prepare us for the game. By Word and example, He taught what must be done to win—to achieve victory—to make it safely home.

In spite of our fragilities, He readily forgives errors and overlooks our shortcomings. He keeps all the statistics and always knows the score. His coaching staff does their best to keep us alert, in the game, and watchful. Occasionally, we lose our concentration, resulting in miscue and injury. When we get down, He’s there to renew our spirit and strengthen our Will to win.

When He decides we’ve played enough “innings,” he takes us out of the line-up. Hopefully, when that day comes, our scorecard will reflect our best efforts, and fellow teammates will applaud our performance—and long remember our contribution.

We are all alike when it comes to baseball. Regardless of what position we play, what role we fill on the team, or what place we’re assigned in the line-up; each of us wants to make it home safely—and hear our manager say: “Well done! You’ve been a credit to the team and gave a good account of yourself during your time on the Field of Dreams.” May we all be granted “extra innings”.

Where's Al going to be next???

Check back soon for his next appearance at a location near you!