Crying In Baseball And What The Game Teaches You About Life

Photo taken by Ken Blaze, USA Today Sports; usatoday.com
Photo taken by Ken Blaze, USA Today Sports; usatoday.com

With all due respect to Tom Hanks’ character in A League of Their Own, the fictionalized movie about the All-American Girls Professional League, and the infamous line ‘There’s no crying in baseball’, I’m here to tell you: there IS crying in baseball – and that’s okay.

I’m talking about the kind of crying on players’ faces as they realize what it means to become World Series Champs. The kind of crying by loyal fans because ‘fairweather fan’ doesn’t apply when 1908 is the last time your team won. And, the kind of crying that overcomes you at home as you watch the players’ own emotions become your own.

Very early this morning, the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series, defeating the Cleveland Indians at Cleveland’s Progressive Field. After rain delays, numerous pitching changes, extra innings, and questionable moves and strategies by their manager Joe Maddon, the Chicago Cubs became the 6th team to ever come back from a 3-1 deficit to become World Champs.

Let me stop right here with the baseball jargon, because I’m in no way qualified to talk baseball with any authority. Rather, I’m a fan who appreciates what baseball teaches me about life and how I weave these lessons into my parenting.

I fell in love with baseball in elementary school, when I had a crush on a boy in my class. It’s that simple. Thankfully, my two brothers played baseball, providing the perfect cover for showing up at games. Over time, I cheered on the teams, kept the score on the old-fashioned wooden scoreboards, and even sat in the announcer’s booths in my small hometown. I learned the rules and saw up-close the upsets and triumphs of the players, the teams, and the parents who so badly wanted their sons to excel at baseball.

Today, my love for baseball means cheering my girls on in softball games and taking them to watch the Toronto Blue Jays. I love what the game teaches my kids about life. And, the World Series last night did not disappoint. Here’s what I’ve observed.

David Ross carried by his teammates. Photo taken by Gene J. Puskar of The Associated Press and appeared on nytimes.com
David Ross carried by his teammates. Photo taken by Gene J. Puskar of The Associated Press and appeared on nytimes.com

Firstly, baseball teaches us that people and relationships are important. How players interact with their teammates, managers, families and fans affects their environment and performance. They rely on each other because this is a team sport that rests on supportive and positive player relationships. Last night, we saw two beautiful examples of this. The Cubs’ catcher, 39-year-old David Ross, also known as ‘Grandpa Rossy’, is heard counseling 27-year-old Anthony Rizzo on breathing and staying calm throughout the game. Then, the Cubs’ outfielder Jason Heyward took advantage of a 17 minute rain delay in the 10th inning to bring his teammates together to remind them about having fun, competing, being in the game, and believing in themselves. Many players interviewed after the game talked about this rallying weight room talk. You could see and feel that the Cubs were connected.

Second, if showing how to operate under pressure were a judged competition, baseball players would be among the winners. Being called out to pitch, with your team ahead, to the heart of an opposing team’s batting lineup in front of millions, not delivering, and then having cameras watch as you get replaced is not easy. Ask Aroldis Chapman. Going back to the dugout and not talking to anyone while you mull over your performance means you’ve somehow mastered the skill of keeping calm – in public. Interestingly, there isn’t a lot of talk going on between players and managers during these nail-biting games. It’s as if each player is using all of his energy to keep his thoughts and emotions in check.

Thirdly, baseball is about hard and fast rules and numbers. As parents, we know that rules and routines are important and make life a lot easier. Rules give us a framework within which to guide our children along. The Official Baseball Rules of the MLB are outlined in over 150 pages. There’s a protocol for following these rules, including replays and meetings by the officials. As for numbers, a batting average of .300 is considered excellent. With an average like that, it means for every 10 times at bat, you get a hit 3 times and the other 7 times, you don’t. When you explain this concept to your kids, it drives home the idea of staying in the game in order to be ready when the opportunity comes.

Photo from mlb.com
Photo from mlb.com

Finally, baseball is about being patient. With a 162-game season that starts in April, plus the postseason, you’ve got eight months of baseball a year. That’s a long time, a lot of games to play, and lots of opportunities to set records and have them broken. You just have to watch a few games to hear some of the baseball statistics that are kept! If you go back to David Ross at last night’s game, you see him become the oldest player in the World Series to hit a home run in Game 7. How long did he have to wait for that title? 14 years. And, what a retirement gift! I love how this shows you that things take time, and that sometimes they happen at the very end of a journey.

Arguably, most team sports teach you a lot about life. And, they sometimes involve crying because the emotions that come with persevering and winning are just that powerful. I chose baseball because of a personal connection I have with the sport and because history was made last night. It’s also one of the few sports that I understand and appreciate!

As I look outside and watch the leaves flying off of the trees, it’s clear mid-Fall is here: the postseason is over and the Chicago Cubs are the 2016 World Series Champs. Congratulations! Summer’s favorite sport is over but I’m happy that Spring training is only three months away. I can’t wait!

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