As I write this, my beloved Pittsburgh Pirates currently trail the Atlanta Braves 9-5 heading in to the ninth inning.
I’ve been a baseball fan for as long as I can remember; I had posters of Ted Williams, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth hanging on my lavender bedroom walls by the time I was eight years old. I listened to the Pirates on the yellow Mickey Mouse radio that sounded more of static than the play-by-play announcers, and I saved my box tops to order that Wheaties’ collector’s edition Pete Rose poster when he broke the all-time hits record.
(That was before he broke my heart by getting thrown out of baseball…)
I struggle to explain to a non-baseball fan what it is that I love so much about the game. I love the pace - I love the strategy - I love the quiet rhythm of the crowd and the announcers on a summer’s evening drive home from the gym. I don’t know where I learned to love the game so much - but baseball is as much a part of my blood as my Irish and Welsh heritage.
Tonight, as I’m watching this game though, I was struck by the one thing that keeps me tuning in for every pitch of every game, even when my team is, as they are right now, down by three with the momentum all going the Braves’ way.
Uh…make that five.
What I love about baseball, and just about any sport really, is the fact that the momentum of the game can turn on a dime. That one great defensive play can spark an offensive outburst the next inning - that one player can foul off nine pitches, find a way to get on base, and change the energy of his (or her if you’re watching softball right now) team.
The funny thing about baseball, is that those momentum and energy shifts are almost always the small things. The worst thing that could happen right now when my team is down by three? A home run.
Sounds strange right? I mean how can a home run be a bad thing? Because there is a different energy and feel to the game when the bases are empty. And if you’re down by three in the ninth, it’s hard to build a rally on a home run. But a bunt single? A hustle double? A batter working her way back from an 0-2 count to draw a walk?
Those are the moments that change the energy and momentum and ultimately, the outcome of a game.
I’m writing this tonight as a reminder, not just to you, but to myself as well, that it doesn’t always have to be the big thing that gets you going in the right direction. You can stack one small habit on top of another small habit and before you know it, you are making changes to your life that feel good for you.
But the one thing you do need?
Optimism. You need to be optimistic that you can change - that your life can be different - that, no matter what life has dealt you recently - that you can put together that one great at bat that will help steer you in the right direction.
And if that’s not something you can believe in for yourself right now, well, I’ll tell you what I tell everyone else - I will be optimistic for you until you can be optimistic for yourself.
In the meantime, the Pirates lost 12-5. But I’ll tune in again to watch them tomorrow. It’s a new day, filled with new possibilities - and you never know when the momentum is going to shift. But I believe it will. And I’ll be watching and supporting them when it does.