The Quality At Bat

I have loved baseball every day of my life since 2011. Yes, that’s me on the bandwagon. You may scoff, I deserve it.

Before my conversion, I went to plenty of baseball games and we were a softball family. Steve is a lifelong SF Giants fan, and my daughter Alex is loyal to the St. Louis Cardinals. Baseball was a pleasant outing with beer and garlic fries. I didn’t care who won or lost, or even who was playing. My life changed on July 6, 2011. It was a 14-inning game, Giants 6, Padres 5, Nate Schierholtz with 3 home runs, including the walk off, and we were in the second row, behind home plate. I was hooked, and now I am embarrassed to tell you how much I care. I watch, read, listen, fret and cheer. I have Giants swag in my closet, on my car, and in my kitchen. I can’t get enough.

I love baseball because it has so many layers. There’s the game, but there’s also humility, vulnerability, sacrifice, confidence, instinct, strength, speed, patience, aggressiveness, luck and skill.  Tension, surprise, disappointment, elation. Pride and puzzlement. There are heroes and goats, and 162 games to be both. I’ve been fascinated by how many women follow the SF Giants, especially older women.  Maybe it’s athletes in tight pants. Either way, we’re all in.

One of the layers that intrigues me is the concept of the quality at bat. I heard the Giants hitting coach, Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulin’s talk about it a few weeks ago.

“It’s not just about the hit­s–it’s about doing something that helps the whole team. Maybe you get a sac fly or ground out, but you get the runner from second to third, and the next batter drives him home. That’s quality. Maybe you see one pitch, or seven, and you share what you saw. You might strike out, but if you get twelve pitches, we’re closer to the bullpen. Quality is even a walk, just getting on base. It’s getting the job done.”

Baseball. Life. It’s the same story, isn’t it?

Working without the obvious win. Show up, stand tall and let people throw stuff at you. Adjust, and let them throw at you again. Make a split second decision, take a risk. If you can do something with your opportunity–movement, insight, share what you learned–you help the team. Even your failure will contribute to the team’s success. Be ready, do the hard work, and always hustle, even when it looks like you’ll be hustlin’ right back to the dugout. There may be a moment when you get to shine, but you never know when it will happen, and it won’t last long enough. The real reward, besides your shiny moment, is being part of a greater effort.

When Alex was twelve, her softball team had a family game, and it was terrifying. I took my place in the batter’s box, facing my daughter, and I swung through every pitch. I couldn’t wait for my at bat to end so I could hang out in my natural habitat, the sidelines. I am sure I contributed nothing to my team, except for a few laughs. I haven’t played since.

My quality at bats will certainly never happen at the plate, but I intend to show up with a quality effort, every single day, in real life. I might be successful, I might fail. But since it’s not over until it’s over, I’ll just keep going, and hope I’m ready when it’s my turn.



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