By Dean Close, Editor
Out of sight, invisible as you look over the frozen, barren terrain, await the seeds of spring; the perennial hope of beautiful flowers and green grass, just waiting for a bit longer until it’s time to fill the world with their brightness and the inspiring fragrances of the new season.
Likewise, in countless sheds, basements and garages, there awaits another sure sign that the cold tundra will soon give way to green grass. Like seeds in their pods, baseballs stored in mitts in basement bags or garage boxes bide their time, awaiting their turn.
Baseball, like spring, is something you can smell, as well as see and hear. The leather of your glove, the dirt and grass as you make a diving catch or slide into home.
Whether your team consists of 6-year-olds learning to hit a ball on a tee, 16-year-olds hoping to win their last game of the season at Principal Park in Des Moines, or the guys in the big leagues hoping for a World Series ring, baseball offers the same hope of a new season.
Last year doesn’t matter. No matter how good or rotten it was, it’s gone. You get another chance this year.
And what you did last year, or what others say. The Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2013, after the baseball experts at Sports Illustrated predicted they would finish in last place.
For some of you, 2017 was a rotten year, full of headaches, mistakes and bad breaks. But there’s no reason that those things have to be more than tough lessons.
Bob Feller, one of Iowa’s MLB Hall of Fame honorees, said: “Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day.”
If 2017 was a great year for you, full of triumph and celebration, the new season brings a reminder that, as some baseball lover (I forget who, maybe it was just me!) once said: “In order for us to keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’ve got to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
In other words: If you want to keep succeeding, keep doing the stuff that makes you successful.
In the spring of 1953, after the Yankees had won four straight World Series, someone asked manager Casey Stengel about the prospects of winning another title.
Those around Stengel that day wrote that he replied: “If we’re going to win the pennant, we’ve got to start thinking we’re not as good as we think we are.”
In other words, Stengel, in his wise and clumsy way, was saying: We still have room for improvement.
Imagine being the manager of superstars like Mickey Mantle, Billy Martin, Whitey Ford, Johnny Mize and Hank Bauer and saying that.
But the ’53 Yankees listened, and improved. And they won their 5th straight World Series. Nobody else has done that, ever.
If you are not a baseball fan, that’s OK. Other areas of life offer inspiration and guidance as we begin a new season, a new year, or a new era.
Locally, years ago, I learned a prayer with a similar message to Stengel’s 1953 warning. A guy who is very good at building stuff was helping on a church project. He prayed: “Lord, make us better at this than we really are.”
That prayer immediately took up residence in my soul. Now, whether it’s writing a challenging story or trying to fix something I ain’t good at fixing, I find myself praying: “Lord, make me better at this than I really am.”
Whether you love baseball or not, just look around. You will see signs of hope, glimpses of better days ahead.
The other night, after writing some sad, troubling stories, I was walking to a meeting when I saw, in the window of the local flower shop, the proprietor, Emily, decorating for Valentine’s Day. While the picture of her standing, from my vantage point in the middle of a giant heart, was adorable and inspiring, it also served as a reminder that the world is still a mostly beautiful place, and there remains lots of life and love to share, and amazing people who love living life with you.
It’s a new season. Get out there, and whatever your sport or job or goal or challenge is: Play ball!