Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Baseball Players and Writers
Kay and I have just returned from a few days in Arizona, where we watched the spring training activities of our beloved (and frustrating) Texas Rangers. We loved seeing the games in a stadium that put us "up close and personal" to the players. I took Kay to the Ranger complex and explained some of the nuances of the drills the players were going through. It gave me a chance to show off. I'd been where they were, I knew what was going on. It brought back memories, good ones.
The day we were scheduled to leave, we watched the major league team go through their stretching and limbering up exercises. The players took the activities seriously, and for a good reason. A pulled hamstring can put you out of action for a couple of weeks--long enough to lose your chance to make the team. If you don't think being out for just a little while can make a difference, consider the case of Wally Pipp. He was the first baseman for the New York Yankees years ago. He was out for a day, and a young player named Lou Gehrig took his place. Yes, that Lou Gehrig--called "The Iron Horse" because he played so many consecutive games. Preparation is important, and being ready when called upon is everything when you're trying to make the team.
The major league and minor league players work out in the same complex, but in different groups, although sometimes the big league team pulls minor leaguers in to serve as extra bodies. These are the guys who play the last couple or three innings of the spring training games while the regulars are in the clubhouse showering and making tee times for their golf games. It's a thrill for these minor leaguers to be included in that way, but, as we pulled away from the complex for the last time, Kay and I talked about how we sympathized with them. Maybe one or two would actually make the big league squad, but the rest would go back to the minors. Most of them would never make it to the majors. But they keep trying.
A career in professional baseball offers three paths: keep on plugging until you make it to the big leagues, keep working hard at your craft even though you never get out of the minor leagues, or decide that it's just not worth the effort and pack it in. It doesn't take a genius to translate these choices to those facing the person who wishes to be a writer. You can pour everything you have into your writing, taking your preparation seriously, improving your craft, being ready for that big break. You can keep trying, even when you finally realize you may never have anything published, because you love what you're doing. Or you can eventually decide that, for whatever reason, it's time to give up the dream. Lest you think I'm being critical of the third group, think again. Whether you're playing baseball or writing, even if you have to move on to other things, you'll always have the experience and the memories. They will have changed your life. I hope that the change is for the better. It was for me.