A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Stepping up to the Plate by Joseph Kurland, age 13

            I shared Joe's narrative because he wrote it without parental help. Well, actually I did intervene last week. Joe tried, originally, to write about video games. My reaction was, "No, Joe, that's Kindergarten Level writing. Not acceptable." When challenged, Joe admitted that he had been looking for the easy way out. 

           This morning, I learned about Joe's feelings for the saxophone. The benefits of playing: it looks good for college admissions. The problems: it hurts his lip to play, and the case is heavy. Yikes! The kid needs to hear some great saxophone playing, live. I told him that looking good for college admissions is not a particularly compelling reason to play an instrument. Over the holidays, I will look for opportunities to take Joe to see some live music.

           How many teens have been conditioned to set their sights low, just like Joe? As a parent, and a teacher, I do my best to emphasize raised expectations in a culture where mediocrity has become the expectation. If, as a parent, I hadn't stepped in, he would have written blithely about his first Gameboy! Arghh!
           “Boom”! The ball flew into centerfield like a lightning bolt. The cracking of my bat really started the season off with a very unusual, although amazing start. When the ball landed, no one was there to catch it because they thought I couldn’t hit a ball that far or even at all. My team and coaches stared at me in awe like I was a ghost as I trotted to first base.

“Wow”, I thought to myself as I tapped first base with my foot. There once was a time where that would seldom ever happen in a season. Last season I only had three or four hits. This was the first game of the season and I had already gotten a hit. How was I able to get a hit?

I can still remember those seasons a couple years ago where I was a beginner at the game and struggled to get a hit. My parents signed me up for lessons at the Virginia Baseball Club and I also practiced hitting with my wiffleball bat in the backyard. The vibration on my hands every time I made contact with the ball annoyed and pained me at the same time. Sometimes I went to the batting cages, but I still felt vibration and struggled to get hits. I mindlessly blamed my bat for my errors when I was frustrated and enraged after getting out. When I look back at that now, I see why I was so mad. I was missing the point. These lessons weren’t enough. I needed more of a challenge.

I went into this spring expectedly at the bottom of the batting order still using my tiny Majors bat. Our team did spectacular in the outfield. I was on an outfielder’s seven game catching spree and at the same time I was on a seven game hitless spree. I was usually glad going into the outfield knowing anything that came to me was catchable. When we were on offense I was terrified of being embarrassed every time I went up to bat. It was either strike three or a small tap.

As that season wrapped up, I still kept up with my VBC classes and I routinely went to the batting cages. The VBC instructors slow-pitched the ball to me and I would always hit it. Cracking that bat every time delighted me, but it didn’t help me improve on my hitting. I took a long break over the summer on traveling to the batting cages and taking VBC lessons. That didn’t mean I took a break from hitting altogether.

I got private practicing on an unoccupied field over the summer under the blazing ninety-five degree sun. I was given a very heavy bat that was high-school level and practiced swinging it. I could barely even lift the bat and I was hitting with it. The first couple practices, I wasn’t doing very well and I was failing to hit the ball. All of a sudden something inside me sparked. Something that could have only came out by pushing my limits on the field. I was actually doing it. Hits started raining that field like hail. I had become a hitter.

For the next season, I bought a thirty-one inch bat that was heavier and more effective due to a larger barrel on the end of the bat. I was assigned to my first game since the spring without practice with a team. I was immediately put into the cages with my new bat. My old teammates from past seasons told the coaches I couldn’t hit. Once I stepped into the cages their predictions were incorrect. I was hitting baseballs like I never could before. Once I got out of the cages everyone congratulated me on my hitting and wanted to see some of it in the game. I was in the bottom of the batting order thus I couldn’t hit in the first inning. Once it was my turn I confidently marched up to home plate. The pitcher threw the ball in a perfect zone where I could hit the ball without trouble. I just swung and I heard something like a loud ding and looked up. It was the baseball and it was headed for an open area in centerfield. I barely even walked to first base because I didn’t need to worry about anyone throwing the ball last second. Everyone on both teams stared in awe. The coaches, players, and parents looked at me like I was a ghost. The rest of the season was just hit after hit. I never struck out. I didn’t even have an at bat without my bat touching the baseball. I grew, improved, and had a very fun time just teeing off that season. Right now I’m working towards getting hits in a tough spring ahead of me. Besides, I learned that I can do anything if I work hard enough and want it enough.