I wish I could live the rest of my life with the memory of a 9-year-old baseball player. I would forget the bad stuff, remember only the good stuff, and treat every day like the gift that it is.
Being around an incredible group of 9-year-old players this spring and summer taught me many things, none more important that this: Keep a short memory.
Keep a short memory when things don’t go your way. Baseball, as it is often said, is a game of failure. You make outs more than you get hits. You sometimes lose more often than you win. Honestly, no one in his right mind should want to play a game that reminds him so often of how inept he is at playing it. All the more reason to play it like a 9-year-old.
I saw individuals this season strike out over and over, and then get right back in the batter’s box like they own it. The key? A short memory. That last at-bat was over and the next was a new opportunity. I saw guys make error one play, only to do something incredible the next time the ball was hit at them. The key? A short memory. I saw pitchers walk the bases loaded, only to induce a strikeout or ground ball to escape with the next hitter. The key? Of course, a short memory.
Something happens when we grow up. We begin to dwell on every failure, ever negative moment, as if each one of those defines who we are. We stop trying. We stop experimenting. We remember way too much. And it’s killing us.
I’m challenged to learn from 9-year-olds. Forget the bad stuff (yes, learn from it, but leave it in the past). A short memory when things go wrong is the key to forward movement in the long run.
Keep a short memory when things go well. There is no more humbling a game than baseball. The hitter who was 4-for-4 one day wears the collar the next. The very moment you think you have this game figured out, it throws you a curveball and you’re walking back to the dugout. The guys I coached this year taught me to remember only the good stuff, but that even the memory of the good stuff can make you complacent.
I love that 9-year-olds tend to remember only the great things they do. There’s something pure about that. That strikeout? What? I was thinking about that hit I got in the last at-bat. The error I made in the first inning? Huh? Didn’t you see the play I made in the fifth?
How would life change if we allowed ourselves to be defined less by our lowest moments and more by our great ones? Of course, this isn’t license to be an ignorant, arrogant fool. I’m just saying that it seems tremendous freedom would come from focusing on what we can do, rather than what we can’t or didn’t do. Remember the good stuff.
At the same time, it’s obvious that remembering the good stuff can lead a person to believe he’s arrived and has nothing more to gain. I loved watching 9-year-old players treat every at-bat like new, even after tremendous success in the last one. They didn’t assume they would get a hit simply because they did in the previous at-bat. Instead, they focused each time, gave it their best shot, forgot the bad stuff, remembered the good stuff, and started fresh each time. Priceless wisdom there.
The life lessons here are infinite. You can’t control the past, whether your past is good or bad. Only Jesus can deal with that for you (and he did, by the way, on the cross). You can’t do anything about the future (and that’s in his hands too). But, you and I can begin the discipline of keeping a short memory, of staring over routinely, and of treating each day as the gift that it is. That’s what I learned from 9-year-old baseball players. Thanks, guys.
This is the third in a series of posts called “Everything I Needed to Know I Learned from 9-Year-Old Baseball Players.” Follow this link for the entire series.