baseball-against-black-backgroundI didn’t make it to the Major Leagues. I didn’t even get drafted. In reality, I was a decent, but not great, player. Yet, when I think about baseball, my mind isn’t focused on what the game didn’t give me, on what I didn’t achieve, on the level I didn’t reach. Instead, my thoughts immediately go to how much the game has impacted my life. For that, I say thank you today to the game itself.

Thank you, baseball, for being the first and only game I’ve ever loved. It truly is a love. I love everything about the game–its symmetry, its quirkiness, its pastoral nature, its giving, and its taking. I love watching baseball, playing baseball, coaching baseball, analyzing baseball, talking about baseball, and being frustrated by baseball. Throughout my life, baseball has given me something to love and I could not be more grateful.

Thank you, baseball, for giving me something in common with my dad. He loves baseball, too. My first memories of the game are with my dad–either at a game in Cincinnati or in the yard learning to play. An unbreakable bond was forged between father and son through endless games of catch and countless hours practicing. Dad and I have always had something to talk about because of baseball. Thanks.

Thank you, baseball, for something I can pass on to my sons. My oldest loves it possibly more than I do and my youngest wants to invite Joey Votto to his birthday party. I’ve had the privilege of coaching them both–is there anything more special than that? There’s nothing I enjoy more than being at the ballpark with my boys. I’m sure we would find something if it weren’t for baseball, but I’m grateful to share a love of the game with them.

Thank you, baseball, for the men I called “Coach.” Incredibly, I still do. They will always be “Coach” to me. I’m indebted to this great game for putting me under the tutelage of so many great men. They taught me mechanics and they taught me life. Words fail me when I consider their impact on my life. If not for baseball, I would have never met them, never learned from them, never appreciated them. How blessed I am.

Thank you, baseball, for teaching me how to win and how to lose. My experiences in high school and college were polar opposites in this regard. We seldom lost in high school, whereas every win in college was hard fought. I learned what it takes to compete, no matter the score. Winning taught me that hard work and discipline do pay off, but losing taught me that hard work and discipline do not guarantee the result you want. I would much rather win any day of the week, but the game has taught me that losing and failure are simply part of life. Where would I be without those lessons?

Thank you, baseball, for lifelong friends. I often spent more time with my teammates than my family. So many of those guys became like brothers to me. I had friends outside the game, but those guys were simply special. I got to play with some of the greatest guys I’ve ever met. How could I ask for more?

Thank you, baseball, for great moments. The dogpiles after winning two state championships. The hug shared with my dad after the first one. Another hug shared with my dad after my final college game. The time my papaw chewed me out during the state tournament. Getting to hear my name called over the public address system. Spur-of-the-moment road trips with friends who loved the game. And the numerous walk-off homers I hit against myself in the back yard.

Thanks, baseball, for all this and more.