Friday, June 21, 2024
My Front Porch

The groundball of life takes lots of peculiar bounces


The Texas Rangers have been having a very successful season in 2023. For the last few years, the Rangers have not put a good ballclub on the field and the results were predictable: a mediocre performance and a poor result. This year, with the addition of some solid players they have vaulted into being one of the better teams in the American League and have led their division for the bulk of the season. Fans are excited about having a competitive team, attendance is up at the ballpark, and there is a little “pep in the step” of those of us who follow the team.

Unfortunately, over the past 10 days, the Rangers’ good fortunes have disappeared, and the team has lost eight in a row. The decline in wins can be attributed to poor pitching, inconsistent hitting, and a slump in overall play. At the same time, the Seatle Mariners have won nine of their last 10 games and suddenly out of nowhere, have caught the Rangers for the lead in the Western Division. What was once a “Cinderella” type of season, suddenly seems to be another disappointment. Or does it?

Is it the heat? Is it the doldrums of August? What has caused this decline? Why have the baseball gods suddenly abandoned the Rangers and cast their favor on Seattle? What can be done to stop this slide and correct the team’s path to a championship? The answer is simple: go play ball.

The reason baseball is so much like life, is that no matter how proficient or good you are there are going to be certain games or times when someone else is better. By design, baseball was not created for perfection, but rather, for challenges which reveal the very character of the men who are playing.

There will always be grounders, which take a “bad hop” and little pop flies that fall like a dying quail into the expanse of the outfield grass rather than a fielder’s glove. When things are going poorly, the bad hops seem to come more frequently.

If over the course of a ballplayer’s career a batter hits for an average of .325, he is likely going into the Hall of Fame. This also means that over 67% of the time, the batter DID NOT get a hit! Even a hall of famer most likely fails twice as much as they succeed! That seems like a daunting reality to overcome, doesn’t it?

This is why baseball is like life. There are times when things are going well at work and at home, and we feel like the world is our oyster. Then suddenly out of nowhere the hot water heater goes out, or the car blows an engine, or one of the kids gets sick. These occurrences are all part of life and to be expected, but we never know when they are going to show up. When they do, life seems to go from “penthouse to outhouse” in the blink of an eye. To make things worse, when one thing goes wrong, usually one or two other things go wrong at about the same time making a person feel like the world is crashing down on them and they cannot catch a break. These natural occurrences can make us all feel like we are undergoing a “losing slump” and we forget the good things we have going for us.

The truth is all any of us can do is persevere and trust in ourselves. If we play the game of life the best we can, being honest, hardworking, and a good teammate, we are going to win a whole lot more than what we lose. It doesn’t mean we will never lose or face a bad stretch; it just means the “good” will come back around and over the long haul, we will be ok.

The Rangers play 162 games during a year. The best team in the league might win 100 of those games, and the worst team will still manage to stumble through and win at least 60. So, the difference between first and last is the 40 games that are up for grabs. In life, we are all going to win sometimes, even if we don’t work hard, do our best and are not honest and fair. When we do put it on the line, make the extra effort, work hard, and care about the outcome, we generally tend to “win”. The difference is small, but the result is significant.

The Rangers will bounce out of it. They play Seatle six times towards the end of the season and that is where the race may be decided. They simply need to let the bad experiences of the past 10 days slide off their backs and know that if they perform to the level they are capable of, they will get the best possible result. Just like life in general.

Does this mean the Rangers are going to win and go to the World Series? No, it means if they play like they have demonstrated, they have a shot. Like life, that is the best any of us can hope for.

That is the reason we play the game.

Thought for the day: The only one who can tell you “you can’t win” is you and you don’t have to listen.

Until next time... I will keep ridin’ the storm out.

Sam Houston is a syndicated columnist and newspaper executive. He is also an author, actor, playwright, and entertainment producer/promoter.