Service in failure: a baseball story
Posted on April 3rd, 2013
n his second game of the season, Roy made it to the pitcher’s mound. I didn’t get the post-game report until this morning.
“How did it go pitching last night?” I asked eagerly.
“Horrible,” Roy told me.
Scott said it wasn’t that bad. There were a lot of balls thrown—15 by Scott’s count—but Roy also managed to strike one player out. Demoralized by the number of players being walked on his watch, Roy made an appeal to the coach to be pulled as pitcher. He did not complete the inning.
Obedience is not one of my son’s super powers. Other children might have stayed on that mound, throwing balls into the dirt until someone else’s exasperated father gave them the hook, but not Roy. Painfully aware that his performance was less than what he wanted it to be, the attention he usually appreciates became something other: scrutiny. He had already judged himself to be lacking. I suppose he didn’t want to give anyone else the opportunity to reach the same conclusion.
Sometimes serving others means nothing more or less than sacrificing yourself. Not in some overblown, hyperbolic way, and on most days certainly not your whole self but maybe just your sense of who you are or what you can do. To be a part of a whole we might even be asked to fail—to, figuratively, die trying.
Someone has to take to the mound, to expose their skills (or lack thereof) to the judgment of others. The very act of doing so to all the way to the uncomfortable conclusion is what makes one’s performance successful. Roy has spent his share of time on losing teams but defeat is tempered amidst the company of others.
It’s lonely on the pitcher’s mound.
What I hope to have the chance to convey to Roy is that it can be noble out there, too. Success understood as a no-hitter is only the narrowest definition of the word. It can also mean that you had your butt handed back to you in front of 30 parents.
I know this will be a bitter truth to swallow for him, so I’ll try to explain it with some candy. Maybe that will make it go down easier.∗