If you’re not a baseball fan, hang with me for a bit as this is too good to ignore.
Okay, in baseball there are a lot of terms to describe how the batter hits the ball. Setting aside the obvious “home run” and “grand slam” – there are three main categories:
1. ground balls
2. line drives
3. fly balls
A home run or grand slam can be hit in all three ways – although it’s rare for it to be from a ground ball.
Even so, in each of the three categories you have picturesque words to describe HOW the ball was hit – as well as opinions from coaches, players and fans as to whether or not they approve.
For example, here are some terms under each category:
1. Ground ball – sharp, soft, dribbler, chopper, bunt, slow roller, etc.
2. Line drive – hard, soft, missile, laser, pill, shot, gapper, etc
3. Fly ball – infield fly, blooper, Texas leaguer, can of corn, deep, shallow, monster shot, bomb, etc.
Believe it or not, there are many coaches who bash the home run and the deep fly ball. Some even dislkike the line drive. And there are those who
despise the ground ball.
Anyway, one coach who was ahead of the pack, viewed the game differently. He liked hard line drives, sharp ground balls as well as deep fly balls that leave the ball park. He didn’t care how the ball got hit – so long as you “hit it hard.”
At the same time, this coach was adamant about the type of ground ball, line drive or fly ball he wanted. He absolutely hated soft ground balls, choppers, dribblers and so on.
“If you’re going to hit the ball,” he’d say, “hit it square and mash it.”
Well, one day in a game when the score was tied, 1-1, late in the game, this coach’s team was up to bat.
The bases were loaded with two outs and the young man at the plate had home run hitting power as well as the ability to scorch some hard line drives into a gap.
But lately everything this player hit was a chopper – a ground ball that almost always ended up being an easy out.
The day before the coach chided this player for not making solid contact, for hitting so many choppy ground balls.
Here’s where it gets interesting. In this tie-ballgame something strange happened. The batter swung and hit the ball as hard as he could but it only traveled one foot before hitting the ground.
The ball chopped into the ground close to home plate.
It hit the grass so hard you’d think it’d cause a geyser. The pitcher and catcher didn’t know what to do for a millisecond – then there was a diving sprint to catch the ball and get the third out at home plate.
The pitcher dove to his stomach. No catch. But he had his hand on the ball. From his gut he relayed the ball to the catcher.
He was a hair too late. The run scored and the batter who chopped the ball was safe at first.
No more runs were scored it that game. It ended in a 2-1 victory for the coach. But something more happened inside the mind of the coach.
Afterward he went to the boy who hit the ball “wrong.”
He smiled and shook his hand.
“Nice chopper,” he said. “Yesterday I condemned the very thing that won today’s game. I’ve learned a very important lesson from today’s game and I thank you for opening my eyes.”
The next day the coach no longer condemned the chopper in practice.
“Nine times out of ten the chopper is not what you want. But who knows,” he said. “Sometimes the home run is robbed with a leaping grab and the hard line drive is caught for a double play.”
“Sometimes the worst hit ball is exactly what’s needed to win a game. It ends up being the best hit ball for that particular situation. It’s a great metaphor for life. Be careful what you condemn – it might be exactly what you need to win the game.”
Days later the team noted how the coach was a different man. He was calmer, more relaxed and much more open to anything being possible. The team improved faster because he wasn’t absolutely certain that he always knew, in advance, what was good and what wasn’t.
He understood and was awakened to the reality that sometimes the worst is the best, and not just in baseball. In life itself.
P.S. There’s a whole lot more that’ll awaken you in Theatre of the Mind.