Baseball: The Game Of Life

If you want to spot-check on just how tangled up we're becoming over what's important in this country, I refer you to a story in The New York Times last week which tells how more and more parents are paying professional instructors $70 an hour to teach 10-year-old Little Leaguers how to hit a baseball.

School counselors told the Times it is just another sign of how competitive childhood has become, and how parents feel compelled to give their children every edge in both academics and athletics.

The parents say it's about self-esteem. Striking out is just too hard on kids, they say. And, besides, it reduces the inevitable fights when a parent tries to teach a child something.

Maybe so, but I think they're missing one of the best parts of being a parent, and the whole point of what baseball is about. Baseball is about learning to deal with failure. In baseball, even the best fail more than they succeed.

Baseball's strength has always been that one generation passed it on to another, passed on its traditions and its secrets. Fathers taught sons and now daughters, and along the way, they find something they can talk about, even in those years when they have nothing else to share.

Long ago, when I was a sore-arm catcher on the freshman team at Texas Christian University, I threw out two runners who tried to steal on me. And after the game, my dad said, "Bobby, you might be a ballplayer yet."

Not long after that, my arm finally gave out, my baseball dreams ended forever, and the next year, my dad died.

But every time I think of him, the first thing I always remember is what he said that day on the ball field and how good it made me feel.