During my life I have watched quite a few baseball movies. Some good, some bad. For some reason, I seem drawn to them. And, they have shaped me. That old adage of “garbage in, garbage out” is true.
Listen to one of my webcasts of Newton Rebels Baseball this summer and you will hear one-liners made famous by the infamous Harry Doyle of “Major League” fame (Juuuuuusst a bit outside. … Ball four, ball eight, ball 12, how can they lay off pitches this close). You might also hear me channel David L. Lander with some “Big Dottie Henson” references and the classic “I have seen it all, I have seen too much.”
Today, however, I am thinking about another baseball movie — starring Kevin Costner. An no, I'm not thinking of him as Crash Davis from the classic Bull Durham.
“Man, that ball got outta here in a hurry. I mean, anything that travels that far oughta have a [darn] stewardess … “
I'm thinking of Billy Chapel, a pitcher for Detroit. I'm thinking of marginally rated For Love of the Game.
Each moment that Billy needs to clear his mind and focus, he has a routine. He looks in his catcher, toes the pitching rubber and thinks “clear the mechanism.”
And he focuses. All the noise falls away. He hears nothing.
I've used that. Over and over. For example, as I write this the scanner is popping and the phones are ringing. There are emails filling up the mailbox, all seeking my attention — even if only for the half second it takes to click the box to mark spam for deletion.
There are distractions — everywhere. So, I clear the mechanism. I have to do the same at home, as when I am there four different people are all competing for my attention and time. Sometimes I'm working from home, others on call for job No. 2. That means there is upwards of six places to be all at the same time.
The only way to deal with that is to find a way to focus — to “clear the mechanism” and hone in on the one thing I am going to be doing, the one person I am going to be concentrating on, at that time.
That's pretty easy to do when I run. For between 30 minutes and an hour in the morning, I am all by myself, concentrating on just one thing. That is a glorious time.
Until it doesn't work. Late in the film, in the waning moments of his perfect game, the mechanism will not clear.
That is what life has been like for me lately. There is so much coming, so much noise. It's every minute of every day. Sleep is hard to come by, as I can't clear it at night. I am unable to focus on my stride as I run, as work and family dominate the brain and do not give me peace.
But that's life. That's how it goes. At some point, it slows down. A warm drink, a good book and baseball coming for summer will settle the mind a spirit. One just has to make the time for those things. One has to make time to take one last trip to the mound.
Billy had to do two things when the mechanism did not clear — find a different way to cope and rely on his team to get him to the end of the game. There is a great lesson there. I'm working on doing both of those things as well.
Soon, pitchers and catchers (and everybody else) will report for Newton Rebels Bbaseball. The board will be putting the final touches on preparation for this season. Those great days of summer are about to begin.
And I'll find a way to clear the mechanism again. Besides, in the words of the immortal Rube Baker, “When the tough get goin', go an' get tough.”
— Chad Frey is Managing Editor of the Newton Kansan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org