One hot summer day my father was attempting to teach me the basics of hitting a baseball. I was nine years old and I was frustrated. After missing the next pitch I yelled "I can't do it!" and I threw the bat to the ground.
Dad walked up to me, squatted in front of me and held me by the shoulders. He said, "if you want to be a ball player, you have to want to be one in here." and he pointed to my heart.
Then he told me a story that I have never forgotten, one that I remember at the beginning of each baseball season; a story that I think of whenever I am feeling sorry for myself.
When my dad was in the ninth grade he wanted to play for the high school baseball team. The coach told him that he didn't really need any more players and they didn't have any more room on the team bus. But dad persisted and made a deal with the coach. The coach, wanting to get rid of dad, told him that if he could be at the next game in Goldsboro, N. C., he would consider putting dad on the team. The coach didn't really expect dad to show up in Goldsboro (about 47 miles away from Rocky Mount).
But what the coach did not know was that he had made a deal with a ninth grade boy who loved baseball more than life itself. Dad skipped school the day of the game and thumbed to Goldsboro. It rained the last part of the trip, but he made it to the stadium a few minutes ahead of the team bus.
When the bus pulled into the parking lot, there was my father, soaking wet and ready to play, waiting for the coach.
The coach put him on the team.
That hot summer day, as my father squatted in front of me, I received a gift much more precious than baseball. He gave me a part of himself that I will always have. I never really learned to hit a baseball well. I was decent but not the hitter my father was. But I hung in there. I kept trying. And each time the team took the field, there I was, ready to play.