Monday, August 16, 2010

Take One for the Team

For the past seven years, I've played in a Sunday afternoon church softball league. Okay, "played" is a bit of a stretch. I go to the games and now I'm one my church's team managers, but my role typically involves cheering from the bench and keeping score in our fancy little stats book. I'm very happy with this division of labor (read: other people doing all the work, and me sharing in the glory). Still, I come dressed up to play, just in case I'm needed.

This weekend, I got called up off the bench for the first time in a while. I'm okay on the field, but not particulary skilled, and I tend toward skittish when the ball's headed for me. But I went out, did my best, and what was strange was, it actually felt good

My performance? Less than ideal. I failed to stop a ball rolling right toward me in center field. I let another outfielder run up to catch a ball that was rightfully mine (I chickened out from calling it). I ran off third base at the wrong time and slid into home in an awkward, spectaularly failed attempt to pass the catcher. I got nothing but an out and a bloody knee to show for it. I walked off the field dusty and bruised, straight into the high-five-ready hands of my teammates. Who, instead of making me feel bad about it, celebrated my all-out attempt to score.

The reason I shy away from playing isn't because I'm so bad (usually) but because I hate the feeling of letting the team down. At the same time, I never mind when other people drop catches, or make bad plays, or run and slide at the wrong time. So why should I be so hard on myself? Everyone makes mistakes on the ballfield. Even the toughest guys on the team drop the easy catch occasionally, or swing all out into thin air (a strike), or try for a foolish run and get tagged out.

Maybe looking beyond the softball field, there's a life lesson in this for me, too. Even if the hit I have to offer isn't the best, there's a satisfaction in stepping up to the plate. There's always some level of risk when you put yourself in the game. No guts, no glory.

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