Photo courtesy of Stacey Kratz
My 7-year-old son stood at the plate, one strike down, in what was sure to be his last at-bat of the baseball season.
I could almost see his mind working as he ran through the checklist we had talked about for the last two months.
Eyes open? Check.
Legs apart and knees slightly bent? Check.
Back elbow up? Check.
Again, eyes open? Check.
The pitching machine hurled the ball in his direction at 32 mph. He swung and made contact, a look of excitement crossing his face. A hit!
But the ball went straight down and dribbled foul. Strike two.
A few seconds later, he swung and missed — just barely — for strike three. He was out.
And I was devastated.
Not because he struck out. He had a ton of fun this season, learning and improving and looking forward to every game. His wonderful attitude, and that of his teammates, made watching them an absolute joy.
No, the reason I was devastated is because he got only one hit all season, and I missed it!
I was at that early-season game, having arranged my work schedule during April and May to make sure I could be there. But on that particular night, the coaches asked me to help make sure the children batted in the right order, which is a bit like herding cats for kids that age.
I turned away for just a moment when my boy was up to bat, as a parent wanted to let me know that he was taking his son home sick. And at that moment, my son got a hit.
My wife, daughters and in-laws were at the game, and I heard them cheering. I turned around just in time to see him touch first base. Safe!
I couldn't believe it. But then I consoled myself. "It's early. I'll see plenty of other hits before the season is done."
Unfortunately, that was not the case. He was close, so close, many times, but he just couldn't seem to catch up to the speed of the pitches off the machine. Or he closed his eyes. Or he swung like he was chopping wood. Always something.
He never got discouraged, which taught me a good lesson. After every game, he'd tell me, "Did you see how close I was this time? I'm sure I'm going to get a hit in the next game!"
His teammates offered similar encouragement, and even after the last game was over, he was telling me that he was going to practice over the summer and definitely get lots of hits next season.
I'm sure he will.
But as I reflected on this season, I realized I had learned more than a lesson about determination and maintaining a positive attitude in the face of adversity.
I had also learned about the power of distraction.
In that early game, I turned away for maybe 10 seconds, and I missed something I really wish I would have seen.
It's not like I was distracted by something bad. I was trying to help the coaches and the team. But I could have asked that dad if he could wait just a minute until my son was done batting, and I'm sure he would have said that was OK.
I didn't, and now I have a lingering regret.
Thinking back over my life, I realize this isn't the first time a small distraction has resulted in a lasting regret. I can recall many times, both in the workplace and at home, that I have allowed a momentary lack of focus at just the wrong time to lead me to make a decision that I wish I could have back.
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