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.
These unfortunate decisions haven't changed the course of my life in an overtly negative way, but they have given me that same feeling of, "Dang. I wish I wouldn't have done that."
Our world today is full of distractions. We are blessed with technological wonders that allow us to be amazingly productive, but that same technology can lead us to waste huge chunks of our own and our employers' time. We have instant access to incredible, uplifting stories from around the world, but we also have instant access to degrading muck.
Every day — practically every minute — we have to make a choice: Will we focus on the task at hand, or will we allow ourselves to be distracted?
It's impossible to go through life entirely distraction-free. We have too much going on, too much to do, too much to see.
However, I do think we have the power to improve our focus at key moments. We can turn away from the computer and listen intently when our co-workers are talking to us. We can put the iPad down and go for a walk with our children on a beautiful spring evening. We can take a minute to look a spouse, family member or friend in the eyes and tell them how much we love and appreciate them.
We can do all of these things, and more, with only a little effort. And if we do, perhaps we'll find that we've avoided some of life's distractions and, along with them, some lingering regrets.
Yes, it's still early in the season. But you never know when — or if — that next hit will come.
I hope you don't miss it.
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