(This is the ninth installment of a twelve part series on passion.)
I was a good athlete. (Note the word “was.”)
I’ve played almost every sport there is at some point except soccer and ice hockey. Those two sports weren’t options for kids in South Carolina at the time.
I excelled in baseball. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve thrown a baseball. Whether it was repeated practice pitches against the brick wall of our house, throws from the infield or outfield, pitches off a pitcher’s mound, or return throws to a pitcher as a catcher, I must have thrown a baseball a million times.
I had a good arm.
When I think of my ball playing days, a short highlight reel comes to mind. There are two specific instances to share with you here. One highlight was striking out 18 batters in a game when I was in the sixth grade. It was a 6 inning game. Yep, do the math. 3 outs per inning for each team means every out was a strike out. I still have the ball somewhere in the attic.
There is a low light to share too. When I was in college playing catcher as a freshman, our starting catcher was injured late in a tie game against our bitter rival in a battle for first place in the conference. It was late in the season and this game was for all the marbles.
I came in to catch for our ace pitcher. I rarely caught for him which made me nervous. There were runners on 1st and 2nd base with 2 outs. When the count reached 3 balls and 2 strikes, the runners began toward the next base. This is a routine move in baseball since the next pitch will be the end of the at-bat unless it’s a foul ball. (If I just lost you non-baseball fans, that’s okay. Keep on.)
When I saw the baserunner stealing third, I wasn’t thinking about the situation. The pitcher threw ball four which means the runners would automatically advance. However, I popped up and threw a perfect strike to third base to catch the runner “stealing.”
The third baseman wasn’t there. He wasn’t supposed to be there because I wasn’t supposed to throw the ball. My errant throw bounced down the left field line. Two runners scored and we lost the game.
I still get sick thinking about it.
Looking back at your glory days can be dangerous but it can also be useful. When I think of those two instances, one as a hero and another as a chump, I can tell you that confidence played a huge factor in both of those situations.
When I was in the sixth grade my confidence in my baseball skills soared. I was passionate about it. I dreamed of playing in the big leagues. I ate, slept, and breathed baseball. I watched games on TV and listened for pointers about the finer points of the game from the color commentators.
By the time I played in college, it was no longer my passion. I had other things on my mind like my wife-to-be, school, career choices, and serving in my local church. Baseball was fun but the passion wasn’t as strong as it had been in the past. I wasn’t the best player on the team. In fact, I was one of the worst players. I was a little intimidated and humbled by the whole college baseball experience.
When I had to get behind the plate to catch in that crucial situation, I crumbled. My confidence was gone because I spent most of my college career on the bench. As a kid, I batted clean-up and pitched or played shortstop. In college, I watched the game and picked splinters out of my butt.
Confidence. When you are passionate about something, it gives you confidence to go forward. Passion rises up within you and gives you the gumption to step up to the plate believing you’ll get a hit. Passion makes you certain. It gives assurance, poise, determination, and fortitude.
Maybe even a little spunk.
I believe that my lack of passion led to a lack of confidence. I didn’t have the fire in my belly for baseball like some of my teammates. The passion wasn’t what it had been in the past and it showed.
Passion is important because it gives you confidence to pursue your God-given desires. May your passion fire you up in such a way that you exude with confidence – not cockiness. May those around you be inspired by your poise and tenacity. May they see the power of God work through you so that He, not you, gets all the glory.
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