Did you catch the game? Summer is here, and a cornerstone of the season is baseball. Baseball is full of many inspirational legends and even more metaphors for life. I bet you could think of a sports metaphor in less time than it takes for rookie Alek Manoah to loosen up that pitching arm.
The game is part of our collective heartbeat; think about all the small pieces that when taken together mean more than any one game at a time – the smell of the grass, the sounds of the ball hitting a mitt, or the flowing energy of swinging the bat. The one thing that sticks out as particularly relevant to this time of year is how baseball ties perfectly into the everyday fabric of America and inspires our hearts. Maybe baseball is so beloved because it happens in the best weather, capturing those long summer days. The excitement and magic of the seasons are sealed with memories and those memories come rushing back just by the simplest things.
The Sweet Spot
I have seen how the game inspires and touches people. Even those who have not played can understand the joy of the experience, the laughter, and the community gathering behind a group of people. Sometimes just holding a bat and taking that swing reminds us of what the sweet spot feels like and why it brings us such joy and brings us back so often. The sweet spot is the place on the bat where it generates the most power and affords the most control— and comes with the feeling that everything is aligned optimally. That’s an expression that has extended out from sports and has many implications. You know it when you find it; that’s when the best stuff happens.
There are many lessons in the game that are relevant to each one of us. Leo Durocher, a Hall of Fame manager once said “Baseball is like a church. Many attend, few understand.” As you travel down the path you learn that it’s never about the destination, but the lessons learned along the journey. The winners are the ones who show up fully, knowing if you are willing to take a swing at whatever is thrown your way, then you can knock it out of the park. After all, the team that has a few losses in April can still end up winning the championship at the end of the season. Statistics might mean a lot to some, but it’s the impact that it leaves on our lives that matters.
According to the great Jackie Robinson “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” While traveling the country sharing a “Peace, Love and Bring a Bat” philosophy I’ve found a few organizations that care about their impact on the community.
Games Going Bananas
There is a baseball team in Savannah, Georgia that has been taking the country by storm because they are bringing back fun for the whole family. This team is part circus and part baseball, but their tradition is one of determination and showing your most authentic self. The owner of the team and chief cheerleader, Jesse Cole (I resist calling him the Top Banana) wears a yellow Tux and leads the fans in all sorts of interactive activities—sometimes during the game. Cole and his wife gambled everything they own to begin the Savannah Banana journey in 2016. They were expected to fail but have succeeded in more ways than one.
The team has won a championship twice, but it is the family fun times that people talk about. The team plays baseball in the historic Greyson Stadium. They became an entertainment juggernaut bringing the most important parts of what baseball is about: a place where the family can gather for a couple of hours to feel good and make great memories together.
Winning No Matter What the Score Is
The Bananas let you connect with the players in every way. During one game they broke the world record for the number of people who were wearing a Banana costume! The Savannah Bananas delight and celebrate all ages, from the “baby banana presentation” to the Nana Cheerleaders. Their games are sold out and they have gone from a team that was losing in every way to a team that wins no matter what the score is.
Love of the Game, Love of Giving
Maybe you’re like me and have learned that in life, half the game is just showing up. Showing up playing ball at an over-40 softball league in Farmingdale, New York I found something special. For over 47 years, this Over the Hill Gang has assisted people who are facing the lowest points of their lives. Every member of the league donates time and money, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars while playing a game they love. Each year there is an annual charity night where they offer food, music, and of course softball. This year a young woman who became a paraplegic unexpectedly will see a community gather using a game to raise funds to assist her.
That is what a game with a real heart can do. It embodies the best of us, and whether for fun or something greater, it provides a platform to rally behind. I’ve felt that sweet spot from the stage during their annual fundraisers where over 1,000 people gathered, showering love on families who need support emotionally and financially. One grandfather of a child the league supported says, “When you believe that a game means nothing, it is true—but when a game shows you how many people care, you will never forget it.” You know an experience is special when you can feel the emotions of joy and gratitude just by thinking back on it.
In the words of Jackie Robinson, “Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion, you’re wasting your life.”
Whether it’s for changing lives or creating memories that make us feel alive, it’s no wonder that baseball is America’s favorite pastime.