A little after the fact here in December, I can now say that I’m closing the book on my fourth season as a Ballhawk. You’re probably getting tired of hearing it by now since I say it every year at this time, but this was once again my best and most favorite season yet. I’ve started each year with a different focus and mindset, which has allowed me to grow in numerous ways and focus on different and unique aspects of my favorite hobby. One would think a person can only go to so many baseball games before they’ve done it all, which leaves them feeling rather bored. But even now, in the dead of winter, plans are being made to experience even more things that I’ve never attempted to try before.
Now that 2014 is finished, a year in which I felt I would reach the pinnacle of everything I was capable of, I can still find something to look forward to. There will always be something else to look forward to that I haven’t done. I finally understand the thought process of my role models who’s success I aspire to replicate. There is ALWAYS something bigger to strive for. There are ALWAYS new things to dream about and experience. But most of all, there will ALWAYS be another ball.
In the aftermath of the most difficult summer I’d ever encountered in terms of conflicts with games, I still come out with an optimistic attitude. I learned that it’s not about numbers, whether that’s balls, games, miles driven, or parks visited (even though I usually put lots of importance in those things). It’s about challenging yourself in the pursuit of your goals, doing what makes you happy, and dealing with each given situation as best as you can, whether big (a 40 hour a week job) or small (no batting practice).
I’d like to tell you a story that relates to dealing with most of my summer being spent at work. It was my favorite moment of 2014, and it happened many miles away from a ballpark.
I was on the bus back home from my on-site internship training, sitting next to a fellow student who would be working in the same office as me. I remember thinking as we pulled away from the hotel that exactly seven days earlier, I was still in the waning hours of my ultimate month of living the dream. I was a little glum, to say the least. I was incredibly happy for the opportunity at PM, but I couldn’t help but think about how the job would change me and how I viewed my favorite ballpark activity. I worried that baseball, a large part of my personality, would vanish and leave a huge space that would need to be filled with something else. I didn’t want that to happen, but I may have been in a situation where I had no choice.
I expressed these concerns to my new friend, to a lesser degree. He was curious about how the simple task of catching a baseball could be so important to someone. I explained my rituals and achievements, and also what other joys that Ballhawking has brought me. Eventually, I pulled out a BaseBlog card from my backpack. I brought a fresh stack of them to training for the purpose of starting conversations with new friends and attracting readers; a rather shameful act that I’ll be brutally honest about. The response from him was not so typical, and caught me by surprise.
“That’s real cool. I can relate. I do drag racing at different tracks with my family in the summer”.
“You mean ‘zero to a hundred in two seconds’ drag racing, or…”
That’s exactly what he meant. We then switched roles as he showed me pictures of his car, talked about his type of races, and HIS greatest achievements. I was shocked and incredibly curious. This was one of the most random things I could think of. Why racing? How did you start? I wanted to hear more about every aspect.
I soon realized that I was reacting in the same way I want people to react to “I’ve caught over 100 baseballs at Major League parks”. It felt good to reciprocate an interest in the hobby of someone who I would get to know rather well in the coming months. I was also genuinely interested to hear how one goes about getting involved in that sort of thing. Other interns overheard us talking, and asked him similar questions about his races. During the course of the ride, I found out that everyone had a unique interest in one thing or another. One girl decorated cakes rather extravagantly. Another guy was training for his next triathlon. A handful of people had traveled around the world through study abroad programs for one reason or another, which were all a result of something they were passionate about. The first thing this showed me is that people are awesome, and everyone is passionate about something. No matter how much they deny it, everyone has something like this that makes them an individual. You can find out a lot about a person when discovering what they like to spend their limited free time doing. When I meet someone new in the future, I want to know what that is. This was the first of many lessons I would learn while being involved in this internship program.
The more important realization, and the one I was personally most concerned about when stepping onto the bus, is this: All of us had to make adjustments and push our passions off to the side this summer. Mine was rather unconventional, so I never had anything to compare it to. At the root of things, though, all hobbies are the same. They require time and commitment. The amount of people my age that train for marathons is much larger than those who Ballhawk, but everyone still manages to spend time doing what they care about most. Somehow, this let me know that everything was going to be okay. I wasn’t going to lose my passion just because I had less time to devote to it.
All of that being said, there are two main points. First, there’s an infinite amount of balls to chase, and an infinite amount of success and joy one can have by catching one. Secondly, I won’t let my passion disappear unless I want it to. My largest fear had been dissolved. I’m going (and will be able to) do this for a long time. That’s my largest takeaway from seeing the opposing worlds of plentiful/minimal baseball I saw this year.
I’m not exactly sure what I want to talk about for the rest of the entry, so I’m just going to let it flow for the most part. I have a “Season Goals” list that I put together in March, which I could easily recap and reflect on how I succeeded in meeting some and failing at others. Looking back, though, I feel like each one is pointless and irrelevant to how I feel now.
They were all centered around trying to force and create certain experiences that I’ve come to find aren’t all that great. They were meant to get me to talk to people, take “risks” (whatever that means), and not stress myself out. I know I just mentioned how creating goals to challenge myself is important in what I do, but I feel like I’ve changed my attitude so much that this specific list isn’t applicable to who I had become by the end of the season. I was trying too hard to force interactions that I thought would make me feel more like my role models and a ballpark regular. What I’ve learned, after spending so much time around these types of people at different ballparks, is that these things are impossible to create. I figured the only way to have the types of experiences that come from going to a lot of games was to actually go to a lot of games. I did that. I can even point out a few situations where I achieved the interactions I was really looking for. They weren’t all that thrilling, actually. It just seemed like normal problems, normal conversations, and normal life. That sounds like it turned out to be a let down, but being able to see that these situations aren’t “amazing” or “once in a lifetime” shows me they’ve become a part of my life, and the exact type of life I wanted to have at a ballpark.
I did a lot this year, there’s no doubt about that. The fact I didn’t try to play up these goals or make my situation sound better than it really was showed me something I can’t quite describe. The end result, however, is me being pretty sure I’ve become an experienced Ballhawk, something I had hoped would happen for the last four years. I’m not one of the new people who think there’s only one way to do things. I’m following the guidelines that I set for myself, regardless of what the other inhabitants of our little world recommend I do.
For now, that’s it. With it being so late in 2014, my mind has already switched to next season. These are my initial feelings that I thought about once the season was over, only now a little more refined since I’ve had some time to reflect. The next time you hear from me about actual baseball games will be my season preview entry that I’ll publish once I sort out all the ideas that are currently floating around in my head.
So, thank you to everyone. Everyone who reads my entries, goes to games with me, gives me support or ideas, and pass on actual Ballhawk advice. Everything, no matter how small, is appreciated. I hope it makes you a little happier knowing that you’re helping me do what I still think is one of the coolest things in the entire world.