lessons from baseball

A lot of my posts incorporate how grateful I am for my parents. That’s because I think unconditional love is the best gift we can give or receive. A lot of people aren’t as lucky as I am – to have incredibly loving and engaged parents, who continue to provide the guidance and support I need to grow and succeed. This winter I had an opportunity to volunteer at an event with the Diamondbacks that my company sponsored. It was a great experience that resulted in a unique Hanukkah present for my dad. I gave him the letter below with his gift:

I have a present for you, Dad, and it’s not a book or workout clothes this time. I’ve decided to think outside the box and give you a baseball signed by six players on the Diamondbacks. I know that for a baseball and autograph aficionado like you, this isn’t anything too exciting. But – your clever daughter has incorporated a lot of symbolism into this gift that I’ll now explain.

You’ve taught me a lot of lessons in life, probably more than you’ll ever know. Oddly enough, a lot of them relate to baseball. This is probably because I was raised in a house where the Red Sox were considered to be a higher power, and Fenway was the most holy place we visited. I know that as a girl, I never quite understood all the rules and nuances of the game like Dan did, but you always did your best to include me, answer my questions and let me play. I’ll always remember playing catch with you in the front yard, and how excited you were during the one season of softball I was coerced into. I know my first black eye was a proud moment for you (it’s ok). These wonderful experiences are poignant memories that I’ll always treasure. Lesson # 1 – The best things in life aren’t things and don’t cost money. They’re experiences.

As a child, I was pretty extremely shy. We’re all relieved I finally overcame this, aren’t we? I was also a passionate animal lover. These two factors combined into a challenge when I desperately wanted to walk the neighbor’s dog, but was too terrified to ask them for permission. You would ardently refuse to ask them for me, pushing me outside of my comfort zone. I whined and cried but would always give in and ask them. Today, I credit part of my assertiveness to this rite of passage. The lesson has carried into adult life too, with your guidance on “asking for the job” at every interview. Lesson # 2 – Be confident. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.

Fortunately for you, I was always a hard worker and excelled in school. I loved learning and gaining exposure to new things. I feel so fortunate that as a child, you and mom constantly took us to museums, enrolled us in classes and took us on educational trips. You guys encouraged me to seize every opportunity that crossed my path. This instilled a constant curiosity in me that is still as strong as ever. It’s helped me engage in all kinds of things I never thought I would be able to do. Lesson # 3 – Try new things. Never stop learning.

Every year during Hanukkah, you would remind Dan and me to write our relatives thank you notes. We moaned and groaned about it, and often tried to get by with quick, messy notes. You always put your foot down and made us create quality thank you’s and mail them promptly. You reapplied this knowledge when I graduated college and started going to job interviews. Every interview was followed up with a hand written thank you note. If you recall, I landed a lot of job offers 🙂 To this day, I probably write more thank you notes than anyone I know (except you) and really understand how much people appreciate this. Lesson # 4 – Write thank you notes. People notice.

Sometimes, it’s ok to break the rules and have an adventure. Case in point: when the MLB Rookie of the Year is at a press conference three miles from your daughter’s house, it’s perfectly acceptable to tell her to pretend to be a reporter and sneak in and meet him. I’ll never forget getting your call telling me that Dustin Pedroia was in my zip code. I sped down to the stadium and found a way to wait for him outside the building exit. I won’t pretend it was a smooth operation, in fact, I was pretty awkward about the whole thing, and definitely scared the crap out of him, but I got a photo with him that made it all worthwhile. Lesson # 5 – Even when there are a million reasons you shouldn’t attempt something, sometimes there’s nothing to lose by trying. Don’t think about it, just do it.

You may be wondering how I got this signed ball I’ve given you, and how this is all connected. Truth is, it’s actually the result of a combination of the lessons above. I was recently invited to Chase Field for a work-sponsored volunteer event. We were given strict orders NOT to ask any players for autographs. Nevertheless, I still decided to pack a baseball and Sharpie in my purse. You never know. Sure enough, as the event was winding down, I was able to dart onto the field, meet several players and get their signatures. I was afraid they’d say no, but decided to try. I knew that even if it didn’t work out, it would be a funny story (Lesson # 1). I knew to be confident and act like there was nothing wrong with what I was doing (Lesson # 2). This was a new feat for me, but I figured it was something everyone should attempt at one point in life (Lesson # 3). I was paranoid that the players would tell me no, or that security would take me off the field, but still decided to go for it (Lesson # 5). I even wrote a thank you note to my coworker who organized the event (Lesson # 4). So, in conclusion, it’s a true sign of good parenting when your 27 year old daughter still follows all your rules. Thank you, I love you.

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