The author charges a grounder at the Field of Dreams movie site
Photo by Margie Johnson

By Mike Johnson

Baseball smelled of leather but felt like confidence.
By third grade, I knew I had more skill than other kids.
And I desperately needed that self-esteem.

First-born and the runt of the litter, I had to work harder.
Which was fine with me because in baseball, work was play.

The more I worked, the better I played.
The better I played, the more confidence I felt.
And confidence felt GOOD.
I was amazed that everyone hadn’t made this connection.

I was best at defense.
When I played shortstop or second base, nothing got by.

I’d put in the time. I fielded grounders for hours and hours and hours.
My pitchback rebounded them at me. My buddies threw them at me. My coaches hit them at me.
I wore them out.

Some kids played scared, hoping nothing was hit their way.
Not me.
I wanted every possible ball.
I wanted the most difficult chances.

My demanding rule #1: “Anything you can touch you can catch.”
If I couldn’t touch it, I’d make a sprawling dive to get there.

My demanding rule #2: “The pain only lasts an hour, the memory lasts forever.”
Even today, I remember my best circus catches.
And one painful miss in the outfield.

It was a 100-foot sprint to the gap, full extension dive, and a sno-cone catch that squirted out when I slammed to the ground.
Shoulda had it. I DID have it. But it fell out. Still aggravates me.
Baseball is a game of inches.

Today, these skills lay dormant.
My body can’t take the landings and my mind can’t stop the diving.

Which is a shame because nothing feels better than marinating in mastery.
You’re not just trying to play, you ARE the play.
Comfort, clarity and confidence are such a compelling mix.

So I limit my baseball to catch with the grandkids.
And it all floods right back.

If you’re fortunate, you’ve mastered a variety of skills.
Talents you can embrace and perform impressively without thought.

A musical instrument. Arts or crafts. Witty comments during conversation.

These are the things you should enjoy every day.
They’re fun. They’re comfortable. They’re esteem builders.

They’re grounders.


More Baseball Wisdom:

The Day We Nearly Bought the Field of Dreams

Say the Words

What I Learned Batting Against a Hall-of-Famer


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