Ducks On The Pond
3 balls, 2 strikes Runner on 2nd & 3rd We’re down by 1 run Bottom of the 6th in a 7 inning game Game 2 of a 3 game series Me at the plate
We had lost the first game in a big way. We were intimidated. Never even gave ourselves a chance. The team we were playing (the Yellow Jackets), was an inner-city Tampa, impressive team. They looked like ball players. In game 2, we’d pulled ourselves together. 3 & 2, 2 on, 2 outs, these were the moments I lived for. Never a power hitter but for contact, in a clutch situation, I was a good bet. I’d fouled off the last 3. A good sign. I was honing in, getting a read. With runners on 2nd & 3rd, the pitcher was working from the full wind up. He looked for the sign, liked what he saw and delivered…
Let’s stop there and go back, a week and a half. It was early June and a critical life lesson was in the works. At the time, it just felt like a hard decision. Looking back, it would set the stage for many things to come.
When I was in the 8th grade, my mother was offered a job opportunity at a high tech start-up in Tampa, FL. We’d lived in New England all our lives and while friends, family and life were here, it seemed like an amazing opportunity to experience something new. Oh, and year round golf and baseball sounded pretty good too. After some family discussion, we all decided it was worth the risk. Or at least that’s what it felt like, not sure I had much to do with the decision other than to give it my blessing. Again, golf and baseball were calling and it was January in New England. So we went for it, not knowing a soul, but having each other. Good bye snow. Hello Tampa.
February brought about the local baseball league tryouts. I had played all my life and considered myself a decent ball player. First impression, these kids were good. At 13 years old, they’d played year round since they were 6. While they had been taking swings & ground balls, I had been hitting the slopes. I had some catching up to do. Tryouts went well and I found my way on to a pretty good team. Ok, a great team. These guys made me look good. So I just put my head down and worked hard every day. It took some adjustment for me. For the first time in my career, I wasn’t one of the best players on the team, so I started the season watching the games from the bench. Humbled, indeed. Ego was fully in check.
There are so many stories I’d like to share with you about this season, but this one focuses on that last week. So, fast-forward to June. As the season wound to an end we found ourselves in a playoff position. Only problem was that the playoffs concluded days after I was to return home to my friends for a week long visit at the start of summer. When I had booked the tickets, I had low expectations for what we could accomplish in the playoffs. (My first mistake) And yet, we kept winning, one game after the other. Until we’d topped the league and were left with the regional finals, a best of 3 game series with the Yellow Jackets.
Even as we celebrated our last win that earned us a ticket to the final series, I was focused on getting home to my friends. That is, until I was confronted by the whole team, asking me to stay and finish what we’d started. 5 days, that’s what they needed from me and yet in my head, I was already home. Those 5 days seemed like an eternity.
Later the same night, I remember asking my Mom & Dad what I should do. I was torn. And then came one of life’s most valuable lessons, “You made a commitment to this team. It would be very unfair for you to abandon them after all you have put in together towards this goal. The right thing, is to see it through”. As much as it pained me, I knew they were right. And, they were paying for my plane ticket, which it turns out they had already changed so that I could be there with the team until the end. Mom & Dad: 1, Josh: 0. I called my friends at home and let them know I would be a few days later than expected.
…It was a low fastball. Probably close to 90 miles an hour. But like I said, I’d fouled the last 3 off so I had the timing. As quickly as it came, it went. A hard line drive to left center that dropped and allowed both runs to score. Top of the 7th was 3 up, 3 down, game over. Series tied 1:1. Game 3 wasn’t close. We’d found the confidence we needed with our win in game 2 that made us unbeatable in game 3. We’d won. What seemed unattainable 4 days prior when we first met the Yellow Jackets, was complete. Cue the music, we were the Champions…my friend.
By now I’m sure you’ve figured it out. This one, is all about “Teamwork” and what it means to be part of a team. I had committed to a team and for a short time, I had considered abandoning that team to satisfy self interests. In hindsight. I realize how selfish that was and had I left, it would have been one of my greatest regrets and for sure not a story that would be told the same way.
In life and business, surround yourself with a team that you are incredibly proud to work with and stand alongside. Commit yourself to winning as a team and never give up on each other. There are going to be times when you have to make some very hard decisions in order to protect that team, make them. Think them through, make sure they are in the teams best interest and execute. And finally, challenge each other to be the best you can possibly be, day in and day out. Lift each other to new heights and when you get there, stop and celebrate what you’ve just accomplished…as a T-E-A-M.
Here are the members of that team that left an indelible mark:
Thank you gentlemen!