SPRING TRAINING: Absorbing Little League Affirmation

We’re back at it! “The boys” are in various camps between Florida and Arizona. Freshly-mown grass, the sounds of bats cracking, balls smacking into gloves and the chatter of baseball is on the gentle breezes. Chatter. It’s the constant chatter that always inspires me. It takes me back to Little League games where our coaches taught us that one of the most important things we could do while on the bench or in the field was cheer each other on. Support our pitchers, encourage our fellow fielders, uplift our colleagues swinging for the fences; always make some kind of affirming sound to each other so that we could keep up our spirits and do our very best. We counted on each other. Chatter. It’s the life-blood of baseball, especially in Spring Training. I retired recently from the day-to- day corporate world of work. I have been working at something, somewhere, since I was twelve years old; 54 years, at this writing. I’ve had a number of very demanding physical jobs as well as emotionally draining ones. The last ten-plus years had been spent in the area of community relations. I sent out my final email with my new contact information. After just a few minutes, a trickle of responses started pinging my in basket. Then, the pings increased in number and frequency until it was time to leave. I read dozens of emails from people I had worked with over the years. I was a little bit weepy. Some of the comments were very brief and perfunctory, which was nice. Others, however, touched me very deeply. Reminded of some conversation we had had years ago, or a manner in which I had helped the individual personally or professionally, I heard from many people how much our interaction had meant to them and how grateful they were for that encounter.

The affirmation I felt from reading all those emails was humbling. In some cases, I had forgotten the encounter. Little did I know that it had had such a profound personal or professional impact upon the individual. “Life-changing” someone said. It felt good to know that I had made a difference in someone’s life in such a positive way. So, although sad to leave a job I loved, with people I enjoyed working with and being around, I was able to lift up my chin and say, “nice job.”

Then, I began to wonder. What if we said those kind words regularly with each other? What if we didn’t have to wait years to hear someone tell us how life-changing their encounter with us was or what an inspiration we were? I wondered about my own life: where was I lax in telling someone how much she or he has meant to me, how much I have learned from them or been inspired by them? I’ve made a list and hope to keep it current – tell them before it’s too late. This, then, is the heart of Little League affirmation. Keeping up the chatter, the support, the encouragement. Let people know how valued a team member they are. Be specific in your response (let the focus be what they actually said or did that was so valuable to you). We could saturate our work environments, homes, schools and our common life together with Little League affirmation. To me, that’s one of the many gifts baseball offers us – and we see it start with Spring Training!

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