I played baseball from the time I was 5 until I was 22. I was an okay player with a decent arm, pretty good speed, and a mediocre bat. At 5’8” I was neither the biggest nor the strongest on the team. Line drives and ground balls came off my bat far more often than long fly balls, so I was never much of a home-run threat.
But where I played college ball (Law Field right here at Wofford), the outfield fences were close to home plate… I mean really close. Some major league ballparks have fences as far as 430 feet from the plate. At Wofford, the sign that hung on the chain-link fence in left field read 308. It was more like 295. That made for some interesting games.
So how’d I do with a 308-foot left field line? I hit 8 home runs in 39 games my senior year… all but one of them at Law Field. Most were pop-ups over the left field fence that caused me to grin embarrassingly as I rounded first, knowing my teammates were going to give me some good-natured ribbing at home plate.
I like to surround myself with people who like the challenge of playing in BIG ballparks. There’s something special about a person who says, “give me a big challenge, a big obstacle.” Those people thrive in challenging situations and have learned how to win, even in less-than-friendly environments. They have the drive, tenacity, and initiative to overcome big obstacles. Uncertainly doesn’t faze them, and they dive into ambiguous situations with energy and excitement. And failure? Sure, there’s always that chance but who wants to take the easy way out day after day? Besides, winning by taking the easy way isn’t very exciting and rarely leads to great, innovative outcomes because there’s not much value in overcoming small obstacles. Anyone can do that.
Move the outfield fence to just behind the infield and anyone can hit a home run. But few people are interested in seeing you do it.
Nowadays, I still swing for the fences but I make sure I’m on a BIG field. If I find I’m not, my team and I pick up our gloves and head for a stadium with major league dimensions in search of a bigger challenge.
It’s a lot more fun that way. And when one of us hits a home run it’s a big deal. There’s no embarrassed grin as we circle the bases. Just all of us at home plate, high-fiving and fist-bumping each other like crazy.