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"Are you still having fun Jermaine?"
These are the words my dad repeated to me until he passed away in 2015.
From the time I was 5 years old, the baseball game was supposed to be fun. I literally learned how to hit in the front yard with my dad and brothers. Every Saturday morning, if I did not have a game, we would be in the front yard with a bucket full of whiffle balls and a lot of smiles. My dad would say to me, "Jermaine, do not let me strike you out? If I do, then you owe me 20 push ups but if you do not let me strike you out, I will do 20 push ups and I will give you money to buy a kitkat." This was how I started to love the game and this is how I started to love hitting.
When we would be out there playing in the front yard, he would challenge me. We had 2 buckets of whiffle balls. We had the regular kind and we had the golf balls kind. Some days he would only use the golf balls and some days, he would only use the regular balls. Either way he made it challenging.
When he used the golf balls, I had to use a broom stick as a bat to work on hand eye coordination. This was very hard but it was fun because if I hit a good amount of them, I would get my pick of many chocolate candy bars. He would have regular whiffle balls as well but he would put tape on the sides of the whiffle ball. When you put tape on the whiffle ball, the ball moves more. I had to keep my eye on the ball to hit this ball. It was very fun because he would act like he was Roger Clemens or Pedro Martinez and throw pitches with not much effort but the ball would move a ton. It was even more fun when you seen him doing push-ups and all of laughing out loud, including the neighbors watching us.
I look back at those times and I understand now what my dad was doing. He was having me PRACTICE but, was disguising it. He was creating a win-win situation. I would love the game because he and I would have that bond. In addition, the more we did it, the better I would become. He was right and this is why I always share with the families that making the game fun is the best thing you can do to improve your game. Especially, hitting. There is nothing better than being in that batters box.
Do you hear that little voice in that back of your head telling you that you are not good enough? Do you hear that little voice when there is pressure in the baseball game telling you that "you can't do it"? Do you hear that little voice say that "I wish I could hit or catch or throw like your teammate"? Let me tell you the honest truth about that little voice - IT NEVER GOES AWAY. Even at the highest level of baseball, the voice is still there. We just figured out a way to ignore it. Here is something that...
If you want to be at the top of your field, you have to avoid the vampires and join the optimistic. The optimistic are hopeful even through tough times. You will know an optimist when you see one because they seem as if they are always in control.
The world is a negative place. negativity passes through all the clutter and makes headlines daily. So if you are new to a baseball team, office, event,...etc search for the optimist and spend as much time around them. They will keep you hopeful when times do not seem good. They will help you see the good in the bad. They will ultimately make you better. The only way you will rise to the top is by being the best you.