Like most kids, I wanted to be a great athlete. If you know me, you understand that this is far from my reality. Baseball is of course a great American pastime and it was the one sport that I felt confident enough to attempt playing. I was awful. I mean awful. There is not one athletic bone in my body. Music is my thing - tuba I can play. I also play piano pretty well. Baseball?…not a chance.
Regardless of my abilities, I wanted to play baseball. So my dad signed me up and I started the season. We needed a catcher, so I volunteered. I figured if someone was throwing the ball straight at my face I could catch it. I did pretty good.
One day, like most teams, we had a less than great practice. So coach had us take a lap or two around what seemed like the largest baseball field in the state. I didn't have time to take off my catchers gear, so I just took off running with it on. Here's the problem - I don't run. I probably should, but even when I was a kid I just didn't run a lot.
I wanted to quit running so that my legs would cease to burn with the fires of hell. But I kept on chugging along. After we had finished exasperating ourselves, we collapsed on the outfield grass. Coach then looks at the team with utter disgust - as usual - as says, "If you guys are gonna win, you've gotta give it all you've got. But I do want to recognize a person who has been working really hard and pushing himself. And that person is Matt. Good job Matt, keep on working hard."
Those words have stuck with me for the last 20 years. Why? It is imperative that you find someone who feels as though he or she isn't good enough to be playing on the field of life and tell them "Good job, keep working hard." No, they are not profound words for most - but for me, to have my coach say to me that I had done a good job and to encourage me to keep working hard made such an impact on my mind that I still remember it this many years later.
Actions of edification will stick with a person through his or her life if the encouragement comes in a time of great need. I needed to feel like I was worth playing baseball. Even though I didn't improve my game much, I sure took off running as hard as I could whenever we had to take a lap.
Danny Burr may not be a household name, the world may label him a nobody because he wasn't rich or famous, but his encouragement made him a somebody to me...and a whole lot of other wanna be baseball players.
Thanks Coach Burr.
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