The first time I remember seeing a Major Leagues baseball game, I was with my father and grandfather when we went to see the Cleveland Indians play. Although it was many years ago when I was of elementary school age, I learned lessons that I still carry today.
I call upon those lessons on the day of this writing which is only hours after the Cleveland Indians lost to the Chicago Cubs in World Series 2016. The loss, which came about after ten innings in the final of the seven-game series still resonates with me. I have hungered for a World Series championship ever since I understood the men on the field with Cleveland Indians emblazoned across their chests represented my city.
Years ago, on that memorable day, my father took his father and me to the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium, my dad spoke of the importance of playing the game with heart. Granddad and I, although obviously many years apart in age, were celebrated a similar milestone in our lives. Granddad who lived in Alabama had never attended a Major Leagues game. He giggled as did I about the sweetness of the atmosphere and the excitement of the crowd.
Dad told us both about the men on the field and how they were good at their work. I did not fully understand batting averages at the time, but I knew it was important to hit the ball and get on base. "That's part of what this game is about," said Dad.
But he also told me each ballplayer had to do his best with the job he had. He explained to me how I had to do the same and be the best student I could be in school.
As I sat on the first base side of the Grandstand at Progressive Field, home of the Cleveland Indians, in Game 2 of this year's World Series, I reflected on that first game with my father and granddad. They are both gone now, but the lessons of playing with heart I first learned in that first ballgame were still with me.
The Indians pulled up short in the final game of the World Series, losing to the Cubs by one run. However, the Cleveland team had hung in the regular season and the following playoffs even though several of the regulars were sidelined with an injury and could not play. Still, with heart, the Indians took the field and played in a wonderful way. It was excitement all the way.
I know it sounds corny sometimes to talk about how to play the game as opposed to winning. We are a time where, in the minds of many, winning is the only thing. The Indians played well although they did not win. Still, in the World Series, it was only the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs still playing Major League baseball. All the other teams were home, watching on television.
I am a fan of the game and a fan of baseball. I am a fan of fathers and their children enjoying the game together, whether it is in the grandstand of a professional team or on the sandlots where kids throw the ball around. It is about heart and doing one's job.
The Indians did that. I am proud of what they did, how they played the game, and how they never gave it. They gutted it out. That is what winners do.