When I was 5 years old I started playing Little League baseball.
The sport consumed me. Whether it was baseball season or not, I could be found practicing my hitting, throwing balls onto the roof and catching them as they rolled off, or pitching to my mom or dad in the backyard. If I wasn’t playing baseball, I was watching it, following the Braves in the days of Bob Horner and Dale Murphy.
I played short stop and pitcher. Because of all the work I put into it, I was on the All-Star team every year except maybe my first.
One year, because I was such a good pitcher, I was asked to move up to a higher level league with kids that were a year or two older than me to play. Despite the age difference, and playing with kids bigger and stronger than myself, I was still in the top 3 pitchers in that league.
When it came time for All-Star team selection, I was shocked and disappointed to learn that I could not be on the All-Star team that year because I was not old enough. Looking back, I guess when you’re 11 or 12, you don’t quite understand things like that.
I was so upset that I vowed to quit playing baseball. I just thought that being left off the team because of my age was so unfair, and besides, I had recently found a new passion in tennis.
Coaches, not just my own coach but others from around the league, visited with me at my home and tried to convince me to reconsider. I was a stubborn kid and wouldn’t hear it.
I never played baseball again. It’s one of the biggest regrets I have in life. A fine example of what I like to call “Little League thinking”.
The only reason I’m writing this is because I think there are a couple lessons here that I hope my own kids can learn from:
#1: Don’t let other people’s rules determine your future. I let one silly rule make the decision for me that I was not going to play baseball again. What if I had stuck it out and come back next year more determined and driven by my anger? Would I have been an even better pitcher? You bet. Who knows how far I might have gone in the sport.
#2: The younger you are, the more you need to listen and at least consider the words of people older than you, especially when you know they are just trying to look out for you. Looking back, this was true when I was 12, and it’s still true as I write this today at the age of 32.