I believe baseball is the gift that keeps on giving. Aside from the split lip and the half swollen face that made me look like Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, baseball is the greatest gift I have ever received. When I started baseball I was nearly six years old. I was playing on a Little League team in Okinawa, Japan. I can still remember my first game playing for my team, the Kinser Tigers. Although I did not get but one hit and our team looked like a circus that game was the most fun I had in my entire life. Baseball has given me much more than hits, strikeouts, and wins though. It has given me meaningful friendships, taught me to work hard, and to search for the good in all things.
From baseball I have possibly unwrapped the most important present of all, friendship. Back when I lived in Kane’ohe Marine Corp Base in Hawaii seven years ago I played on the Kainalu Little League Orioles. This was a team that ended up going four and sixteen and the other players and I still were forged together with our love for the game. I particularly became friends with a boy named Kyle. We played baseball every year we each lived in Hawaii (our families were military.) Although we went to different schools, we did everything together. We’d go to the mall, go surfing, play backyard football together, and even practically lived with one another’s family at some point in time. Even when Kyle played on the Kainalu Yankees and I played on the rival Kainalu White Sox we were still best friends. For instance, one time he was pitching and I was batting he hit me right on the funny bone on my elbow he even called time to come over and make sure I was okay. However as military families often do, we each moved to different places. My dad retired from the Marines so we moved to North Carolina and Kyle’s dad got stationed at a base in Florida. Even after moving away from Hawaii over four years ago I still have had great contact with him. I still know him like the back of my hand. Despite the distance we are still excellent friends. I practically talk to him every day about how his life is going and it goes both ways. On top of that our always recurring hot topic is always (yes, you guessed it) baseball.
Working hard is another one of my most prominent attributes. Although I have always had much enjoyment in the game, I have not always been as good as I am now. It has taken an accumulation of ten years to be as good as I am now at baseball. Back to my first season in Hawaii on the Kainalu Orioles I was always the player nobody wanted to be put in the spotlight when the game was on the line. I hated the feeling of doubt I knew my teammates had in me although they showed nothing but compassion and encouragement. I always felt like I was letting them down when I got out. I practiced night and day to improve by the next season. I went to the batting cages every chance I got. I could always be found in backyard throwing a tennis ball off the garage door and fielding it on the rebound. Even when it was raining outside, during commercials on television I would toss a baseball up to the ceiling and try to catch it on its way down. The point is I was determined to become the superhero baseball player the next season. When next season came, I became my team’s number three hitter and a league all-star for the first time in my life. At that very moment baseball had opened up the feelings of accomplishment and a person gets through hard work.
Baseball in addition has taught me no matter how bleak the ending there is always some sort of surprise that can be found among the crumpled paper and empty boxes of a disappointing Christmas past. No less was this true than the time I first played on the Crystal Coast Mustangs. It was the first time I played on the team and the returning Mustangs first tournament in nearly three months. Sure we practiced together during the week, but nothing beats playing in a real game. In my first tournament as a Mustang we lost all four games, but all I could think about was how I had fun, played my hardest, and of how they all showed support for me even though most of them rarely knew me and I at that time was so nervous I had the chance of making a play or getting a hit as a paper airplane has of flying over the Atlantic. Nonetheless I realized this and knew that the tournament was not a loss for me, but a huge victory.
In short baseball has shaped my outlook on life. I can’t even grasp the idea of what I would be like if I did not have friends like Kyle, learn to work hard to become an all-star, or always see the glass half full in times like my first tournament with the Mustangs. As I grow older I will discover new gifts baseball has left for me. Because of baseball, my life will be like an everlasting Christmas. Even when I’m old and gray I’ll still know baseball dropped in and blessed me with all of these things and more to come.
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