Legacy Playbook – Day 2

My dad was my hero, as most kids want their dad to be. I desired an intimate connection with him, desperately wanted his notice, and sought his affirmation. He worked hard at two jobs just to provide for necessities. He never took time off. He epitomized the Postal Service Creed: “Neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” A hard worker and loyal employee, when he finally retired from the U.S.P.S. after thirty-three years, he had an incredible fifteen months of sick leave built up.

While still young and living in my own Land of Innocence, my dad was good at playing amateur baseball in a summer league. While playing on a team, he generally hit third or fourth in the lineup, making him the best hitter on the team. He was a great defensive third baseman with a strong arm. I loved watching him play baseball. Dad was a cool dude with lots of energy … I wanted to be just like him!

He was good at fixing and creating things too. Neither dad nor I enjoyed chasing down balls, so he developed a system to eliminate this during batting practice. He drilled a hole through the ball and attached a string with a knot. This brilliant invention allowed us to increase our hitting time. I adored my dad and cherished this closeness and his enthusiasm for what I thought at the time was for me.

We would sometimes drive to Chicago to watch the Cubs play in Wrigley Field. Since we lived about 180 miles from our destination, dad would wake me up before the sun twinkled its first ray of light. I was always eager to rise, unable to sleep the night before a trip in anticipation of knowing the entire next day would be spent with my dad and baseball.10

There were no interstates to travel, only beautiful two-lane roads with green cornfields boasting their bounty on each side, their neat rows revealing the richest coal-black soil in America. The fences bordering them seemed to move with us as we sped by, occasional fields of sprouting green beans popped up, only standing about a quarter of the height of corn. We would leave early, watch an afternoon game, and get back late

Baseball is one of the last pro sports a family can afford to enjoy together. Generations pass down their love for the sport, their loyalty to a team—legacy moments that tie families together down through history.

We made sure to arrive in time for batting practice. “Practice makes perfect,” dad drilled. We never missed batting practice.

“Jim,” dad would say never taking his eyes off the players on the field, “if you want to be good at anything, you need to practice. ” My young mind seized on this truth, and thus practice became securely embedded into my DNA.

I loved it all—the ushers, the warm sun on my shoulders, watching the players … but there was one more reason for getting there in time for batting practice; some of the players batted balls into the seats down the left-field line where we always hung out. Score! More balls for practice with my buddies was golden!

It was uncanny the way we captured balls—and not just pre-game. It was as if the future was calling back to the present. God provided me with something we couldn’t afford so I could do something I was called to do—address an interested audience with a message of encouragement. This field was the place of my childhood dreams … little did I know that twenty-five years later, I would stand to perform in that same arena.

These exhilarating days would gradually come to an end. My dad carried me off to bed as the dream world transitioned from reality back to fancy.