We’ve all made mistakes in our lives.
You know, the ones we play out in our mind as we try to get to sleep.
Over and over I replay the time I threw a changeup to a batter who couldn’t touch my fastball for strikes one and two. Each time I relive that moment, the catcher puts down three fingers, the sign for a changeup. I question the call but don’t shake him off. He’d been catching all game and I just took the mound.
I throw the pitch.
Each time, the hitter lines the ball past the third baseman for a hit.
And so starts a rally that sent me to the showers and ended my competitive baseball career.
I learned a lesson that transcended baseball that Sunday afternoon: Trust your gut.
My oldest son, Eric, graduates from Free State High School today. In August he leaves for college in Illinois to play baseball. At 17, he hasn’t yet learned all the lessons I’ve learned in 47 years. He will learn them, and likely the hard way, but not before I share my wisdom.
I’ve offered Eric a lot of advice — some of it actually solicited — on a number of topics. My advice has come as driving instructor, baseball coach, disciplinarian and just plain dad.
My wife Julie is the nurturer. I’m more direct. It’s a curse, and a blessing.
In that spirit, I share the advice I’m giving Eric, likely for the last time while he’s still living under our roof.
Scratch that itch
If something in the back of your head is telling you to do something, do it. The time it takes you to do it now will be far less painful than the cleanup later.
Don’t be a jerk
Treat people the way you want to be treated. You won’t always be treated the same, but you can live with yourself later.
Don’t be stupid
On prom night, Eric and his date gathered for pictures with 11 other couples. After the parents played the role of paparazzi, the group was heading out to dinner before the dance. I pulled Eric aside and said: “Don’t be stupid.”
Translation: Don’t drink, do drugs or have sex. The consequences of a moment can affect a lifetime.
I can only hope Julie and I have taught him how to make the right decisions.
Maintain the strong connections with the high school friends you are leaving, but understand that relationships — and life — go in cycles. Those cycles are rarely in sync.
And always be open to new friendships.
Make a difference
Become a mentor, or Big Brother, to a young person. You will learn as much about yourself as you will about your Little Brother.
High school doesn’t define you
In 10 years you will not be the person you are today.
You will have many opportunities. Take advantage of them and make connections with people you respect and can teach you things. You will have a professor who will change your life. He or she will become a lifelong friend and resource.
No maid service
Learn to wash clothes, clean a toilet and cook salmon with asparagus and wild rice — your wife will love you for it.
Throw the fastball
When you get a sign from the catcher that you don’t agree with, shake him off and throw the pitch you trust. Believe me, you’ll be able to sleep better.