Sports are one of the great sources for spiritual insights. As a child, I remember paying extra attention when the rabbi used an illustration from baseball or football.
They helped me visualize and understand the spiritual lesson. Of all sports, baseball lends itself best to Jewish wisdom.
Every year as the season opens, I am reminded of this truth. As a Chicagoan, most of whose synagogue members are Cubs fans, I need to draw from that wisdom often.
Here are seven insights gleaned from the baseball diamond.
1. No one is perfect: No player gets a hit every at bat. No pitcher wins every game. No team has a perfect season.
As Tommy Lasorda put it, “No matter how good we are, we’re going to lose one-third of our games. No matter how bad we are we’re going to win one-third of your games and so it’s the other third that makes all the difference.”
2. Hope spring eternal: Every season inspires the imagination. Every pitch is a new opportunity. It is no accident baseball starts in the spring. The change in season reinforces this lesson, as nature is reborn and life reappears.
3. The little things are the big things:Have you ever been at a baseball game transformed by a badly thrown pitch? Have you ever seen a ball land just right of the foul line, leading to the game-winning run? In baseball, as in life, the little things make all the difference.
4. Patience is required: Baseball can be really boring. There is a lot of waiting. Batters wait for the pitch. Fielders wait for the ball. Fans wait for a home run.
Yet, when we least expect it, we may be called to catch a fly ball. We may be called upon to score the game-winning run. If we don’t pay attention, it can whiz right by us.
5. We are alone and together: In baseball every player matters, yet only the team wins or loses. We play alone, yet we play for the team.
The same is true in life. We are responsible for our choices. Yet, we play with others. We play for our families, our work, our traditions, our God.
6. There is no time limit: When a baseball game starts, no one knows whether it will be long or short. It could last 9 short innings. It could reach 16 excruciating ones. We stay in the game until it’s over.
7. Everyone can get in the game: Height is crucial to basketball. Weight is crucial to football. IQ is crucial to chess. Yet, all of these measurements are generally irrelevant for baseball.
Anyone can play. Anyone can get lucky. All you need to do is suit up.