Tuesday, January 19, 2010

100 mph Baseballs and God

Why Do I Agree To Settle for Less?

Everyone struggles to stay on top. When your game is on, when your relationship is running smooth. When the money is flowing in from work, when all is well, we are good, we are on top. When the money slows and the wife is mad and your team is losing and the work load is piling up we lose that sense of happiness or feeling of “all is well.” It doesn’t take a computer scientist to figure out why, it is just life, it is the way it works, it is going to happen. Do we just agree that that is what you’re going to get and just expect it, that we can just expect the minimum most of the time, the raw end of the deal, that it is never going to be great all the time?

During Nolan Ryan’s baseball career he was considered the meanest man on the mound. Even the great batters of his era knew if he was on, throwing 100 plus miles-per-hour strikes, they would never hit them and they prayed for a walk.

"He just blew it (Nolan Ryan strikeout number five-thousand) by me. But it's an honor. I'll have another paragraph in all the baseball books." - Rickey Henderson

During his career Ryan experienced many times where he was in a “slump.” Game after game he would stand on the mound and try to find his motion only to be replaced after a few innings. Things just would not come together.

Then the game would come when Ryan would walk to the mound and begin to pitch. The pitches would be right, the speed would be there, the motion was smooth and it felt right. Ryan pitched in the big leagues for 27 seasons. He threw 7 no-hitters, 324 wins, 7 MVP awards, 5714 strike outs, 277 wild pitches, 158 hit’s by pitch and on and on.

Through it all his work out never slowed. His physical regiment and practice routine was and is the model for pitchers today. He would work out and throw the ball time and time again, every day.

Ryan tells how it took two years after he left the game, (1993), to begin to stop doing the things he did every day to stay ready. He tells how he thought “Ok, when I finish with baseball I will have my ranch and other things set so baseball will be done.” That plan was short lived.

Ryan founded the minor league team Round Rock Express in 1998, one of the most successful minor league team ever. Then it was a team in Corpus Christi. Ryan’s passion and love for the game would not let him leave. His life was built on baseball and he was good at it in more ways than he would know standing on the mound all those years. His knowledge and talent was the foundation for the minor league teams but it was his heart, his passion, his love of the game that kept him in, all in.

I get so frustrated that I can’t stay connected into my relationship with God on a really high note for extended periods of time. I have been on the mountain top and experienced His grace and kindness. I have had days where the blessings just poured in and the next thing I know I am angry and frustrated with something trivial, I mean stupid things that really carry no weight if I admit the truth. I find myself in the valley so quickly.

I have been told time and time again that the valleys are inevitable. The ups and downs are just life and expect them. OK, I expect them as real and the attacks to be there. But do I have to settle for that? Do I have to just go along with it and not believe that God wants me to be happy, to be immersed in the love I have felt from Him? No, I think not.

Nolan Ryan knew that feeling when everything was working right, when his fingers gripped the ball perfectly and his arm swung down at the right angle and the pop as the ball stopped in his catcher’s glove. He never settled for mediocrity, he never agreed to “just throw it slower and you will be fine,” “don’t try so hard and it will be OK.” He would never stand for “we all have our ups and downs, just go with it.”

He pushed himself hours on end, day after day because he knew the feeling he got when it was all right. He knew the feeling inside of himself when he had a good outing, a great outing. His heart and convictions moved him to be the best he could be, he was hungry for it.

I have an autographed baseball from Ryan, I am pretty proud of that ball. I have also felt the love God offers each of us and it has changed me. I am hungry for it, I strive for that overwhelming feeling when he is present with me. I know it won’t be there every waking moment, but I refuse to settle.