Swing For the Fences by Mark Schlereth

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(By Guest Contributor Mark Schlereth)

What is it that holds you back? What obstacles have you found impossible to overcome? Why haven’t your dreams become reality? Have you ever felt limited by the people in your life? Like you can’t break out of a box?

These are complex questions with no easy answers.

But one valuable lesson baseball taught me some 20+ years ago is that we would be wise to look in the mirror for clues.

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It’s a lesson I’ll never forget.

It was a Friday night. I don’t remember the inning and it really doesn’t matter. As is always the case in T-Ball, the bases were loaded. My five-year-old son, Daniel, who would eventually make it to the big leagues, was playing first base. The batter approached the dish wearing a helmet so big he looked like a real life bobble head. His coach lined him up to the tee and with one mighty swing the ball rocketed down the first base line. Daniel caught it on the fly and casually stepped on first for a double play!

As we drove away after the game, I glanced in the rear-view mirror to see my little one, held in the firm embrace of the seat belt in the backseat. I could see his mind working on something profound. For several minutes, the hum of the engine was the only sound you could hear.

Finally I said, “That was a great game, son, and that double play was really something!” That’s when he made his “Swing for the fences” statement.

“Dad,” he said with certainty, “tomorrow, I think I’ll turn a triple play.” I went into “preemptive strike, manage disappointment” mode. I told him turning a triple play was virtually impossible. There are men who have played their entire lives and have never had an opportunity to turn one, I said. I gave him a three-minute dissertation on why a triple play wasn’t in the cards. I tried with all of my might to reason with that little boy and his response was, “Yeah, I think I’ll turn one anyway.”

We got to the field early the next day. It was a beautiful Virginia spring morning. The bases were loaded (again) and Daniel was playing third base. By this time, I’d forgotten all about our conversation in the car the night before.

The batter whacked a line drive down the third base line. Just like the day before, Daniel snagged the ball in mid-flight, stepped on third, spun and threw a dart to second. The kid playing second base was actually standing on top of the bag, eyes firmly slammed shut, his mitt raised in front of his face like a shield to protect him from the oncoming throw. When the ball introduced itself with a sweet “pop” into his leather glove, the whole world stopped for what felt like an eternity. Suddenly, like a swarm of bees, the team came running to me in the dugout shouting, “triple play! triple play!” as they threw their hats in the air with all of the enthusiasm of high school graduates. After a celebration of hugs and high fives, the boys picked up their hats and made their way back to their positions because we were only halfway through the batting order!

I learned a valuable lesson that morning…Don’t place yourself or anybody else in a box. Don’t tell someone what they can’t do.

One of my favorite scriptures in the Bible comes from Hebrews 10: 24-25: “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of many, but encouraging one another, and all the more as the day draws near.”

Dream big, encourage one another, ignore the detractors that try to bring you down and most of all…swing for the fences!
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Mark Schlereth played Guard for 12 years in the NFL , won three Super bowls and is now an analyst on ESPN.  He is the father of  three children.  Mark’s son Daniel was drafted in 2008 in the first round of the MLB draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks and most recently played for the Chicago Cubs. Mark spent many years coaching his children’s various sports, where he learned some great life lessons.  click here to follow him on twitter
You can also listen to his “The Stinkin Truth” podcast by clicking here.

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