Today I want to share with you some thoughts that may not seem to have a lot to do with skiing. I want to talk about baseball. This is my blog so I think I will. Todd Helton played his last home game yesterday and after being asked by a friend why I was getting so choked up about the whole thing I started to think about just that. Why would this affect me so?
Growing up in New York City I was very much a baseball fan. I also played as much as I could. Every day in the summer it was off to the park for catch or practice or a game. Nights were spent watching the games on TV, back then there was only one game to watch. I had my favorite players, you know the guys you would pretend to be on the mound or in the batter’s box, these we the heroes of my youth. Reggie, Bucky, Rollie, Cal, the list went on and on. As I grew up and got into the mountains other heroes replaced the baseball greats that I mimicked at the playground.
For years I didn’t pay attention to baseball. Then in Crested Butte one summer I started to watch the games on TV after work. The Rockies had been around for a few years by then and it was fun to see what was happening with them. A guy named Helton had just gotten to the bigs and he was playing really well. It didn’t stop there for him. 17 years later he said good bye to the home fans. He helped rekindle my love for the game. For that I thank him, for playing it the right way we should all thank him.
This is where things start to crystallize for me. As I search for an answer as to why his pending retirement affects me so I return to my youth and the integral relationship baseball had between me and my Dad. We played together in the yard and at the park. He coached me and my teams. He was there by my side at games both played and watched. It was bonding time as much as it was sport. Every moment was a lesson whether intentional or inferred. There was a right way to go about things. Now with my Dad gone I look back at those times as foundational moments in my life. The roots of who I am came from those lessons on the field.
I now find myself a father in a far different time. The heroes of the field are gone for the most part. This is an era filled with selfish, greedy people. Our leaders no longer lead but pander to the most extreme factions of their political parties, dictating a platform that benefits those greedier than them. These are not heroes to help guide our children. These are not the ones that I want instilling values as they don’t truly seem to have any.
I’ve always seen sport as a great equalizer of one’s ego. If on a given day you preform below your desired level it can be disappointing. However after introspection you will often realize what held you back. You will look into yourself and realize that you need to work harder or longer. The goals that you set for yourself in sport carry through to the rest of your life. Hard work and determination offer a self-satisfaction that cannot be discounted. The ego building that happens in the participation of sport helps develop a self-awareness that can lead to better relationships, team interaction, introspection, health and happiness. We can go on and on about the benefits of sport. However in this new age of greed and immediate gratification many of the players of today aren’t heroes but are merely actors playing the role of players. Pumping themselves full of drugs to perform for the mighty dollar, the record books and their own delusions of grandeur. These aren’t heroes. They don’t teach the lessons I want my children to learn.
Losing Todd Helton however is losing one of the men that played the game the right way. He wasn’t perfect, but none of us are. To be something unattainable would not make a hero. To embody the ideal is what he did. Hard work and determination exemplified. He always gave his all on the field. He worked hard to try and win and be the best he could. He treated the game and his community with respect. He didn’t win it all but he did that with grace. He didn’t leave searching for a ring and a paycheck. He stayed true to his roots. He moved to this place and is planning on staying. He made mistakes and owned them. The game and the world for that matter deserve more people like him for our children to look up to and emulate.
Going forward for myself I am more driven to work hard. Not to win anything but to merely leave it all on the field of play that is life. Hopefully I can be a hero to myself and my children. These lessons on display for 17 years carry over from the diamond to the mountains. On those peak ascents and in the gym, hard work and determination balanced with grace lead to success. The self-awareness and strength to make it thru or to turn away, which many times is harder than pushing forward. The selfless act of giving oneself to the community for the betterment of all really resonates. The way we act is lesson enough for our children. They do what they see us do. If we do it like Todd did it I think the kids will be alright.