One Game at a Time

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My nine-year-old son’s little league baseball season just came to an abrupt ending after a solid season, when we fell short in the semi-finals. Our team battled until the end, and we played our absolute hardest the entire season, finishing a solid fourth place.

A few days ago, we won in miraculous fashion, storming back in the bottom of the sixth inning from a 8-run deficit, putting up nine runs, and winning the game.

In analyzing how, and why we were able to win that game, I had an insight that applies not only to little league baseball, but to life as well.

You see, my son’s baseball league has what I think is a ridiculous rule about kid’s pitch counts. If a 9-year old kid pitches more than 20 pitches in a game, he cannot pitch until he has one full day of rest from pitching. If he pitches over 35 pitches, he needs two days rest. Once he gets over 66 pitches, he will need five full days of rest.

This makes the little league playoffs, in which games are played just about every day a true chess match between the two coaches. Especially, in our situation in which we had two makeup games the last week of the regular season which had great implications for whom we would match up against in the playoffs.

Our philosophy has been to worry about the game today, lest there won’t be a game tomorrow. Let our best pitcher go as long as he can, giving us the best chance to win, even if that means he won’t be able to pitch for five more days. We wanted to live to see another game, and not get too cute with our pitching rotation.

Our opponent was playing for the game tomorrow. They sent out their strong pitchers early in the game, and they admirably gave them several strong innings completely stifling our dormant offense. However, when they got to 20 (or maybe it was 35) pitches, they were promptly pulled.

That strategy worked, until the bottom of the 6th inning. With their 2-3 elite pitchers already having pitched, we were finally able to generate some offense– to the tune of 9 runs, winning the game on a walk-off walk. It is very likely had one of those pitchers stayed in longer, we would have continued to be shut down offensively, and would not have been able to rally the way we did. Whereas our strategy of focusing exclusively on the present moment enabled us to survive to play another game, our opponent was so focused on the game tomorrow, that they lost sight of the game today.

I think that this translates to life in very profound ways. Many times people are so worried about the future, they forget about living in the present. ” I am going to work 12+ hour days now, while I am young, so I can enjoy my life when I am 65 years old and retired.” On other occasions– and this has happened to me–we have incredible times in our lives marred knowing that these moments are fleeting, and won’t last much longer. I remember one Friday night spending Shabbos in Israel, looking out into the beautiful night sky, experiencing a euphoric sense of serenity. I knew the next night I would be on a flight back home, and that detracted from the experience.

People who suffer from anxiety– as 19 percent of the population does– often get anxious about future events that scare them or make them nervous– triggering an unfortunate vicious cycle of fear, which in turn leads to more anxiety and uneasiness ahead of the big day.

Other times we realize that we have so much to do and to accomplish tomorrow, that we are paralyzed today, unable to do anything productive– the overall picture is simply too overwhelming.

In reality though, we can only deal with what is in front of us now. Whatever happens tomorrow, we can deal with then.

The sage Hillel said in Ethics of our Fathers, “If not now, when?” This is interpreted in a variety of different ways, but perhaps the most simple understanding can help guide our lives: Yes, we need to be cognizant of where we are going, and what lies ahead, but the focus should always be on the present.

To look at what we are facing now, and to strive to make the best of it.

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