One last commencement address as the graduation season concludes ...
Dear Class of 2015,
I’m not going to offer tidbits of clever, inspiring advice. You’ll figure it out without me. I’m not a life expert.
Over the years, I’ve learned that we’re all a little bit different. What motivates one person means nothing to another. That’s my first piece of advice to you, graduates: Avoid life’s templates. We all see and hear things a little bit differently. Life’s not the same for everyone.
Instead, I’m going to give a brief history lesson. A story about a simple game we used to play when I was young. We called it Indian Ball. That’s not a politically correct name nowadays. I apologize. Not sure why we called it that. Sounded better than Irish Ball, for sure.
We played Indian Ball back when summer was summer. You may not remember summer as I do. It used to be carefree, informal, spontaneous. Our summer was a lot different than yours today. It was a different world. But if our family homes had air conditioning, HDTV and WiFi in every room, well, I’m not sure we would have been on that hot sandlot all day, either.
We played Indian Ball when we didn’t have enough neighborhood kids to field two teams for a game of baseball. We really needed only four kids to play Indian Ball. Some days, that’s all we had. And it was plenty.
In Indian Ball, you had an infielder and outfielder. Teams pitched to themselves. We closed off right field. A foul ball was an out. Infielder catches a ground ball and you’re out. Fly ball catches were an out. Hit it over the outfielders’ head untouched was a home run.
Double innings — you stayed at bat and in the field for six outs.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but in hindsight, the simple, childhood game of Indian Ball taught me a few life lessons that I’ll share with you today:
Learn to adjust and be flexible: Whether we had nine kids on a team, or two, we had fun. The same is true in everyday life. Do the best with what you have, whom you have, when you have it. Life will present many natural changes. Adjust. Be flexible.
Narrow the field: We closed off right field in Indian Ball. Hit it there and you’re automatically out. In life, you’re going to be told time and again to think about “the big picture.” Sometimes, you have to narrow your focus to one field only and take care of some small issues in order to tackle the biggest issues. Always, there will be a field or two that are off limits.
Use your imagination: We had two kids on a team. But we might play a World Series of Indian Ball one afternoon. Seven games. I was Dal Maxvill scooping up ground balls and Richie Allen hitting an occasional home run over the outfielder’s head. Try to never lose your childhood imagination. It will get you through a lot of tough times.
Use two hands: Never get over-confident or cocky. Don’t get lazy. Use two hands to catch ground balls and fly balls. Keep your eye on the ball until it reaches your glove. Same is true in life. Keep your eye on the ball.
Don’t play too shallow or too deep: Do your homework. Know where others hit the ball and be in the right position to make the play. Same in life. Be prepared.
Don’t be afraid to dive! Sometimes, in life, you’re going to have to make a choice to dive and try make a miracle catch or go the safe route and let the ball land for a hit. Don’t be afraid to leave your feet occasionally. Even if you miss, you’ll feel good for trying.
Don’t be afraid to swing for the fences! Sure, base hits add up to runs scored. But occasionally in life, it feels really good to grip and rip.
Always. Don’t forget your ears.