It is easy to love baseball, but that really isn’t saying much new here in Cardinals Nation. Still, the 60th St. Louis Baseball Writers Association of America dinner gave example after example of why baseball is a metaphor for life with hardship and failure overcome by persistence, hard work and a special person to occasionally tell us to quit crying and get back out there.
Hearing Hall of Famer Bob Gibson talk about spending more than a decade going out there with knots in his stomach, no matter how successful he became, put a reality spin on a hero. Talent is great, but the mental toughness to face daily fear and excel is why he is truly a great person.
But then even more sobering was the story of Tommy Pham.
Pham spent almost a decade in the minors. Most guys would have quit and found a day job.
Pham suffered from an eye condition called keratoconus. It is the equivalent of driving with Vaseline smeared on your windshield, so that is a heck of a handicap in a sport that demands keen eyesight and perception to connect with a baseball zinging towards you at 90 mph.
Not enough adversity? He also suffered shoulder injuries and fractures.
But he kept at it through all those challenges with some mentors whispering encouragement. Last year he made it to the big leagues, topped the Cardinals in the MVP balloting and ended the season with a .306 average, 23 homers, 25 stolen bases and a .931 on-base plus slugging. He was one of three players in the majors to exceed a .300 average, .400 OBP and .500 slugging percentage.
Imagine if his sight were 100 percent.
Adversity, persistence, hard work, a little kick in the pants: You can learn a lot about life from baseball.