Speech: Keep Your Eye on the Ball! By Jeff Harman


 

Baseball…I have so many vivid, unforgettable memories of playing Little League baseball…….almost all of them were… bad!

Much as I loved baseball, it just wasn’t my game. I remember so many summer days that first year: The smell of the grass, the flight of the ball, the sight of me striking out……again. And again. And again.

I had once heard that baseball was a very simple game: You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Simple. To me, playing this game was about as simple as me solving a Rubik’s cube…. blindfolded.

I wanted so much to be the hero, you know, hit the line drive down the third base line, and it goes into the corner, and I round first base and slide into second base with a double….or hit a long fly ball to right field, and the ball soars over the fielder’s outstretched glove, and goes over the fence, into the bleachers, a home run, bottom of the ninth, we win the game, I’m the hero!

But noooooooooo. Whenever I came up to bat, the outfielders would all get together and play cards. My batting average was actually a negative number.

But I finally figured it out. I figured out that if I stood up at the plate and left the bat on my shoulder, that was good thing. You know why? Because if I swung, it would always be a strike. But if I stood there and did nothing at all, it could be a strike, OR, it could be a ball, OR, it could hit me. Two out of three is GOOD.

But even that didn’t work out. I remember one time, I’m up at bat with two strikes and I got hit by the pitch right there (on the thumb). But I didn’t care.. I got hit by the pitch, a free pass to first base. But the umpire calls me back, says “Strike three, you’re out!” I say, “WHAT?!” He says, “You were holding the bat when you got hit, right?” “Yea.” And the bat was in the strike zone when you got hit, right?” “Yea.” “So that’s strike 3 as in strike 3 you’re out!!”

Every time I trudged back to the dugout after striking out, somebody would call out, “Nice try, Jeff!” Or, “Better luck next time.” Or something really encouraging like, “Harman, you couldn’t even hit the floor if you fell outta bed!”

But I thought maybe I could make up for it by being good fielder. But I never had a chance. Coach puts me in right field. Why? Because NOBODY hits the ball to right field. Right field was the place I could do the least amount of damage. Which was just as well…

You could see me standing alone out there. Gazing skyward, daydreaming, perhaps. Actually, I was PRAYING: “Dear god, PLEASE don’t let the ball come to me!”

But sometimes it did. And the adventure of watching me trying to catch the ball began. Once, this towering fly came towards the foul line. I’m going to be the hero…. I remember running and running towards the foul line, glove outstretched, like a movie in slow motion, diving at the last moment and getting a mouthful of grass. I reach, I open my glove….it’s empty. I see the ball bouncing away about 40 feet away.

I could swear that ball was laughing at me.

You know, I knew I wasn’t going to catch it, but, by god, I was going to look good trying to.

So one day, I’m grumbling about this with my mom.

My Mom really wasn’t into baseball. She would pick me up after the games. She always supported my playing ball, but she didn’t really follow baseball. But one day, I was complaining again about my lack of skill when she said, “You know, there’s something we can try.” I rolled my eyes, thinking this is the same mom who once said, “If you ever make a face, it will freeze that way,” and, “Don’t go swimming for an hour after you eat or you’ll get cramps and drown.” So I said, ‘what mom, you think I should choke up on the bat? Want me to change my stance?’

She said, “Maybe we should get your eyes checked.”

Whoa…That was a bright idea. The thought that I might need glasses never occurred to me. Or anyone else.  So she took me to the eye doctor and, sure enough, I did need glasses. Badly. In fact, that day in the doctor’s office, I went for 3 for 3: Farsightedness, astigmatism, AND double vision.

But wouldn’t you know it. I DID get glasses and you can guess what happened:

My first game back. Here comes the pitch, something inside my head says, “NOW” and I swing with all my might. And incredibly, I made contact. BAT MEETS BALL, and it went thataway.. And I watched as the ball went over the shortstop’s head and into left field, I was so amazed, I didn’t know what to do. And someone says,” RUN!!”

And I run! And there’s this white square, first base, and THERE IT IS.

Now that I could SEE, baseball was FUN.

All it took was a pair of glasses (and a wise mother).

So, the moral of the story is: When something isn’t working out, and you don’t know why….check the obvious first.

Car won’t run?                        Maybe you’re outta gas.

Computer won’t start up?      Maybe it’s not plugged in?

Can’t find your glasses?                   (They’re on your head!)

Sometimes, the answer is so obvious, you don’t even need glasses to see it.

About Jeff Harman

Jeff is a Distinguished Toastmaster and the current Sergeant-at-Arms of Renaissance Speakers.