My Dad was a man of few words. “Yeah right” is what anyone who knew him would scoff and say. Show him a classic car, and for the next twenty minutes you’d be treated to a breakdown of not only year, make, and model, but original color schemes and trim packages as well. Get him on the subject of airplanes and you’d better pull up a chair. Oh, and don’t get me started on punishment. When my brothers and I got into trouble, his lengthy lectures would make us wish the old man would opt for spanking – over speaking. That held especially true the day I got caught skipping school… Which, just so happened to be day six of his cold turkey attempt to quit smoking. Not sure what lasted longer. The scolding I got that day or the construction of Rome. So although it may seem preposterous for me to say my Dad was “a man of few words”, in a way he really was. Sure he had a knack for rambling, but when it came to handing down important life lessons, the man who could outtalk an auctioneer, really was quite concise.
At age ten I had just experienced the worst game of my brief Little League career. Four at bats. Four strikeouts. I don’t think I even fouled one off that day. Nope. Just whiff, whiff, whiff, all game long. Head hung low as we left the ballpark, I was defeated, dejected, and determined to never play the game again. The ride home was a quiet one. Not much said by father or son. But when we got home, here it came… The important life lesson. And it was delivered in – literally – a few words. We got out of the car, walked through the front door, and just as I was about to storm off to my room for some solitary sulking I heard, “Get your bat”. That was it. Just three simple words. Get. Your. Bat.
The next couple of hours were spent in the back yard. Just me, my dad, and my bat. We went over grip. We went over stance. And we went over swing. By the time the sun started to set, I actually connected on a few of the pitches he lobbed at me.
So now is the time you’re expecting me to tell you I went on to be a pretty good ball player. In the made-for-TV version of this story I would have gone on to play college ball and had a shot at the majors. No. Nothing like that. There would be plenty more strikeouts to come. But although I never got good at baseball I did learn a lesson that went far beyond sports. I learned that I shouldn’t expect to be good at something unless I put in the work to get good at it. I learned that quitting doesn’t solve problems, but extra effort does. I learned about dedication, determination, and perseverance. And I learned it all… From a man of few words.