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Change Up

By , Birmingham, AL
For many years I have depended on deception to survive. Life on the pitcher’s mound is precarious at best, even more so without a dominating fastball. So I lie, and I lie often. My motion always screams fastball, but my grip is the great deceiver. I am successful at my job about 75% if the time, but too often hitters stride to the plate with a smirk and make me look all too honest.

In my eleven years of playing the great game of baseball, one piece of advice has always stood out to me: “look fastball, react to change.” That is exactly what those batters, smirking at the plate, know to do. They step into the batter’s box looking for my fastball, but once that change-up leaves my hand, they know how to adjust their timing and make me look bad. The secret to their success is the mentality they carry with them to the plate.

Yogi Berra once said that “90% of the game is half mental.” As humorous as this quote is, there is a great deal of truth in it. Baseball is just as much a mental game as it is a physical one. My coach back in junior varsity used to line us up and tell us to close our eyes. We then proceeded to do one hundred mental reps of hitting a baseball. Over and over in my head, I “looked fastball, reacted to change.” I cannot help but notice how this mentality towards hitting applies to far more than just the game of baseball.
Once in an interview Jim Bouton commented, “You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.” He was dead on, for so much of life can be seen through a single at-bat. In everything we do, we should train our minds to “look fastball, react to change.” Many times we see our lives in front of us as a fastball, straight and predictable. We have our future planned and leave no room for change.

I was home-schooled from kindergarten through fifth grade. I watched as two of my sisters graduated high school as home-schoolers, and I thought I would follow suit. But in sixth grade, I was thrown a change-up when my parents put me into a classical Christian school. Through that experience I was forced to “react to change,” for I was no longer seeing the fastball that I had been expecting. I soon adjusted to this new life, and over the next three years, the classical school became my new fastball, my predictable future. My third sister graduated from the classical school while I was there, so I once again assumed I would follow in the footsteps of my siblings. But in ninth grade life threw me yet another change-up, and I transferred to a Christian School for sports and a better education. I went from a class of seven students to a class of one hundred and forty-two, and life, as I knew it, changed dramatically. Just as my predictable future of home-schooling disappeared, so did my future at the classical school.

These two transitions have taught me how to apply “look fastball, react to change,” to every aspect of my life. I have learned not only to expect deviation from my planned future but how to embrace that change and make the most of it. In ninth grade, I welcomed the opportunities that a larger school had to offer, and this is exactly what I plan to do in college. I know how to react to the changing environment around me, for in my past I was forced to do so. Just as those batters were able to adjust to the deception of my off-speed pitch, so am I now able to adjust to change-ups in my life by “looking fastball, reacting to change.”





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