Wait on the Fastball

When I played baseball, I was taught to wait on the fastball and then adjust to the curveball. If we are expecting a fastball, there will be time to adjust to a curveball. However, if we’re waiting for a curveball and the pitch is a fastball, there’s no way we can adjust. It comes down to mental activity and time. As always, there is an exception to every rule, Hank Aaron, one of the greatest hitters of all time, said, “I can wait on the curveball because I know the pitcher can’t throw the fastball by me.”

The key components of a baseball swing are balance and timing. We need to be in a balanced position, which requires control of our front foot. The move forward with the front foot determines our stride, the stride determines the timing of the bat through the hitting zone. A fastball is coming faster (obviously) and its path is relatively straight and on a consistent plane. The curveball is slower and will move across two planes. It requires being attentive enough to pick up the spin on the ball. That perception requires about 150-milliseconds to process the additional information. If we are too anxious, we can’t adapt to the changes.

Poor hitters ‘open up’ during their stride when thrown a curveball and pull their head out of the hitting zone. When this occurs, it’s only through luck that the batter makes contact. Stride forward, stay steady, and see the bat hit the ball. This analogy demonstrates the power of being present in the moment, balanced, and finding our center; paying attention to the small details which in turn opens our mind to the bigger things. We need to stride forward with the confidence and stay focused, so we can make an impact with our life.

The solution is not to avoid curveballs; life will throw them at us. We see little curveballs frequently, like the boss asking us to stay late when we had plans with the family; the weather upsetting the day’s activities; a minor fender bender; or a home appliance failing. COVID-19 is a life changing curveball, like a loved one being diagnosed with cancer, losing our job, or someone close to us dying. At some points in time, we all feel unequipped and underprepared. There are no instruction manuals for every possible life situation, especially a novel coronavirus.

COVID-19 is a Sandy Koufax curveball. Here is a little anecdote to describe the severity of Koufax’s curveball. In the 1963 World Series, Koufax was facing Yankee great Mickey Mantle who was the best curveball hitter of his era. Already ahead in the count 0-2, Koufax decided to throw his curveball and Mantle strikes out looking. Mantle then turns to the catcher and says, “How the bleep is anybody supposed to hit that?”

There is the story of the farmer and the horse:

  • A farmer lost his horse. All his neighbors said: “How awful!” But the farmer simply replied: “Could be bad, could be good, don’t know yet.”
  • Then the horse returned with a stallion. Now the neighbors said: “How wonderful for you!” But the farmer replied: “Could be bad, could be good, don’t know yet.”
  • A few days later the farmer’s son was the riding the stallion and he fell off and broke his leg. Once again, the neighbors chimed in: “That’s terrible news!” But the farmer just told them: “Could be bad, could be good, don’t know yet.”
  • That weekend the country went to war and the generals went from village to village taking young men to fight. They didn’t take the farmer’s son since his leg was broken. The neighbors all expressed how lucky the farmer was that his son had broken his leg and wouldn’t risk being killed. But the farmer simply said: “Could be bad, could be good, don’t know yet.”

The farmer continuously waits on the fastball so that he can adjust to any curveballs.

As a fan of singer/songwriters, I still have my Dan Fogelberg vinyl albums, including 1975’s Souvenirs with the hit ‘Part of the Plan’:

I have these moments
All steady and strong
I’m feeling so holy and humble
The next thing I know
I’m all worried and weak
And I feel myself starting to crumble

We need to learn how to recover when life throws us something unexpected. We hear baseball players talk about seeing pitchers the second time around the lineup once they have experienced their pitches. We can learn how to adapt amid the coronavirus crisis and bring order out of chaos. This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Charles Swindoll, “Life is 10 percent what happens to you (the pitch) and 90 percent how you react to it (the swing).”

In Psalm 27:11 David is speaking “LORD, show me your way; lead me on a level path because of my enemies.” This Psalm ends with, “I believe I shall see the LORD’s goodness in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the LORD!” We wait on the Lord to act – to deliver, to save, to avenge, to answer our prayers, to provide for our needs, to renew our strength, to reveal His glory, to do what only God can do. Waiting on God is not easy, but timing with God is everything.

John 11 tells the story of Lazarus where Jesus delayed his arrival on purpose. Jesus had a plan, and His plan involved making them wait, revealing His glory as “the Resurrection and the Life.” Jesus reminds us in John 16:33 as he told his disciples, “I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”

Sometimes in life, it’s difficult to let go of the plans we have – the plan for the day, the year or for our life. Plans are good, they give us a direction & something to strive for. A curveball doesn’t have to be a bad thing it’s just not what we’re expecting.

I trust in God’s plan; His timing is His timing. Sometimes I must wait, staying steady and strong, on His fastball. If so, I can recognize the curveballs and adjust to them. I can stride forward, keep my eyes focused and make an impact with my life.

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