Shortstop—the position I played for seven years as a youth. There’s something every shortstop must be. Not a good aim. Not a good batter. Not technically flawless. These are all important, but the key to playing shortstop is just one thing. Being fearless.
I remember the day I became fearless on the field. I was in 6th grade. I had been playing softball for two years. I was a good fielder and was getting pretty confident. Then it happened. I was at practice and a hard hit grounder made contact with a rock on the infield and took an unexpected hop. The ball missed my carefully placed glove and smacked me square in the chin. Hard. No amount of skill or exceptional hand-eye coordination could have prevented it.
After some inspection, spitting of blood, and a little ice, I was back out on the field. The next ball hit was met with trepidation. I missed it. I couldn’t believe it. I was so mad at myself and I couldn’t believe I let one little rock—one bump in the road stop me. I had a decision to make.
As every good coach tells his or her fielders, you should charge the ball. That is, as soon as it is hit, you run toward it, resisting the tendency to back up and get a better read on it. You charge it.
So, I asked myself: Did I want to be a mediocre shortstop or a great one? Would I let fear drive me? The answer was no. I proceeded to take every ball hit to me with fearless abandon. Like I’d never done before, I charged EVERY ball and threw it to first base with wicked speed. I let the pain drive me. I decided I didn’t care anymore. If it hit me, it hit me. It would not be by my doing. That would just be fate—chance. It was one of the best practices of my life. I felt liberated from all the rocks.
As I sit here today, watching softball practice from my front porch, I am reminded again of this moment in my life. I am sitting on my porch because I’m feeling wounded from an event at work. A rock appeared in my life. No fault of my own. The ball smacked me hard in the chin. I’m feeling the pain and spitting out the blood. And now I have a decision to make.
My sixth grade self is tapping me on the shoulder and handing me my glove.
Back onto the field. Charge the ball. Fearless.