Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Practice Like You Play

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This morning, I watched Sports Center on ESPN. For those of you who haven’t heard the news, Mark McGwire admitted to steroid use during the ’98 season. In his admission, he talked about wishing he had not played baseball during the “steroid era.” I never played baseball beyond high school, but I missed that era. For those baseball fans who remember baseball in the 80’s, I think you’d agree that that era of baseball was more aptly called the era of strikes, lockouts, and scabs. Though, it was never known for widespread steroid use. And if guys like Puckett and Gwynn used performance enhancing drugs, I hope they got their money back for all that excess weight. And no one would dare say Cal “The Iron Man” Ripken was anything other than the greatest role model to young guys like me.

When I played baseball, my coach drove a principle into my and my teammates head: “Practice like you play.” That meant simply that every time we stepped onto the field, whether for a game or for practice, we dressed in full uniform. And you learned quickly that you had better remember your protection or you’d feel it in a very real way. All the baseball players reading this know what I mean. We were lucky in that not only did we have a coach who played in the minors, and was almost drafted by the Padres, but we had coaches from the Padres come in and run clinics with us. My coach was huge on teaching us to perfect the fundamentals; and over 3 seasons (I transferred my last season), we only lost one game.

Mark McGwire also practiced like he played, but he cheated. He disappointed all of those kids who wanted to grow up to be a powerhouse slugger like him. He lied to Roger Maris’ family, and he tried to erase the Maris’ boys father’s name from its proper place in history. And he tarnished the game of baseball for baseball fans who grew up in the “steroid era,” rather than the era of strikes, lockouts, and scabs.

Growing up in that era, I grew embittered toward the game of baseball. I became tired of watching these rich guys fight over money. Today, I don’t love baseball as much as I did when I was younger; and I wonder how those young people who were in high school during the first seasons of the steroid era look at the game of baseball today.

When all is said and done, McGwire made a very wrong choice; and now he has to make up for his mistake, as much as he can. When I make major choices in my life, I always think forward. I always think about how one decision or another could affect my life and the lives of others around me. McGwire did not think forward, he thought about himself. There are many ways you can live your life, but ultimately the truth is however you live you “Practice like you play.”

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