When you wish upon a star

Albert Einstein was quoted as saying, “It’s not that I’m so smart. It’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

The other day I was blessed to eat lunch with the baseball player Steve Sax.  Steve was the National League’s Rookie of the Year, an All-Star five times, and won two World Championships.  He played second base with a batting average of over .300 in three seasons.  Clearly one of the Major Leagues’ better players during his years.

When time offered, I began asking Steve questions about his career as a professional athlete.  I learned many topics during our lunch, such as his personal feelings on the “Steve Sax Syndrome.”  I will write about this and others in later postings.  For now, however, I want to address something I learned from Steve I feel relates to the opening quote.

I have attended various professional sporting events where the athlete is asked to perform arguably incomprehensible tasks.  Some examples are witnessing Jimmy Connors play John McEnroe (this dates me).  I played tennis my entire youth, eventually playing high school tennis; I was pretty good, but watching how hard these two men hit the ball and how fast it got across the net astounded me.  I could barely get out of the way of a stray ball, let alone strategically return it.

I asked Steve how on earth he could possibly hit a baseball traveling around 100 hundred miles an hour covering only 60.5 feet.  I had understood through some studies that human reaction is incapable of reacting in the time given for the ball traveling from the pitcher’s mound to home plate.

Steve said you have .3 (three-tenths) of a second to decide what you are doing.  To put this in perspective, it is the sound of a clap of your hands.  He suggested that if you took the time to think about what you are doing, the catcher was throwing the ball back to the pitcher by the time you took your swing.

He could see I was speechless.  I commented, “No wonder one of our greatest athletes, Michael Jordan, could not just step in and do it.”  Steve said it comes down to gradually building up to the speed gradually; over a long period.  He went on to say that, having practiced and practiced, it was as if the ball was going at a speed he could understand.

When any good player steps up to the mound, they need to have their entire concentration on what the objective is.  While the opposing team’s players, fans, conditions, and many other things surround the player, all these distractions must be eliminated.  As Steve took the plate, he saw only one place in the park, a little square about 18” across.  This square was in the position the pitcher’s hand released the ball.

He saw nothing else; described the field as a calm sea with nothing on it.  As soon as the pitcher’s hand went into this box, he could see how the pitcher’s hand was releasing the ball.  Each pitch delivered is released with the hand in certain positions.  Steve needed to be prepared to hit the pitcher’s fastest pitch, describing that you can’t prepare for a slower pitch and speed up your swing to a fastball, but you can prepare for the faster pitch and slow your swing down.

The two players are high-tension springs loaded to fire at the same time.  When the pitcher’s spring releases, at that exact moment, the batter’s spring releases too.  Now the batter is deciding where to place the bat or whether to commit fully to swinging.  Steve said he often saw the ball’s stitching as it was coming.  WOW, that is all I could say or think!

When you look into the sky and dream of the stars high in the heavens, understand anything is possible if you only stay with it.  If Albert Einstein wasn’t, by self-definition, smart but suggested, he just stuck with it.  Or if other people of great accomplishment just carry the secret of knowing, it just takes time.  Know in your heart those stars are not that far away; we just need to do a little traveling to reach them.


Share Button
This entry was posted in Stories from people I meet and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to When you wish upon a star

  1. Scott Davis says:

    Thanks Jaren, you bring such great strength and motivation to my day…

  2. Jaren says:

    Dido Scott, you are a great soul my friend.

  3. Nick Galieti says:

    When listening to a sports radio station the other day I heard the commentator speaking on sports individuals as hero’s, as people whom we look up to as individuals who posses skills beyond our own – a skill we envy. But, based on your post Jaren, I feel that there is perhaps one central principle that we envy the most – determination. No one becomes a professional athlete, or at the top of their given talent or field of endeavor by accident. Each individual makes a conscious choice to be determined, to spend the most possible effort they can in achieving success.

    For that reason I suppose many people qualify for this high esteem – not just sports individuals. People like Jaren Davis 🙂

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.