Larry Fisher. Larry Fisher was a Chef at a restaurant where I worked. Larry familiarized me with a concept about life, which as far as I know, he initiated. “The High School of Life”. “It’s the High School of Life Rob”.
Larry asked everyone, every day, several times a day, whether there was life after High School. I think Larry was convinced that life indeed ended after High School, and that everything after High School was some kind of transcended, or possibly distended extension of High School. Poor thing. Larry was easily one of the funniest and smartest people I knew up to that point, and without a doubt one of the most memorable since. After all I am writing about him 25 years later, and he is the only person whose actual name I am using in this essay (Get it? essay.. High School.. Ok). He was matriculating his High School career with grace and humor. I was at that Restaurant right after I had pretty much put the cap on my baseball efforts. This thing about Larry could go on longer, but some things are not for the Public Way.
When I was a kid the only thing I ever thought about doing when I grew up is baseball. I was weird for baseball. I had rituals and routines and habits and drills and all that. 1000 swings at imaginary baseballs every single day, wrist rollers, hand-eye coordination exercises, just every single device and technique I could learn. Listening to the creepy, nosy lady next-door complain about me minding my own business in my Dad’s back yard swinging my baseball bat over and over and over. “He’ll be out there all day long swinging that stupid baseball bat”. I could not imagine how cool it would be to actually, one day, get a paycheck for doing this thing I got lost in every chance I could. That all changed when I reached the point when I was actually playing 9 inning games, 5 or 6 days per week. I was not getting paid, not yet, but I was playing as much baseball as some guys who were getting paid, and some of the players on my team and on opposing teams were getting paychecks, they had contracts.
It was one of those rare moments in life where you are climbing a rock face, you are all by yourself, you can see the sweat dripping off your arms, and you are pulling your eye level to that point where you can just barely see over the peak of that rock at the very top and kind of get a feel for what a future on the other side of that will look like and what it will feel like to set the next set of goals. There are two things about playing 9 innings of baseball, every single day when you are in your early 20’s. 1. It’s really, seriously, very difficult even when you are young, especially when you have a day job. 2. You realize that you are looking down a road in life that you’ve always thought you wanted to take, just as you are also that point in your life where so many other things in life are opening up to you.
Here’s the thing about my situation. I was an unsigned player. I never got paid, I was not quite good enough, according to the business offices, to get paid. I was however, good enough to pay with paid players on certain types of teams. Basically, I was recognized, or “approved”. Today, the common term for a guy like this is “unsigned free-agent”. I was respected enough that the teams could trust their players with me. They knew I was not going to get them hurt, and that I was not going to make mistakes. Just the insurance on even a low-level minor leaguer or something is an investment. It’s money, it’s business. They have strict rules about anything having to do with your safety.
That’s really important, there is a big difference between mistakes and errors. Everyone makes errors. You boot it, or some part of your body has a memory lapse and the ball slips out of your hand, or just some other thing happens that is the result of a physical malfunction. But not everyone makes mistakes. I never made mistakes. A mistake is when you do the wrong thing, and when you do the wrong thing, that’s when people are at risk. If another player is expecting you to do the task that is expected in a given situation, and it is the correct task, and it is what is expected by everyone out there, and then you do something else, people may not be ready to adjust, and that is when crazy stuff happens.
It also costs more games than errors. For sure, 100%. Doing the wrong thing the right way, is 100% worse than doing the right thing the wrong way. It is possible to look really beautiful and athletic and artistic while doing the wrong thing and costing a run or costing a game. It is also possible to look ridiculous while doing the right thing the wrong way. The latter is far more acceptable. It’s better to look stupid doing the right thing wrong, than to look brilliant doing the wrong thing right. I never made mistakes, I rarely made errors, and I had the tools. I just did not have the grind in me to be able to play 9 innings a game, every day.
By the end of games I would be thinking about other things, and wondering what other things I could be doing, and if I might be missing something in life by being on a ball field all the time. When you have thoughts like that, it’s time to make a decision.
I was out there pretty much by myself. I had a cool boss who understood my schedule needs, yes of course I had a day job, and some of the guys I played with didn’t because they had contracts. It was a difficult and very competitive situation and it was more than I could do alone. When you see those ballplayers on TV talking about their families and how they could not have done it without them, it’s the truth. You can’t make it out there on your own. It’s nothing personal, but it’s basically your tough luck if you don’t have a support network like a family.
Well, what in the world is the point, and what does this have to do with the “High School of Life”? Lots, it has a lot to do with it because it reminds me of “the talk”. Basically, you have to be good enough. “The talk” is what you get when you meet a scout who is going to introduce to you to the game; to the Association, which are terms used for the MLB.
“It’s not because somebody knows somebody or because you can afford it, or because someone from the Lodge made a phone call, or gave some sorry excuse for a Coach 50$ to play you, it’s because you’re good enough to be here, and the moment you are not good enough to be here, you are not going to be here.” This is the Private Sector, it’s not the Public High School where some tenured, bitter loser is making decisions, you need to make sure that every single time you get off the field with those people, you forget everything they tell you and remember everything you know.” You’re a ballplayer, and they are working in the Public Sector because they are not good enough to be around guys like you.” They wanted to be you but they couldn’t hack it. “You have to remember to forget everything they tell you, and remember to remember who you are and what we tell you.”
That is the talk. That is the talk I got. There are variations of the talk, for different situations, but essentially, that’s it in a nutshell. It’s a business talk. It’s a Private Sector vs. Public Sector talk.
Aaaaand it’s true. That is why Larry Fisher was so smart, because he knew. He knew that some people graduated and some people didn’t. Some people are actually capable and competent, and some people are dependent and political. It’s true. I can tell you with complete confidence that the guys playing in the show are all there because they are good enough to be there. It is super hard to get to where they are. If there were better players, they would be there. That’s why scouts go all over the Planet, looking for the best players from almost every continent. Because it’s a BUSINESS, it is money and resources. They invest so much money and they are not going to waste it being political or picking favorites or being racist, or whatever, they’re just not.
“If you can play, we’ll find you.”
I am doing a blog post per day all month, hopefully. Inspired by NaPoBloMo. This will be a good motivation for me to format some more ebooks. This is post #16