Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

02 July, 2008

Failure is in the eye of the beholder

...Take it from a 1.000 hitter!

FAILURE is an abstract noun that in general refers to the state, or condition, of not meeting a desirable or intended objective. It is the opposite of success.
It has taken a long time but I have come to realize that the criteria for failure are heavily dependent on context of use and may be relative to a particular observer or belief mind set. A situation considered to be a failure by one individual might well be deemed a success by another.
Failure reared its ugly head for me early and often in my formative years but an ironic twist to one of the more hurtful situations has been amusingly healing for me, 50 years after the fact.
Not long ago I had occasion to be in contact with a Jay-Dell Mah who has created a most remarkable web site reflecting on semi-professional baseball on the Canadian Prairies in the heydays of the 1940s and 50s. As a result of our initial exchange, Jay asked me about my baseball background and how it evolved over the years. In response, among other things, I recalled my brief stint as a professional baseball player in 1956. As a pitching prospect, I attended a baseball tryout in Cocao, Florida and eventually signed a minor league contract with the Washington Senators on my 18th birthday. I was assigned to the independent Donalsonville, Georgia, Seminoles of the Florida-Alabama League. The pitcher of record in an exhibition game victory over the Florida State University team, I was slated to "start" the Seminoles' third game of the regular season league schedule.
"Ontario (me) is starting tonight," manager Neb Wilson seemed to warn my teammates in a pre-game huddle..."So be on your toes!" The opposing shortstop connected with my first pitch and sent it 400 feet over the fence in centre field. "Relax kid. You're as pale as a ghost", was the best that Neb could offer as he met me on the mound. I managed to survive another three innings before being relieved with our team trailing by a 3-1 margin. Happily we rallied in the 7th inning and ended up winning the game.
A hit, but a bigger blow was to follow
Much to my surprise I was called on to pinch hit in a game several nights later and I managed to bang out a single. Boy, that one really felt good. A much needed boost to my confidence, albeit temporary.
Still feeling very full of myself, I could not wait to get to the ball park the next night. Several steps inside the club house door I was stopped dead in my tracks. Someone was sitting at my locker, putting on my uniform. "Better talk to the manager" offered the crew cut stranger, but I didn't have to. The sickening, insensitive message was clear. I was being replaced. Lost and deflated, I left the ball park. Couldn't face staying to watch the game.
"Survival of the fittest," I was told next day as I picked up my pay cheque and outright release papers. It was explained that I and several others were being "cut" from the team to make room on the roster for players from the higher class Provincial League that had suspended operations the previous week.
A dream dashed. I was "washed up" at 18 years of age and there was nothing to do but to return home to Canada -- in my mind, a failure. Although I went on to enjoy quite a few years as a semi-pro and amateur player, that experience and the hurt of it all left me with an unhealthy complex for the next five-plus decades. That is until I received an email from my new electronic friend Jay several weeks ago headed "A note of a 1,000 hitter as a professional".
Jay had taken it upon himself to resource the Minor Baseball Leagues Data Base where he miraculously turned up my statistical record for the all-too-brief season of 1956. I had no idea such records existed. I was dumbfounded. But there it was in black and white, for posterity:
"Richard Wright, FABL, Donalsonville Seminoles, pitching 0-0; hitting 1-1, pct. 1,000."
In his note to me Jay made no mention of my sad record as a pitcher, choosing instead to highlight my perfect record as a hitter in the pros. He did not see me as the failure I had perceived for all those years. He even went so far as do a piece on me in his web site referring to my "oh so short" pro ball experience and the fact that I got a hit in my "only time at bat". I guess Jay thought he was doing me a favor but, personally, my first impulse was to think that he had published just a little too much information.
It's a bit of a stretch but, come to think of it, I can legitimately boast of being a "1,000 hitter as a pro". I never thought of it that way before. Very few other former ball players, if any, can make such a claim and if that is not a positive spin, I do not know what is. It kind of feels good too, in a strange sort of way.
The message: There is a positive in every negative. You just have to look for it! But, like yours truly, don't wait for 50 years to have someone else find it for you.

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