Did you ever notice that home plate looks like a house? I’m sure there have been many stand-up comedians who have pointed that out. Home plate, looks a lot like what most of us drew to represent “home” in kindergarten. Most famously, George Carlin points out in his legendary roast of America’s Pastime that the object of the game is to go home and to preferably be safe there.
“The object of the game is to be safe at home.”
Home Plate was not designed with this in mind. Instead, it was designed and developed by Robert Keating as an innovation to the game. Created for the 1900/1901 baseball season, the new home plate’s rear corners extended to a point, and are made to be perpendicular to the first and third baselines. This angular change was meant to make the edges of the strike zone more visible to pitchers and umpires and, therefore, improving the consistency of calling and pitching strikes.
Not too shabby of an idea by Keating.
While the concept is cemented in reason, if you’ll indulge me for a moment, I’d like to get a bit metaphorical.
In the past year and a half, I have gone to too many funerals, the majority of which have been streamed online due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. The common thread between all of these events is the idea that our beloved friend, colleague or family member, is on their way home, wherever that is.
The idea of a homegoing has stuck with me for the last nine months, and I suppose it’ll be around a lot longer too.
Now you may say, “that’s hogwash, what if someone doesn’t believe in heaven, or hell or anything.” That’s fine. I’m not saying you have to in order to go home. Truthfully, home is what you make of it, whether that’s a physical home, a mental home, a metaphoric home, etc. Home could be a website you log into every day. At the end of the day, home is where you begin and where you end.
It’s where you’re coming from and where you’re going.
The idea that home plate’s design encompasses the baselines isn’t lost on me either. The home you’re coming from dictates the playing field in front of you. Anything within those lines is fair game. That’s where life happens.
You step up to the plate and you take your cuts. The pitcher tosses the ball your way and it’s up to you to swing or not. No one can force you to swing a bat. It’s a choice. It’s the first choice in a series of events made with the intention of succeeding, and winning the game.
Each base offers safety, as long as you arrive there in such a fashion. It’s the in between bases, the base paths that can really trip you up. Anything from other people’s hits to a defender’s swift hands can cut down your trip around the bases in an instant. Being in the base path is a necessary risk, an unavoidable hazard of being on base.
Even if you do get out on the base path, whether it be off a double-play or a failed attempt at stealing third, there’s always another chance to step up to home plate and pick up where you left off.
And occasionally, if your timing is right, and the pitch comes your way, and the wind is blowing out to left, sometimes you can remove the worry of getting home safely, with a home run.
We all have home runs in our lives. For me personally, meeting my wife was a home run. From the moment we met, I could already tell I was safe at home, the same way you can tell a home run by the sound it makes off the bat.
I’ve also had a lot of bunts in my life, some Fielder’s Choices, and some Little League home runs, where there are too many errors for a scorebook to keep track of.
I’ve struck out before too. Many, many, many times. It’s about timing and knowing what pitches to look for. And yet, after each and every time, I’ve stepped back into the box, with the hopes of returning to home plate safely.
And then there are the other players on your team, helping you get around the bases, supporting your efforts, in the hopes of ultimately helping to bring you in, to drive you home.
Life, from a bird’s eye view, is a lot like baseball. We take the pitches we’re given and we try to put something out there. We work to get on-base and then we work our way towards safety by taking risks in the name of progress. And then, at the very end, we return triumphantly home. Safe.
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