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100 Years of Inspiration

April 30 2012

The Red Sox just celebrated the 100th anniversary of Fenway Park. It was a great event in every way for baseball fans, especially Bostonians, except that the Yankees won the game, sending the faithful home without a win, but that was the only possible blemish. The Red Sox invited every living ballplayer who ever donned a Red Sox uniform and over 200 players were able to attend the two day event and pre-game parade. Players were flown, at the club’s expense, from all over the country, put up for two nights with lots of pomp and circumstance during their days in Boston. Not only was the City of Boston warm and welcoming, the Red Sox ownership did everything possible to throw a first class event for the players and the fans.

As the players marched out from the tunnels throughout the field, they were all greeted by cheers from fans that knew of or had been regaled stories of past glory. Many players weren’t even introduced but were still recognized by adoring and educated fans. Celebrating the history of the game is part of what makes all sports, but especially baseball, such a wonderful bonding opportunity for families as generations come together in timeless revelry.

Either the shared experiences of moments together, reminiscing about the great plays of all-time great Red Sox like Ted Williams, Carleton Fisk or Reggie Smith or the chance to relay memories of Johnny Pesky or Bobby Doerr, both in their 90’s and wheelchair bound, but as much a part of the ceremony and memories as anybody.

Watching these former greats, several of whom were all-stars and Hall of Fame players walk onto the field, I was struck by how normal, even mortal, these guys now looked. When you’re a kid, the guys on the field are bigger than life, in their uniforms, and playing the game at the highest level. As these aging men walked onto the field one more time for the ceremony, just like the fans in the stands and watching on television, they enjoyed the camaraderie of their teammates and the shared experiences of being Red Sox more than anything. In fact, they looked like the regular group of dads and grandfathers you can see on your average Saturday in the park. Yet, not one of these guys, even the least accomplished former Red Sox, is anything close to normal

Every player who ever played in the Major Leagues is exceptional in many ways and the experiences they had, the hard work and dedication to their sport, cannot in any way be minimized through the passage of time. The reason that these men were cheered is because they were the best in the world at what they did. Not one of them simply woke up and was great; each was exceptionally gifted but it was striving for greatness through perfect practice that propelled them to the heights of their profession. The common mantra of athletes is that while hard work will not guarantee success in athletics, or anything else, failing to work hard will guarantee that you won’t have success.

Cheering for each of the former Red Sox players is a reminder of how sports brings us together and can bring us each, individually, closer to our own goals. Learning from the experiences of these athletes is a reminder that all of us, in our own way, can also be exceptional No matter what we do, we have gifts and an opportunity to work hard and excel by putting forth the effort. Pesky and Doerr might be in wheelchairs, but they were able to inspire us to improve how we manage our personal relationships, our work and social lives. The goal of becoming a big leaguer may not be possible for most of us, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do our best as a hairdresser, writer, teacher, doctor or any other profession. Sports, including working with others as a good teammate and person, is a constant reminder that each of us can do better in everything we do each day.

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