In everything we do, we all have a limited amount of time.

I spent a lot of time in the dugout on the bench in this shirt. My ego tells me I need to clarify I was supposed to be there, I was a coach, but that’s my ego talking. In fact I think you would have had to refer to me literally as the bench coach. My job was to keep the scorebook, make sure the right guy was at the plate and try to maintain some resemblance of order in our chaos. I was the bench coach when the boys were about 11-13 year olds and if you’ve ever had one of those creatures in your house…well you know what I’m talking about. Most importantly however my job was to track pitch counts for our pitchers.

These days in little league there are all kinds of rules about the number of pitches a kid can throw in a week. It’s a far cry from when I was that age and you threw until your arm hurt or you couldn’t get it over the plate. (These two didn’t always coincide but sometimes they did, but I digress) Our team followed the rules on pitch count because it made sense for the health of our players. It also made sense if we wanted to win. We knew our pitchers had about so many good pitches in them on any given day. After that point they lost velocity, they walked more people and they ultimately got hit more. Now, these were kids. The number of pitches we expected out of any one pitcher in an outing was adjusted for things like how many sleepovers they had during the weekend, how many birthday parties they attended and other various activities that might take some of the starch out of them. I think you get the picture. On a side note, one of the worst things for our team was when one of our players had a birthday party/sleepover and invited three-fourths of the team. Then almost everyone was affected. Bottom line is that these kids, just like us grownups, had only so much gas in the tank. It was my job to keep our other two coaches informed of how many pitches our current pitcher had thrown and when, in my opinion, they were nearing their physical and legal limit.

My son quit baseball after he was 13 and I hated to see him do it. I loved baseball and some of my most vivid (Three Pitches) memories are of my time on the field. Baseball was my one and only organized sport until I was 14 so I lived for the season but it wasn’t that way for my son Nate. He’d played organized soccer, baseball, basketball and football by the time he was 10 and football was clearly his passion. The following summer (when he was 14) would be his first opportunity to participate in the summer lifting program and as he explained to me, he had to focus on that to get ready for football. I’d be lying if I said this didn’t sadden me a little bit. I hated that he had to choose. I’m a big believer that kids should play as many sports as they want to as long as they want to but in his mind he had clearly reached his pitch count. It was time to head to the showers.

So, rather than try and talk him out of it or force him to play I said okay. (I hate it when I have to be all adulty like that). I knew it was the right thing to do. I’d been around youth sports long enough to see more than a few kids who were playing when their heart wasn’t in it and it broke mine. In sports as in life there’s not much that’s sadder than watching someone drag themselves to their task and then making themselves do it. I didn’t want that for Nate just like I didn’t want that for our girls in their pursuits. Passion gets overused in today’s conversations about what we do and why we do it, but passion matters.

Passion is why I started this blog, it’s why Nate was successful in football, it’s why our daughter Abbie is successful in graphic design and it’s why our youngest was successful in dance. Passion may not end up being what you make a career out of. It could be, but it might not. The importance of following your heart, wherever it may lead and in whatever version of that passion you find yourself, is something I highly recommend. And just one last thing, follow it to the end. Take it from someone who started trying to write consistently a zillion times and quit, you have to follow it to the end. Maybe you’ll reach your pitch count and have to quit. Or maybe your arm will be completely shot and you’ll wind up as the bench coach counting pitches and trying to keep the monkeys off the fence but as long as there’s gas in the tank, run it until you’ve burned the fumes.

Who knows when to shut it down and call it quits? Some of the hardest decisions I’ve faced are when to walk away. How do you know? If you know someone who’s facing that decision and this might help go ahead and share it with them. I’d be glad if you did.

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