Take Your Foot Off First Base

Last Thursday night I was watching our minor league Trash Pandas baseball player on first base. He had his sliding mitt on. Let’s wait for the steal.

As I sat in the stands, I was reminded again why I’d have made a horrible baseball player (besides the obvious reason of lacking necessary skills).

There’s this weakness I have: if the time came for a steal, I might have been too scared to leave first base to head to second.

Baseball players have to be able to take chances. In pitching, batting, fielding. And they also have to be brave enough to leave first base to run to second.

Just ask Rickey Henderson.

When First Things Aren’t Enough

Rickey Henderson was considered one of the most exciting players in baseball (he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2009).

And it’s not because he played it safe.

What did Rickey do that we can learn from? He wasn’t afraid to give up first things.

But I am often reluctant to let go of first things. It’s uncomfortable to give up things I’ve always known, even when I learn differently.

Why leave a warm, secure base? Because unless I take my foot off first, I’ll never run to second.

That’s what Rickey Henderson did so well. He still holds the record for most stolen bases and runs in Major League Baseball. He was successful in stealing 1,406 times in his career, earning the nickname the “Man of Steal.”

Rickey Henderson

But there was always a risk involved. A player who tries to steal a base can be picked off or thrown out. Then instead of putting your team in scoring position, you hurt them by adding another out.

Yet to make no forward progress only hurts the team even more.

We have to be willing to move on to the better thing instead of clinging to the known thing.

3 Ways to Move On to Second Things

How can we grow from first things to second things?

1. Let the first thing propel you to the second.

When a baseball player makes it to first base, he doesn’t relax and take a seat. He stays engaged. He’s alert to the next person at bat, to the next pitch, to the base coach. He doesn’t want to stay at first; he wants to progress to second.

Learn that the first thing might just be a stepping stone to the next thing.

2. Start with behaviors (rules) but grow into motives (love).

Young children in Little League baseball and softball first learn the basics: how to hit, where to run, how to catch. But learning the rules is only part of the game. The truly passionate baseball players, the ones that stay with the game for years to come, fall in love with it.

When we’re young, we learn to adhere to the rules. We check boxes to receive rewards. But as we mature, our motives hopefully grow beyond mere obedience into a genuine love.

Love keeps us engaged in the game.

3. Use your skills but don’t depend solely on them.

While the best baseball players need to be coordinated, quick, and aggressive, they also have to rely on the help of others to be truly successful. Each player need constructive feedback from their coaches, coordination from managers, advice from other players.

We’ve each been gifted with a set of skills, too. They may serve us well, but our success doesn’t depend on what we do alone; we need our community to keep us straight.

Making It Home

It happened in the fourth inning on May 1, 1991. The Oakland Athletics were playing the New York Yankees at the Oakland Coliseum.

Rickey Henderson of the A’s got on first base, then advanced to second on a single. To progress to the next base, he didn’t wait for a hit. He sped off second and stole third, breaking Lou Brock’s old record of 938 stolen bases.

He pulled the base itself out of the ground, lifted it above his head in celebration, and waved to the crowd as he received a standing ovation.

[Watch the video here]

Rickey didn’t just play baseball. He loved baseball.

Watching the Trash Pandas Thursday night, I never saw the guy on first steal to second. Maybe next time.

Stepping off first base may not always be easy. But do it and run to second base when you can. Running all the bases eventually leads home.

Share your thoughts here.

Revised from the archives

6 thoughts on “Take Your Foot Off First Base

  1. Joanne Viola

    This is such a great analogy, especially for this first base hugger 🙂 I struggle with taking chances, yet when God is nudging me, it has always been for my good. So glad you share these thoughts!

  2. Jean Wise

    inspiring story and illustration. This use of stealing gloves is weird – I just can’t get used to that. Somehow it seems like cheating. But that isn’t the point is it? got take the risk, the leap, and go for it. You have brighten my day!

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