Business seems to come in bunches. Life is inherently seasonal, so it makes sense that there would be an ebb and flow to how much we have to do at any given time. I’m slowly coming out of a very busy season. My in-person baseball coverage just finished for the year, I’m wrapping up a few major things at the day job, and two of my kids’ fall seasons are coming to a close. Soon, things will slow down.
I know the reality is that the next wave of business will come, but I enjoy the little pauses. I’m working on getting better at appreciating those times when they come, and not letting one wave bleed into the next.
On Monday, I had a rare full day at home. I was happy to have time to get a few small things done around the house. One of those was to finish Halloween decorations outside. My kids, the oldest especially, are Halloween enthusiasts, so there’s a lot. One of the big items is a web that extends from the tree in our front yard and covers most of the lawn. One of my tasks Monday was to untangle that web and put it up.
I spent at least an hour trying. I couldn’t do it. I hope no neighbors were watching because I must have looked ridiculous, out there working on this web from various angles and never making any progress. My oldest son eventually came outside, and I told him I needed to take a break from it. If he wanted to give the untangling a try, he could.
Ten or fifteen minutes later, I looked outside and he had it laid out perfectly. He’d stepped in and patiently solved the problem I couldn’t figure out. All I had to do was climb the ladder and hook the end of the web to the tree. Job done, little thanks to me.
I had gotten frustrated with it in part because while I was trying to untangle the web, I was thinking about the next wave of things that needed to be done. The little jobs around the house but also the more significant work projects coming up. I was stressed more by those things than by the task I had in front of me.
I often think the worst job in baseball is the relief pitcher. It’s assumed you’ll come in and do your job with little glory or acknowledgment when you do. But if you fail, you’ll hear about it.
“My team could be leading 10-0, and then in the 6th, 7th, 8th inning, the other team scratches back to score 10 runs, and then the next inning I come in to get the save, and I give up a home run to lose the game, and nobody’s going to go talk to the other relievers. Nobody’s going to ask the other relievers who gave up the runs,” Ryan Dempster told me once.
Another relief pitcher once told me he feels a sense of duty to the pitcher whose place he’s taking not to let any of the inherited runners score. He doesn’t want to let that guy down. Mariano Rivera is the greatest closer of all time: He saved 652 games in his career. He also blew the save 49 times in his career, three of them in the postseason.
If my oldest son hadn’t been able to untangle the web, we probably would have just given up on it. (Or, more likely, my wife would have bailed us both out.) No one would have blamed him for it not being done. It’s tougher for relief pitchers than for anyone else coming in to help. We don’t usually boo pinch-hitters who ground out to second.
A part of getting out of jams is getting help. Asking for it, submitting to it, receiving it. A part of getting through waves of business or the times between waves that can still feel stressful is looking up from the task and seeing who is there waiting to help you figure it out.
Jared is a freelance baseball writer who lives in suburban Chicago with his wife and four young children who share his love of baseball. When he's not doing that, he teaches and reads baseball history.