On a hot dusty diamond in rural Indiana, I faced the fastest pitcher in the Russiaville Little League. He was a big kid for 13 and I was a small kid for 12. I kicked my cleats into the silty sand a couple of times, and went through the motions of a practice swing. The big pitcher was staring right at me, looking for a sign of fear. And he found it.
When the first fast ball came down the pipe I couldn’t help but lean way back as I completed a half-hearted swing. “Strike one!!” Yeah… no kidding, ump.
My coach yelled from the dugout, “Stay in the box!” He was referring to the batter’s box, a chalk outline barely visible in the dirt. It was his way of telling me to lean into the swing, not away from it… especially if I wanted any hope of hitting one of those fast balls.
The next pitch was high and inside, which essentially meant it came close to hitting me in the jaw. I backed away again, hoping to keep all my teeth. “Ball one!!”
“Stay in the box, Goad! You got this!!” I know the coach meant well, but come on… he was safely behind a chain link fence. I dug in my cleats, hiked my elbow up into position and leaned in. The big pitcher spit in the dirt and smiled, as if to say “Alright I’ll give you something you can swing at.”
He threw a sinker right down the middle and I could see it coming as clear as the blue sky on that July afternoon. I held my ground, leaned in and brought the bat around to meet the ball. I topped it a bit, hitting a grounder down the third base line. I may not have had a strong bat for my size, but I could run. The third baseman bobbled the ball and I beat the throw to first! Take that, big man!
How often do we step up to the plate without really believing we can take the pitches life throws at us? Staying in the box means having the courage to take your best shot. You may not go over the centerfield fence every time, but you’re at least increasing the odds of more base hits. And games can be won on base hits.
I know what you’re going through right now. Stay in the box.