A.J. Petterson is an infielder in the Minnesota Twins organization. He is currently in his second spring training, getting ready for his third season with the Twins.
FORT MYERS, Fla.—An unlikely connection was created in the outfield, amid the chaos of a game going on around us.
I sat cross-legged in the outfield with Michael and Patrick. We had just met, but had become quick friends. Michael is a burly teenager with facial hair and a matter of fact style of communication. We chatted about life and hobbies, meals at fast food restaurants and girls. Patrick is long and lanky with a smile from ear to ear. He loves country music, so we played an artist name game where he would say the first name and I would respond with the last. “Keith” . . . “Urban.” This could have gone on all day.
This chance encounter occurred at a community outreach event. We spent a Saturday morning playing baseball with an organization called Challenged, Not Defeated. Every week a number of boys and girls with special needs get together in Cape Coral, Fla., and play. Parents cheer, two men announce names over the speakers and the kids have a blast.
To think I had spent so much time worrying about myself and my career. This moment slapped me across the face. I was missing the point.
It is hard to go through a professional baseball career without falling prey to selfish ambition at some point. Everything in life is geared toward getting promoted, making it to the top and staying there. Pro ball is no different. This can lead to frustration and angst over statistics and performance. Worries over these numbers and results cause further stress and diminish performance. Trying too hard almost always leads to results you don't want.
While it is hard to control how the numbers come out and how well I perform each game, it isn't hard to control how I serve and connect with others through opportunities the game has presented. Michael and Patrick reminded me of this simple truth while we sat in the outfield.
Every day, people use sports to connect with others. Tommy Watkins cracked the big leagues after playing in the Twins minor leagues for 10 years and he is now the hitting coach for the low Class A Cedar Rapids Kernels. Everywhere Tommy goes people call for him—they want to chat, they want photos. Was Tommy an all-star in the big leagues? No, but he connected with and served fans as well as anyone. Sometimes people joke and call him the mayor because of all the people who know him by name. That's the player and person everyone should strive to be.
The opportunities I have had to play this game and the places it has taken me are avenues for me to connect with others who share my passion. I am constantly presented with chances to interact with others. I have met teammates from countries throughout the globe. I have met fans from different states, backgrounds and cultures. I have met new friends like Michael and Patrick.
This season when I catch myself stressing over how well I'm performing, what level I am at or what's next in my career, I need to give more time and energy to building relationships with those around me. I need to make more connections. I need to keep my eyes open for opportunities amidst the chaos.
You can interact with A.J. through e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or on Twitter (@APettersen1)