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September 24, 2007
Watch Where You Throw
That Baseball; It Might Break My Project!
There are a couple of
television shows that are considered non-negotiable at my house.
Thanks to my husband,
whose high school nickname was “The Senator,” one of them is “Hardball
with Chris Matthews”. The other is baseball. Clearly, we have a thing
for objects that can be caught and thrown.
So it shouldn’t have
been a surprise to us a few weekends ago when our 14-month-old son, for
whom I’d just purchased an official major league baseball, threw his
very first pitch right at our television. The best part was that we were
watching baseball at the time and a real batter was up at the plate.
I’ve never seen our son so excited. He was yelling and squealing as if
he’d just personally struck out Tony Pena.
It was hard not to
laugh. I’d given him the ball. What did I expect? He was only doing what
he’d seen others do, and he was so proud of himself.
I think The Senator,
on the other hand, had an anxiety attack right before my very eyes.
Bulging eyes. Breathing stopped. Not the television! It was like he’d
been personally hit by a 95-mph fastball himself. He was speechless for
a minute, and then, all he could say was, “Honey, have you ever heard of
While I share his
fondness for our television, especially with the Cleveland Indians being
in the playoffs this year, what was top of mind for me was something a
little more delicate and a little less replaceable.
Our son’s baby
brother, who is going to be here in eight short weeks.
I know they’re boys. I
know they’ll throw things at each other. But my son seems too young to
understand that throwing a hard, fast object isn’t any different from
say, chucking a sock. So when baby brother comes home from the hospital,
it’s not a matter of if, but when and what, something will get thrown at
To prepare for the
inevitable, I thought about channeling my 12-year-old junior high self.
Each year, before kickball week in gym class, I’d practice my catching
and blocking skills. Then I realized – channeling the past isn’t
necessary when throwing hard balls, and catching and blocking aren’t any
different from working day-to-day in a corporate environment.
It’s just like that
big project. Someone threw it at you. You have an unrealistic deadline
to get your part done, so they can have six months to do their part. You
don’t complain. You’re the starting pitcher, and that’s what you get
paid for. Or, perhaps you’re the 14-month-old who just doesn’t know any
better. In my case, it’s usually somewhere in between.
Still, it feels good
to make the catch. And it feels even better to throw it to the next
person. You have your corporate equivalent of Gold Glove winners, those
who perform consistently and who you can turn your project over to
without fear. Then, you have the error-ridden, who in most corporate
environments, end up in other jobs or gone.
But then, you have
your coworkers that are similar to my son, only they should know better.
Do they think to themselves, “I wonder what will happen if I toss this,
overhand, straight at a television screen?” They seem to enjoy the
shattering and the awe amongst their teams that this creates. Some
admire their skills to throw nearly every project off track because it’s
90 – not 99 – percent of the way there. Others hate them with a passion.
As for me, when this
kind of job stress gets to me, I go back to my son and to baseball.
Everybody can throw a baseball. Even a baby. Not at 90 miles an hour.
Not straight. And definitely not into the waiting hands of the catcher,
also known as Mommy. But he can throw it.
And my coworkers and
me, well, we can throw, too. We aren’t always the strategic equivalent
of the New York Yankees. If we were, we might be making some of their
salaries. But we’re all making a living doing what we do. Sometimes,
we’ll throw one right down the middle, and our competitors will be
caught looking. Sometimes, we’ll hand them the game with walks, errors
and wild pitches.
For the most part, I
figure if we can avoid breaking our own televisions or permanently
marring our baby brothers along the way, I have to believe we’ll be all
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