Early in my newspaper leadership career my company sent me and other top executives to a development clinic for its top executives where I learned something memorable and profound. It helped me appreciate my true joy.
Every time the clinic psychologists and psychiatrists wanted us to deeply reflect on important parts of our life, they told us to mentally go to the most peaceful, happy place we could imagine. I remember some colleagues went to their imaginary beaches, forests and parks.
I did not struggle at all. I closed my eyes and mentally went to a spring training game in Lakeland, Florida at Joker Marchant stadium. When I worked in Florida from 1977 to 1979, I had spring season tickets to the team I had followed since I was little boy. When asked to think of my ideal happy place, it was easy to imagine myself in great seats, near the Tiger dugout with the Florida sun gently kissing the small, intimate field. Sure, some players were fighting for jobs, but the vibe of camaraderie and freshness was invigorating. Winners and losers don’t matter much in the spring. It’s all about kicking off the rust and getting sharp for the season.
In that beautiful setting, the stresses of my high pressure job melted away. When you say peaceful and happy to me, those scenes at the ball park almost 40 years ago flood my mind.
I have a friend who claims the three greatest words in the English language are “Pitchers, catchers report,” because that is such a harbinger of spring. I beg to differ with him. “Spring training game” are three much better words.
My fantastic journey, we call life, has brought me full circle back to a place where spring training thrives. A quiet, sunny afternoon at a spring training game in Scottsdale is still my perfectly peaceful, happy place. At practically every San Francisco Giants spring home game you can find me basking in the sun. I have owned season tickets for several years but this, the first year of retirement, has allowed me to see just about every game.
The magic and mysterious peace of the spring ballpark still thrills me. Sure, the setting is ideal, but I also deeply admire the game of baseball which can best be appreciated in person. The perfect measurements of the baseball field combined with the fluidity of movement fascinate me. I love to critique game strategy and decision-making. It is a game tailor-made for second-guessing.
I often sit at a game and jabber with a friend as I watch the action. Sometimes, I go to the game alone and just soak up the comforting vibes while admiring the artistry of hitting a small ball coming at a guy at 95 miles per hour. In moments like this I can let peace wash over me.
Spring training games are definitely about baseball, but for me they are also about going to my happy place, a peaceful refuge that allows me to reflect and find real peace.
And no matter the season, all I need to do to slow down and find equilibrium is to recall those magnificent images of spring baseball. My happy place has given me peace and joy for many years and it keeps on giving.
Here’s to your happy place.