I had a somewhat wistful moment, standing in the New York Yankees dugout this past weekend. I stood where manager Joe Girardi typically stands during a game, with my chin resting on the railing, looking out on the rich, brown sand and bright green Kentucky bluegrass and thought: at this point, I will never be a professional baseball player. It was a realization that I imagine many 40 year-old’s must have. I played baseball as a kid, it has remained my favorite sport, and there were times, when I was younger, than I imagined it possible that I could be a big league ball player. But that moment has passed, and short of time travel, or age therapies, isn’t likely to come again in my lifetime.
Even so, it was not a totally depressing thought. I looked around the ballpark, trying to capture the moment, trying to think how I would write about this on the blog and realized that I would write about it. That reminded me that as a youngster, I also imagined it possible that I could be a writer some day. Maybe even a science fiction writer! And guess what? I am a writer. Even a science fiction writer.
There comes a moment in every professional baseball player’s career when they must realize that the end is near. They are injured. They are physically worn out. They want to spend more time with their families. Whatever the cause, it must be a very, very difficult thing to give up something you love so much. Entire movies have been made on the subject. Novels have been written about a baseball players trying to hold on to those last breaths of wonder. Songs have been written about those “Glory Days.” It makes me thankful that I am a writer and not a baseball player. And it serves to demonstrate that being a writer just gets better with age.
A pitcher only has so many pitches in him before his arm wears out. But my fingers can keep on typing for as long as I live. And should they fail me, there is always my voice. The ability to tell a story is not tied to physical skill in the same way a baseball players ability to hit a pitch is. A baseball player can be traded. They can be released from their contract. They can be sent down to the minors. They can, in essence, be fired. As a writer, I can’t be fired. An editor can reject what I write, but no one can prevent me from writing what I want to write. As a writer, turning 40 doesn’t mean the end of a career, but merely another year of experience to put to use in telling stories.
And so long as I continue to love to write, there will never be a day when I have to look woefully back over my career and say it’s time to retire. Unlike a baseball player, a writers skill set is not shaped like a parabola, but instead, is a steadily increasing line, one that improves with age, without ever reaching a peak. There may certainly come a time when no one wants to read what I write, but that doesn’t mean I have to stop writing.
In hindsight, I’m glad I’m a writer and not a baseball player. And should I ever get wistful again about the lost opportunity on the ball field, I know now that all I have to do is sit in front of my computer and start writing a baseball story, one in which the narrator is a baseball player. When I write, I become my characters, so in truth, it is the best of both worlds.