(Adapted from the editor’s letter appearing in STAND, issue one.)
It was a cool, spring evening in a small Michigan town. I was a freshman in high school, the second baseman for the junior varsity baseball team and I was about to experience an inning to forget.
Baseball was my sport and I played it constantly, either with the guys in my neighborhood or in various baseball-like games my younger brother and I made up. I was never a great hitter, in baseball parlance, I’d be called a “contact hitter,” meaning I rarely struck out, yet usually didn’t do much more than hit a grounder to short or a lazy fly ball to the outfield.
But I was good defensively and took pride in that. During the summers of my seventh and eighth-grade years I attended baseball camp at the University of Michigan and on several occasions the coaches pointed me out to demonstrate good fielding techniques for the other infielders. I wasn’t a confident boy but there was one thing I was confident about: if a ball was hit to me the batter would likely be out.
That confidence changed during one inning early in my freshman year. The first inning went by without incident. The second, however, was disastrous. One batter hit a routine ground ball that I mishandled and the hitter was safe at first before I could retrieve the ball. A second hitter scorched a hard hit ball straight at me and I flinched. The ball went right under my glove and through my legs. Another hitter grounded the ball to me and, after briefly bobbling it, I threw past the first baseman, the ball flying into the stands.
That was it. Three errors in one inning and my high school baseball career was largely over.
I don’t remember my coach ever discussing the errors with me. He was a good man and a good coach, so I can only assume he thought that if he didn’t dwell on it then neither would I. My father didn’t discuss it with me, though he wasn’t at the game to witness it. No one, not an adult or a teammate, pulled me aside and said, “hey, don’t worry about it. Every player has a bad game. Get back up and at it. You’re a good player and you can overcome one bad inning.”
I certainly never told myself that. At fifteen years old, I wasn’t strong enough mentally to overcome it on my own. Many of my teammates started calling me “E-man.”
E for error.
I began to look for excuses not to play. I was injured. Or I wasn’t feeling well. I felt incredible anxiety whenever I saw my name penciled in to start a game, so much so that, though I again made the junior varsity team as a sophomore, I played sparingly my sophomore year and never again played baseball after that.
To this day I have dreams about playing the game I gave up as the result of one failed inning during high school. I allowed myself to be defined as a baseball player by my worst failure.
Thankfully, that wasn’t the end of the story. I did manage to get back up and try something new. During my junior and senior years, I played on the football team, though “played” would be an exaggeration. Still, I attempted something new, a sport I hadn’t played before in an organized league. And though much of my time during games was spent on the sideline cheering on my teammates, I enjoyed the intensity of those fall weeks and appreciated the close bond with the other guys on the team, some of whom had been my baseball teammates.
So, what does all this have to do with STAND magazine?
This is a magazine for men who live the Japanese proverb “fall seven times, stand up eight.” STAND is for men who do not allow themselves to be defined by their failures but stand back up and strive to be a better man tomorrow; it is a magazine for men who give a damn about being better men, husbands, fathers, sons, partners, business owners, employees, neighbors, and citizens,
When I first envisioned this magazine over five years ago I resisted the idea. Not only was I busy with other publishing ventures, but I also felt that I lived more often within the first clause of that Japanese proverb, primarily stumbling and falling, getting up, yes, but sometimes falling quickly and even harder than I had the last time. And, of course, these failures were much more significant (and costly to myself and others) than a few errors in a baseball game.
Over the years I realized that I would benefit from a resource like this magazine, and the community that would develop around it to help me become the man I desire to be. I also wanted to create something of value for my son, something that would be an encouragement to him on his journey to manhood.
“Associate with people who are likely to improve you,” wrote Seneca, and this magazine is one method for me to do that within my own life. STAND will highlight men who are doing the hard work to look inside, recognize their own weaknesses, and become better versions of themselves. We’ll be motivated by their efforts and learn how to apply their lessons to our own lives.
STAND magazine is about me. It’s about you. But it’s also about us, together. How do we as men encourage one another to be better men? How can we live more consciously and intentionally?
Previously published on STAND