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Real Answers™
Copyright: © ©2004 Gary Hardaway
525 words


By: Gary Hardaway


In baseball, prolific sluggers like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and the now-retired Mark McGwire naturally get the lion’s share of glory. They loom over the diamond as near supermen. Their prodigious blasts and career totals leave us agog -- especially Bonds, now on the verge of 700 career home runs, just a few less than the mighty Babe Ruth.

And then there’s Ichiro. The Seattle Mariner’s leadoff man is a hitting machine – spraying singles all over the lot, in a zone by himself. While behemoths swing for the fences – and strike out a lot – the 5’ 9”, 160-pound batsman simply concentrates on putting the ball in play. Nobody does it better.

The Japanese phenom, who won seven batting titles in Japan before joining the Mariners, took the national pastime by storm in 2001, pounding out 240 hits (a rookie record), winning the American League batting crown and the league’s Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player Awards.

In his first three years of Major League play he accumulated 662 hits, third-best hit production of all-time for that time span. This year Ichiro ascended into a class of one. In August he became the only player ever to start his career with four 200+ hit seasons.

Prior to that he obliterated Paul Waner’s first four-year total of 840 hits, a record that had stood for 75 years. Barring injury or a bad slump, Ichiro will rack up his 900th hit by the end of this year, a stratospheric mark unlikely ever to be equaled. He’s also got a pretty good shot at George Sisler’s all-time single season record of 257 hits, set in 1920.

And Ichiro says he’s still learning, still improving. Here is a craftsman dedicated to perfecting his art and redefining it with new standards of performance.

Meanwhile, the Mariners have spent the season mired in the cellar of the American League West, Ichiro or no Ichiro. There’s something to be learned here. The man comes to work and does his job superlatively despite his team’s depressing ineptitude. Lesser players ask, “What’s the use?” Most would find it tough to motivate themself day-in, day-out.

In the real world, where we toil, consistency matters even more. In steady, day-by-day increments houses are built, marriages are nurtured, children are raised, businesses grow, and symphonies are composed. In the things that matter most, sustained diligence produces heroic, if unspectacular, feats.

Our talents are God’s gifts to us. What we do with them, day in, day out, is our gift to Him. In biblical language we’re told, “Let us not grow weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9, RSV). Mastering our craft takes more perseverance than genius. It’s something to think about, especially on Labor Day.

I’m sure Ichiro would trade his records for a divisional championship or even a wildcard berth in the upcoming playoffs. This year he’ll have to sit out the post-season. But he’ll have the satisfaction of knowing he gave his all and did his best.

When my season ends, I hope I can have the same kind of satisfaction about my work.

Gary Hardaway has taught in universities in the USA, Lithuania and Canada. He holds a Ph. D. in foundations of education. "Real Answers™" furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091;

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