From the Sidelines: The game goes on

Published 10:33 pm Friday, July 25, 2008

Sometimes I wish life was a little more like baseball. The game is sensible. Even in its most obscure rules, it is what it is. It always takes three outs to end an inning, unless there is a dropped third strike that allows the runner to reach. Then it takes four. The infield fly rule is as effective for its intended purpose as it is baffling. But it is no less a part of the beauty of the game.

Baseball is unapologetic and unwavering. Regardless of who takes the field, the game goes on.

As the Major League Baseball trade deadline approaches, players around the bigs are coping with the idea that they or any one of their teammates may be shipped to a new city before month’s end. The relationships they have built with managers, other players or entire communities are completely secondary to the business of the game. It’s a fact of life for big leaguers. It is a necessary sacrifice they make in order to play the game they love.

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Unfortunately, life is sometimes too much like baseball in that regard. That’s not to say that we as everyday workers are coping with the prospect that we may be shipped off to another job in another city. But it is to say that we still have to be prepared for the ever impending departure of those we take the field with each day.

That fact hit home Friday. Gennie Phillips-Odom and Kelli Wright logged their last hours as staff members at The Demopolis Times and proceeded to take the first steps of the next phase of their respective lives and careers. As a proverbial rookie in the newspaper business, it was initially a little difficult to stomach.

After all, when I arrived in February, the editorial staff consisted of Gennie, Kelli and me. These are the people who first had the job of breaking a wet-behind-the-ears newspaper guy into an often tough, unforgiving business. It is a job each accepted diligently and executed patiently. And for that, I am more appreciative than I know how to express.

To me, despite their young age, they were the veterans on the team. They were the people to whom I listened, to whom I vented and to from whom I learned. Now, they are gone.

But as soon as I took a moment to lament their departure, I realized that I had gotten my wish. In this instance, life is a lot like baseball.

The players may have changed, but the game continues to go on in its own unapologetic, unwavering way. The rules don’t change. It still takes three outs to get through an inning and there is still a 10:30 deadline in place every night.

So I press forward, attempting to employ the tricks, lessons and occasional coping mechanisms I picked up from my “veteran” teammates during our short time together.

I believe in life, much like in baseball, our successes can be attributed as much to those who provided assistance along the way as they can to our own talents and abilities.

Big leaguers never become such on talent alone. It takes years of lessons from coaches to get there. And once they achieve that aspect of the dream, it requires learning from the “veterans” in order to turn the experience into more than a cup of coffee.

In my estimation, it is largely because of the patient and fervent efforts of Gennie and Kelli that I have a chance to turn my experience in this game into more than a cup of joe. For that, I am extremely thankful.

Friday night, the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Yankees reached an agreement on a trade that shipped outfielder Xavier Nady and relief pitcher Damaso Marte to the Bronx. The deal was agreed upon some time during the course of the first inning. Nady grabbed his gear and disappeared from the dugout rather than reassuming his post in right field. Marte hugged his teammates in the bullpen for what may have been the final time and departed. Then the game went on.

Friday night, Gennie and Kelli worked at packing up their respective homes, taking the time to give hugs “goodbye” before they departed. Then the game went on.

Sometimes, life is a lot like baseball.

Jeremy D. Smith is the sports editor of The Times. You can reach him at 334-289-4017 or