Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever

I am proud to collaborate with Disrupt Aging from AARP. Though I have been compensated for this post, my words and thoughts are my own.

Age is always a topic of discussion. When you are a kid there are benchmarks for what you could achieve. When you are an adult there’s still an air of competition (40 under 40, how you look for your age, etc).

Not all the conversations are negative, nor do I feel that age is something about which you should be shy.

Aging is something we all do. You can’t eliminate it, but you can change the way you think about it. And that’s something that I have been working to change.

I used to be self-conscious about the grays in my hair. I’m slowly learning to wear them as a badge (or beard) of honor. While I don’t want to be robbed of years I haven’t had yet, the perspective of the years I have experienced matters.

One of my favorite heroes was Satchel Paige. If you aren’t familiar with him, he’s worth reading about or researching.

He was the quotable athlete before any quotable athlete. He talked about age saying age was a case of mind over matter, “If you don’t mind, it don’t matter.”

He was also keen on the quote, “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”

His autobiography is called Maybe I’ll Pitch Forever. Truth is I think he has the mentality to do it.

He was one of the great pitchers in the famed Negro Leagues. He was a self promoter and would jump from team to team to team and even to various leagues. There’s a story that he pitched so much (sometimes multiple times in a day) that his arm went dead. Supposedly he found a cure for it and started pitching again.

Eventually Major League Baseball integrated and many of the great players from the Negro Leagues finally had the opportunity to put their talent against some of the white players they had been banned from playing.

Paige was scouted and considered to be the one to break the color barrier, but he had a knock against him.

Scouts considered him to be too old.

In fact, as legend has it, no one actually knew how old Paige was and there were serious doubts about the age he gave.

Paige had a great second act (or was it third?) to his career when he joined Cleveland’s team as a rookie in his 40s. He helped them win the 1948 World Series and became the first African-American to pitch in a World Series. He would continue to pitch culminating with one more appearance at the age of 59 where he threw 3 shutout innings.

Paige disrupted aging. There are folktales about how he did it, but I like to believe that his mentality had a great deal to do with his success.

And that may be the lesson for me.

At my age, most athletes have already retired. (unless you throw a knuckleball). But that’s not the end.

Yes, my body gets sore when I play basketball. A day of cycling leaves me ready to take a nice nap. My joints voice their displeasure a bit more than before.

But guess what? I just started practicing taekwondo with my son. My daughter started playing lacrosse and I bought a stick to practice with her. And I still enjoy hooping!

No, I’m not going pro in any of these sports, but I’m not retiring yet either!

Life is full of stages, but I think the key part to disrupting aging is realizing that those stages are personal.

Like anything else, perspective is key. And while I may never be a professional baseball player like Satchel, I’m still willing to hop on the proverbial mound of life and deliver the best I have to offer.

One of the hardest parts of aging has been acknowledging limits. Yet, one of the coolest parts of aging? Learning there are so many aspects of life yet to explore.

Sure, maybe we can’t pitch forever, but we don’t have to be bound by arbitrary innings in life either.

And even when our time on the mound is done, there is plenty of need for coaches in the dugout and fans in the stand.

Probably the biggest lesson I have learned over the years is that your worth is not determined by a role.

So how does one truly disrupt aging? Start by figuring out what you mind, so you know what really matters.

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