By Jeff Becraft
When I was 15, I was at the baseball tryouts for the little league in our town. It was towards the end of the batting part of the day. Someone hit a line drive, I reached up and snagged it, and then handed it to the coach who was pitching.
He asked me, “What is your name?” I did not know who he was at the time but I was going to find out later. “Jeff Becraft,” I responded.
Later that night, I got a phone call: “Jeff… this is Mr. Jarvis. I’m calling to invite you to try out for the MCBA team.”
Now this was before all the eras with the traveling teams and what not and the MCBA was fairly new. These guys were the best of the best. They even got real uniforms (Gaithersburg was pinstripes) and traveled around and played other towns and cities.
I had an OK tryout. I wasn’t spraying any line drives around or rifling home any throws from the field. There were two younger guys who were also trying out and one of them had been on my team the year before. On that team, I was one of the big guns and he probably looked up to me and respected me. But that had changed now. He was a year older and a year better and he and the other guy kind of mocked me that I was even there at the tryouts. I was the only guy on the field who was wearing tennis shoes; everyone else had on cleats.
A few days later, I got another phone call: “Jeff… we won’t be needing you this year on the team.”
And so, with that short-lived dream over, I settled in to simply playing on one of the regular teams in our town. I had a good season and made the all-stars for the league. We were now going to be able to play as an all-star team against the all-star teams of other towns and cities.
To get ready for the tournament, we were going to play a scrimmage game. Against… the MCBA team.
I was our starting shortstop. This was my opportunity. This was my chance to show them that they had made a mistake and that I was better and more important than they thought I was.
I had four errors in that game… the worst of which was running towards second base to cover it because a guy was stealing and I tripped over the bag and belly flopped head first into the dirt. The throw from the catcher went flying out into centerfield.
At our next practice, our coach said to me, “I was wondering what happened to you out there.”
I probably could not have articulated it at 15 years of age, but what happened is that I wanted to prove myself. I wanted to show everyone that I was good enough, that I was important enough, that I was significant.
We never play our best that way… or live our best. In fact, it is a miserable way to live.
Unfortunately, it’s not the only time I have done that in my life. Even into my older and grumpier years.
We should always give our best — but it should be a living out of who we are, an expression and enthusiasm of what is inside of us.
I was telling someone yesterday, “We want the Youth Corps students to understand they are valuable for who they are. It’s not what they do or what they have. We are always comparing ourselves to others and measuring our significance according to that.”
When we understand that we already have value and our significance does not come from what other people think, that is when we are the most effective and at our best. It is also the most fun way to live.
It is a great day to have a great day!
Jeff Becraft is the Executive Director for Youth Corps and has dedicated much of his life to helping shift the vision of people’s lives. Youth Corps is a life-changing leadership development experience that inspires high school students to be leaders in the Midlands and beyond. You can connect with Jeff at [email protected].