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Gerry Chidiac on Life is like playing baseballFormer Toronto Blue Jays all-star Jesse Barfield recently tweeted, “The only person I want to be better than is the person I was yesterday.”

There’s tremendous depth to this statement and it’s interesting that it came from someone who was arguably one of the best of all time to play his position.

Barfield was the Blue Jays’ right fielder throughout most of the 1980s. As a lifelong baseball fan and as an outfielder myself, I have to admit that Barfield was one of my favourite players to watch. Not only could he catch but his exceptional throwing arm added a unique dimension to the game. When baserunners dared to try for an extra base, there was a good chance that they would be thrown out by a powerful and precise throw from right field. The anticipation that every fan felt as the ball went to Jesse was palpable.

Not only was Barfield a great defensive player, he could hit for power, leading the American League in home runs in 1986. He was part of one of the most exciting outfields in Blue Jays history, with most valuable player George Bell in left field and Lloyd Moseby in centre. These players formed the core of the first Blue Jays team to contend for and win a division championship.

Why then would Barfield tweet about being better? At the highest level of athletic competition, he had already proven that he was one of the best.

The reason, of course, is that life is so much more than sports and we never stop improving. Ultimately, the most important person you can compete with is yourself.

This is not to say that competition with others is not important. We don’t know how we can improve unless we take an honest look at how others are doing. It’s then up to us to decide whether we will put the time and effort into becoming our best selves.

Barfield clearly wanted to win and he wanted to contribute to the success of his team. He worked hard to improve his game, to develop his unique gifts. This drive, however, was internal.

When a drive is internal, it doesn’t matter what the external gift is. These actually change as we go through life. Jesse is no longer a professional athlete but he’s a husband, a father and a human being doing his best to make our world a better place.

There’s so much more to life than baseball and Jesse Barfield continues to live to the fullest. His tweets clearly reflect his love of family and his love of life.

As we examine our own lives, it’s important that we not only embrace the fact that each of us is a gift to the world, we need to work hard to develop these gifts. Healthy competition with others helps us to understand what we can achieve and what it takes to achieve a goal.

Ultimately, however, we need to realize that there’s no one like us. There’s no one who has the same gifts and the same purpose. If we can end the day saying, “I was a better person today than I was yesterday,” we’ve lived a good day.

If we’re not satisfied with where we are today, we can still make tomorrow better.

Maybe life is like playing baseball. We just play different positions as we move through life.

How can I improve my game today and how can I contribute?

The only person I need to be better than is the person I was yesterday.

Gerry Chidiac is an award-winning high school teacher specializing in languages, genocide studies and work with at-risk students. 

Life is like playing baseball

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