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Minor regrets

Coming close is not a tragedy

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I’m going through life without ever having hit a home run. To hit a ball perfectly and round the bases, touching home: That must be a pleasure.

Once I came close. Just turning 26 and finishing my dissertation, I played on the American Culture team in the University of Michigan graduate school coed softball league, one of the weakest leagues imaginable. Susan had finished her undergraduate career there and was technically ineligible, but we were short of women who didn’t—to use a phrase from those sexist days—throw like girls.

Here’s the scene, one week before our June 1976 wedding. Susan leads off and hits a hard ground ball to the left side. A few steps down the first baseline she pulls a muscle. The Philosophy Department shortstop fields the ball cleanly but starts thinking about Kant and Hegel. He decides to scrutinize the ball to see if it is objectively knowable or just an artifice of our human sensibility.

At this point everything seems to be going in slow motion—no, everything is going in slow motion. Susan, game as always, heads toward first base, pulling her sprained limb. The shortstop continues to philosophize. Susan makes slow, struggling progress. The shortstop finally decides the ball is worth throwing, but he’s a second late. Susan, amazingly safe at first, limps off as a pinch runner takes her place.

Filled with passion while contemplating Susan’s suffering, I—astoundingly—hit the ball on a line over the center fielder’s head.

Unable to comfort her immediately because I was next up at bat, I decided to swing at the first pitch if it was reachable and get off the field. The pitch was right over the plate and, filled with passion while contemplating Susan’s suffering, I—astoundingly—hit the ball on a line over the center fielder’s head. Upping my base-running speed from slowest to slow, I rounded third as the now-energized shortstop was ready to throw home the ball he had just received from the center fielder.

Then came my sad, several-step retreat to third base. Yes, a good throw would have nabbed me at the plate, but how likely was a good throw? A pinch runner came in for me so I could leave the field and take Susan home. At the moment her pain was more important than my missed opportunity. Later, contemplating my unnecessary stop, I figured many other opportunities to hit a home run would come.

They never did. I played on the Baptist team in a San Diego softball league where the big game at the end of the season was against the local brewery, but we used a softball twice the normal size that could not be hit very far. Over the years children and career came before softball. Never again was it convenient to play against players as weak as myself.

In the slightly nutty but evocative baseball movie Field of Dreams, protagonist Ray Kinsella tells an old doctor—when young, he was a good ballplayer who made it to the majors once, at the end of a season, but never got to bat—“Fifty years ago, for five minutes you came within … you came this close. It would KILL some men to get so close to their dream and not touch it. They’d consider it a tragedy.” Dr. Archibald “Moonlight” Graham replies, “Son, if I’d only gotten to be a doctor for five minutes … now that would have been a tragedy.”

Had I missed, or later messed up, my marriage, that would have been a tragedy. Had Joel Belz not asked me 24 years ago to become involved in editing WORLD, that would have been a tragedy. I have minor regrets about things missed and opportunities passed up. You probably do too, but the most important keys to happiness are a good marriage and a good calling, both gifts from God.

My favorite Psalm these days is 73, the perfect poem for a Christian journalist because it concludes, “I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.” It describes our covetous tendencies: “I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” It describes God’s kindness in giving us a present and a future: “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.” And it gives us no other reasonable option: “Whom have I in heaven but you?”

Email [email protected]

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD and dean of World Journalism Institute. He joined WORLD in 1992 and has also been a university professor and provost. He has written more than 20 books, including Reforming Journalism.



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Thanks so much for your article--good reminder about priorities, and Psalms 73 is also a favorite--and very appropriate here.

Tim Larsen

I remember playing baseball but no recall if I hit a homerun (little league is a long time past). I know it must have been important at the time but like all things that have no eternal value they are not as important as knowing Christ. Fortunately, our calling to Christ has nothing to do with our physical or mental prowess, but by God's grace and mercy alone and there is no almost to it. We are called and held securely by the grace we have through Christ. All accolades in our salvation belong to Christ and what He did for us on the cross. He had to hit only one homerun to bring all those who believe home to our Lord and God. He is the "Mighty" Jesus.

Patti Richter

I love these personal stories. Happy 40th Anniversary to Marvin and Susan! . .  I just submitted my June faith essay to the local publication I write for--also about marriage, since July brings our 40th anniversary. So we're in good company!

T Williams

I, too, am grateful for your marriage and your calling. For one thing, I couldn't stand "Field of Dreams" the first time I saw it, but, thanks to your columns ("Minor Regrets", "Don't Sell This Farm"), I've gotten a lot out of it. For whatever it's worth, I think you knocked this column out of the park.