Let Them Make A Home

In Blog, Hustle Podcast by Eric ByrnesLeave a Comment

A few weeks ago was supposed to be Opening Day for the MLB season… 

Obviously it was postponed due to COVID-19 just as everything else has been around the world.

From the time I was 9 years old, Opening Day has always represented a time of eternal hope, optimism and crazy anticipation about what the upcoming season would bring…

As a kid, Little League Opening Day was everything… The semi parade around Ford Field in Portola Valley with my Morey’s teammates dressed in our iconic Yankee pinstripe uniforms brought a sense of honor and pride that is tough to put into words. No matter if it was when I was the only 9 year old in the league, or when I was 12 and one of the very best players, Opening Day would always give me the feeling as if I had 1000 butterflies doing laps throughout my entire body…

Each year, in anticipation for the big day, I would sleep in my full uni with my bat and glove cozily tucked by my side… Eventually, when I went to high school at St. Francis, the stakes changed a bit. No longer was the prize for a home run my favorite cheese whiz nachos from the snack bar after the game, but rather a potential college scholarship or professional contract loomed off in the distance for a job well done… 

Nonetheless, the nervous excitement and ever present Opening Day butterflies didn’t change one bit.

At UCLA, I was a freshman with little expectations that earned my way into a starting job during our fall practices. Leading off for the Bruins on Opening Day at Hawaii in 1995 was a surreal experience that literally had my knees shaking in the batter’s box the same way they did when I was 9 and had to face the legendary flame throwing 12 year old phenom, Tom Shapoo… Needless to say, the tropical butterflies joined me on my Hawaiian journey into the world of collegiate baseball… 

In the minor leagues, my first Opening Day was in Portland, Oregon where I was playing for the low A ball team for the Oakland A’s, the Southern Oregon Timberjacks. I’ll never forget that feeling when I stepped onto a pro baseball field for the first time as a REAL life professional baseball player… Yet, I also remember thinking that I was at the very lowest level of the minor leagues hitting f*ing 9th (thanks Sparky 🤣), and Oakland seemed like a gosh damn eternity away.

At the time, I was so far down the totem pole that I was not able to conceive how elevating 5 levels would even be possible… So, I did what I always did and simply immersed myself in the moment with my faithful ole butterfly buddies.

A couple years later and a few more stops along the way, I was standing in a big league dugout at the Oakland Coliseum when iconic A’s PA announcer Roy Steele (aka the voice of God) called my name during Opening Day introductions…

I sprinted out onto the field, high fived all my teammates, looked out at a sold out Coliseum with 50+ thousand people and stood there with the exact same feeling I had years earlier 40 miles across the Bay at Ford Field in Portola Valley… 

I would love to tell you how much different Opening Day in the Major Leagues was compared to all others, but it actually wasn’t different at all.

I started on the bench that night and cheered my teammates on for 8 innings until I was called upon to pinch hit in the bottom of the 8th inning with two runners on base and two outs, down by 1 run against the Texas Rangers… 

Hard throwing left hander Ron Mahay was brought in from the bullpen and the fate of the game all of a sudden rested on my shoulders.

As I stood in the on deck circle and timed the warm up pitches, I couldn’t help but think back to all the previous Opening Days in my baseball life and realized no matter how old I was, where I was playing or what level I was playing at, the nervous excitement was different on the first game of the year than anything I ever experienced on any other days playing the game.

I took my final warm up swing, did my customary dopamine jump, tapped myself on the helmet with my bat then stepped up to the plate with an entire colony of butterflies that apparently had built an empire deep within the pit of my stomach… 

The first pitch was a hard inside fastball that I absolutely fucking buggy whipped into the left field corner for a game winning double.

We all get nervous and we have all felt the butterflies swarming… We just need to always remember that as much as the pain lets us know we are ALIVE, so do the butterflies.

Don’t try to run from these gorgeous little flying caterpillars, let them make a home. 🦋

-EB

 

P.S. The Let Them Play: A Triathlon Across America documentary is finally here, and it’s the perfect film for a family movie night! Proceeds will not only benefit the Let Them Play foundation, but $1 from each sale goes directly to the COVID-19 Response Fund.

Visit LetThemPlayFilm.com or click the button below to watch now! 📽🍿