Ah, spring is just around the corner and baseball is coming back.

College teams have started playing competitive games and professional players have gathered in Florida and Arizona for the annual rites of Spring Training.

Larry Stone, a sports writer for the Seattle Times, reported on the appearance of Ichiro Suzuki at the training facility of the Seattle Mariners in Peoria, AZ in an article entitled “‘There are things he sees …. that some of us don’t’: Ichiro Makes Seamless Transition to Mariner’s Coach”, published February 29th.

Ichiro had a 20-year career in the Major League Baseball (MLB). Twelve of those years were spent in Seattle with the M’s who brought him to the United States after nine very productive years in Japanese professional baseball.

He officially retired last season during a season opening three game series played with the Oakland Athletics in Japan.  In an emotionally charged moment for him, as well as for the fans that filled the stadium and for the players of both teams, Ichiro said goodbye to baseball as he had known it, that is, as an extremely gifted and passionate player of the game. Ichiro left the game after compiling a career MLB batting average of .311 and appearing in 10 All-star games. He collected 3,089 hits which made him 24th on the all-time career list and does not include the 1,278 hits he had previously produced in nine professional seasons in Japan. He will most likely be voted into MLB’s Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible for that honor in four years.

Ichiro’s dedication to personal preparation, in essence, self-improvement, was a critical element in his achievement of these statistical milestones in his 29-year professional career. 

But his playing days have ended.  He is now a coach of the game. 

The Stone article discusses this transition and provides an example of how to pursue happiness as one goes through the aging process. Does he pine for the days when he was a player?  No. The article quotes him: “I never think … I want to get up there and play again… I haven’t thought that once.” Instead, as the article makes clear, his focus is preparing himself to be the best teacher of the game that he can be to the younger players in the Mariner organization.

This illustrates principles outlined in my book, “The Pursuit of the Personal Renaissance Experience, Finding Opportunities for Happiness in the Ever-Present Now”. Ichiro’s “now” has changed because time has taken away his ability to compete as a player. In his current “now” lies the opportunity to evolve as a coach and experience the joy inherent to personal positive evolution. He clearly understands that longing to be a person he once was and no longer is would be of no use. It could only bring him frustration and pain.  Embracing the act of developing a new and different dimension of himself, that is, his role as a baseball teacher, provides him a new path to personal fulfillment. 

As he meets the challenges of this new life role, (and you can be sure that he will meet them), he will come to experience the joy of becoming which is inherent to any personal renaissance experience.

Image by Smashdown Sports News from flickr

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