Last season, Alex Rodriguez came home. Beyond the 33 home runs he hit, he was a great player again. More so than his obvious talent, Alex changed his mind, an adjustment that requires a change of heart and is difficult to do as a grown man.
It is even more difficult for one so much in the public eye. A-Rod accomplished this feat by going opposite field — opposite from the expected way.
He did the unexpected. He played the game with joy. It was a boy’s game once again. Rodriguez went in the one direction that would improve his game. He smiled often and obviously enjoyed being a team member. He made choices that transcended career. He chose to be different from what he once was. His year off made him hungry for simple things again.
A-Rod always had amazing ability, but what was missing in his game is what he brought last year. He shined in fun, joy, and mostly in thankfulness to once again be part of the game.
In the height of “P.E.D.” arrogance, he lied, cheated and blamed others. His talent was blocked by fear and greed. The ironic blessing was that his humiliation became his new humility. New boldness was unleashed through brokenness. His talent was no longer blocked by trying too hard.
In its place, he gained new mobility and physical strength to excel once more at the game. The new clutch of A-Rod was better than a line drive double with the bases loaded. His new clutch was to say, “The fans do not owe me a thing.” That statement and others like it unleashed the God-given ability A-Rod always had.
His heavy weight to perform was now lifted. Instead of adding more weight to his burden, he went the other way. It was better than hitting an opposite-field home run at the Stadium, which he so often did. He became a person first. A person who was also an athlete, and not the other way around.
Rodriguez sacrificed something of himself for his team and his fans by going the opposite direction of the norm. Change is hard to do, but his sorrow blossomed into thankfulness just to be on the team. Thankfulness, the very root of humility, gave birth to a new boldness. He was no longer a defensive person but a broken man. He was no longer arrogant, but a man humbled by life’s journey.
My prayer is: A-Rod, do not go backward. Go forward and upward. Go deeper into this new direction. Gain more wisdom by learning even as you teach others. The team is taking on new and troubled players, and we pray they all learn that the star system and money cannot buy what you are learning now. Have more joy in the simple things common to all humanity, as the poet-apostle said, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”
Finally, that your spirit of clubhouse gentleness will transfer to others and foster fantastic team play in 2016. Mercy travels as you journey through the true game, the game of life.
In the words of the poet Robert Frost: “And I – I chose the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”