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(recorded 09.30.22)

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Watching Aaron Judge chase the Babe and Roger Maris for the non-juiced record for home runs in a season, I rediscovered my love for baseball. Judge’s struggle with getting the right pitch and a pitcher’s reluctance to be tagged with it for all time produced a weird set of circumstance for each at bat. The slugger was up to the task, drawing walk after walk until the moment when bat met ball. Inevitably it was only after I gave up being there for that moment that it would happen. As a young boy, I remained convinced that only the correct amount of attention to the radio broadcasts late at night in Woodstock was directly tied to the success of my favorite Yankees. To this day, there’s no proof to the contrary.

Over the years, my fervor waned. As a Yankee fan, the string of pennants and World Series triumphs dwindled in the aftermath of the Mantle/Maris years. And the arrival of the Beatles and the awesome spectacle of the Shea Stadium concerts was too difficult to ignore. As the years went by, I would tune in only if the Yankees made the playoffs. Being a Yankee fan, at least for me, was an exercise of elitism I was willing to own even though I knew how arrogant it was. That is the burden, I would acknowledge and accept.

Now we are living through the age of Peak TV, political polarization, and pandemic isolation. The remote wave of work from home is the fulcrum for a titanic struggle between HR and middle management on the one hand, and talent acquisition and retention on the other. Every day we see the back and forth between companies grappling with the impact of traditional work and the wave of digital transformation so amplified and accelerated by the pandemic, social media, and a need for the opposite of FOMO — fear of missing out — but fear of the inability to stay out of the constant rate of change. The tyranny of cable news lower thirds. The onrushing conflicts of network effects dominating the not-so-hidden push for eyeballs and attendant anger, fear, and partisan gerrymandering.

Then, when we’ve essentially given up on waiting for the sound, the crack of the bat. Those of us who played ball in childhood know how unmistakable the sound is, just as the feeling of connecting on the diamond is unique in its quality. The bat, the ball, and the arc of the pitch conspire to create a power that connects all the elements and adds the feeling of the crowd as it suddenly holds its collective breath. Actually, we all know the outcome, even if it’s only a long out. But for the most part, it’s a ballet of motion, exultation, and a re-racking of the balls on the pool table. In the wake of that structure, the silences of the on deck circle, the slow walk to the mound to pull the starter or errant middle reliever, the cat-like stretch just before the stolen base attempt. On and on, a symphony of aspiration and intelligence, the snap of the quick double play, the sound of the announcer avoiding talking about a no-hitter in progress. I fell in love again.

And there’s Judge again, working another walk, roaming right field as a centerfielder only could, translating his meticulous process as a hitter into connecting with his teammates in the dugout as the innings wear on, and enduring the pressure that makes the pursuit of the home run record a battle for the soul of moment. I am he as you are he as you are me And we are all together.

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