A while back, a guy wanted to start a little league baseball organization. “Anyone can play,” he said. “I have my favorite team, of course, but everyone else gets a shot too.”
To make it fair for everyone, the man elected himself to be the umpire. The umpire was fair, but strict. When players hit a ball, they were required to run to first base. Some made it, and some didn’t. “If you hit the ball correctly and run to first, you’ll be safe,” he kept telling the kids. But some wanted to swing the bat outside of the batter’s box. Some would try to hit it after the ball reached the catcher’s mitt. But, by far, the biggest problem had to do with kids running to third base. The umpire looked to correct this, but many of the kids wouldn’t listen. Naturally, they were called out.
Exhausted by the kids’ refusal to listen to his instructions, the umpire talked to some of the managers in the league. “Hey, tell your kids they need to run to first base.” And the managers did, but some of the batters still refused to do it. Some were even angry with their managers for telling them how to play the game. Some of the parents criticized the managers’ overbearing attitudes, and the managers were asked to leave.
The umpire talked to another manager soon afterward about the whole situation. His one happened to be his son. This particular manager and the umpire talked it over and decided they would change the rules. “Let’s take the ball away,” they agreed. “That way, all they have to do is run to first base, and they’ll be safe.”
The manager went back to his dugout. “Guys, don’t even bother with the bat or the ball. I understand how hard it is. But please, just run to first base. You’ll be safe there, and it’s the only way you’re going to make it home.” The dugout cheered. Some were a little bit skeptical, but still accepted it. It couldn’t be easier — everyone was going to be safe!
Once some of the parents in the stands realized what was going on, however, they were indignant. “My kids work hard to play, and you’re going to just give them a free pass to first base?” Some of those parents filed a suit against the manager and umpire. Rather than let a lengthy court battle ensue, the umpire told the manager, “This was our plan all along. If we’re going to continue this league, we’ll have to do something drastic. Son, I need you to step down.”
So, without hesitation and seeing the umpire’s love of the game, he decided to leave. Many of the parents were ecstatic. But, compelled by the avid dedication to their assurance of victory, the players in the dugout continued to play the game the way the manager and umpire had agreed on. Before leaving for good, the manager assured the players that they would be safe every time, as long as they headed to first base. “It’s the only way home,” he repeated.
Many of the kids still play in the league today. Some run to first, and they eventually end up home. But many still insist on making up their own rules and running to third base, citing alternative methods to scoring or that it’s just a shortcut, consequently resulting in the kids being called out. Some of them have decided to leave altogether, their parents advocating that the rules are too simple, that there are other games out there, and that they couldn’t possibly believe that the manager could do something like that.
But many players, grateful to even play baseball, embraced the manager’s idea and, despite scorn and ridicule, ran to first. And they all made it home.