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Honor Your Commitments: The Words Of My Father

Let’s Go Back in Time

The year was 1963. I was a sophomore in high school, and a member of the junior varsity baseball team.

Make no mistake about it, I loved baseball. I was passionate about baseball. I was one of those kids who slept with his baseball glove. It was my dream to one day play college ball, followed by a lengthy career as a Major League baseball player.

The only thing standing in my way of a long, illustrious career in baseball was my junior varsity baseball coach, who didn’t think I was good enough to start a game in late April. I sat on the bench for seven long innings, seething, barely speaking to my teammates, as the game unfolded.

I went home that night and told my dad I was thinking of quitting the team. By God, if the coach didn’t want me on his team, I would just sit out the rest of the season and then try out for the varsity team the next year.

Dad was having none of that nonsense.

Play Ball!

Play Ball!

His Words

“Besides the fact that no son of mine will ever be a quitter, Bill, you need to consider this fact, and it’s an important one so listen up. Your word is your commitment, Bill. A man is only as good as his word. You told the coach, back at the start of this season, that you would play for him. That’s it. End of story! You made a commitment to play the entire year, and there is no backing out of a damned commitment. You may not like the commitment. You may not think it’s fair. But that’s just the reality of life. You make a commitment, you honor that commitment.”

I didn’t like that at all.

“But he’s not playing me, Dad. He doesn’t think I’m good enough. I can just tell from the way he acts around me. I’m not a star on the team, so I’m not worth his time.”

Dad was starting to lose his patience with me. I could always tell.

“He thought enough of you to put you on the team, didn’t he? They cut what, fifteen players from tryouts? That’s fifteen kids who wanted your spot on the team, but didn’t get it. You owe it to those damned fifteen kids to play out the season. Now strap on some balls and be the man you were raised to be.”

End of discussion!

My father

My father

Play out the Season

I definitely didn’t like it, but I did as my Dad wanted. I was back at practice the next day, and the next, and as the season progressed, a funny thing happened: I improved! By the middle of May, I was starting games. By the end of May, after a game I pitched, a win over Seattle Prep, the coach pulled me aside, congratulated me, and then said, “aren’t you glad you didn’t quit in April, Bill?”

“How did you know I was thinking about quitting, Coach?”

“I’ve been doing this a long time, Bill. I can just tell. And I also knew your dad is a man of honor, and he wouldn’t let you quit. Am I right? Did your dad talk to you about a man’s commitments?”

Still learning all these years later

Still learning all these years later

Lessons Last a Lifetime

I’ve never forgotten that season. There have been many times, during my lifetime, when I wanted to quit, when things just seemed too hard, or there didn’t seem to be any point in continuing, or life just didn’t seem fair. But a man follows through on his commitments, to others and to himself, period, end of story.

I spend a lot of time these days observing. I’m mainly a listener. I don’t give my opinion on something unless asked for it, and I sure as hell don’t give advice unless asked for it, something else my father taught me. One thing I’ve observed, as the years have flown by, is that commitment doesn’t seem to carry the same weight, in society, that it once did.

If you tell someone you are going to do something then do it, dammit! It’s a matter of honor, quite frankly, and it speaks volumes about you, as a person, if you choose not to follow through.

There’s Nothing Wrong With Some “old School” Thought

I was listening to a sports radio program the other day, and the hosts of the program were talking about a pro football player who is “holding out” and not playing because he thinks he deserves a larger contract. Mind you, the player in question signed a five-year contract in 2019 for ten-million dollars per year but now, two years into the contract, he is choosing not to honor that contract because he believes he is being underpaid.

Am I the only one who sees the insanity of that situation? The man signed a five-year contract. No one forced him to sign it. He did it of his own volition, and I’m quite certain he was pleased with the contract when he signed it. In fact, I remember the news conference announcing his new contract, and I remember him speaking into the microphone telling people how happy he was with that contract.

Two years later he believes he is being cheated, and he refuses to be true to his word.

And don’t you for an instance believe that kind of behavior is limited to professional sports players, because I’m here to tell you it is not. We live in strange times, my friends. Employers can’t find anyone to even apply for available jobs, and when they do hire someone, oftentimes that person leaves the job within months for a better paying job, not even having the decency to give two-weeks notice. And no, I am not pro-management. I am pro-decency! I am pro-honor!

I am a dinosaur!

Something Else My Dad Told Me

“Life owes you nothing, Bill! We all face challenges, and Life is neither fair nor unfair. It just is!” And those words were spoken by a man who worked his tail off, at a physically-demanding job, for twenty years, and never once complained. He was thankful he had a job. He was proud that he could support his family. Today he would be a Rock of Gibraltar in a sea of Jello.

He was my father and today, fifty-two years after his death, I still respect him and love him.

What’s the Point?

I think of those days often. I only had twenty years of tutelage under my father, but those twenty years were filled with lessons I still cherish today, lessons which have served as beacons, for me, during some of my most trying and dark times. I would feel cheated about only having twenty years with Dale LeRoy Holland, and I would be tempted to say it isn’t fair, but if he were alive today, he would have none of that. Life is neither fair nor unfair, and that’s just the real of it.

You put on your clothes each day, you tie your shoes, you brush your hair and teeth, and you show up for whatever life has in store for you. And if you make a commitment . . . if you give your word about something . . . you do it, period, end of story!

To do anything less is dishonorable!

2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

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