There you are, feeling secure out in left field, when, suddenly, life hits you a line drive. Good thing you’ve thought things out in advance.
This is the life! I found myself thinking as I stood in left field in my baggy white uniform, enjoying the sunshine and the scent of freshly cut grass. Little League baseball fans filled the stands, where hot dogs and drinks were selling for a quarter.
I was quickly brought back into the game as my coach stepped out of the dugout and yelled to our team. Oh yeah. I’m in a baseball game. A good hitter from the opposing team was approaching the plate, and coach wanted us to be ready. We knew from last week’s baseball practice that Think! meant “Ask yourself, What would I do if the ball were hit to me?”
My 11-year-old brain went to work. Let’s see … no outs, a runner on second base. If the ball comes to me in the air, I’ll catch it, check the runner on second to see if he’ll tag up, and throw to the second baseman. If the ball is on the ground, the runner might advance, and I’ll probably throw to third.
Now I know exactly what to do. With my knees slightly bent and my eyes fixed on the batter, I was ready for anything. The pitcher wound up and threw one right over the plate. I heard a loud crack as wood met ball. A line drive was flying straight towards me! In a split second, my mental computer judged the ball’s speed and trajectory and determined it would land just a few yards from where I was standing.
If I hustle, I can catch it. As I began running, out of the corner of my eye I saw the runner take off for third base. What was he doing? Didn’t he think I could catch it on the fly? On my fourth stride, I raised my mitt and felt the ball smack my left hand. In one motion I took the ball out of my mitt and threw it as hard as I could to second base.
I did it! I got the runner out! Or did I? Unfortunately, our second baseman forgot to think. He wasn’t on his base! He was just standing there watching. The ball bounced on the dirt infield, but luckily he scooped up the ball and stepped on the bag just in time to get the runner, who forgot to tag up.
Coach leaped from the dugout and shouted loud enough for all the players and spectators to hear, “Nice job, Bytheway!” A big Boy Scout smile spread across my face as the cheering crowd recognized the little kid in left field who just made a double play. I owed it all to my coach. He reminded me to think.
Life is going to hit you some line drives, and sometimes you’ll have to think fast. However, it’s better to think first than to think fast. If you already know what you’re going to do, you’re in great shape. If not, your indecision could turn into tragedy.
Some decisions in life you only have to make once. That’s exactly what President Spencer W. Kimball did: “I remember that, without being pressured by anyone, I made up my mind while still a little boy that I would never break the Word of Wisdom. … I made up my mind firmly and solidly that I would never touch those harmful things. Having made up my mind fully and unequivocally, I found it not too difficult to keep the promise to myself and to my Heavenly Father. …
“If every boy and girl would make up his or her mind, ‘I will not yield,’ then no matter what the temptation is: ‘I made up my mind. That’s settled’” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 205–6).
When you’ve thought first, you can act fast. When the batter hit the ball to me, I knew what to do and got him out. When Joseph of Egypt was pressured by Potiphar’s wife to break the law of chastity, he quickly fled (see Gen. 39:11–12).
Long before this situation arose, Joseph had made up his mind that he would keep the commandments. He didn’t spend any time thinking about the temptation. He didn’t weigh the pros and cons in his head. He didn’t have to. He knew that if it was wrong before, it would still be wrong now. Joseph simply acted on the decision that he had already made.
Every day, the world sends new batters to the plate. Think! What will you do if the temptation comes right to you? How will you handle the line drives, pop flies, and ground balls that will come your way? Decide while you’re young to keep the commandments of God, and you won’t have to think fast, because before temptation even steps up to the bat, you’ll have made your decision. You were smart enough to think first.
This article first appeared in the May 1999 New Era