Baseball is a unique sport when one considers the amount of downtime there is during the game. There are many moments of silence when nothing seems to be happening. Currently, we see this in Williamsport for the Little League World Series as the players spend time together in the dugout just smiling, laughing and cheering on their teammates.

Anyone who understands baseball knows that not only is there always something happening on the field, but there also is a tremendous amount of discussion in the dugout. This applies not only to 11-12-year-old ball players but also to Major League Baseball players.

In all honesty, it’s in the dugout where baseball can really form ball players into friends. What is happening on the field to the 11-12-year-old ball players in Williamsport is not nearly as important as the friendships that are being built in the dugout. They may not know it yet but they are now embarking on lifelong friendships.

Dugout life is hard to describe; it almost has to be experienced. It’s this unique space where players are constantly chewing sunflower seeds, cracking jokes, encouraging teammates, talking about life, analyzing the game, reflecting on previous at-bats, wearing rally caps, making plans for after the game, and much more.

Why does baseball have so many moments when players simply spend time in the dugout?

I think the philosopher, Aristotle, can provide us with some insight. Aristotle wrote about happiness in his magnificent work The Nicomachean Ethics. Aristotle’s work seeks to answer how a human being can live a happy life. Mind you, there is no question more important than that of happiness. The greatest philosophers and theologians have all asked questions about happiness.

He indicates that “the happy life” demands one’s entire being: his thoughts, words, actions, habits, and character. Keep in mind – Aristotle was writing three centuries before the birth of Christ yet it’s like he was already synthesizing parts of the Gospels. The great philosopher also adds that a happy human being develops a great soul, and is just, prudent, and a good friend.

In fact, Aristotle’s keen focus on being a good friend is precisely what the dugout in baseball seeks to encourage. Aristotle wrote, “to be happy a human needs virtuous friends.” Baseball provides countless opportunities to be a good friend – especially in the dugout. Friendships are being made when baseball appears to be stagnant and boring.

So, what doesn’t make a baseball player happy?

Baseball, in and of itself, cannot make a ball player happy. Human beings need more than power, wealth, honor and pleasure to be happy. Baseball can offer power – going 5-5 with two home runs. Baseball can offer wealth – average salary for MLB players is $4.38 million dollars. Baseball can offer honor – being in the newspaper after a successful game, all over social media and ESPN highlights. Baseball can offer pleasure – the feeling of striking someone out or hitting a towering homerun or whatever style of night life a player seeks after the game.

Yet, experiencing the power, wealth, honors and pleasures of the game never satisfies a ball player. Ball players have thirsts that cannot be quenched on the field – no matter how successful they become. Ball players have hungers that cannot be satisfied – no matter how many championships they win.

It’s in the dugout where friendships are made and that helps to make a ball player happy. Every baseball player would agree with Aristotle and simply tweak his phrase, “to be a happy baseball player one needs virtuous friends.”

Just think of Christ’s words to the Apostles shortly before his death, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends” (John 15:13-14). It’s no wonder why the Catholic Church has rested one hand in theology and the other in philosophy – the role of friendship is a clear example.

From Ancient Greece with Aristotle to the Upper Room with Christ to the dugouts at the Little League World Series – philosophy, theology and baseball couldn’t agree more on the importance of friendship in being happy.

Take a moment and seriously consider your greatest friendships. Now, let your friend know how much they have helped you grow in happiness.

q q q

Recommended for you

Ben Daghir is a transitional deacon for the Diocese of Erie from St. Marys, Pa. He played pitcher for the Elk Catholic Crusaders in 2010-2011 and coached SM Little League for 4 years. Ben was a pitcher for the 2009 St. Marys Senior League State Championship team. He currently studies at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. His favorite team is the Pittsburgh Pirates and favorite baseball players are former pitchers Tim Lincecum and Sandy Koufax.

Trending Food Videos