The poet E. Ethelbert Miller recently published a memoir, The Fifth Inning, powered by one metaphor: that in baseball, the fifth inning can represent a complete game.
Mostly, he takes stock of how to measure success.
For instance, he compares a veteran’s role in spring training camp to mentoring: “If luck knows your name, the old baseball team might invite you to the camp to coach and advise the rookies. You might be asked to teach them how to bunt or steal a base.”
Late in the game, he adds, there’s not much room for error. Relief pitchers either advance or they’re removed, which is how he came to leave his position teaching writing at a college in New England.
“I decided to stop teaching before someone came for the ball,” he says. “Wherever you work, pay attention to memos, outside consultant reports and rumors that begin in the mailroom. If you’re in a job, be looking for a new job. It’s better to be a free agent instead of a bench player whose name is constantly mentioned in trade discussions.”
And he offers a quote attributed to baseball writer Roger Angell:
“Since baseball time is measured only in outs, all you have to do is to succeed utterly; keep hitting, keep the rally alive, and you have defeated time.”
Bottom line: After the fifth inning, will your game go into the books as a win or a loss?
— Adapted from The Fifth Inning, E. Ethelbert Miller, Busboys and Poets/PM Press.
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