Fans of baseball are well aware of the value of a good utility player—that one guy who can come off the bench and play almost any position on the field when the starter can’t get the job done or perhaps is injured. Throughout the history of baseball, utility players have certainly been the key to some major wins and losses at all levels even in the major leagues.
As regular readers of this column are probably highly aware, our girls are very passionate players of softball but the term “utility player” was not something they were familiar with until recently and the conversation didn’t happen because of an outdoor sport.
Lindsi, a senior, and Landri, a sophomore, both participate on our school’s competitive one-act play team. Since the beginning of the semester, they have rehearsed before, during and occasionally after school a play called “Diamond Dreams.” When the script was released, they were so excited to potentially play sisters Kit and Dottie on the All-American Baseball League. However, Landri didn’t land the role of Kit, as a senior was selected for the part, but Lindsi was chosen to play big sister Dottie.
Let’s not forget that these practices and performances, as well as school in general, have included wearing a face mask, which definitely has an effect on a play. COVID-19 has made many activities more challenging and this is just another one, but mostly everyone is just grateful to still be performing. Fast forward to having about four performances in the books when the senior who plays Kit has COVID-19 symptoms and is sent home to test. The two understudies, who were supposed to come off the bench in her absence, were both petrified and refused to do it so Landri, who just happens to know the lines for the part she wanted all along, is now Kit. Not only did she do two local performances for the parents but an area contest and the conference championship (which they won).
All of this prompted the conversation with the girls about utility players and the importance of them. While the starters and the big names often get all the glory, this show, literally, could not go on without the person who stepped up and filled the empty shoes. And just like in baseball, winning or losing depends on the weakest link. Is that weakest link able to be good enough to not let their team down? In this case—absolutely. But more clearly it shows the importance of staying involved and paying attention so you are prepared in the event, perhaps even more likely with the onset of COVID-19, that you are called upon to step up and fill in.
I think of farmers and ranchers as the ultimate utility players. Very seldom—and I think I can pretty safely say never—are farmers or ranchers good at just one position. While a great pitcher may not bat and possibly only fields a ball in self-defense, farmers and ranchers do not have that luxury. They have to field many positions from manager to grounds crew and everything in between. From strategy to implementation and marketing to finance, they are called upon to do it all, on and off the field. Fortunately, most have an outstanding crew that has been groomed to fortify their weak links, from spouses to children and parents to hired hands, they can step in and do their part for the team.
The utility player, in any discipline, must be more than a warm body on the bench. They have to be aware of everything that is taking place and be prepared, physically and mentally, to step in at any time when called upon. Think about your team. Who is your most important utility player? Could you do it without them? Do they know how much you appreciate their willingness to play that key role? In the spirit of this wonderful American holiday and particularly in a year when so much has gone wrong and been out of our control, what better time to be truly thankful for the many blessings we have and the outstanding performance of all the amazing utility players on our teams. The only way your team players can have a grand slam is if you put them in a position to be successful regardless of their role. Good managers have the ability to make the best use of the players on their team for the good of the team and that’s a priceless skill.
The entire crew at Team Loos would like to take this ink to wish you and your family a very blessed and Happy Thanksgiving as we all look toward 2021 with renewed hope.
Editor’s note: Trent Loos is a sixth generation United States farmer, host of the daily radio show, Loos Tales, and founder of Faces of Agriculture, a non-profit organization putting the human element back into the production of food. Get more information at www.LoosTales.com, or email Trent at firstname.lastname@example.org.