Whether you compete on the field or off it, baseball always brings out the best in anyone. It’s the thrill of competing against the best of the best. Players and coaches want to test their skills and passion against the greatest players in the world. The intensity of this competition is unmatched by any other.
However, it’s not just the competition on the field that can get intense. There is competition off the field that can still bring out the best that baseball has to offer. I had the opportunity to participate in such a competition back in August 2012 at the Yogi Berra Museum and Learning Center. It was a contest that pitted the greatest baseball minds in the state against one another. I am talking about the New Jersey Yankee Trivia Contest and I was aiming to win.
There were so many competitors lined up at the museum on that August night, and the atmosphere was unique: each contestant memorizing every statistic imaginable, knowing any fact that could be questioned, the slightest error changing the outcome of the game. I was reading my Yankee history book and going over each and every fact I could find. One problem I had was trying to remember whether Jack Chesbro had his 40-win season for the Yankees in 1903 or 1904. As an author and sports writer, while I certainly wanted to win the contest, I was hoping to at least finish within the top 5. These were the greatest baseball minds in the state and I was anxious to see how I would compete.
The competition started out strong. The first task was a set of ten trivia questions. We had to be paired in groups so my little brother Sean was brought into the fold. Sean has a great baseball memory, often matching my own knowledge of baseball history, so he was the perfect partner. Thanks to our combined efforts, we were able to answer 7 out of the 10 questions and advance easily to the next round.
However, the slightest bit of success can cause even the smartest people to get cocky. That’s exactly what happened to me and Sean in the next round. The second round of competition was player identification. I thought that his would be an easy round of competition, but boy was I wrong. The players ranged from every year of Yankee history. I was only able to identify 3 of the 10 players. The one advantage I had was being able to identify Jack Chesbro because of all the research I had done on him.
The next couple of rounds were challenging, but I was able to get past them into the final round. I was within range to finish high in the tournament standings. The last round was a general series of Yankees trivia questions ranging from player statistics to birthdays to a series of miscellaneous information. I was determined to finish the competition as strongly as I possibly could. The first few questions in the final round started out easy enough, bringing the competitors into a false sense of security: “What year did Reggie Jackson have his three-homer World Series game?” I felt confident after these three questions, but I knew they would get harder.
There were some questions that literally stumped me at every turn, but some tough ones that I was able to get right. The judges gave us 30 seconds to check our answers before handing them in. I knew that I should have checked my answers, but in the moment I became as still as a board. I just had to know what the final standings were!
The judges read each team’s score, from the lowest to the highest. After every name said, I blew a sigh of relief knowing that I fared better than others. As it turned out, I finished in the top 5 as the fifth place winner in the New Jersey Yankee trivia contest.
My first reaction was disappointment because I had hoped to finish higher than expected. But then I realized that I finished in the top 5 as the youngest competitor there. It gave me a sense of pride knowing that I can better myself for the future. That pride and determination will stay with me as long as I am a part of baseball. And as I will always continue to stay, Baseball truly is a game for life!