The Home Run Derby and How We Think About Our Lives

In case you don’t know, the Home Run Derby is an annual home run hitting contest in Major League Baseball, customarily held the day before the MLB All-Star Game, which places the contest on a Monday in July. There is a kind of legend about the Home Run Derby, that there is a Curse: If you win, it will hurt your home run output for the rest of the season.

Every year, there is talk about the idea that the event “hurts players’ swings” and could potentially be the reason why participants tend to have bad second halves to their seasons. Since baseball is all about numbers and statistics, real mathematicians have written and published serious articles about whether the curse is true. Their conclusion is that there is no curse. The mathematicians conclude by using the fancy math phrase, “regression to the mean.” Everything comes back to the average level. Most pros don’t hit that many home runs. If you hit 25 or 30 homers in the first half, you are going to hit a lot less in the 2nd ½. More often than not, players selected to the Derby are those who are having extremely lucky first halves. Their luck does not continue in the second half of the season.

So no, there’s no curse. But there are still some lessons to learn from this topic. Even though I’m a baseball fan, I don’t really care about the Home Run Derby. What I like about baseball is that it’s 162 regular season games. If there are 16 football games, one pro football game is equal
to 16 baseball games. Baseball is like life: it’s a long grind, day after day. A one-day contest that is not even one of those 162 games is just a fun exercise of players’ egos.

Baseball is a team sport. The Home Run Derby is about one person’s fame.

But in a way, there is a curse, the curse of placing too much emphasis on single events.

A Bar Mitzvah ceremony is a big event, but it can just be a Home Run Derby, without any further implications. The question is: What happens after this day?

So you study for a big test at school. You get a good grade. But have you learned anything?

I worry about all the family events that are so over-determined that people ruin them with fights and arguments. I’d rather you call every week than get so worked up about those dinners.

On big holidays, the general community gives to food banks. Thanksgiving and Christmas are like the big Home Run Derbies for charity. But our shul has something called the Isaiah Fund that provides food for the poor and hungry every month in every year.

We are starting to think about the High Holidays that will start this month. The synagogue will be filled. That’s great, but what’s more important to me is the services we have every day and every night in every week throughout the year.

In the Torah, there are huge events, like when the Israelites receive the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, when the mountain was shaking and filled with fire and smoke. But most of the Torah is really more focused on whether people are going to live by those commandments every day and every year.

So the curse of the Home Run Derby is the idea of the Home Run Derby, which emphasizes one day over all the other days.

Don’t think about the Home Run Derby. It’s not about home runs.

Think about the singles, think about getting on base, think about scoring runs for your team.

Think about learning and not just studying for a test.

Think about how you treat the members of your family all the time.

Think about working on your relationship with G-d on an ongoing basis.

Think about how you live, every day.

Rabbi Scolnic

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