The coming of summer to the small town in Idaho also meant the coming of baseball season. After the dreariness of a cold, bleak winter, the return of the professional baseball players to the community signaled the beginning of warm and carefree summer evenings.
For the 12-year-old boy there were few problems in the world that couldn't be swallowed up in one magical moment when the umpire walked to home plate and shouted, "Play Ball." It didn't matter that the teams in the league were of the lowest professional classification, far below the major leagues. To be able to attend a major league game was something that only dreams were made of; not something possible for the boy growing up in the potato-rich belt of Idaho. For him, the "Class C" baseball of his hometown was as major league as he could ever hope for.
The boy's hero that year was the centerfielder. Their acquaintance began one day early in the season. Perched on the green-painted wooden fence circling the ballpark, the boy hollered words of encouragement to the centerfielder. Much to the boy's surprise and joy, the baseball player hollered back to him. And from this, a friendship between an idolizing youth and his baseball hero was born.
To the young boy, his friend could play the game better than anybody he could ever imagine. The tall, lanky man could throw a baseball from deep in centerfield to home plate with only one bounce, and when he was up to bat, he could hit the ball into the outfield for extra bases seemingly at will. At least in the mind of the 12-year-old boy that was the way it was.
Once during practice the ball player gave the boy a baseball. He just scooped up a grounder and tossed the ball to the boy and said this one is for you. Another time he gave the boy a baseball bat, a genuine Louisville Slugger, just like the bats used in the Big Leagues. Truly, these were treasures of priceless value for the young boy. But perhaps even greater treasures were the times the boy spent with his hero, just talking and visiting with him.
During one of those talks, after the boy expressed a desire to become a professional baseball player, the centerfielder admonished, "Do your best in whatever you do."
That year - long relegated to a page in history - remains indelibly etched in the mind of the once-impressionable youth, now a grown man with grandchildren. He never saw the ball player again after that season. The tall centerfielder didn't return to the team the next year; perhaps he moved up to a higher classification of baseball, undoubtedly following his own dream. Although the years have been many since then, the baseball hero of so long ago and the words of counsel given to a young boy are still remembered.
"Do your best in whatever you do" is, indeed, good counsel. But even better counsel is, "Do your best in the things that matter the most." We should give our best efforts to the things of life that are lasting and eternal, not to the things that are fleeting and soon forgotten. Surely, we must be wise in how we spend our time and energies, for neither is an unlimited commodity.
We do our best in the things that we put our hearts into. It's quite simple that where our hearts are will also be where our best efforts will be found. Perhaps that's why the Lord, in the 4th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, admonishes us to serve with all our heart, along with all our might, mind and strength. The Lord knew that once we put our hearts into something and were committed to it, then we would also put our might, minds and strength into it.
Sometimes, however, we may get things mixed up. Sometimes what matters most in our lives may not be what we devote our best energies to. We may, for instance, spend an inordinate amount of time and energy on our golf game or our bowling score and neglect our families or Church assignments. And when that happens, what have we gained in doing our best in these endeavors when we have given something less than our best to the things that really matter eternally?
The Lord said we "should be anxiously engaged in a good cause . . . and bring to pass much righteousness." (D&C 58:27.) There is the blueprint for us to follow. There is the rod by which we can measure our performance. Are we putting our hearts into those things that will bring about much righteousness? Are we giving our best to that which will transcend the barrier into immortality? Are we truly committed to doing those things that matter the most in our lives?
One day, these questions must be answered by each of us. Our answers will be found in the lives we have lived.