I spent six years of my childhood in St. Louis Missouri. Which by default, makes me an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. They are a professional baseball team – and the best baseball team – for those of you who don’t know.
For an early birthday present, my girlfriend decided to break a long standing record for the best birthday gift ever, topping the glow in the dark boxers I received when I was three, by getting me tickets to a Cardinals Giants game in San Francisco. The tickets had an extra surprise attached to them, which I wouldn’t find out about until later that same day.
Putting what most people would call way too much passion and energy into one silly game may seem like a childish waste of time or a measly escape from the real world. But we are humans, so everyone has their indulgences, mine just happens to be watching grown men run around in colorful costumes chasing a ball after they hit it with a stick.
As I played baseball competitively, just shy of 15 years total, I began to contemplate playing at the collegiate level. This made me start to truly realize how good those guys were at what they do. I started to understand how fast a ball moving at 95 miles per-hour really was. The absurdity of spending five hours on the field in 105 degree heat competing at the highest level you can. The focus it must take in your training and day to day routine to try and become one of the top baseball players in the country. And then, with all of that understanding and love for the game present in my mind, the surprise portion of my girlfriend’s gift was revealed to me.
The seats at the game were front row. Only a small fence separated myself and the players in the Cardinals dugout. The people that were legends to me as a little leaguer growing up in St. Louis, were now within earshot of me – so I took advantage of it.
It was in the third inning or so when one of my favorite players, Matt Carpenter, an infielder for the Cardinals, was chewing on some sunflower seeds on the far steps of the dugout. I figured why not take a shot at it, so I hollered “Hey Carp. Can I get some seeds?”
He turned around and tossed me his newly opened bag without hesitation. I was trying to keep my cool as any 18-year-old boy would. As if my underdeveloped, testosterone lacking excuse of a manhood would impress a guy making millions of dollars who had legs bigger than my body and forearms that made the threads of his wrist tape hold on for dear life.
He was not starting that day, but later came in the game to pinch-hit with two runners on base. And welp, if you thought the story couldn’t get any better, you shouldn’t predict the end of stories for a living – and I probably shouldn't incorporate jokes into my writing for a living, but here we are.
With the first pitch he saw, Carpenter hit a three-run shot into McCovey Cove, the historic backing behind the right field wall at AT&T Park. Something only 30-some-odd players have done in the stadiums 17-year history.
After the team settled down and the game continued, I jokingly yelled towards him saying “It’s all in the seeds Carp!” He turned around, smiling and laughing, and pointed at me. Little did he know, he had just made me the happiest of all the 38-thousand fans in attendance at that ballpark.
What does this have to do with coffee? Nothing. But in the hopes that you have stuck with me thus far, you at least know it made for a pretty cool and long winded anecdotal lead. An anecdote that has everything to do with character.
And wait for it, here it comes, get ready… in a roundabout way, coffee speaks to our character. It is a part of our routines. It is, whether we like it or not, the backbone and staple during many of our days.
Our character is defined by many variants, but it thrives upon who we are as people and the actions by which we choose to live.
Drinking Valiant isn’t anything more than a drinking a cup of coffee. There is no magic potion inside. It is pretty damn good cup of coffee, don’t hear me wrong, but it doesn’t necessarily change who we are. It is what we decide to do with that cup of coffee, letting it be a stepping stone into a day that is driven by strong character.
Matt Carpenter hears thousands of fans cheering, critiquing, booing, cussing at his every move for 162 games a year. They are all professionals, and have been trained to tune all of it out. But they are people too, and they know what is being said to them. He could’ve ignored me and my day still would have been incredible. But he chose to be valiant in that moment. He chose to recognize there was something a little bit bigger than himself in those minuscule instances, and make someone else’s day in the process.
Whatever you are doing this week, don’t let it slip your mind that the smallest of gestures has a lasting effect on those around you. You are never too strong, too famous, too weak, too insignificant, too lousy, too poor, too rich – you are never too anything – to be Valiant. Don’t let your cup of coffee define your character, let your character define valiant.
I ventured off on a drive to visit my girlfriend in San Luis Obispo for a few days, and that inevitably meant I had to spend a good portion of my drive on Highway 5. For any California resident, to put it politely, you know that is a less than glamorous experience.
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