One of my favorite pieces of writing is a very short story called "Yours" by Mary Robison. (Please go read it, because I’m about to give away the best part, and you’ve read restaurant menus that were longer than this.) The story is a snapshot into a day among newlyweds Clark and Allison as they are carving pumpkins; Clark is much older than Allison, a retired doctor and a "Sunday watercolor painter." Allison tells him how much better his pumpkins are than hers, and later we get this moment, a set of sentences that have haunted me all of my adult life:
At the telephone, Clark had a clear view out the back and down to the porch. He wanted to get drunk with his wife once more. He wanted to tell her, from the greater perspective that he had, that to own only a little talent, like his, was an awful, plaguing thing; that being only a little special meant you expected too much, most of the time, and liked yourself too little. He wanted to assure her that she had missed nothing.
On the surface, Logan Morrison does not make sense as a favorite Mariner, for lots of reasons, but especially for me. I am a cat person; Logan Morrison is the human embodiment of a Labrador. He is goofy and garrulous, and when he’s not smirking a little doggy smirk he literally has his tongue hanging out of his mouth. I imagine he spends his off days chasing balls into clearings and leaping joyfully into nearby streams. Looking at LoMo, it is impossible to imagine a career for him other than baseball player or yeoman farmer; one becomes concerned his body, confined indoors for too long, would run out of its necessary supply of chlorophyll and free-range air and he would flop around on the parquet, glassy eyes searching wildly for a grassy expanse. Logan Morrison was born to play baseball.
There is just one teeny-tiny problem with that: Logan Morrison isn’t a great baseball player. And this is where the "favorite" part enters in. Because for me, too, mediocrity has been the flavor of my daily bread. I have measured myself against the greats and found my own work wanting. No, not just wanting, embarrassing—small, misshapen bits and tatters strewn about other writers’ rose gardens. The more you do something because you have a talent, the more that gulf opens between where you are and where you want to be, and the journey there can feel interminable, impossible.
In six seasons in the majors, Logan Morrison has stepped up to the plate 2,088 times. This number, of course, doesn’t include the incalculable other times: in Little League, in high school, in college, in batting practice after batting practice. For this work, Logan Morrison has been rewarded with 513 hits and a batting average that hovers right under .250. To own only a little talent is an awful, plaguing thing.
But. Included with the box in which you received your tiny, mewling talent, you also got an equally tiny bell or ember or chip or however you want to imagine it. (They do not always tell you this because things get hectic at the talent-factory. Like us, they’re all just doing the best they can.) What this little bell/ember/chip does is it will pester the hell out of you until you do something, anything, with that scrawny little mess of rag and bone. Some of these devices are very advanced and you won’t even know you’re doing it but suddenly you have drawn the woman sitting across from you on this conference call from three different perspectives; you have worked out two solid minutes of jokes while you ran on the treadmill at the gym; you have hummed your daughter a song while you washed her hair. Your talent will find you out. It will hunt you down. It will demand you tend to it.
"If that didn’t go out, I was probably just going to quit."
On May 8, 2015, the Seattle Mariners played the Oakland Athletics. It was a Friday, the Mariners were so far under-delivering on their promised magical season, and Safeco was sparsely populated that night. Early on, the game was a baby pitcher’s duel, with Taijuan Walker and Sonny Gray fighting it out with one run apiece until Tai surrendered a two-run dinger to human oil derrick Josh Reddick. People became very interested in what else downtown Seattle offers on a Friday night. Logan Morrison forgot how many outs there were because sometimes the Labrador within him seizes control, Ratatouille-style. Mike Zunino struck out approximately seventy billion times. Kyle Seager made a great defensive play that was mostly lost in a sea of ineptitude, and then later had a chance to put the Mariners ahead in the seventh, when Brad Miller and Robinson Cano hit back-to-back doubles that tied the score and bore aloft the hopes of Mariner fandom (scoring with RISP! slump-breaking! the turnaround starts now!) for a few shining moments before Tony Randazzo crushed them under his meaty heel by calling Kyle out with a strike zone apparently located in Alpha Centauri. The Mariners bullpen, which was just then seeing the emergence of Mark Lowe and Carson Smith, managed not to blow the tie, and so free baseball, because you get what you pay for. As Jake pointed out in his recap, the Mariners had already been walk-off losers five times by that point in the season. Five times. In early May. Ah, we had some fun last year, didn’t we? The doctor says that twitch should disappear any day now.
But somewhere in the dugout, Logan Morrison heard a bell ringing (of course it was a bell, did you read the part about him being a Labrador or not). The thing about being largely average at the thing you feel compelled to do is that, once in a while, you will be not average. You will have very bad days where you recognize yourself as an insult to mankind and a stain on the face of humanity; and you will have good days, which for some reason don’t stick out as much. But if you have been a good steward of your little rag-and-bone bundle and obeyed the commands of the chip/bell/voice of your fourth-grade teacher to keep it alive, you might have a day like Logan Morrison did on May 8, 2015, and smoke a ball deep into the seats for your first career walk-off home run. You might round the bases and come home to find all your teammates there, arms flung wide and waiting for you, while your fans scream and whoop for you; you, average, wonderful you; you there, with your gift.