Baseball Magazine

Sometimes You Have to Pack the Parachutes

By Meachrm @BaseballBTYard

Sometimes you have to pack the parachutesI recently heard an inspiring true story from a friend/coach.   It goes like this …

Captain Charlie Plumb was a fighter pilot in the 60’s during the Vietnam War.  While on a mission, his jet was shot down.  He was able to eject but unfortunately for him, he had to parachute down into enemy territory.  He was quickly captured by the communist Vietnamese and sent to a prison camp.  He spent the next six years surviving as a POW under the Vietcong.

Several years after his release, Captain Plumb was eating in a restaurant with his wife when he noticed a man staring at him from a couple tables away.  He didn’t recognize the man and grew uncomfortable with the man who kept staring.  The man eventually got up and walked over to Plumb’s table and said “You’re Captain Plumb.  You flew jet fighters in Vietnam. You were on the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down. You parachuted into enemy hands and spent six years as a prisoner of war.

Captain Plumb responded with “Yes. I’m Captain Plumb. How in the world did you know all that?

The man replied, “Because, I packed your parachute.

Plumb apparently couldn’t sleep that night because he wondered how many times he walked by the man (and others like him) while on the ship before his final mission and hadn’t once given them the time of day.  The man literally saved his life and Plumb now realized that he never once thought about the guy who packed his chute let alone thanked him for it.  People undoubtedly thanked Plumb for his service and probably praised him for his bravery in handling his grueling captivity.  However, Plumb (and everyone else for that matter) never once thought about the man/men who made every event after being shot down possible … the guy(s) who properly and meticulously packed his parachute.

There are several take-aways from this story but here is one for the baseball world.

Sometimes, your job is to pack the parachutes.  Sitting on the bench and being a role player is the hardest job in baseball.  This is why role players at the MLB level are never young/rookie players.  The mental toll it can take to perform that role well can be overwhelming.  It takes an experienced and very emotionally mature person to handle that job.  Now imagine a 9 or 10 year old who has that role for the first time.  But in baseball, as in life, not everyone can be the glamorous pilot.  On any team there will be stars and there will be role players.  Everyone wants to be the star pitcher or the stud three hitter and get all the publicity and accolades.   Captain Plumb’s story reminds us that every role on a team has value.  It’s hard to take pride in activities that are never/rarely recognized but never lose sight of your value to your team.  

If you are currently a role player, keep working hard every day and maybe someday you can be the star.  

Until then … pack a mean parachute.

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