Issue: 43
Marathon Buckets                                      
                                                              by Bill Hudson
My family recently gathered to celebrate my youngest son Will's 34th birthday. Will is now at the peak of his very productive life ... happily married, two young children (2 year old Kaila and six-month old Brooks), paying the mortgage on his house, and running his own business Hudson Shuffleboards ( which he started from scratch. When asked what is the one thing that he'd like for his birthday, he became thoughtful and said, "Field of Dreams!" I looked around the room at the faces of my other sons Brian, Joe, and Luke. We were all thinking the same. Field of Dreams nights were the best evenings of our lives and it would take all of us to recreate another one for Will.
My sons were all serious baseball players and our California backyard had been one large batting cage measuring 12 feet high, 70 feet long, and 10 feet wide. Spotlights shown down from the eaves of my house so my children and their friends could play at night. And they did .... every night. I did not have to buy a pitching machine. No sir, I had four of them throwing live batting practice every single day. They filmed each other pitching and hitting so they could review their form on the TV later that night. This was not competition. This was total commitment and total support for one another.
Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona. Not all holes or games are created equal.
                                                                         George F. Will
On weekends I took the boys across the street to Mile Square Park for fielding practice. There were 10 baseball diamonds to choose from. With 4 boys (and later my youngest daughter Sarah) active in baseball, the kids began to accumulate many baseballs. Soon we had two 5 gallon white buckets filled with 50 hardballs each. And we had a complete infield with a man at either third or short, another at second, a first baseman, and a catcher. I'd be hitting ground balls and pop-ups. Before I'd hit a ball, we would all yell the game situation "get one", "d.p.", "coming home", "hold the runner", "play's at third"....

And then it evolved. This customary method of practice was good, but slow. Why not just hit the entire bucket in rapid fire at one man? And with that thought, traditional infield practice became the Hudson "Marathon Bucket." Every 7 seconds, a man playing his preferred position was hit a baseball. He fielded it, threw it to the designated base, and sprinted back to his position hopefully in time to field the next one. And these weren't just ground balls hit in the fielder's general direction. It was a random combination of bunts, pop flies, line drives, grounders, and base hits that the fielder often could almost, but not quite, reach.  After only 6 minutes, that player had just fielded the amount of baseballs that other kids his age were getting in a full week. The boys were exhausted, but loved it and would ask for another bucket.

Then came that one unforgettable Sunday evening. The five of us (Brian 16, Joe 14, Luke 12, Will 8, and myself 44) had just finished an evening of Marathon Buckets as the sun had set ending a perfect weekend. We were sitting on the bleachers of the Little League field changing our spikes as it was near dark when Brian looked at the combination locks on the power boxes which controlled three sets of field lights. Brian said, "Wouldn't it be great if we could open one of those locks." And that's when Will pointed up and said "I think I can open that one." The unified response from all of us was something like "Impossible!" But Will said he watched his coach open it and he thought he knew the combination. Remember, this was coming from the mouth of an 8-year-old. With nothing to lose we lifted Will up to that Yale lock and watched as this freckle-faced kid started twirling the knob clockwise, then counterclockwise with his little fingers . He stopped on the "0", looked at us, yanked on the lock and ..... a miracle happened. IT OPENED!

I went to the panel, pulled a switch, and you could hear the "G u i s h" as the lights went on. And that became the first night of our weekly Sunday night "Field of Dreams." This was every dad's wish, being with his boys and loving every minute together playing baseball, our American pastime, under the lights. It was almost as if God Himself confirmed the significance of the event. It was a gift.
I watched my family grow in many ways through baseball, Marathon Buckets, and Field of Dreams' nights. I watched boys grow into men and brothers grow into lifelong friends. I saw how the lessons of sports are like road railings guiding us in life. And on the evening when Will made a birthday request to have one more Field of Dreams, I realized that those days will always remain special to our family.
I often think of the merits of applying the Marathon Bucket approach to other aspects of life such as art. If you want to get good at something, you have to do it and do it often. The Marathon Bucket is a concentrated dose. It may seem like punishment to some, but it rewards those who want to quickly achieve their best.
  • Brian was drafted out of high school by the Houston Astros.
  • Joe finished his baseball career after multiple injuries playing college ball.
  • Luke played for the University of Tennessee and made it to "The Big Leagues" pitching for the Cincinnati Reds and the Kansas City Royals.
  • Will played shortstop for Oregon State and played in the minor leagues for the New York Mets and Cincinnati Reds. I often called him "Brooksie" when he was taking Marathon Buckets because his soft hands reminded me of the great Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles. Will named his son Brooks.



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