April showers bring May flowers. They also usher in the Major League Baseball season as teams across the country suit up and take the field for the beginning of their summerlong campaign.
Fans look forward all winter to opening day. Some can’t wait that long and make the trek to Florida and Arizona to catch their favorite players gearing up for the season at spring training.
Being a true baseball fan is wrapped in nostalgia, tinted by memories of family and friends, and filled with reverence and a deep sense of tradition. It reminds me of the passion many in the learning industry have for their work. Baseball is not just a game to its most ardent fans. Being a chief learning officer is not just a job that pays the bills either.
In April, spirits run high in Chicago despite the fact that only twice in the past 100 years has one of our two teams ended the season a World Series champion — neither by my team of choice, the Cubs.
The 2005 season aside, when the White Sox under Ozzie Guillén took the title, the last manager to lead a Chicago team to baseball’s promised land was “Pants” Rowland, whose 1917 White Sox crew beat the New York Giants in six games.
Despite that success, Pants was fired one year later after clashing with team owner Charles Comiskey. The new manager, Kid Gleason, took over a talented team that once again made it to the World Series in 1919. But this time they weren’t so successful, losing in eight games to the Cincinnati Reds.
That wasn’t Kid’s fault, though. Eight of his best players were eventually banned from baseball for life after it was revealed they were involved in a fix to intentionally lose games in exchange for a payoff from gamblers. Those players, including legendary outfielder “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, third baseman “Buck” Weaver and pitcher “Lefty” Williams, became known as the Black Sox.
And that tale of woe comes from the more successful of Chicago’s baseball teams. For their part, the Cubs haven’t made a World Series appearance since 1945 and haven’t claimed the league’s highest prize since 1908. Being a baseball fan in Chicago regardless of which team you root for is an exercise in patience. Some have given up.
I thought I did. For a couple of short seasons, I was an Arizona Diamondbacks fan. As I was finishing up graduate school in Arizona in 2001, it was hard not to be.
It was a strange and seductive feeling to watch a baseball team I cared about play meaningful late season games and win in dramatic fashion. I couldn’t help but become a fan. The feeling lasted into the next season, and I started to wonder if I’d lost my allegiance to the Cubs.
The question was settled as I watched my new favorites take the field to face my old team. The Cubs played terribly — striking out, dropping balls and racking up errors on their way to a forgettable loss. That futility aside, the stars in my baseball universe pivoted and realigned to their customary positions. It wasn’t logical and certainly wasn’t rational given the way the Cubs played but the fact remained. I’m a Cubs fan.
This month, many in the L&D community will take their own spring training trip to Florida. But they won’t be catching early season baseball. They’re headed to the Spring Chief Learning Officer Symposium in Miami from April 13 to 15.
The event theme, “Learning Intensity: Enterprise Education That Lasts,” aims to capture that feeling of lifelong commitment and passion that makes the CLO profession so special. There, and with the CLO Learning Elite gala on April 12, we’ll recognize the accomplishments of the learning industry’s leaders and celebrate the shared mission that brings us all together.
Every spring, we get the chance to rekindle that passion and look forward to a bright future. It’s a feeling long-suffering Chicago baseball fans can usually only wish for.