Conservation is more like baseball than you think

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You would have a hard time finding someone less interested in team sports than me. I’m probably one of the last people in Ohio to find out if the Cavs, Buckeyes, Indians, etc., won or lost.

Through osmosis, I have heard of various sports figures, of course, but I would rather be outside, doing something other than watching sports.

So my friends and family think it’s amusing that our 9-year-old son loves baseball. Therefore, I’ve become a baseball fan of sorts, and cheer for our little team like the other crazy mothers.

After one of my colleagues, who played minor league ball explained to me that the bullpen is where the pitchers warm up, not, umm, where bulls are penned, I’ve been trying to pay more attention.

And I can see how baseball is relevant to conservation efforts.

Wants to win

Let me take a swing at this. … Everybody on the team wants to win. Nobody shows up to a game hoping to lose.

Conservation efforts in Ohio involve a myriad of partnerships. From farmers and landowners to conservation districts to state and federal agencies, we all want to win by getting conservation on the ground and keeping water clean.

Like the 10U team, we are not in this for the money or the glory, but for the love of the game.

All the positions on the field are important. Sure, the infield might see more action, but the outfield had better be ready when there’s a big hit. All of the partners in conservation have a position to play, and if they are not playing it well, the team loses.

Not everyone agrees with the ump’s call. The Ohio conservation partnership has seen quite a few changes lately, with various legislative bills that affect the Lake Erie watershed and potentially change our partnership structure.

Making the calls

Some think the calls are good, and some think they are bad. Regardless, the call has been made and the game continues. It pays to have a strategy.

Before I became a baseball expert (insert laugh here), it all looked pretty random. But of course I see the coach’s strategy in the batting order, the pitching decisions and who plays what position.

Soil and Water Conservation Districts have strategic plans to focus on what’s important to each county’s needs.

Not every district has the same strategy, but we all share the same goal. Stay calm and focus. Our son is one of the 9-year-old pitchers, and the first time he ever pitched a ball was in March of this year, during evaluations.

His pitches are not fast, but he throws strikes fairly consistently. He has been put in the game in a couple of clutch situations and surprisingly, he’s cool as a cucumber.

He says he focuses on the catcher’s glove as his target, and tunes everything else out.

The conservation focus is on clean water and healthy soil. That’s what we all need to aim the ball toward. The coach has to take chances to score. Sometimes he sends a kid to steal home and scores. Sometimes he gets tagged. But he makes a decision, and when it doesn’t play out, Coach takes responsibility for it and tells the kid it was his fault.

The SWCD boards, as coaches, make decisions that they feel are good for the county.

Unhook the caboose

One of the dads recently yelled, “unhook the caboose!” as his kid was stealing second.

Because conservation issues can be complicated and involve so many partners, we can be slow in our delivery. Sometimes farmers and landowners are slow in making decisions.

Sometimes we wait for cost share, and think there is no conservation that can be done without it. But if we unhook the caboose and get moving, we can score more runs.

And then go out for ice cream to celebrate.

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Michelle Wood is the program administrator for the Holmes Soil and Water Conservation District. She is a graduate of Mount Union College with a degree in communications, and has been involved in natural resources and agriculture throughout her career.

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