I was at the Braves game last night. While I was still waiting in line for peanuts, the Marlins scored three runs. They added another before I got settled in my seat. So before I was officially ready to watch the game, it was probably over.

But there was a silver lining. The Braves took out the starting pitcher, and another guy trotted onto the field. The stadium emcee announced him as “Sugar Ray Marimon“. Sugar Ray? Really? I got out my trusty iPhone and did some research. The Braves just called him up from the minors on Monday, and this was his first major league appearance. He is a distant cousin of Braves pitcher Julio Teheran. And, most importantly, Sugar Ray is his real name.

What struck me most about Sugar Ray Merimon is that he has pitched in the minor leagues for years. He has over 500 innings of work under his belt, and if you average that out, that’s probably about 100 games he’s pitched. On a 5 day pitching rotation, we’re talking YEARS, all spent getting ready for this moment.

I’m sure the first couple of years were exciting. Sugar Ray would go home to Colombia and hang out at the family reunion, sharing stories about going to America and playing professional baseball. But after a couple of years I bet it took a different feel.

I don’t know about Colombia, but in the Southern U.S., we have a phrase for that situation. It’s called Bless Your Heart.

I know this because I lived it for 10 years. I started a band right out of high school, and people thought it was cute. Fast forward a couple of years, when it’s time for me to start getting serious about my career options, and cute is quickly replaced by Bless Your Heart.

I had a couple of family reunion conversations that went something like this:

“Mark, how are your studies coming along at Georgia Tech?”
“I put school down for awhile. I got too busy with the band.”
“Well bless your heart.”

Or at my wedding reception:
“Stephanie, what does Mark do for a living?”
“He plays guitar in a band.”
“Well bless your heart.”

Many times on airplanes as I was traveling to a show, it was like this:
“Oh, you’re in a band. Where are you playing? The arena downtown?”
“No, we’re playing at a church. We do Christian music.”
“Well bless your heart.”

You see, Bless Your Heart is kind of a catchall phrase that sounds nice, but underneath the nice is something akin to “what an idiot”.

I’ve heard it said that there really isn’t a noticeable difference between someone who is pursuing a dream and a literal, certifiable, lock-you-up crazy person. The only way to tell is to just live it out. I guess at some point you either meet success or you get a big enough dose of critical feedback and you move on to the next thing. Or maybe you get locked up somewhere. I’m not sure how it goes exactly.

But maybe, just maybe, you break through. You get called up to the majors. And you will appreciate all the blessings your heart got along the way. Because it doesn’t get any easier. It’s a tough road and you need all the help you can get.

All the best to my new favorite player, Sugar Ray Marimon. I mean, his name is Sugar Ray. What’s not to love?

You don’t like it? Well bless your heart.