8 Things Baseball Can Teach Us About Life
Clouds gave way to clear skies as my mom dropped me off at my first baseball practice. The field was freshly cut and the infield’s rock-hard gravel was meticulously groomed. My mom thought it might be good idea to expose her 5 years old boy to a team sport.
When I showed up at the diamond, I knew almost nothing about baseball. My dad spent his free time hunting, fishing, and boating. He didn’t show any interest in team sports. Any knowledge of the great game was not passed down to me through the customary, paternal gene. The only thing I really knew about the game was that the pitcher pitched, the batter hit, and the fielders caught the ball with a glove.
When I arrived I was assigned to be a runner at 1st base. After the ball was hit, I remember running to second base where I was kindly greeted by a fellow teammate yelling, “You’re out!” Looking at him blankly as if he were speaking some kind of foreign language; not knowing what to do, I stayed on the base.
I had come to realize my baseball brethren had been prestigious alumnus of a vaunted class the year before, tee-ball. I was way behind!
Since that day, I took to studying the game. I have learned a lot. Still to this day I enjoy watching it live or on TV. On Thursday nights in the summer you can find me dusting off the ol’ spikes and heading out to the softball field to play in a rec league with friends.
It’s funny how a simple game with a stick and ball can teach you about life. Here is what I have learned.
1. Baseball and life are team sports
You can’t be the pitcher, catcher, and the fielders. You need a team to win the game. You also can’t hit a grand slam if no one can get on base. You need people to support you, teach you, and help you along the way. It’s nearly impossible to play catch by yourself. It’s important to know what your role is on the team and how to execute it impeccably.
2. Never be too high or too low
Every hitter is faced with streaks and slumps. The sweet spot is right in the middle. The season is long and everyday is a grind and baseball is played by professionals at the top of their game.
Good players understand that if they put in the work off the field and give their attention fully on the field that the statistics will skew in their favor.
3. Bust out of any slump by taking a swing
The Pittsburgh Pirates great, Roberto Clemente, was resolute that the way to break out of a slump at the plate was to make sure you got at least three solid hacks at the ball every at bat.
He opined that with 4 at-bats in a game, the percentages shifted your way. The simple math would give you 12 chances a game and all you needed was one good crack with the bat on the ball to get a hit.
Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM, reinforces this notion with the following quote. “If you want to increase your success rate, double your failure rate.”
In baseball as in life you can either take the extra swings or rot on the bench, the choice is up to you.
4. It doesn’t take a home run to start a rally
Sometimes it’s a bunt, a walk, or a single that starts or continues a rally. Many times a home run can kill a rally by taking the pressure off of a pitcher and clearing the bases. The game is played differently when runners are on base. With runners present, fielders take different defensive positions to hold runners in place. Also, the defenders will stay close enough to the bases to force a double play. The fielder’s attention is divided between the runners and batters. Runners change the strategy and apply pressure to the defense. Just like in life as in baseball, consistent pressure can make the biggest difference.
5. Home runs are a bonus not a goal
Don’t live everyday with a home run in mind. I’m not advocating to “play small.” Celebrate the grand slams and walk-offs as they come, but know that the season is won and lost by hits, walks, stolen bases, and runs scored. Although, putting the ball over the fence does feel good, winning the game feels better. The real glory is in winning.
6. There’s always tomorrow
So, you donned the golden sombrero today. You struck out 4 times, but tomorrow is a new day. You can hit the showers knowing you gave it your best. The season is 162 games long and it’s a marathon not a sprint.
7. Failures lead to successes
If you fail 6 out of 10 times and you have a long enough career, there is a good chance you are going to Cooperstown. In baseball when a streak or slump goes long enough or there is a statistical mismatch, things tend to eventually even out. You’ll often hear the commentators lament, “He’s due.” Meaning that the course will eventually correct itself and the statistic will be accurately represented.
8. Don’t settle for the minor leagues
No professional ball player has ever said, “I think I’ll just settle into a Class A team and ride out my career here.” as they were moving up the ranks. No, the dream is of the big leagues, the big payday, and the glory of winning the World Series.
Baseball may just be a simple game played by kids with a stick and ball, but there is a lot of wisdom we can glean from this great game.
What have you learned from your favorite games? Leave me a note in the comment section below.