Just a quick thought.
Many articles, posts etc have been written about traits that make a player successful. Being tall, fast or left handed for example. Having a great work ethic and a love for the game. In my humble opinion one of the most important traits is also one of the least talked about…
Baseball is a game a failure. As we all know a great outing can be followed by a train wreck. Sometimes a guy can do everything right and go 0-4 or give up 5 runs in an inning. It can be a vexing game. My son played 3 years of Varsity baseball. Of all the guys he played with only two (not counting him) are still playing baseball in college. All of the guys who won Team MVP honors or All State honors have washed out. For many of them when they got to college it was first time they ran into failure in the game. Many of them folded up when they ran into challenges. The two that are still playing barely got on the field in high school. By the time they went off to college they had failed and come back. They had been humbled.
The one kid, a LHP who was throwing mid 60’s in high school (very frustrating because he comes from a family with several pro players and his cousin is the closer for an MLB team) was put down by coaches, teammates, travel ball coaches etc. No one thought he would make a college team (he is about 77 or so now). He has been cut twice, but, has stuck on two teams as well. First a junior college and now a D2 program. He is off for his Junior year now.
Humility allows a player to deal with both success and failure. To realize there are players with much better skills and natural ability. Humility allows that player to have a bad game and not blame the umps or the weather. To take a beating and go back to work the next day. Humility allows that player to accept his role and embrace it…to find places to improve and contribute without feeling slighted about not being “the man”. Humility allows a player to support his teammates while still trying compete with them. Most importantly perhaps, humility allows a player to realize it is still a game and a part of life, not life itself. Humility allows a player to keep his love of playing and the love of the game in tact even if at times it is frustrating and discouraging.
Stay humble guys, be thankful and work hard.
Just a quick thought.
Reading this—with great pleasure—I was reminded of one of Ed Lopat’s most salient characteristics: the way he would put things in perspective. I was talking with him one day and I commented that I knew he didn’t win every game he pitched, that he lost some now and then, and I wondered how he would react to this. His reply—and I will never forget this—was “I know I’ve lost games here and there, but how I would react depends on the loss. I’ve been belted around, 8-0, 9-3, 11-2—but although I didn’t like it, I wasn’t all that upset by it because all those scores told me was that I just didn’t have my good stuff on those days. What really got to me was the close ones—2-1, 3-2—and after one of those defeats I would sit in the locker room and chew myself out for letting the game get away from me! It’s at times like that I would wish I had just gone fishing—like the time I lost to Detroit, 3-2, and there was no living with me after that game.” He had been humbled,all right, but he chose to chalk it up to the baseball demons; he said he stank on hot ice those times but the next time he pitched he won 7-0 and started a new win streak. What he was telling me really stayed with me—as did everything else he told me and showed me. What an incredible pitcher—and pitching coach—he was. That was one of the things for which I will remember him forever.
Humility is a noble character trait, admirable on all fronts. BUT, carry that personality into highly competitive baseball, and you’ll be eaten alive - literally.
The world of highly competitive baseball does not take kindly to failure as a teacher, nor as a comfort zone in the lockers. In highly competitive baseball it’s a me-myself-n-I world, survive or get out of the way.
I have no exceptions to ***fearsomefour’***s post. I honestly believe it has its place and placed well with youth ball. However, high school varsity on up, with clubs that’ll literally beat your brains out on the skins, humility is best left on the bus, lace those spikes up tight, compete within the rules - not play, and you’ll do fine.
Now there are many unspoken rules in baseball, all to be observed with the utmost care. Like Zita pointed out with Lopat, a fine gentleman in every respect and respect had it’s place back then. But even Lopat wasn’t the nicest guy to be around at times - he had his moments. But he knew of many protocols in this game (business) and he was wise not to overstep his bounds therein.
I strive to teach my son to deal with failure in the same way he deals with success- it’s part of the game. It doesn’t mean you like it. It doesn’t mean you are OK with failure. You hate failing but only for a second. A strike out is a learning lesson. A hit is just one instance when you won the battle- next time you won’t be so lucky; then what do you do? You hit a HR? Treat it like you expected it- no whooping and hollering. Ground out to SS? Sprint to first, run to the dugout, get your glove and be ready to make a play in the field. Spend much time in anger and I guarantee you that you will fail again.
My son was working the the guy who we occasionally work with when his hitting is off. He’s a former D1 All American, and former HS coach. We were talking and he said to my son: “College scouts don’t care when you succeed. They want to see you fail and how you handle it.” My son looked at me, and at that moment I saw the twinkle in my son’s eye that let me know he realized old dad might know a little more than he thinks I do at times.
Outstanding posts to both 2022dad and fearsomefour. Character building and those things that make the maturity factor in a young man are his cornerstone. My remarks from time to time misplace this quality of thought and presence- between the amateur world and the non-amateur game. In every respect, there is no substitute for this quality, humility, in a young man - none.
I was speaking really to young guys, amateurs in my post.
The vast, vast majority of players are not going to play pro ball or even college ball. The “other things” the game can teach should be valued. Competitivness, confidence, humility, friendship ect. These things make up a good part of the youth game up into high school and should be valued. These lessons can stay with a person through out their life. When my son gets together with the guys he played high school ball with or they come to one of his games or scrimmages it is about friendships that were build during long losing seasons in high school, on the field and in the club house. Dealing with adversity, bad coaches, losing games ect.
A few of my sons high school teammates (7 or 8) thought they could play after high school, several attempted (4 or so), 2 are still playing. Several hit actual competition when they got to college and wanted no part of it. Being in a mid sized city and zoned for a high school that has generally pretty bad sports program they thought they were better than they were. All-Stars in little league and starting as sophomores in high school sort of led them astray. When they got to a small college in California and realized…whoa, I am one of seven short stops here and all of them were All Conference where they played…at a level that was better than where I was…yikes. They turned tail and ran back home. So, in a lot of ways it is better to face some struggles and be humbled early on I think.
My sons college had their first fall games yesterday versus a semi pro team. The age range on the semi pro team was 20-40 something. About half ex pros and half ex college guys. You could tell the ex pros because they could directionally hit pretty well and had wood bat power. My son was pitching second. Each pitcher got 40 pitches, fastball and change ups only. My son was looking forward to this because he has been working on his change up quite a bit. He has always been a lefty with middling FB speed and would rely on the nasty curve to put guys away. He spend a lot of this last summer really trying to develop some velocity and working on getting his change to the point where he could throw it the way a guy should…middle of the plate to get swings. Anyway, he was at 34 or so pitches, 8 up and 8 down with 2 Ks. Cruising, he was going to get 3 hitless innings out of 40 pitches, pretty good. He ran the next batter to a 1-2 count, then the wheels came off. 4 straight hits. Including 2 doubles that ended up scoring 3 runs. He hit his pitch limit and came off, tossing the ball to another pitcher. He was not happy. He was pissed for a couple of minutes and knowing him I know he was stewing about it. Not remembering the 8 former D1 and pro hitters he controlled but the last couple that barreled up some pitches. After his required running he was coming up to the stands (his team plays at a field with one of those old fashioned wood grandstands with the cover and all that, pretty neat) to track pitches. I was watching him walk up from my perch in the stands. He noticed an older gentleman with a cane walking to the nearby parking lot carrying a couple of bags of stuff from the concession stand. He stopped, took the bags for the gentleman and carried them to his car for him, put them in his trunk, shook his hand and then ran to the grandstand (so the coach wouldn’t be wondering where the heck he was I am sure). That is what I mean by humility. It is a small thing, in the grand scheme it doesn’t even register. But, to care about the game, to have fun and play hard and compete, but, still realize there is life and people outside of what you are doing or how you are feeling in a particular moment. That is all I meant really.
All of feel good stuff aside, my son did get some good advice from a friend of ours that played 18 years of pro ball all over the globe. “The last game you play just for the fun of it is your last game in high school. After that, it is a business. For someone if not for you. For the coach who is earning a living. For the school or club that is selling tickets and merchandise. It is a business and you should treat it as such.”
I was speaking really to young guys, amateurs in my post.
Yeah, I kind-a figured that.
That wraps it up nicely.
Oh, I’ve seen Steady Eddie in his “moments”—such as when he would lose by one of those close scores, or when he would get on his teammates for lollygagging or otherwise falling down on the job—and some of them were pretty funny,while others were dead serious! But when he was working with a pitcher, he was calm and matter-of-fact, often with a wacky sense of humor—such as when I told him about the “BUG”; whenever we would discuss my strikeouts, which was a good deal of the time, that creature would enter the picture. It’s interesting to note that in the beginning, while he was in the minors, he was prone to fits of temper and at times threatened to go through the roof, but his wife and his physicians got him back on track, and by the time he joined the White Sox he was known for an almost preternatural calmness on the mound—and this was what I saw about 95% of the time when I saw him pitch. Let’s face it, he was human, just like the rest of us, and it was that humanity that made him what he was—a great pitcher with a great team for 7 1/2 years.
good post. I figured I’d turn the compost pile over a bit for this one.
BTW, where’s Zita?
Have been wondering that too…along with Coach Baker…
The most important pitching trait is composure because you can’t function without composure we one our championship to go to state because our ace was on a pitch count limit of 50 pitches and we wanted to save him for state and I threw my 4th best pitcher in the 4th inning and he gave up a home run and the score was 2 to 4 we were down and they didn’t get a hit for the rest of the game and he came with a walk- off grand slam and we on the game 6 to 4
From my experiences I would say work ethic for sure