He Gets on Base

(This is the second in a series on wisdom from baseball co-written with Mark Stanifer.)

Moneyball. Seen it (released 2011)? Read it (published 2003)? If your answer is no, go ahead and hit pause on whatever you’re doing, including reading this post, and get that done.

Yes, it’s that good.

If you’re a baseball fan, it’s a no-brainer. If you’re a movie fan, it received six Oscar nominations. If you love one liners, there are a plethora. So pardon my repetition, but if you haven’t watched or read it, you must.

Besides the one liner “Who’s Fabio,” one of the more memorable lines is when Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) asks Peter Brand (Jonah Hill) repeatedly why the scouts should consider several players that they otherwise weren’t. The answer over and over again was, “He gets on base.”

Beane and Brand were referencing principles based on sabermetrics, something not widely done at that time across Major League Baseball. Although it had its beginnings in the middle 20th century, sabermetrics had not been embraced by traditionalists. Beane and Brand were challenging tradition.

They didn’t care how the batter got on base; they just knew that the only way to win was scoring runs, and you can’t score runs without getting on base. If the batter is willing to take a walk, he still gets on base. If the homerun king hits a single rather than a homerun, he still gets on base.

This sounds fairly simple. But as a guy who had a whomping one hit all season in the only little league season I ever played, I can attest that getting on base is not simple. It requires several things. Several of those things are applicable to life, to what it takes to be considered worthy of the scout’s attention. Here is a short list.

Patience

Swinging at every pitch will not get you on base. Waiting for the right pitch takes discipline. Discipline and patience are teammates. It takes discipline to learn how a pitcher thinks, understand the rhythms of the game, and commit to the strategy of the manager. And this learning, understanding, and committing will require patience. The hitter who can grow in their patience at the plate and get on base will also grow in their value to the team.

Sacrifice

Every at bat is not a heroic moment. Just because you have home run capabilities doesn’t mean every swing has to be for the fences. Sometimes your ego must be checked by being satisfied with a single that gets that player in scoring position across home plate. A valuable player pursues humility and gets on base however he can.

Focus

Monumental, game-changing at bats often happen in a game. The at bat becomes a mind game or a cat-and-mouse exchange. When a normal at bat of four or fives pitches moves into double digits, the batter takes the upper hand. Why? Because he has made the pitcher see his focus. This out is not going to be easy. The hitter who can stay focused, deal with whatever pitch is thrown, raises their chances of getting on base.

The player who illustrates this so well for my team (Go Cards!) this season is Tommy Pham. As of the writing of this post, Pham leads the team in six of the twelve batting categories. His story? He was drafted in 2006 but didn’t make his big league debut until 2014 at age 26. For eight years he was working on getting on base. When he was brought up, he didn’t immediately have success. But he kept working at getting on base. So much so that this year is his most successful year, by far. Not only does he lead his team in six categories, he also is among the highest in several categories in all of baseball; in one category he’s seventh. Want to take a guess at which one? OBP-On Base Percentage.

Paul wrote in Colossians 3:23, “whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” Heartily means “from the core of one’s being.” Whatever our position-dad, husband, employer, son, leader, follower-God has given it to us. All he asks of us is to do it well, mean business, you might say, get on base. Each time it’s your turn to pick up the bat, approach the plate prepared to get on base. Grow in patience, practice sacrifice, and harness focus so when you stand before God he can say, “Good job. You kept getting on base.”

Baseball Series

Recently, my friend Mark Stanifer invited me to join him in a blog series sharing thoughts about life through the lens of baseball.  Of course I said yes.

So this is going to be a nine-post series, you know, because there are nine innings in a game.  But I have to confess, I’m getting you into the game late.  Why?  Because two posts have already been published.

So for those who don’t like getting to the game late, bear with me.  Here is a link to “inning one” that Mark posted last week.  Tomorrow, I’ll post “inning two,” which was posted on Sunday.

Feel free to subscribe to Mark’s blog, and you’ll see these upon publication as Mark posts them each Sunday.  I will try to do better to keep you “in the game” a little better for the remaining seven innings.

Go Cardinals!

 

The Phenomenon (Book Recommendation)

You don’t have to be a Cardinals fan, not even a baseball fan, to enjoy this book. Here are 5 reasons why:

  1. It’s a true story about overcoming obstacles in life
  2. It’s a look at the professional athlete’s world that feels like any other person’s world
  3. It’s a story of perseverance
  4. It’s written well, written to keep your attention, and written emotionally honestly
  5. It contains life lessons for all of us, whether we are the struggler or the one walking with the struggler

“If a tire goes flat, does the reason matter?” @TheeRickAnkiel #thephenomenon

Here’s some people who should read this book:

  • Those directly impacted by anxiety disorders
  • Those working with young adults with high potential
  • Those coaching clients through life-altering seasons and incidents
  • Those addressing family-orientation obstacles
  • Those who are trying to answer the question, “What are you going to do?”

“All I had to do was look up. All I had to do was stop the fear from rising.” @TheeRickAnkiel #thephenomenon

“How Could You Not Be Happy For Them?”

It started yesterday when I got to the office. People who I’d never heard talk about the Cubs were suddenly all about them. It takes just one look into my office to know I root for the other team – the Cardinals. We (they) had fun with it, and we moved on.

Since I’ve been home the last 24 hours, I’ve been soaking in all the post-series bonanza. All the tweets and videos. Rewatching some of the game on mlbnetwork. And then taking in three hours of the parade coverage today. Yeah, you read that right. This Cardinals fan watched three hours of it. Never watched any parade for three hours. It was a wonderful way to spend a portion of a day off (no sarcasm).

I texted a friend, who somewhere in his fanhood deserted the Yankees (excellent move) and became a Cubs fan, to see if he was watching the parade coverage. He was working, and the answer was “no.” I had yet to text him since the game, so I told him I was happy for them – Cubs nation. Here was his reply:

I don’t know how you can’t be. Even if you are a Cards fan. At least for them to get one finally.

Four hours of thought later, here’s my answer. You could not be happy for them if…

  • …you believe the sports world revolves around “your” team
  • …you think people make just way too much on how championships impact a community
  • …you stink at celebrating
  • …you are challenged in the “rejoice with others” category of living
  • …you have little respect for other’s genuine feelings, even when you don’t share them

After taking in all the bonanza, with more to come, here’s why I am happy for them:

  • This victory was not about the team as much as it was about the people of Chicago
  • This franchise was not about themselves as much as they were about the people of Chicago
  • The team leaders love the game, love each other, and love the people of Chicago
  • The fans love the game, love their team, but more importantly love their families
  • All of Chicago seems united from the victory fostered by patience, suffering, and faith

Come Spring, I’ll still be a Cardinals fan. Like the Sox fan who lost a bet and had to don a Cubs jersey on TV, I don’t want to feel dirty. But today, I am happy for Cubs nation. How could I not be?