Nine Principles of Baseball and Life
Baseball is about parents taking their children to local fields and teaching them the sport. Baseball is about the bonding of parents and children in the context of 150 years of history and the excitement of the infinite possibilities of summer. Baseball is about preseason practices, with everyone playing a variety of positions, no one keeping score, everyone energized, yelling, and engaged. Baseball is passing down an American legacy, reinforcing family love, teaching values and a way of life, sharing joy and triumph, sorrow and defeat. Baseball can illustrate and enhance the meaning in our lives. Baseball is only a distant cousin to organized games, all star tournaments, or names appearing in the local sports pages.
Do not blame teammates, umpires, coaches, fans, or the position of the moon for your performance. Take responsibility for what happens on the field. Stand up, make no excuses, refuse the excuses that others might offer you. Excuses get in the way of learning because mistakes are denied. Be accountable. Remember you are not expected to be a perfect performer. No one is. Baseball is not an easy game to play.
PLAY WITH HONOR.
Always hustle, run out every ground ball and pop up, encourage your teammates, especially after an error, bad pitch, or a strike out, carry yourself with pride and dignity. Do not in frustration throw equipment. Do not ridicule another team or an opposing player’s name, physical appearance, skill. Do not taunt. Do not distract an opposing player with low-level antics. Be positive with teammates. Never ridicule or criticize your teammates. They need your encouragement the most immediately after they have made a mistake. Show your teammates, your opponents, the entire world the values you hold dear by how you play.
Never Yield. Never Yield. Regardless of what the scoreboard says, you are never defeated unless you give up, unless you go belly up. No opponent can make you do this. Giving up is something you do. Regardless of what the scoreboard says, no opponent can extinguish the flame in your heart or crush the intensity of your will without your consent. Never surrender.
SLAY YOUR OWN DEMONS, THEN SLAY DRAGONS.
Ignore those things outside your control: the judgments of umpires, the conduct and ability of other teams, the weather, your amount of playing time, the final score (this is a tough one). Do not show frustration or disappointment. Do not allow your opponents to gain joy from your inability to cope with self-pity. Do not throw equipment or whine in anger or slump your shoulders. Such behavior impresses no one. Maintain your poise. Learn, prepare, and focus on the next event. We cannot change the past. Instead, we should focus on the next action with determination, joy, and resolve.
TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THOSE THINGS UNDER YOUR CONTROL.
Your effort, your attitude, your commitment, and your approach to the game are under your control. Be enthusiastic, play with great effort, conduct yourself appropriately, meet this opportunity with great joy. Listen to your coaches. Be alert, play smartly, know the signs. You are always accountable. How you react to situations and circumstances reveals the person you are and the person you might become.
PLAY THE GAME ONE PITCH AT A TIME.
Focus on the current pitch. If you are a pitcher, what are you throwing now and where? If you are a fielder, what are you going to do if the ball is hit to you? If you are a base-runner, what are you going to do on a fly ball, line drive, ground ball, to the right side, to the left side? If you are a batter, what are you trying to accomplish on this pitch? If you are on the bench, how are you helping your team be successful?
FOCUS ON BEHAVIOR, NOT OUTCOMES.
The results of your performance are not fully under your control. The other team may be very good, or very bad. The bounces may go your way, or not. But your behavior and approach are under your control. At the end of the game, you, perhaps only, know whether you gave 100%, whether you did all you could to help your team. Those players who did are winners, those players who did not are losers, regardless of what the scoreboard says. Winners take care of the things within their control, enjoy their participation, and are justifiable proud of their effort. Losers make excuses, lose their poise readily, wallow in self-pity, and surrender at the slightest sign of adversity.
THE BEST PLAYERS ARE THE BEST LEARNERS.
Players who are coach-able are always trying to learn more about being successful ballplayers and people. They listen and apply what their coaches and teachers suggest. Are you coach-able? If you are, you are a winner. If you are not, you are a loser, regardless of what the scoreboard says.
BE A JOYOUS WARRIOR!
Be enthusiastic, positive, give 100%, understand that relentless effort in the pursuit of excellence is its own reward. The joyous warrior exemplifies the slogan “No Retreat & No Surrender.” Win with humility, lose with dignity.
God grant me wisdom, to tell a strike from a ball, to know where to throw and never to fall.
Keep me always in the base line, running straight and true and I'll look for your sign, to stretch one into two.
God give me vision, to see every pitch so if a player needs help, then I will see which.
Let me always hustle, so I'll be at my best, take pride in myself, in sports and the rest.
God be my strength, when I throw the ball when I'm far from home plate, or against a wall.
So I never miss a base, please guide my feet, bring me home safely, so my job is complete.
When I help younger players, let me always give praise, so they'll see you in me, in all of my ways.
Please guide our coach, to be fair and smart, let him teach me to be good, let it come from his heart.
Let me take a loss, just as well as a win, to do any less, is surely a sin.
As long as I can play, let me make my parents proud, as proud as I am, when they yell my name out loud.
However my games end, let me always have fun, and if heaven has all stars, I'd like to be one.
When my games here are over and my seasons are done, let me play on your team, just like your son.
He pulls on a helmet, picks up his bat, and walks to the plate,"gotta hit and that's that." The crowd starts to yell, the game's on the line, last inning, two outs, the score's nine to nine. Dad yells,"Go get it,"Mom wrings her hands, coach hollers, "hit it," but alone there he stands. Heros are made in seconds such as this, but he's just a little boy, what if he should miss? Years after this game's ended and he's little no more, will he remember the outcome or even the score? No he'll have forgotten if he was out, hit, or a run, he'll only look back on his friends and the fun. So cheer this boy on, alone with his fate; help him remember with fondness this stand at the plate. Spend your time wisely and help in his quest to be a hitter with confidence and always his best. And when the game's over, this boy can stand tall, for you've helped him prepare to give it his all!
It's How You Play the Game That Counts
Donald Jenson was struck in the head by a thrown bat while umpiring a Little League game in Terre Haute, Indiana. He continued to work the game, but later that evening was placed in a hospital by a doctor. While being kept overnight for observation, Jenson wrote the following letter:
Dear Parent of a Little Leaguer:
I am an umpire. I don't do it for a living, but on Saturdays and Sundays for fun. I've played the game, coached it and watched it. But somehow, nothing takes the place of umpiring - Maybe it's because I feel that deep down I'm providing a fair chance for all the kids to play the game without disagreements and arguments. With all the fun I've had, there is still something that bothers me about my job. . . . Some of you folks don't understand why I'm there. Some of you think I'm there to exert authority over your son or daughter. For that reason, you often yell at me when I make a mistake, or encourage your son or daughter to say things that hurt my feelings.
How many of you really understand that I try to be perfect? I try not to make a mistake. I don't want your child to feel that he got a bad deal from an umpire.
Yet no matter how hard I try, I can't be perfect. I counted the number of calls I made in a six-inning game today. The total number of decisions, whether on balls and strikes or safes and outs, was 146.
I tried my best to get them all fight, but I'm sure I missed some. When I figured out my percentage on paper, I could have missed eight calls today and still got about 95 percent of the calls right . . . . In most occupations that percentage would be considered excellent. If I were in school, that grade would receive an "A" for sure.
But your demands are higher than that. Let me tell you more about my game today.
There was one real close call that ended the game . . .a runner for the home team was trying to steal the plate on a passed ball. The catcher chased the ball down and threw to the pitcher covering the plate. The pitcher made the tag and I called the runner out.
As I was getting my equipment to leave, I overheard one of the parents' comments: "It's too bad the kids have to lose because of a rotten umpire. That was one of the lousiest calls I've ever seen."
Later at the concession stand, a couple of kids were telling their friends, "Boy, the umpires were lousy today. They lost the game for us. "
The purpose of Little League is to teach baseball skills to young people. Obviously, a team that does not play well in a given game, yet is given the opportunity to blame that loss on an umpire for one call or two, is being given the chance to take all responsibility for the loss from its shoulders.
A parent or adult leader who permits the younger player to blame his or her failures on an umpire, regardless of the quality of that umpire, is doing the worst kind of injustice to that youngster. . . . Rather than learning responsibility, such an attitude is fostering an improper outlook toward the ideals of the game itself. The irresponsibility is bound to carry over to future years.
As I sit here writing this letter, I am no longer as upset as I was this afternoon. I wanted to quit umpiring. But fortunately, my wife reminded me of another situation that occurred lust week.
I was behind the plate, umpiring for a pitcher who pantomimed his displeasure at any call on a borderline pitch that was not in his team's favor. One could sense that he wanted the crowd to realize that he was a fine, talented player who was doing his best to get along, and that I was a black-hearted villain who was working against him.
The kid continued in this vein for two innings . . .while at the same time yelling at his own players who dared to make a mistake. For two innings, the manager watched this - When the kid returned to the dugout to bat in the top of the third, the manager called him aside.
In a loud enough voice that I was able to overhear, the lecture went like this: "Listen, Son, it's time you made a decision. You can be an umpire, or an actor, or a pitcher. But you can only be one at a time when you're playing for me. Right now it is your job to pitch, and you are basically doing a lousy job. Leave the acting to the actors, the umpiring to the umpires, or you won't do any pitching here. Now what is it going to be?"
Needless to say, the kid chose the pitching route and went on to win the game. When the game was over the kid followed me to my car. Fighting his hardest to keep back the tears, he apologized for his actions and thanked me for umpiring his game. He said he had learned a lesson that he would never forget.
I can't help but wonder. . . how many fine young men are missing their chance to develop into outstanding ballplayers because their parents encourage them to spend time umpiring, rather than working harder to play the game as it should be played.
The following morning, Donald Jenson died of a brain concussion.