Another tough game this Sunday, you might say another in a long line of anothers this season.
I’ve been reading and referring to The Mental Game of Baseball, a lot this season. It’s a great book, chocked full of “what it takes” and then backing it up with several stories from the pro’s who’ve been there. Most of this I’ve been attempting to teach my son and daughter since they were about seven and for the most part I think they get it, though being only fourteen, they’ll sometimes fall short. How you attempt to convey this and more to a ball team in six months has proven difficult, but I guess it’s better to try and fail than to have failed to try.
One part of the book deals with preparation, and specifically in this example, one’s attitude and how that impacts preparation and thus performance on the field (and beyond).
Ozzie Smith is thought by some to be the best fielding shortstop in baseball history. His numerous Gold Gloves, his soaring, spinning, whirling, diving plays have certainly impressed all who have watched him. Second baseman Tommy Herr was most impressed by Smith’s consistency.
“What is overlooked about Ozzie,” Herr said before the 1985 World Series, “is that he always makes the routine plays. Most guys can make a lot of good plays, and a lot of guys can sometimes make a great play, but they’ll blow the easy ones, and that hurts a team. But Ozzie has tremendous powers of concentration. He won’t take the easy ones for granted.”
Smith responded to Herr’s assessment: “Because I wasn’t born with a lot of size, I’ve had to maybe work harder than some others. Or concentrate harder. You play the way you practice, and so I just don’t go out in infield practice for the sake of taking some ground balls. I have a purpose in what I’m doing out there — testing the infield bounces, working on my moves.”
Smith gives complete attention to every ground ball hit to him in practice. There are many infielders not “born with a lot of size,” who don’t practice the way Smith does. And some are born with a lot of size. Physical size isn’t the issue. Smith and others like him are giants. They’re the “big men” in the league of the mental game.
“My mother told me that if you don’t put anything into something, you won’t get anything out,” Smith explained. “I want to look back and say, ‘I got everything out of all I had.'”
No one can have a higher goal. It’s difficult to know if we ever attain it. But we are successful if we can honestly say, “I did everything I could to get there…” We then have no regrets, and we don’t have to mouth the familiar phrase of failure, “If only I would have …”