I was lucky enough to be a part of my first Major League Baseball playoff game as a staff member this season, which was my eighth working in MLB. In my first six seasons, the teams I worked with failed to win as many as 70 games in any of those seasons. In my seventh year, my first with the Braves, we won 89 games, but finished one short of making the playoffs. This year, we won 94 games and lost in the first ever NL Wild Card game…you may have heard there was a bit of controversy in that one…
As I was reflecting on what I’ll take away from this season, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that winning the World Series is extremely difficult to do. We had a team that was good enough to win it all this year. We had a lot going for us, Kris Medlen and Tim Hudson leading a deep staff, a dominating closer in Craig Kimbrel, and Chipper Jones, an undisputed Hall of Famer, leading our team one last time. But it wasn’t meant to be for us.
I’ve watched the Nationals, the team with the best record in the Majors, fall to the Cardinals in the NLDS, the always powerful Yankees fall to Detroit in the ALCS. I remember how close the Rangers have been two years in a row, and I’ve thought of one of my strongest childhood memories, when I was in the right field bleachers the day my Angels were one strike away from beating Boston in the infamous Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS, and how the Red Sox had their own moment of horror in ’86. One team wins it every year, but this year, I’ve had my own firsthand opportunity to understand just how great an accomplishment it is to win the World Series, for every team that wins it any and every time they win it.
I’m also reminded today of a story from one of the first times I met Roland Hemond, one of the game’s living legends. Roland has been in baseball for over 60 years and was awarded the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Buck O’Neill award for lifetime achievement. It has been my honor to get to know Roland over my short time in baseball. In 2005, my first year with the Pirates, I was sitting with him at a game in Arizona. Someone asked if they could see his World Series ring he was proudly wearing on his right hand. He reached over the row of seats, extending his hand so the ring could be seen. It was smaller and simpler than the rings produced today. Roland told us it was from the 1957 Milwaukee Braves team. He then told us he had earned two World Series rings in all his years in the game…from the 1957 Milwaukee Braves and the 2001 Diamondbacks. This man had to wait 44 years between rings and those bookends to his career say so much about how much history passed between championships. He earned the first one with a franchise that has long since moved cities, the second with the newest addition to MLB. In the meantime, Ted Williams finished his career without ever playing a World Series game. Ernie Banks did the same. Our own Chipper won a ring in his first full season and would never win another. Roland would add a third ring that year, as a member of the Chicago White Sox front office. The White Sox last World Series championship before 2005? 1917.
In my reflection on the difficulty of winning the World Series, I’ve come up with two ideas that each of us can take with us in our pursuits of being the best, whether that’s as a player, a coach, a staff member, or outside of baseball. First is that preparation is truly important, and second, that perspective is essential. Every game is important, every pitch could mark a turning point in a season or in a career. We must maintain our preparation to be ready to do our parts whenever we’re called upon. You may only get one chance to make that magic season possible. You have to look back your career and know that you did everything you could to make it happen. However, and this is where perspective comes in, if you’ve done your best, if you’ve given everything you have physically and mentally in order to accomplish your goal, you’ve got to be okay with the outcome. In my book, Intangibles, I’ve written a great deal about character and leadership, and included in this section of the book is my Character Development Inventory (CDI). One item on CDI asks players to rate themselves on how much they agree with the following statement in order to evaluate perspective:
“If I give the best that I have and it isn’t good enough to make it to the big leagues, I will be able to move on with no regrets.”
I see many minor leaguers who can’t understand how to wrap their brains around this concept. But you can’t live with regret and you can’t do anything more than your best! This is why having perspective is so important. Your job as a player is to do your best with every opportunity you have in the game and THEN, to walk away at the end of each day knowing there’s nothing else you could have done with your time and energy. If you can say that you gave everything you had to the game, you may or may not make it to the big leagues or win a World Series, but you’ll know that there was nothing else you could have personally done about it. I hope that provides you with some perspective if you’re watching the World Series at home this week. And I hope it provides motivation to prepare yourself for your next opportunity to achieve greatness, wherever that may be.
Geoff Miller’s book, Intangibles: Big-League Stories and Strategies for Winning the Mental Game — in Baseball and in Life, was released in August, 2012. For more information and free sample chapters, please visit:
For more information, please contact Geoff Miller at email@example.com.