April 25, 2017 at 6:41 am, by Carl

Baseball is back.


Earlier this month, opening day kicked off for Major League Baseball.  For the past 141 years, baseball has been played as a profession, starting in 1871, the decade of Reconstruction after the Civil War.  Five years later several clubs organized into the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs.    You’ll find other years mentioned in relationship to baseball, mostly because there is a fog of historical evidence regarding it all from those years, but regardless, over these many years, the season of baseball has provided an example of what it takes to have a successful life.


From the start, the teams played several games across the spring and summer months.   Initially they would play about 50-70 games, but by by 1901 they were playing 154 games a year.  In 1961, with a major expansion, the total games played from April to September grew to 162 games.  It is this very long season that often has many non-fans complaining.  “The season is too long.”


If they don’t complain about this, then its usually “the game is boring and takes too long.”  I’ll admit as a fan, the games do take a long time.  Way back, they’d go through 9 innings in about 2 hours…now the average is over 3 hours.  Part of that, though, is because the game has no clock, which in our time-obsessed modern age seems silly.


In both the length of the game and the length of the season though is the reason baseball is a wonderful model for building a successful life.  Life also doesn’t really have a clock.  There’s no moment when you are “out of the game.”  When I wrote my book Success for Life, I made the point that “a successful life is composed of the many small decisions where a choice is Ade between greatness and cutting corners, between valor and what is easy.”


On opening day, I wore my Dodgers jersey to teach my classes.  One of my students admitted that he didn’t like baseball, both too slow or boring, but also that the season was too long.  I told him of my quote, adding that in baseball we can see that excellence isn’t just a momentary flash of brilliance.  A player could start out over the first weeks of the season with a very high batting average, maybe even as high as .500.  However, that same player could end the season with a very low overall average…the first few weeks of momentary excellence is not enough to overcome many months of poor performance.


Similarly, a team can have a period of games where they win several games, even going undefeated for several games.  Yet, that limited 10-20 games does not mean the team will be among the season’s best teams.  In order for the team or the player to be excellent at the end of the year, they must have prolonged excellence.  To be among the best, the person (or team) must take pains to ensure that every day they do all the little things to be at their best.  If a player gets a base hit in all of their at-bats on a given day, that does not mean they can quit working out or quit taking batting practice in subsequent days.


Somehow in our frantic frenetic pace over the past 2-3 decades, we’ve forgotten this lesson.  We want to wave a magic wand and lose 50 pounds.  We want to click our heels and eliminate $35,000 debt.  We want to use a wishing well to skip the academic work and just get our degree.  None of that works in the real world.  Instead, everything in life takes the same prolonged, sustained effort, aimed constantly at doing one’s best that baseball models for us.


Maybe you don’t like the sport either.  I challenge you, though, this year to watch a few games.  Realize when you watch the one game, that win or the loss, that hit or that strikeout does not tell you the whole story.  Life equally is not concluded or finalized with one shining moment or one tearful mistake.  The season is long, and you approach each day with eyes shining bright ready for another day of your very best.