By DJ Ramirez |
How would you describe baseball?
Those who understand the game for what it really is know that baseball is a lot like life.
In life you fail, you make mistakes and you move on. In baseball, you strike out more often than you hit. Sometimes you make bad throws, give up home runs or don’t execute plays, but you learn from your mistakes and move on to the next at bat.
It’s a mental game and it requires a certain kind of mentality- a winning mentality. One that begins in learning from failure.
According to Ryan Hebdon, a student manager for Baylor University’s baseball team, the best thing a player can do is focus on the moment in front of them because the turnaround for baseball during the season is much quicker than in other sports.
“Baseball players have this tendency, and they should, to take it one game at a time literally,” Hebdon said. “In football you have a week to really analyze what happened, why did you lose, and really look into the numbers and stuff. In baseball you have a game sometimes within twelve hours of your last loss and so you literally say, ‘Hey, it is what it is. It happened,’ and know what you did wrong and how you can improve the next day.”
So, how do you find success in a game where it’s difficult to win?
You rely on other people.
Even more important than understanding failure is understanding that baseball is a team sport, so success more often comes from buying into a team mentality. Even though at the end of the day there is only room for nine players out on the field, that does not mean that any player is more valuable than another. The most important thing about buying into that team mentality is knowing that everyone has a part to play, whether they are on the field or in the dugout.
No one understands this better than Richard Cunningham, a fifth-year outfielder for Baylor baseball. Cunningham sat out his true freshman year not because he was hurt, but because mentally he hadn’t yet earned his spot on the field.
“You want to talk about humbling and driving some patience up inside of you? Watching 50 something games from the bench is tough. And you know guys here will have the same experience,” Cunningham said. “So, you have to understand that everyone does have a contribution to make. I mean are you a guy that gives energy and life and provides a lift to the team? Or are you a drain? Do you suck from the overall goal of the team because you’re so wrapped up in your selfish ambitions of wanting to play and being between the lines and receiving some fame? So you have to humble yourself and understand that it’s a team.”
This is the kind of mindset that develops and gets stronger over time and works best the sooner you buy into it. Baylor’s team specifically has experienced a lot of growth and success in the past few years under the leadership of head coach Steve Rodriguez. This success can be credited not only to great leadership, but also from young players buying into what the team stands for and learning from each other.
Brooks Helmer, a freshman infielder for Baylor baseball, said one of the things he enjoys about being part of Baylor’s team is that everyone has a part to play, even if they’re not playing.
“I think that’s what’s really cool about this team. Everyone knows their role and if you’re not a starter on the field or on the mound, or if you’re a relief pitcher, you know that when it’s your time to go in you better be ready to go,” Helmer said. “There’s a role for everyone…what are you doing to help the team right now, and if you’re not helping the team then you need to figure out something to do to help the team.”
Taking on this team mentality also means doing everything to the best of your ability. It means watching the way someone else goes about their business and, according to Cunningham, learning from their mistakes as well as your own.
“If you’re keeping charts, keep ‘em well, and if you’re trying to pick up the other team’s signs, do it with tenacity and intensity,” Cunningham said. “It’s such a good opportunity to have what we call inexpensive learning.”