Once upon a time, I played adult fast-pitch baseball for several years in my late 20s. It was incredibly intimidating, since I played against several ex-major leaguers and college players. Some guys threw in the upper 80s, even, which is unnerving at best and scary as hell at worst!
Anyways, I started at right field, which baseball fans know is where you put the worst fielder. But I usually batted third, fourth, or fifth, which is where big hitters usually line up.
Only problem was, I wasn’t a big hitter. Why did my coach put me there?
Because I had one goal—get on base. What’s the easiest way to do that? Hit singles or walk. So that’s what I did.
I hit a lot of singles back then. Walked a lot too. I never swung for the fences and always made the pitcher work for three strikes, which is very hard hard to do at amateur levels, especially if the hitter isn’t swinging. So I only swung at strikes.
Halfway into the season, my teammate Russ pulled me aside and asked, “Have you looked at your online stats?”
“No,” I replied. As a rookie, I didn’t even know that was possible. “Well you’re leading the team in RBIs (runs batted in) and have an on-base percentage over 70%. NICE WORK!”
That praise and realization felt good. But it also reminded me of an important life lesson: thinking small often leads to big results. Since small ball is boring and unglamorous, however, not many people engage in it. Big ball, you see, gets most of the fame and attention.
Obviously, big ball works too. Maybe just as much, if not more, than small ball. But big ball is harder to pull off. It requires more skill and God-given talent. I’m often short on that.
So I in life, business, and baseball, I usually choose small ball.
PS—Small ball works in all aspects of life and sport, not just baseball. For example, Italy plays some of the smallest, most boring soccer you will ever see. But they are tied for second for most World Cups. Because small ball works.
This is a fantastic long-read by Louis Menand about how baseball players turned athletes into the sponsored celebrities we know them as today. “He signed his first client in 1921. And that client turned out to be the greatest sports figure of his day, or possibly, with the exception of Muhammad Ali, of any day: Babe Ruth. Ruth didn’t just do what every ballplayer did but better. On the field and off, he was in a class by himself.”
The following is an excerpt from a graduation speech my father Brent Snow gave in 2008 at the University of West Georgia:
I grew up in the deep south—deep southern Idaho–so I picked potatoes rather than cotton! My family was very athletic and my older brother Bruce was probably the best all around athlete in Idaho when he was a senior in high school. Being two years younger, I was constantly compared to him in every sport I played as well as in academics. While I was often on the “short” end of those comparisons, I never resented being so. I respected and admired him a great deal and thought it was an honor to be compared to him.
After finishing my Ph.D. in 1979, I became a faculty member at Oklahoma State University. After I had been there for a couple of years, my Father called me and said he was coming to Stillwater and maybe we could go see a couple of basketball games that were on the schedule. This was quite common for us as athletic events were really an excuse to be together, laugh, and for me to be interviewed about how I was doing—was I doing what I should as a Dad?, husband?, and in my work? I loved those interviews with my Father as he would listen and share some advice and wisdom all the while watching a point guard hit a three pointer! You didn’t have to know my Dad very long to realize he was a very wise person.
After one of those games on the way home, we had been talking about my Brother and me always being compared as athletes. I decided to try to be a little clever by putting my Dad on the spot and testing his wisdom:
“Well Dad, how would you compare Bruce and me as athletes?”
“In what sport?” he said –surprising me that he was willing to do so.
“How about baseball?” Continue reading…
From NPR’s book review of Scorecasting:
When they examined attendance data for the Cubs, one of the unluckiest teams in professional sports who have not won a World Series in 102 years, the authors found it to be remarkably stable — around 90 percent — no matter if the team was at the top of the league or on a losing streak. Fair-weather fans, it seems, actually incentivize a team to win; team owners and coaches will work harder to win games so they can sell more tickets.
Not only are fair-weather fans better for the organization, though. Being one is better for oneself, as fair-weather fans are more at liberty to chose entertainment options that “work for them,” as opposed to staying involved with a mediocre (aka boring) team.
In other words: Go, Cougars! (So long as they’re winning.)
I have. On many occasions, in fact.
It all started in college. I’d head to class early to get a jump on my studies, get bored within 30 minutes, then open to whatever novel, biography, or paperback I had bookmarked for personal enjoyment. In the course of my four year, 63-credit undergraduate education, I’d do this several times each semester.
Once I remember ditching an entire day of classes — Neverending Story-style — just to read Dan Brown. I had only planned to skip my first lecture.
I’ve even been know to play professional hooky from time to time. Deadline at work? Too bad, I gotta see how Tom gets out of his latest pickle.
Just today, I slotted in a few minutes of And Then There Were None underneath the backyard maple tree, after eating a delicious meatball sandwich (thanks, Lindsey). Once my mental clock chimed in telling me to get back to work, I consciously dismissed it just so I could see how soldiers five, six, and seven died.
(The book is bloody brilliant, btw. Not only that but it’s remarkably written.)
Admittedly, my boss is a softy and does a horrible job in tracking my time. But I can’t think of a better way of grabbing life by the horns than reading a book when you really should be doing something else.
That or an afternoon baseball game, whichever comes first.
See more: Books I’ve blogged about
But if it’s anything like the book, Moneyball should be a good movie.
PROVO, UT—Multiple sources today have confirmed that the fabled Mr. and Mrs. Blake Snow have decided to honor Fenway Park with their attendance this year. Set for a visit in October, the couple will realize a life-long dream of seeing the Evil Empire (read: Yankees) play Evil Empire Jr. (read: Red Sox) at the oldest active ballpark in America.
“We are thrilled to finally receive Mr. and Mrs. Snow as our personal guests to the Capital of New England,” said Thomas M. Menino, mayor of Boston. “Their reputation precedes them, so it truly is a source of pride for us. And since they are purported thousandaires, it wouldn’t hurt if they spent a little money on tourism.”
My kid sister living in Atlanta Braves territory writes:
“Are you an NL fan or AL fan? What are some of your favorite teams? And is baseball your favorite sport?”
Because I can, let me answer your questions in reverse, Sara. While I find college football, World Cup soccer, and Grand Slam Tennis slightly more exciting, I think baseball is the greatest American professional sport. I say that because I like it better than the more popular NFL or NBA, for several reasons: Continue reading…
If these ominous clouds clear up, I’m scheduled to play my first game of old man’s baseball tonight. I play right field for the 26 and older Cubs.
Last year, our team made the switch to pinstripes, identical to the ones you see an angry Lou Piniella wearing above. I hate pinstripes. Their outdated. And they make you look like a husky douche. Two years ago, we wore gray pants and blue tops. I wish we still did.
Can I get a witness?
See all: Baseball-related posts
NEW YORK (AP) — Roger Clemens apologized Monday for unspecified mistakes in his personal life but denied having an affair with a 15-year-old [and his alleged drug abuse].
Much like Jason Giambi, Roger Clemens’ public and ambiguous apology for “mistakes in personal life” further suggests his steroid guilt. No one is required to apologize publicly for personal wrong doings, so perhaps Clemens is shooting for steroid amnesty without really coming clean.
From the Associated Press:
Alex Rodriguez makes more this year than his hometown Florida Marlins. Boosted by his new deal with the New York Yankees, A-Rod tops the major league baseball salary list at $28 million, according to a study of contract terms by The Associated Press. The 33 players on the Marlins’ opening-day roster and disabled list total $21.8 million.
“The Marlins? It’s amazing,” said Rodriguez. “And they still seem to find a way to be very competitive.”
It is amazing, A-Rod. It really is.
According to a recent Gallup poll, a majority of baseball fans (57%) think Roger Clemens lied last month when he told Congress he had never taken performance enhancing drugs. Despite this, 62 percent of fans surveyed believe Clemens should still be in the Hall of Fame.
As a reminder, The Hall of Fame’s motto is “preserving history, honoring excellence, and connecting generations.” Clemens’ induction, if convicted, would preserve history alright, but what about honor and example (read: connecting generations)?
NEW YORK (AP) — Page after page, Roger Clemens’ name was all over the Mitchell Report.Count them, 82 times.
Barry Bonds showed up more often. So did Jose Canseco. Andy Pettitte, Eric Gagne and Miguel Tejada also became part of baseball’s most infamous lineup since the 1919 Black Sox scandal.
But they didn’t get the worst of it Thursday. That infamy belonged to Clemens, the greatest pitcher of his era.
The Steroids Era. continue reading…
After 10 million votes, the results are in. Designer Mark Ecko will brand Barry Bonds’s record-breaking home run ball with an asterisk and the Hall of Fame will accept it — blemishes and all. Let it serve as a reminder that it takes more than a number to earn the respect of your peers.
“This ball wouldn’t be coming to Cooperstown if Marc hadn’t bought it from the fan who caught it and then let the fans have their say,” Hall of Fame president Dale Petroskey told The Associated Press. “We’re delighted to have the ball. It’s a historic piece of baseball history.”
What a *perfect* exhibit for a museum.
DISCLOSURE: After reading Game of Shadows and numerous reports, I’ve come to the conclusion that a) Barry Bonds is not a cool dude, and b) he knowingly took steroids in an effort to break records despite his being one of the greatest hitters to ever play the game.
Watch the replay. Surly a sign of the times.
Here’s a nice little update on an old childhood friend of mine, Matt Holliday.
The AP reports: “Holliday, who has reached base in a franchise-best 38 straight games, finished 2-for-4 and edged ahead of Atlanta’s Edgar Renteria and Chase Utley of Philadelphia for the NL battling lead at .337.”
Matt, despite having you put the athletic thump on us in middle school, Jeff, Barry, Brian, and I would have never have thought for a second that you would one day lead the National League in batting average. Nice work, and keep it up!
The Associated Press reports: “Barry Bonds hit No. 756 to the deepest part of the ballpark Tuesday night, and hammered home the point: Like him or not, legitimate or not, he is baseball’s new home run king.”
Amid a swarm of expected negative press, the above image is how the nation’s largest sports magazine ushered in the news on its home page. It takes more than just a number to break a record it seems…
I used to be more critical of Bonds than I should have been, but having done my research I still think an asterisk is in order. Should be interesting to see him “break” the record in the next few days. *
According to the AP, North Dakota high schools are switching from aluminum bats to wooden ones primarily for safety reasons. Line drives pop off metal much faster than sticks, and balls go much deeper as a result limiting the reaction time of fielders.
But even though the change will likely reduce injuries, albeit by a fraction, I suspect a large motivation for the switch is due to baseball purists like myself. Balls just sound better off wooden bats than high-pitch, clanky aluminum ones.
Oh, and the game is a lot better when played by real athletes that don’t cheat using performance enhancing drugs (I’m looking at you MLB).
Well this is rare; an ambidextrous switch-pitcher. NY Times has the scoop: “Venditte (pictured) is believed to be the only ambidextrous pitcher in N.C.A.A. Division I college baseball, the ultimate relief specialist. A junior, he throws left-handed to lefties and right-handed to righties, and effectively… Against Nebraska last year, a switch-hitter came to the plate right-handed, prompting Venditte to switch to his right arm, which caused the batter to move to the left-hand batter’s box, with Venditte switching his arm again.”
It’s looking like MLB could see its first legitimate switch-pitcher. Theoretically speaking, the dude could pitch twice as many games as the other guys. Crazy.
Long-time Smooth Harold readers know I like baseball. I like to watch it, and I like to play it. After becoming eligible this year (I turn 28 in July), I will be playing in an adult baseball league starting next week. Not softball, baseball. The problem is I haven’t formally played the game since being a freshman in high school some 13 years ago.
Rumor has it a handful of ex-college players in the league can throw upwards of 80 miles per hour. Yikes! To further compound the problem, a lot of pitchers put quite a bit of junk on the ball, so that’ll be a challenge as well. I hit some fast-pitch balls on Saturday at the local batting cages and made a lot of contact, but keep in mind these balls don’t move position, nor do they break. Oh, and my arm is way out of shape.
I’m really in over my head…
My business partner’s computer kicked the bucket recently. Rather than trashing it, we played baseball with it. I’m pitching the laptop and my partner Robert is swinging for the fences. Photo taken on a beautiful Utah afternoon in his backyard.