Sitting in the bullpen, you come across various topics of conversation both serious and not, but today it wasn’t about the conversation during the game that really struck a cord with me it was a simple sentence that a parent said too me while I was signing autographs. As always, after the game the fans come rushing down to the field to try and get you to sign everything from hats, balls, gloves, arms, legs, torsos and everything in between and I love to sign as many autographs as I can because I always tell myself that this might be the last day someone actually wants my signature.
One of the last autographs I had from the ensuing mob that took place after the game, was a bright eyed little girl who wanted her pink glove signed, so I grabbed her glove and smiled and scribbled my signature as fast and neat as I could and put the customary “40” in there so she could look at a program and see who it was if the signature made sense. As I was signing her glove, her dad asked me a question that I initially shrugged off but also sat with me for many hours after. He said “Hey man, how old are you by chance?” and I replied with “26” and then he said “do you ever think about what if I don’t make it? What do you do when you job hunt in the real world?” to which I quickly replied “Thats why you pray you make it” and I gave a quick smile and jogged off.
This question lingered with me for quite sometime afterward, and now that I have had a lot of time to think about it here is the answer I wish I could have given him and I hope he is reading out there.
Many people have told me that we are just playing a game for a living and if I am worried that I am going to be “behind” in the job market when baseball is all said and done. Although this might be the case, I really sat and thought about this particular individual’s statement and realized how wrong he or she really was. We are actually learning and honing skills and personality traits playing baseball, ones that we will use in real life, and although we are not focused on these “skills” things are happening all the time and I will give you, the reader, some examples. One of the biggest one is being able to deal with a diverse workforce. There are very few jobs out there that require an individual to “work” in an environment where there are so many cultures present and the blending of those cultures correctly is key to a fun and winning environment. Understanding everyone’s customs, cultures, and mannerisms and learning to deal with people not only from other countries, but people from all parts of the United States. Every part of the world and the United States has different phrases, different ways of handling success and adversity. The diversity that lies within teams, forces the individual player to learn on how to deal with all types of personalities and still maintain your own sanity and success. In order to be well-liked you have to have a successful balance of everything.
Another skill that is apparent in baseball is being able to work in multiple positions. As a pitcher, you might close a game, be a starter, or work long relief. There are different ways to go about your preparation for each individual role, and learning how to make sure your body is at optimal performance level is key to your success. This adaptation happens all the time in the 40-hour workforce, and some of those skills take a long time for certain businesspeople to develop and for the baseball player it could be the reason your career takes off or falters. You are expected to produce results no matter what role you are in on the diamond, and produce those results rather immediately. When you get moved in the workforce they might assign someone to you to help you with the change or you might go through some sort of tutorial but that is not the case with us. Pressure packed situations like when the bases are loaded and you are trying to hold a one run lead in the ladder innings of a game, there are crazy thoughts going through your mind and if you are on the road then you have even more adversity to block out. Learning to control your body, your rhythm, and more importantly your heart rate is a major key to getting yourself out of the jam with minimal damage. In the workforce there are always deadlines that have to be made, and if you happen to be swamped with work then all those traits come back and as a former or current professional athlete you can rely on to keep cool, calm, and collected and make sure all your work is done and done in an accurate and professional matter.
Although these are only a few examples, I’m sure there are many more that I can point out but I think the point has been made, I hope! Although we are truly playing a game right now there are so many personality traits that we are learning subconsciously and keeping sharp. Although we might not be conscious of them, there are there and present on every level on and off the field. Not only is the “work” we do stressful, but it changes on a daily basis and you never know what might be thrown at you.