Strong Between The Ears (Tony La Russa)
Respect is how it all begins. To play baseball without a
respect for the game would be the equivalent of going to church for the
free bread and wine. What's the point if it's not in your
heart? Play every ball hit to you like you were born to enjoy it,
throw every pitch as if you were intent on defying the laws of physics,
and play every ball pitched to you as the thrill of a lifetime. Do
this and you'll learn the feeling we call respect. When we
contemplate something greater than our selves, we open the door for
Respect for the history of baseball will bring you to realize it is much bigger than any of the individuals who ever play it. It's been here long before us, and it will be here long after us. Yet while you are playing it, it is no greater than any one of us.
Respect for the game doesn't start right after "The Star Spangled Banner." The National Anthem always deserves your respect. What you should think about while you look toward the flag with your cap over your heart is the millions of soldiers who died for your right to play this game. You should see them running in battle, getting shot and killed, in part, so Americans can play. You should actually feel a lump in your throat for the sacrifices your countrymen have made. All this will enhance your measure of respect.
Certainly, even before the National Anthem is played, respect for the PreGame should be evident. You need to respect the opposing team and coaches, not just as persons, but as guys having the same desire to win as you and your team possess. Many games are lost because players or teams don't respect their opposition.
Respecting your own coaches and teammates is the easiest. They are all after the same goals, the team goals. The hardest part here would be respecting the coach or player who you feel is not respecting you. But remember, respect doesn't rely on the recipient. It comes from you whether or not it is received by them. If you remain a good example, there will be others to follow. What good would it do to disrespect a teammate or coach who disrespects you? What good could it do to show them respect in spite of their erring?
Respect should carry you through each practice session. It will help you practice the way you play. When you do that as a team, you win more games. Lackadaisical ball handling or play of any kind builds in excuses. Whenever I see a player field a ball lackadaisically in practice, I figure he is just preparing for the excuse, "I didn't get it because I wasn't really trying." Maybe he wasn't really trying because he didn't want to miss it. Practice with a respect for the art of playing. Whenever a ball comes near you, even in batting practice, play it with all of your ability. If you get used to practicing at half speed, you'll set yourself up to play below your potential.
While it might be easy enough to respect the other team, it may be considered more difficult to respect the umpires. Certainly in any controversial call one side will love him and the other will hate him. But you gotta respect a guy who will go through that potential abuse for the love of the game (and let's face it, the guys who do our games will never get rich doing them). These guys wear the heaviest clothes, take the most abuse from the fans, get all the blame and never the credit from players and coaches, and yet without them we would not be able to play. When you think about it, it's easy to respect umpires.
Respect equipment. How can you respect inanimate objects? Well, consider the money needed to buy it and who pays for it. There's nearly nothing worse than striking out and throwing your helmet an bat in disgust. Pitchers get extra gratification for that. He got you this time. Respect his ability to do that, and get him next time.
Yes, even the pitcher who just struck you out deserves your respect. And so do you.
© 2005 Coach51