I know. You read that headline and you can’t compute. Am I right?
I gotta tell ya, I was watching Joe Maddon being interview by Bryant Gumbel this past week on Real Sports, and I became an instant fan. Not because of him being the manager of the Cubs and winning the World Series, but about the message he wanted to portray going into the Cubs 2017 season.
“Be Uncomfortable,” he said to Gumbel, describing the message he wants to promote for his players this year. “The one thing I don’t want our guys to be is comfortable coming off of what we’ve done last year. I don’t want there to be a sense of there’s not urgency left; there’s no room for growth… I want us to be uncomfortable… in a positive way.”
That’s a powerful and amazing statement, because complacency in baseball will beat you every time. If you go into a season too comfortable, especially after a past, sometimes historic victory… it’s a recipe for disaster. And so, you should be uncomfortable… you should never be complacent.
For youth ball players, many call it ‘the reset.’ It doesn’t matter what you did before. What matters is you keep working, keep training and learning and yes, ‘reset’ for a new season, maybe a new at-bat, whatever it may be.
What’s past is past. You are only as good as your last at bat. Same thing goes for making mistakes in this game. You ‘reset. ‘You can’t worry about what happened before. If you botch a play and the ball goes wild as you are trying to turn a double play and you give up 2 runs in the process, Do NOT feel sorry for yourself, because no one feels sorry for you. If you wanna make it in this game, you need to be tough, you need to move on, or reset and remain focused on the goal at hand.
You need to avoid feeling too comfortable in your own skin.
It doesn’t mean you should be unsure or be worried about your game play. If you are a solid ballplayer, if you put the work in, if you feel confident in your abilities… that’s quite different. Being uncomfortable just means that you never want think it will be easy to you just because you did something great before. Confidence is key.
I am often reminded of one of the biggest botched plays in sports history. The 1986 World Series, Game 6, Bill Buckner, the New York Mets, and the whole world watching when Vin Scully famously said, “BEHIND THE BAG!”
Mookie Wilson hit the ball down the first base line to a veteran ballplayer who had made that play a thousand times before. The play could have been categorized as a “routine” grounder for Buckner. But it was the 10th inning and the Red Sox were up by 2 runs when that play happened. After that, the Mets came back to win, and then eventually win that World Series. But Buckner, a pro, veteran great, blew that game.
When I watch Maddon talking about comfort, I thought about the Red Sox and Buckner. After all, the Sox were heavily favored in that Series, and Buckner, an All-Star, a player who had almost 2700 hits up to that point, was a solid athlete. Sure he was older, maybe a hair slower that he used to be, but he was still a good veteran. To me though, Buckner got too comfortable and eventually cost the Sox the series. I truly believe that.
And that takes me back to Maddon. He makes a lot of sense. You gotta be uncomfortable in this hard game. But let me add… you should stay confident as well. If you take those feelings of confidence and courage to achieve your goals, you will obtain victory, no question about it. But if you come into it, too comfortable… maybe complacent because you were once a champion… well, that’s quite a different thing. Past victories mean nothing. It’s what happens next that defines you and if you are properly skilled and determined, you cut the percentages of failure and achieve greatness.
Be determined. Be confident. But be uncomfortable! You never know what the underdog can do when you take your eye off the prize, and you will ‘wow’ yourself with what you can do as a ballplayer too.
That’s the honest truth, kid.
–Rob Monaco, Father, Coach & Baseball Commissioner
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