Baseball's lessons can help you rally at work

Baseball and spring go together. Both seem to create optimism that is contagious.

Not long ago, I stopped by a local playground to watch a Little League baseball game. To get myself up to speed, I asked one of the youngsters what the score was.

"We're behind 16 to nothing," he answered.

"I must say, you don't seem discouraged," I said. "Why is that?"

"Discouraged?" said the boy. "Why should we be discouraged? We haven't been up to bat yet."

What a lesson in optimism! As I thought more about this positive attitude, I realized there are a lot of business lessons that we can learn from our national pastime:

Invention. Babe Ruth is credited with inventing the modern baseball bat. He was the first player to order a bat with a knob on the end of the handle, with which he hit 29 home runs in 1919. The famous name of that bat was Louisville Slugger, which has become synonymous with baseball.

You can overcome faults and be successful. Can you imagine a Major League Baseball player making the most errors, striking out the most times, and hitting into the most double plays -- and still being voted most valuable player for that year? In 1942, Joe Gordon did all those things -- yet still won the MVP award that season in the American League.

There is no "I" in team. "It is important for sales managers to acknowledge what every baseball manager instinctively knows -- that every championship team needs good bunters as well as long-ball hitters," said Harry Artinian, former vice president of corporate quality at Colgate-Palmolive Co. "It is the good sacrifice hitter who can advance the man on base to a position where the long-ball hitter can drive him home. And you know what -- at the end of a successful World Series, the bunters and the long-ball hitters all wear the same ring, and they all have the same equal shares in the bonus pool."

Take pride in your work. Joe DiMaggio of the New York Yankees had a fierce pride about always doing his best. The Yankees were on the road for a doubleheader against the St. Louis Browns. Not only was the day boiling hot; the Browns were in last place. Despite this, DiMaggio made an offhand comment that he was looking forward to playing that day. "In this heat!" said an amazed sportswriter. "How can you enjoy playing a doubleheader in stifling weather like this?" Glancing toward the grandstand, DiMaggio said, "Maybe somebody out there has never seen me play before."

Keep your focus. People who attain success have learned to forget past failures and concentrate on present goals. Babe Ruth was once asked what he thought about after he struck out. "I think about hitting home runs," the Babe answered.

Mackay's Moral: In the immortal words of Yogi Berra, "You can observe a lot by just watching."

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman and author. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or send e-mail to harvey@mackay.com. His column is distributed by United Feature Syndicate.

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