My nephew is a very talented 17-year- old baseball player. He is starting his senior year season of high school baseball as one of the best pitchers and one the best hitters in the state of Texas. He has already verbally committed to a prestigious D1 college on a full academic and athletic scholarship, but he wants to be drafted this summer. He is left handed and a major league pitching coach said he reminds him of Jon Lester and that he has major league potential. So being drafted is a real possibility for him.
One would think my nephew is on cloud nine loving his baseball life. Unfortunately, like way too many young and talented athletes, he is tormented by his success, the fear of failure, of not being able to live up to expectations, comparisons with other top prospects, and by the voices of dozens of coaches, trainers, etc. that want to put their mark on him.
The other day, I asked my nephew, “do you have fun playing baseball,” he replied, “only when we win and I played well.” I then asked him, “what counts as playing well?” He replied, “when I pitch, not given up an earned run and when I hit, going at least 2 for 4 with a home run.” With such lofty personal expectations, when he doesn’t reach them, he feels like a failure and that his baseball career is doomed and, when he does reach them, he feels he did the bare minimum and could have done more. He is not enjoying playing the game. During the game, he is stressed and fearful that one miss-step will cost him his chance of being drafted. Under these circumstances, no one can play at their best.
To me, this is a tragedy. Baseball is a game. It is supposed to be fun. My challenge to my nephew and to all players like him, is to be at peace and have fun throughout the up-coming season. Be at peace knowing that, on every pitch of every game, you will do your very best and that the rest of what happens is out of your control. Know that you will throw a great pitch; know that will have a great swing or great take on a pitch. Being at peace and doing your very best on each pitch will making playing the game fun regardless of the outcome. Also, take a few seconds every so often during a game to take in where you are at. You are on a baseball field, breathing fresh air, smelling the grass, smelling the leather of your glove, and being with friends. To me, that makes any day a good day. Be at peace and have fun!