10 Character Building Lessons from Baseball

20160330_184712Baseball never fell on my radar let alone my schedule until my youngest son started playing little league. Since then, he’s played several years of travel baseball and now finds himself on the high school stage with JV baseball.

Regardless of the level of play, basic character building principles are inherent in the game of baseball. Advice shouted by coaches and parents on how to best play the game correlate well with how to live a life of excellence.

  1. Get dirty! While this may be a mother’s laundry nightmare, getting dirty in baseball generally means a player went “all out” to make a play. Sometimes in life, we need to “get dirty” in order to make a real difference.
  2. Make a play! Making a play can change the momentum of a game. When we find ourselves feeling stuck, sometimes the only way to break free is to do something out of the ordinary.
  3. Keep your eye on the ball! One of the most common mistakes in baseball comes when a player takes his eyes off the ball. When we lose focus, making progress and achieving goals becomes difficult at best and often impossible.
  4. Shake it off! While hopefully less common as the season progresses, mistakes do happen. Someone inevitably drops the ball or strikes out. The best approach when we make a mistake is to admit it, learn from it, and move on. Don’t let it snowball.
  5. 20160330_185001Down & ready! Some of the most embarrassing moments in a baseball game come when a player isn’t ready and sees a ball too late to stop it because he failed to pay attention. Life continually throws unexpected struggles at us, but many trials in life also come as surprises simply because we weren’t paying attention.
  6. Everybody moves! When the ball is hit, every player needs to move accordingly. Sometimes, just going in the right direction is all we need to do to move toward excellence.
  7. Put it in play! Hitting a baseball is probably the hardest task in all of sports, and a professional player who gets a hit half the time is considered productive. Simply putting the ball in play presents a solid chance at scoring. In life, some seasons are survived simply by putting yourself in play and seeing what happens.
  8. Get there! As fast as most players throw at higher levels of baseball, all out effort is required just to make it to first base. What would happen in your life if you gave all out effort?
  9. 20160423_122527Be a wall! One of the positions my son enjoys most is catcher. The catcher must stop every ball from getting by him to prevent base stealing. Hopefully, the mitt stops the ball, but often the catcher’s body must do it. Some seasons in life certainly require that we stand firm even as the hits of disappointment, fear and failure strike us one right after another.
  10. Smother it! Another phrase relating to catchers, this means covering the ball as it hits the ground in front of you. In life, some days come filled with needing to simply protect your time, your family and your faith. Some days, we just need to smother what’s important to keep it from getting away from us.

A teachable baseball player takes these foundational principles and builds on them in order to become a better player. Tommy Lasorda made the distinction this way…

“There are three types of baseball players. Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happens.”

A person who realizes that baseball – actually, any sport – provides character building opportunity for a life of excellence, understands how watching or playing the sport really transcends the sport itself. The late, great Ernie Harwell brought the point home well when he said…

“Baseball is a lot like life. It’s a day-to-day existence, full of ups and downs. You make the most of your opportunities in baseball as you do in life.”

Harwell’s quote brings Ephesians 5:16 to mind.

“Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.”

Opportunities such as the character building lessons discussed above exist in every sport and in many other activities. Are you making the most of them?

16 thoughts on “10 Character Building Lessons from Baseball

  1. 11. Practice does not make perfect.. Perfect practice makes perfect. You have got to put the time in but that time has got to be spent right.

    12. Root for your team mates. Never say a bad thing about them.

    13. Don't let the other team see you sweat. Keep your emotions in check and rely on your training, skills, team mates, and coaches.

    14. Be prepared.. before every play know where you are going with the ball if it comes to you.

    15. Play your role to your best regardless if you are on the field or on the bench.

  2. I really like all the points, but when I reread Mark's final one something hit home. I am no longer, "on the field" so to speak, but I have a new role. Even as a team I was not the player, but the cheerleader in the stands, not the ones out in front. And I still love sports and root for my team, in this case anything UW Wisconsin team, GB Packers, Brewers, well I am after all from Wisconsin!
    God asks us to give our best. To do all we do as unto HIM….I have found that baseball can teach us a lot, Tom Tarver used it and now you Kari. Keep up the good messages of inspiration and instruction…we all need them to help us do our best, to be prepared for those surprises that can cause us to become emotional and not function at our best. God Bless MJM

    • We tell our son to "do your best" before every game he plays in and even during practices, while doing homework, etc. That's all God asks and all we can ask of him as well as of ourselves. We also love the movie Facing the Giants, and our son often says the phrase "If we win, we praise Him. If we lose, we praise Him." Definitely application that works in baseball and any sport as well as in life. Thanks Mary. The Truth of God's Word is the only way I've found to combat my flesh and emotions.

    • Go Pack Go… Here in Virginia my children Levi, Jessi, and Esther are all Packer fans. Levi and I and Jessi and I have both been to two games at Green Bay. I am a Vikings and Saints fan.

      • How did this turn into a Packer's Fan Club? Maybe I should change the focus of my blog 🙂 Just kidding… Actually, my oldest likes the Packers too (and they are in my top 5). He only likes the to bug my youngest, who is a Lion's fan.

        • LOL… I did not know there were any Lions fans!! Whose your favorite team? My daughter had wanted us to go see Brett Favre's retirement game honoring him so I set that all up and of course that was preempted by him signing with the Jets but we had the tickets so we still went and of course it was Aaron Rogers first game as the Packers starting QB so now she is glad of that she was at his first game.

          • Um, I have to root for the Lions. I AM from Michigan, and I started rooting for them in the Barry Sanders days. Just hoping… Maybe his son will join the team one day and finally make it happen. I also like the Packers, Bears & San Francisco. Did like Denver until they cut Tebow. May have to change that top 5 spot to a team out east 🙂 But my favorite team is any team that beats Dallas!

  3. Excellent summary of baseball and life. If your son gets "Be a wall" down, he'll be an exceptional catcher.

  4. Can you say Pirates and Steelers Mark? I'm not so much a football fan. Really could care less. However, baseball…now you're talkin!? Good points all. That son of yours looks like a long drink of water if those are pictures of him.
    My recent post WaitingGame

    • Thanks, Bill. Yes, those are pictures of my son. He's not really tall (5'7"), but he has sort of starting looking long and lean lately, which he hopes means he's going to grow several more inches.

    • Thanks, Jason. Having two sons with very different interests (band & running vs. football, basketball and baseball) has helped me see the character building aspect of sports in a way I never did before they played.

  5. I love that sports can teach us so much about life and how to handle almost every aspect of it. We were just with some friends tonight whose boy is starting in baseball, i am going to send these points to the dad, I know he will appreciate them. The reason why I want the Dad to read them is these points also apply to us who watch the game especially parents and grand parents. it's so easy to get bent out of shape when it's OUR KIDS playing. We teach them how to be good spectators and cheerleaders as we watch any game. Great post Kari.

    • Great point, Betty, about how sports can help parents set the example of how to treat others whether things are going the way you want or not. Thanks for passing this along. I pray it's a blessing to your friends.

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