Author – Geoff Miller
Geoff Miller is a highly regarded expert in baseball psychology. He has spent the past 17 years working in the MLB, with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Angels, and Philadelphia Phillies. An AASP Certified Mental Performance Coach (CMPC), Geoff holds a Master’s Degree in Sports Psychology, and currently provides mental skills coaching to professional and amateur athletes, corporate coaching to executives and business teams, and coaching for retiring athletes transitioning into post-playing careers.
Evan Longoria played in his first World Series in 2008. He was 22 years old, was about to win Rookie of the Year, and he had his whole career in front of him. On Friday, at 37 and at the end of a long and successful career, he will play in his second World Series.
Jeff Banister is the bench coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He has managed in the big leagues, been the American League Manager of the Year, and he’s been instrumental in the development of countless Major League Baseball players. In 38 years in the game, this will be his first-ever World Series.
Every year, one team wins the World Series. And every year, it dawns on me just how difficult it is to win it.
Three teams won 100 games this year and none of them made it to the World Series. It is incredibly difficult to grind through 162 games and have a chance to play in October, and then have your team healthy enough to compete and then have everything click with your starting pitching, your bullpen, your lineup, and your defense.
It is definitely easier to get into the playoffs now with the new expanded postseason, but whether it was four teams playing in the ALCS and NLCS or 12 teams playing in the Wild Card Round and Division Series before, it really comes down to being able to play your best baseball when it matters most.
I’m also reminded today of a story from one of the first times I met Roland Hemond, one of the game’s greatest front office legends. Roland worked in baseball for over 60 years and was awarded the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Buck O’Neill award for lifetime achievement. It was my honor to get to know Roland over my time in baseball.
In 2005, my first year with the Pirates, I was sitting with him at a game in Arizona. Someone asked if they could see his World Series ring he was proudly wearing on his right hand.
He reached over the row of seats, extending his hand so the ring could be seen. It was smaller and simpler than the rings produced today. Roland told us it was from the 1957 Milwaukee Braves team. He then told us he had earned two World Series rings in all his years in the game…from the 1957 Milwaukee Braves and the 2001 Diamondbacks.
This man had to wait 44 years between rings and those bookends to his career say so much about how much history passed between championships. He earned the first one with a franchise that has long since moved cities, the second with the newest addition to MLB.
In the meantime, Ted Williams finished his career without ever playing a World Series game. Ernie Banks did the same. Roland would add a third ring that year, as a member of the Chicago White Sox front office. The White Sox last World Series championship before 2005? 1917.
In my reflection on the difficulty of winning the World Series, I’ve come up with two ideas that each of us can take with us in our pursuits of being the best, whether that’s as a player, a coach, a staff member, or outside of baseball.
First is that preparation is truly important, and second, that perspective is essential.
Every game is important, every pitch could mark a turning point in a season or in a career. We must maintain our preparation to be ready to do our parts whenever we’re called upon. You may only get one chance to make that magic season possible. You have to look back your career and know that you did everything you could to make it happen.
However, and this is where perspective comes in, if you’ve done your best, if you’ve given everything you have physically and mentally in order to accomplish your goal, you’ve got to be okay with the outcome.
In my book, Intangibles, I’ve written a great deal about character and leadership, and included in this section of the book is my Character Development Inventory (CDI). One item on CDI asks players to rate themselves on how much they agree with the following statement in order to evaluate perspective:
“If I give the best that I have and it isn’t good enough to make it to the big leagues, I will be able to move on with no regrets.”
I see many minor leaguers who can’t understand how to wrap their brains around this concept. But you can’t live with regret, and you can’t do anything more than your best!
This is why having perspective is so important. Your job as a player is to do your best with every opportunity you have in the game and THEN, to walk away at the end of each day knowing there’s nothing else you could have done with your time and energy.
If you can say that you gave everything you had to the game, you may or may not make it to the big leagues or win a World Series, but you’ll know that there was nothing else you could have personally done about it.
I hope that provides you with some perspective if you’re watching the World Series at home this week. And I hope it provides motivation to prepare yourself for your next opportunity to achieve greatness, wherever that may be.