Leave It All Out There – On the Baseball Field

Observing the final wrestling match – the bronze medal clinching match – of his profession in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece, Rulon Gardner left his wrestling shoes at the middle of the mat as a ceremonial farewell to his game. Gardner said,”To put them on the mat meant I left on the mat as a wrestler.” In wrestling, it’s traditional to do this after your final match as it pays homage to the wrestling gods.

Though this same heritage doesn’t hold true in baseball, but there is a lot to be learned from this. There are various clichés and pre-game – and even in-game – speeches that likely don’t resonate with players of all ages. But this one really does. “Leave it out there”. Every time you go on the field to play a game or practice, do it like it is the last time you will get it done! Because not to sound gruesome or macabre, it might be! We tell this to our children before each game, each tournament, and every scrimmage. In addition, we worry that we perform we practice and we exercise like we play. To put it differently, go out there with a goal, whether it’s a practice or game, have fun, because that’s what it is about, but have pleasure when playing hard. We worry that when each and each of them can look themselves in the mirror and feel he did everything in his power to help the team win, then it was a success, no matter what the outcome.

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Too often today we read or listen to stories about cheating and other scandals that remind us baseball, as a game, isn’t all about having fun… at least for some people. The strain to be the very best and to succeed at all costs also often outweighs the match’s intent as being a pleasure. From major leaguers and steroid use to minor leaguers employing different PEDs, to high school baseball players using shaved or prohibited athletes, to little leaguers with coaches lying around kids’ ages, or with illegal players, there is too much emphasis put on winning at any cost. But that is not how it is supposed to be, nor is it true for the majority of players and coaches. These are those which do everything right, play hard, try their best, make that extra effort win or lose, walk away with the satisfaction of knowing they did their very best.

There are excellent beauty and pleasure in watching a sport played to its fullest, and watching an athlete provide his all on every play. I recently watched Carlos Carrasco of the Cleveland Indians come within an out – really one strike – of a very infrequent no-hitter. After Joey Butler singled over the next baseman Jason Kipnis with 2 outs and 2 strikes in the ninth inning, Carrasco could only laugh. Maybe it was just a”you have ta be kidding me” laugh, but he also knew the somewhat vertically challenged Kipnis gave it his all to make a leaping catch, and Carrasco clearly appreciated the attempt. In his words,”He really tried to find that chunk,” said Carrasco. “I really appreciate that.” For his part, he had Kipnis been a foot taller, he may have had an opportunity, but this is from his control, and Carrasco knew that in that case, his second baseman did everything he could to conserve the no-hitter. He left it all out there. Regrettably, he came up a tad short, but there wasn’t any lacking in effort.

It’s also great to see this kind of effort in youth baseball. Again, at the clinic, coaches emphasize and players perform pitching drills, hitting drills and fielding drills, to find out, polish or boost their skills and fundamentals. Nonetheless, it’s the little things… the extra effort that contributes to wins and championships. And we perform like we practice. Do the ideal things beginning in practice. Go hard after grounders. Line up for cuts. Pitch to a goal or place. The organization I coach for, along with the 14 and 15-year-old boys that play for it, recently won the Father’s Day Classic, and we did thus beating a team that was better than us or at least ranked ahead of us, at the semi-final match. This is a team that beat us in pool play on Saturday, so confronting them on Sunday could have led to a letdown or absence of assurance. However, our boys came out fired up, and not only did they make all the routine plays, but they made all of the hard ones, and largely due to a wonderful effort. They made many diving plays, many running plays, took extra bases on pure hustle and determination, blocked hard balls on the other side of the plate to stop baserunners from advancing, and did everything in their power humanly possible to stay shut, stay in the game, and let themselves win in extra innings. It had been the pure definition of earning it all out there, and the looks on their faces after that win, and more so after winning the championship match against the other very good group, was evident again that this type of boys left out it there. Essentially, they unlaced their cleats and abandoned them12 pairs, right smack in the center of the mound! http://www.marcoclay.com/services/