During the course of a game, a young 9 or 10-year-old hitter will step into the batter's box eager to get that hit to help his team. Many times when the at-bat is over, he walks slowly back to the dugout with tears rolling down his eyes because he struck out trying to swing at a ball in the dirt. After the at-bat, the player might get fussed at hard by the coach or the parent. You can look in his eyes, and he feels his world falling apart in that brief moment.
Sometimes, a batter will be standing in the box with his bat in his hands. He ends up watching the ball go down the middle and hearing the umpire yell “strike three.” The young slugger at that point feels like that is the low point of his life.
As tough as they can be to deal with sometimes, mistakes are part of the game. The key to success in baseball isn’t about how many times you strike out, but how you handle it when you do.
Even the great ones aren’t immune to strikeouts. Hall of Fame outfielder Reggie Jackson is considered one of the greatest players in baseball history particularly in the postseason. He has 563 career home runs which is 13th on the all-time career home run list. Jackson’s five home runs for the New York Yankees in the 1977 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers is tied for the most in a World Series. His 10 career home runs in the World Series is tied for fifth most all-time. Jackson, however, has also struck out 2,597 times, which is the most in the history of Major League Baseball.
Current Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera has had a career that will get him in the Hall of Fame. Cabrera has a .320 career batting average and has hit 336 home runs with 1,182 RBIs in just 11 seasons. Last year, Cabrera became the first player in Major League Baseball since 1967 to win the Triple Crown by leading the American League in home runs (44), RBIs (139) and batting average (.330)
Cabrera, however, has also gone back to the dugout after strike three his share of times by striking out 1,140 times during his career.
As great as the top players are, they will make their share of mistakes throughout the course of their career. The key to longevity and survival for these players is putting their bad games behind them and moving on to the next day. The great thing about baseball is there is always the next day to become the hero.
Baseball is a lot like life. In life, things won’t be perfect. Everyone goes through ups and downs whether it’s school, work or the way they conduct their relationships with people. Nobody wants to make a mistake and everybody wants to be perfect but mishaps happen. The question for every young ball player, or anyone in general walking the Earth, is do you let that one strikeout haunt you and hinder you?
The answer is simple — learn from your mistakes and stay focused on the next at-bat or turn your attention to the next day.
Just because your first at-bat is bad, that doesn’t mean the second at-bat has to be. The next at-bat gives you a chance to come up big and get a hit. The next day gives you a chance to put the previous day behind you and make the new day your best one.
Andy Collier is the sports editor at the Bolivar Commercial. He can be reached at (662)-843-4241 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.