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Life Lessons from Baseball

For the last three years, I’ve had the pleasure of coaching a team of talented young men, including one of my sons, on the baseball diamond. Having the opportunity to convey my love of baseball through coaching is something I’ll always remember.

I have long believed that baseball is a great way for a young person to learn life lessons. Musician Juliana Hatfield probably said it best: “Baseball is more than a game. It’s like life played out on a field.”

Baseball teaches lessons like:

Dealing with failure: Ted Williams has the best on-base percentage in Major League history, at .482. Flip that number around, though, and it tells you that nearly 52% of the time Williams came to the plate, he made an out. Failure is a constant in baseball and how you deal with that failure goes a long way towards determining the type of player – and person – you’ll become.

Focus: Baseball is unique in that you can be on the field the entire game and never touch the ball, never be a part of the action. It’s easy for a mind – especially a young mind – to wander and lose focus. It seems to be written in the stars that at that moment, the ball will be hit your way. Learning to remain focused on the task at hand when it would be so much easier to think about a million other things has so many applications through school, work, and life.

Teamwork: I like to think of baseball as an individualized team sport. The pitcher vs. the batter is a one-on-one battle, but as soon as the bat hits the ball, the whole team better spring into action. Negativity and disinterest will destroy a team, while positivity and togetherness can make a good team great. As the great Babe Ruth said, “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”

Good process/bad result: A well struck ball snagged by a leaping outfielder. A perfectly executed pitch fouled away at the last second. One of the cruel realities of baseball – and life – is that you can do everything right, and still come away with a bad outcome. Learning to focus on a successful process and not be swayed by the occasional unpleasant results is especially important in the investment world.

There are so many more lessons that can be learned by each individual player and coach through the great game of baseball and then applied directly to life. As Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller once said, “Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is.”