Lessons from Baseball – The Importance of Persistence

Last night, I watched an amazing baseball game. It was almost miraculous in its outcome. And it was a perfect demonstration of the importance of persistence — not giving up in the face of adversity.

As I’ve told the readers before, I am a HUGE BASEBALL FAN. I love the mental game, the visual poetry of watching great plays on the field, and I find many lessons in Baseball that directly translate to the metaphysical – spiritual discipline to which I subscribe.

The game I watched was between my local home team, the Colorado Rockies and the team they were hosting, the San Francisco Giants. The pitchers were dominant. Even though each team managed to get base runners many times, they were not able to get the timely hits to bring them home. The Giants hit into 3 double plays and the rockies hit into one. And there were some terrific defensive plays.

As a result, when the Giants’ Barry Zito left after 6 innings, he had given up only 3 hits and 1 unearned run. When the Rockies’ starting pitcher Jason Marquis left, he had pitched 8 full innings and surrendered 1 run on 6 hits.

As the score remained 1 to 1, inning after inning, new pitchers and hitters were brought into the game. Pablo Sandoval (aka Kung Fu Panda), the Giants’ best hitter had to leave the game with a strained calf muscle.

Carlos Gonzalez was not scheduled to play for the Rockies because he had injured his hand in his kitchen (he now understands the phrase “don’t try to catch a falling knife”), but he added some padding to the bandage covering the stitched-up wound and went out to pinch run for Todd Helton in the 11th, then he went to the outfield to play left field, bandages on his throwing hand. He tried to pinch-bunt his way on in the 12th, but was unsuccessful.

By the 14th inning, both teams had spent their bull pens and benches. Every attempt to bring in another bench player to score an additional run had failed up to then. The game had started at 6:40 PM. Most of the players had been there since Noon. It was now closing in on 11:30 PM. You could sense how tired and at the same time tense everyone was getting. Who was going to be the first one to blink? Who was going to be the first team to make a mistake? Who was going to lose their concentration and focus first? with a 1 to 1 score, there was no room for error.

San Francisco batted first. Adam Eaton was on the hill for the Rockies since the 13th. No one was available to relieve him, so the game was his to win or lose. Edgar Renteria hit a lead-off triple. This looks bad for the Rockies. Losing his concentration, Eaton walked Travis Ishikawa. This looks REALLY bad for the Rockies. The Giants have runners on first and third with no outs. Then Eugenio Velez hit another triple, scoring Renteria and Ishikawa. This looks worse for the Rockies. By the time they were done, the Giants had plated 3 runners. The score was now Giants 4, Rockies 1.

Going into the bottom of the 14th, the Rockies were down 3 runs. They had used all of their bench players. Justin Miller was on the mound for the Giants. Dexter Fowler was the first to bat. He fouled the second pitch off his right knee and hit the dirt writhing in pain. The Rockies’ Manager and There was no one available off the bench. If he could not continue, the next day’s starting pitcher would have to come bat in his place. Dexter decided to tough it out and drew a walk. He was slow making it to first base. Dexter who is known for his speed was not hobbled.

Clint Barmes came next. He struck out. Chris Ianetta came up and hit a single! Now there were runners on first and second! This is beginning to look better for the Rockies. The potential tying run was at bat in the form of Troy Tulowitzki. Miller didn’t want to give him a hittable pitch. He walked.

With the bases loaded, Adam Eaton, the relief pitcher came to bat (as I said, there was no one left on the bench to pinch hit for him). Miraculously, Eaton drew a walk with the bases loaded. He walked in a run! The run walked in was Dexter Fowler, who barely made it to home plate, limping badly. It’s a good thing he was walked in, because he probably would not have beat a throw to the plate if he had to run.

We learned later that Rockies Manager Jim Tracy had ordered Eaton NOT to swing the bat under any circumstances. He didn’t want to chance Eaton hitting into a game ending double play. Tracy wanted Ryan Spilborghs, a good hitter (who was currently in a bit of a slump) to have a chance to bat with the bases loaded.

The Giants made a pitching change and sent Merkin Valdez to the mound.

Spilborghs came up to bat and on the second pitch, he hit a home run! A Grand Slam! A walk-off in the 14th inning! The FIRST walk-off Grand Slam in Rockies history! Instead of the home run trot you usually see, Spilly ran at full speed around the bases, tossing his batting helmet as he rounded third and diving into a crowd of cheering Rockies players waiting for him at the plate. The Rockies won 6 to 4.

It would have been easy after 12 hours at the ball park and 13-1/2 innings of play for the mentally and physically drained Rockies to lose faith. They were down 3 runs and this was their last chance. They had to plate 3 just to keep the game going. They had to plate 4 to win. Through the first 13 innings, they had only scored one run. They could have resigned themselves to the fact that you can’t win all 162 games in a season and gone home without a win.

But they did not give up. They were playing with injuries that would have otherwise benched them, but there were no replacements. Against all odds, they persevered and emerged victorious.

One the people on my “lunch list” is Winston Churchill. The main reason is that when things were the bleakest for England during World War II, when London was being bombed incessantly by the Germans, when it looked like they were going to lose the war, Churchill gave a speech which included these words:

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

He understood that when we are in our darkest times, we must hang on. We must persist. We must endure. We must always visualize success in the face of failure. Our news, our society, our culture will constantly define limitations for us. There will always be plenty of advice or “wisdom” that tells us something cannot be done. We must hold our vision and move forward toward our goals.

Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States has been associated with the following quote, which was spoken at his memorial service.

“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

When I am feeling down about my circumstances and needing inspiration, I think of Churchill, Coolidge and the Colorado Rockies. They all knew a thing or two about not giving up.

Copyright © 2009 by Victoria Young