Baseball is a Game of Failure

It’s been said that baseball is a game of failure. Batters do the best they can to hit a round ball with a round bat. It’s the most difficult task in all sports. The ball is thrown into an area roughly 17” wide by 18” high. The pitcher and catcher work on a sequence of pitches that aim at one of nine little squares, approximately 6” by 6” (example: a low, inside pitch into the bottom right corner of the strike zone). The ball travels from the pitcher’s mound to home plate in about half a second. It’s twisting, rising, falling, going out, coming in, dancing; anything but simply floating belt high in the middle of the plate slow enough to get the head of the bat on it.

Not only is it difficult to hit the round ball with the round surface of the bat, within a fraction of a second, but it’s also difficult to put the ball somewhere where no one can get to it. Players on the other team can catch it in the air for an out. They can scoop it off the ground and throw it to first base where the player has only to catch the ball and touch the bag with his foot before the runner does. Other times, the player has to have the ball in his glove and touch the runner with it. Any way you look at it, getting a hit is difficult.

Many Major League players are successful at getting a hit about one out of four times. Their batting average would read .250 (read “two fifty”). That means, for every four times at bat, they fail to get a hit three of those times. They might have 100 at-bats (i.e. chances to hit the ball) during a given month. In this case, they would have failed 75 times; three times as many failures as successes.

As difficult as it is to get a hit, it’s also the case that in baseball, small adjustments can result in huge consequences. It is truly a matter of progress, not perfection, in baseball. For example, a batting average of .300 (read “three hundred”) would undoubtedly land a player a Major League contract, perhaps even propel that person into the Baseball Hall of Fame. To go from a .250 hitter to a .300 hitter, the batter basically only needs one more hit per week throughout the season. One. If the average number of at-bats in a given week is 20, the batter only needs to go 1 for 20 (or fail 19 times as opposed to all 20 times). You might agree: 19 out of 20 failures still sucks in terms of performance — yet sucking less for that batter could result in some amazing consequences!

Not everything we attempt will go perfectly the first time. Perhaps we will experience multiple failures along the way. On balance, perhaps even MOST of what we attempt will not be perfect. Nor will we have the perfect weight, the perfect height, the perfect hair, the perfect teeth, the perfect project, the perfect response in any conversation…and so on. We will most likely suck, most likely a majority of the time. If we can adopt the attitude of baseball, we can see that as we practice, we get a little better. Never perfect. But maybe, just maybe, we suck a little less over time. And how cool is that?!?

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