Monday, September 13, 2010

We need some tough

For as much talent as we can put out on a baseball field, what we need a little bit more of at the moment is some toughness.  Now, I'm not talking about "pick on the little guy and let's go start a fight" toughness, I mean game toughness.  I'm also not talking about performing poorly.  Lord knows there is a big difference between playing your ass off all falling short and backing down when its time to rock and roll.  Sure, we've got some guys who have gone out there and stood up, but we have a few more than I'd like that are faltering a little bit when faced with the challenge that college baseball presents.

For some, I think it is the culture they are not used to.  Alot of guys don't like being asked to deal with the pain of getting hit by a pitch or the pressure of throwing inside to opposing hitters.  For others, being faced with similar competition is the obstacle that needs to be crossed.  Those guys don't know what to do when the guy across from them is just as good as they are, they suffer from a sudden lack of confidence.  In alot of ways, I can almost understand...  You've been a star for the last few years and now you're fighting for a job, fighting for respect, and the guys you are competing with and against are as good as you are or maybe even better.

How do you conquer that?  Well, as Lou Holtz would say, "You stand up in front of your opponent and you look him in the eye for 60 minutes.  You hitch up your trousers and you say 'Hey baby, here I am now!  Why don't you try to run through me now!  Let me see you disrespect me with my nose to your nose.  Let's see what you think of me when my face is to ya.'"

Alright, so maybe that's a little dramatic, but the idea is gold.  At some point, you've got to stand up and take control of your own destiny.  Lenny Dykstra is no motivational speaker, and it would seem he's made a few miscues in the business world, but in the book "Moneyball" (which you should read), Michael Lewis writes a quote about Nails that sums it all up: “Billy [Beane] remembers sitting with Lenny in a Mets dugout watching the opposing pitcher warm up. ‘Lenny says, “So who’s that big dumb ass out there on the hill?” And I say, “Lenny, you’re kidding me, right? That’s Steve Carlton. He’s maybe the greatest left-hander in the history of the game.” Lenny says, “Oh, yeah! I knew that!” He sits there for a minute and says, “So, what’s he got?” And I say, “Lenny, come on. Steve Carlton. He’s got heat and also maybe the nastiest slider ever.” And Lenny sits there for a while longer as if he’s taking that in. Finally he just says, “Shit, I’ll stick him.” I’m sitting there thinking, that’s a magazine cover out there on the hill and all Lenny can think is that he’ll stick him.’”

I've heard alot of debate on whether or not this is the sort of thing that can be taught, and to be honest, I'm not sure.  I do know this though:  Whether it can be taught or not, it can damn sure be learned if a guy wants it bad enough.

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