The Mindfulness of Baseball

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Okay, today I’m all about baseball, because the LA Dodgers just won the 2020 World Series! A life long Dodger fan, I never dreamed I’d get to go to baseball’s big dance, but there I was, in Arlington, Texas, at game #3. I’m deeply grateful to my sweet, caring and generous friend who knows I’ve had an exceptionally challenging year in a year known for it’s challenges. I’m also thankful for an understanding husband who believes life should be lived to the fullest, and whispered in my ear, “She wants to do this for you,” when I almost couldn’t accept her offer.

So how does this all fit in to a blog on mindfulness? This year, I practiced mindfulness as a fan. I put aside my silly little superstitions that I have practiced since I was a kid, wearing the same thing I wore or eating the same meal I ate last time they won. Yes, I was that kind of fan. But I realized that if all that worked, the Dodgers would have won every series. So, instead I stayed calm when they blew game 4 knowing that was only one game. Okay, maybe I did shed a few tears when they won the series, but it’s been 32 years. THIRTY. TWO.

As for the players, when you think about baseball, or any sport for that matter, it’s really an inside game. Sure, there are lots of external influencers – hours of intense physical training, multi-million dollar salaries, product endorsements and such – but in order to get that far and to avoid burnout, you have the inside work to do. And that, my friend, is mindfulness. So it was with this in mind that I watched the game, observing the players and taking mental notes.

I think all sports would benefit by employing a mindfulness coach for the entire staff. And mindfulness should be taught both during season and off, because we all know that mindfulness works best when practiced regularly. Hmm, mindfulness coach for the LA Dodgers (insert dreamy harp music here)?

Imagine if you will, you’re coming up to bat, it’s the bottom of the ninth inning, there are two outs and the other team is ahead. You need a hit or a walk to stay alive and a 97 mph fastball comes hurling at you. If you’re thinking about all that surrounds that pitch, you’re likely to swing at anything. But a good batter is looking at this pitch, and this pitch only. Is it high and inside, or in the strike zone? Do I swing or lay off? Those are decisions you can only make by being fully present in the moment, and not ruminating on what got you there or worrying about what’s next.

I believe mindfulness is most apparent in pitching. Just look at the focus on the face of a pitcher and you will understand why I say baseball is a game of mindfulness. It’s when they start thinking too much, start cluttering their minds with the what ifs and the if onlys that things begin to go south. Before you know it, there’s a conference on the mound and we’re going in to commercial break for a pitching change.

And then there are those times when all thoughts of mindfulness are out the window and clearly they still have work to do. Take the aforementioned game 4. The Dodgers were going into the night up two games to one. It was a close game, each team was on top at some point, and the Dodgers were ahead by one run at the end of eight and a half innings. With our closer, Kenley Jansen, pitching a fine game, and with two on, and two outs in the ninth, the 26 year old Tampa Bay Rays’ player and World Series first timer, Brett Phillips is up to bat. And with count of 1-2, Phillips knocks a blooper out to center field. For those of you bored with baseball talk by now, I’ll just cut to the chase. Not one, but two Dodger errors, ended the game with a walk off run. What happened to mindfulness, guys?

And as for Tampa Bay? Well, sometimes you just get lucky.

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