Hey Batter, Batter…Swing Batter!

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Fear of becoming a has-been keeps some people from becoming anything

Eric Hoffer

From my 3rd base coaching spot I watch the batter take strike one, looking.  Then strike two, looking.  Come on, come on, here comes another one, take a rip!

Strike three, looking.  For those scoring at home, that is a backwards “K.”  A swinging strikeout is recorded as a “K” in the scorebook, while a strikeout looking is noted by a backwards “K.”

My scorebooks are filled with K’s, it’s part of the game.  But far too many are of the backwards variety.  In a game filled with mysteries, one of the greatest is why hitters take strike three instead of swinging.  Of course, there are times when the pitcher executes perfectly and the batter is fooled.  But all too often as a coach I am left wondering, “Why?!  Why didn’t he swing?  It was right down Broadway!  Come on, force the pitcher to get you out?”  From my own experience as a player, I know that players are wondering the same thing.

In the first case, hats off to the pitcher.  But the rest of the time the mystery can only be understood as something related to risk taking.  The fear of swinging that bat and missing, of actually trying and then hearing “Steeeerike Three!” from the umpire, can freeze a batter, even though, of course, strike three still comes along complete with the umpire’s screech and the coach’s stare.

Baseball is a game of numbers.  Hitters are considered successful if they get a hit 30% of the time.  That means that even the best fail 70% of the time, so in terms of offense, failure is a regular part of the game, and successfully dealing with that failure is often what gives a team or player an edge.  Consider this:  if a batter puts himself on the line and swings at a pitch in the strike zone, he has at least some chance of reaching base.   But if that batter does not swing, there is a ZERO percent chance of putting the ball in play and reaching base.

Baseball fans like me love to point out an abundance of baseball-is-life metaphors.  And there are few better than this one.  Sure, you might fail when you try things, but if you don’t try….

So, when kids I care about are up to bat, in a game or in life, I say, “Hey batter, batter … Swing, batter.”