My Message to the PlayersPosted by Jeff Summers on Feb 13, 2014 in 2014 Spring Training | 0 comments
While everyone was excited when Spring Training opened on February 6th, that was just the beginning. For the next five days only pitchers and catchers were required to be at Salt River Fields. That doesn’t mean position players were excluded, their attendance was purely optional. The official reporting date for all players was February 12th making today the first time the entire team would be together for workouts.
For those who have not been part of Spring Training before there are a few things that may not come to mind when you think about baseball resuming after the off-season. On the first day players have to check in and go through a physical to make sure everything is in order to begin workouts.
In the days leading up to the players reporting, the Player Development team will come together for organizational meetings. These generally consist of everyone from scouting to the general manager meeting to make sure everyone is on the same page with what they are trying to do as an organization. To put it in terms that most knowledge workers understand, it is two days of meetings in conference rooms as each department describes what they are doing, what their goals are, and how they will support other areas of the organization.
During these meetings team management will speak to the attendees and lay out expectations for the coming season and areas where they want to focus. It also includes a pep talk to hopefully get everyone energized for when the players arrive.
Once all of the team is in camp there will again be another series of meetings where the coaching staff will describe their style and identify areas of focus that the team will work on during Spring Training. Team goals may be outlined or in a lot of cases the players will do that within the clubhouse. Finally the team owner, CEO/President, and General Manager will address the team with their expectations for the season and again hopefully impart some enthusiasm, which can be built upon throughout the season.
It’s good to get everyone together so that the franchise is on the same page with regards to what they want to accomplish and how they want to accomplish it. This year the Diamondbacks added a presentation by several of the players about what it meant to them to be an Arizona Diamondback.
Whether you are building a business, a family, or a team I think it is important to have goals, leadership, and direction. When everyone understands what you are trying to accomplish and how you are going to go about it, it generally leads to a smoother operation.
There is one point of view that I think teams sometimes forget; that of the customer or in this case the fans. I would not expect that the fan base would walk into these organizational meetings and try to tell the team how to do their jobs (although looking at social media it would seem that there are quite a few who feel they have the knowledge and expertise to do that). Instead I think it is important for teams to describe their goals in terms of how it impacts their fan-base.
So while the Diamondbacks have not asked, I am going to offer up what I would say to the players on the fans behalf.
Players, you are all extremely gifted and talented individuals. It’s not just your talent that got you to where you are today. It also took a tremendous amount of work and sacrifice and I want you to know how much we appreciate your dedication to reaching your potential of being the best.
There are going to be times when you may think that we don’t appreciate your efforts or worse we don’t care. That is not the case. It’s hard for fans to understand what it takes to do what you do. While some of us may have played the game before, none of us have ever been faced with the struggles of what it takes to play at the level you do.
What we lack in understanding we try to compensate with passion. You see most of us will extend ourselves well beyond what we are comfortable doing in order to afford Season Tickets or game tickets to take our whole family to a game.
That monetary and time sacrifice sometimes makes us feel as though we have a vested interest in your performance or that of the team. You see we live and breathe for every pitch, every at bat, every out.
We proudly wear your jersey and talk about you as though we were a proud parent or a close friend. Many of our friends and some of our families will never understand why we have such an attachment to someone we barely know.
It’s the game of baseball. That is the thing we have in common with you, the love of the game. Baseball is not a job; it’s a fulfillment of every fan’s childhood dreams of being able to stand before a stadium filled with others who love the game and to be on the field even for just a moment. So please don’t take that for granted.
I challenge each of you to think about why you are a baseball player. Many people think about what they do and some even go as far a understanding how they do what they do but seldom do we take the time to understand why we do what we do.
I’ll bet that very few of you if you thought about it would say you are a player because you get paid. Getting paid for doing something you love is an amazing reward but my guess is that is not what drives you to get up in the morning.
If you want a cohesive clubhouse I suggest you all get together and find a common “why” for this team. Once you know why you are playing this game you can then concentrate on the “how” which the coaches have laid out during their presentations. It is only then that you should think about the “what” of your jobs, which is the daily drills and preparation you make.
If you think about it, those amazing teams you have either been a part of or have seen in the opposing dugout were not great because they were better prepared than you; they were a team focused on a single goal. The goal was not to win the World Series; that was just a reward. No they were a team who all had the same “why”, the same passion, they were the teams that thought they could change the world.
I can promise you that if you can find that “why” for this team and never waiver from that it won’t matter what the end result is at the end of the season, you will walk away knowing you may have been part of the greatest team you have been on in your career.
From a fan’s perspective it’s my responsibility to support you and your goals and cheer on the effort you are making. I’ll promise you that from Section 132 Row 9 Seat 9 I will be there cheering and supporting this team.
Not because you are my favorite player but because I think baseball is an amazing institution that has the ability to bridge gaps and make the world an amazing place. It gives me the opportunity to teach my children about a game that my grandparents taught me and gives me a connection to family and memories that bring joy and happiness.
When things go bad or seasons end without achieving our goals it can be sad or depressing but it’s also a reminder that sometimes life is not fair. The universe has a way of achieving balance. For as low as we feel sometimes there are going to be times that we will feel even greater joy. I’m willing to accept that just so I can feel how great it will be when my team stands alone at the end of the season.
So as Spring Training begins just know that we are looking forward to seeing the season unfold before us and we can’t wait to see you on the field. Good luck this season.