Does pitching have anything to do with business? Baseball does a great job of teaching how to win off the field. While draft picks of other major sports go from amateur straight to the highest level, baseball has a more humbling journey. Instead of team chartered flights and five star hotels, bus rides and cheap motels from small town to small town represent the beginning of a baseball career.
Often pitchers drafted out of high school or college have one or two pitches they are highly confident in. Coaches work with these players to ideally develop at least three pitches in their ascent from the minors to the big leagues.
A great example is Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw. No one has done it better in recent history. He has been named National League Cy Young winner three of the last four years. In addition, he claimed the 2014 National League MVP as a pitcher for the first time since Hall of Famer Bob Gibson in 1968. All of this has been accomplished by the young age of 26.
These questions to ponder on a day to day basis within a business career coincide with Kershaw’s three best pitches. I share these thoughts with you from my experiences over the years of trying to hit these pitches while I played on the baseball field and how I’ve used these pitching parallels on the business field. Let’s begin by looking at what the fastball most aligns with in business.
1. Will I work with what I have?
A pitcher doesn’t need to cross a certain threshold velocity wise before making their MLB debut. A fastball for a few means a straight as a string pitch topping out in the triple digits. For others, it may mean an 88 mph pitch with some movement. Clayton Kershaw is in between typically pounding the catcher’s mitt at 93-94 mph.
Kershaw’s crosstown rival Jered Weaver has dominated with a fastball rarely hitting 90 mph
Every pitcher competes with a fastball. Going pro in business or baseball requires more than what is seen to the masses on gameday. This is why talent isn’t enough.
Hustle is the one component each day that is a choice and is the equalizer amongst many variables. Being undersized at 5’7″ in high school and college, I didn’t rely on the home run trot and instead focused on hustling around the bases to score runs.
All baseball or business cares about is 100% effort being given to the person or project in the moment.
A great pitcher is tunnel visioned.
Pitchers often set up hitters with their ability to get ahead count using their fastball. The reason being is that it should be the most reliable pitch because it is the easiest to control. What the fastball is to pitching is what hustle is to business.
2. What will I do when the unexpected strikes?
All sports bring unexpected moves and moments. A good juke by a running back to avoid a tackle is the equivalent of a pitcher throwing a slider with hard, late breaking bite. This unexpected movement to the hitter often gets swings and misses.
What happens though even when a Clayton Kershaw slider flattens out?
A different type of unexpected typically unfolds when a slider stays over the middle of the plate. Solid contact if not a home run usually is the fate of the pitch.
A big moment took an unexpected turn for a minor league baseball player turned quarterback in the Super Bowl. The Seattle Seahawks didn’t draw up throwing an interception on the biggest play of the game but it happened.
Russell Wilson learned about plans going a different direction from his pro baseball career. A fourth round pick by the Colorado Rockies, Wilson hit just .229 over two minor league seasons before deciding to return to college and use his final year of eligibility to play football.
Despite leading the Wisconsin Badgers to a Rose Bowl appearance, he slipped to the third round and watched five other quarterbacks get their name called before him in the NFL draft. Many teams overlooked him for the job because of his sub six foot frame for the position.
Because of how he chose to deal with the emotional let down of these unplanned events, these were just stepping stones to becoming a Super Bowl champion.
The key to the second pitch in the business arsenal is the choice of deciding how to react when it comes to unexpected events. Anticipating both opportunities to arise out of nowhere and disappointments to occur is just part of playing the game. The only way to avoid this uncertainty is to sit in the stands.
We can all choose to move on from the unexpected like Russell Wilson
At 26 years old I won’t allow 1 play or 1 moment define my career. I will keep evolving. #Motivation
— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) February 2, 2015
3. When will I show up?
The big breaking ball in Kershaw’s left arm is what he loves to use to put hitters away with two strikes.
The pitch separates him from being great to potentially one of the all time best at his current pace. If he only had his two other pitches to rely on, hitters could take a 50/50 guess on fast or faster each pitch. Instead, the 18-20 mph difference between his fastball and curveball always keeps hitters on their toes.
The third pitch to apply in making business decisions isn’t a simple suggestion to show up early to an appointment or meeting.
A resource I have found valuable is a morning routine that is a launch pad to the day. If you want a change of pace unlike anything you’ve ever experienced, I highly recommended checking out HalElrod.com.
He has a short video on his home page from a keynote speech sharing how he came up with the idea. The Miracle Morning routine caught so much fire it even led to a book being written that is an Amazon best seller titled The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM).
Simply throwing a curveball itself isn’t a big deal no different than rolling out of bed is. The difference is in how it is executed. Being able to consistently throw a curveball for a strike regardless of whether or not the hitter swings makes or breaks the pitch.
Clayton Kershaw completed his first career no hitter in 2014
Clayton Kershaw wasn’t the king of the hill from day one but has continually worked hard in the offseason to make sure the previous year was a stepping stone to the next level. With all of his accomplishments, it is easy to wonder if there is anything left for him to improve on.
The answer to that thought is a big yes.
The main mountain yet to climb on his baseball resume is reaching the summit of a World Series. He has been least effective in the games that have mattered most only earning one win versus five losses in eight career postseason starts. 2014 once again ended on a bitter note losing both his starts against the St. Louis Cardinals in the playoffs.
2014’s results are in the history book for better or worse. The new year is still young and is time for everyone to work on refining their pitches. No matter where you are today in your business career, you can be in position come October to finish a strong 2015 season and compete for a World Series title in whatever industry you call home.
2014 saw Kansas City Royals pitcher Brandon Finnegan become the first player to ascend from pitching in the College World Series to the minor leagues to the World Series in the same season.
Who wouldn’t be fired up?
Unlike baseball though, the difference between the playing at minor league and major league level in business is not dependent on front office decisions. All three of these pitches described are simply decisions to make every day.
Anyone in American business is already playing on the biggest stage. Just ask any of millions around the world that can only wish they could be here.
Today is a reason to smile for baseball players, umpires and business people alike because it is another chance to answer the call to play ball not just in business but all areas of life.
Thanks for reading this far! If you know someone making these pitches each day, pass this article to them. It might give them the extra they need to throw a complete game tomorrow.