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Handling Failure

Ted-WilliamsThe proper mental attitude for a hitter is to first understand that you will fail more times than you succeed. Notice I didn’t say accept failure, I said understand that you will fail. There is a big difference between the two.

To illustrate the difficulty of hitting a pitched ball, the greatest hitters that ever played the game “failed” nearly seven of every ten times they stepped to the plate!

The last player to hit for an average of .400 or better was Ted Williams, in 1941! Nearly 60 years have passed. Since then every player has failed a minimum of 60% of the time. Every single player for nearly 60 years has failed more often than he has succeeded!

That said, what is failure? In the scene I described earlier in the book about the hitter who made an out moving his teammate into scoring position, did he fail? According to his batting average, yes he did. But every member of his team congratulated him. This player did not fail. Just because you do not reach base safely does not mean you fail.

When you look at a strike three with two outs and the bases loaded, with the outcome of the game on the line, you have failed. You know what? Its going to happen. Nobody is perfect. If you swing at that same pitch and miss, have you failed? Yes. Should you stomp to the dugout, throw your bat, your helmet and kick everything in sight? Never.

Listen, don’t think you have to show everybody in the whole world that you are upset at your failure to produce. Trust me, everyone in the ballpark knows how you feel. It isn’t necessary to show them. You tried, you failed. All done, can’t change it. Can’t go back and do it again. Its over, forget it and move on. Did I say accept it? No, understand that failure is part of the game.


What I tell young players is this: If you tried your best and failed, that’s the way it goes. Grab the barrel of your bat, run to the dugout and say these words “I’ll get ‘em next time!” Say them out loud.

This is what is known as positive affirmation. You are telling yourself that you will do better next time. Be positive. Nothing negative should ever be spoken by a ball player on a ball field. Positive thoughts and positive statements get positive results.

If you learn at an early age to grab the barrel of the bat and run to the dugout with a positive outlook, you will carry that approach with you wherever you go. In competition, or in life. . .get ‘em next time.

Here’s another scenario for you: Let’s say it is late in the game, the score is tied, the winning run is on third and you are up to bat, you really smash the ball. The ball is sizzling towards center field. The short stop comes out of nowhere and makes a diving catch. You’re out! Did you fail? No. Does your batting average say you failed? Yes. Get this straight, success and failure are not dictated by your batting average. Don’t get caught up in that. You’re goal as a hitter is to go to the plate with a purpose, get a good pitch to hit and hit it hard somewhere. Sometimes it will find a hole and sometimes it will find a glove. You have not failed if you hit the ball. Don’t hang your head or cry the blues. If the defense makes a good play, tip your hat. Your job is to hit the ball, his is to field it. “Get ‘em next time!” If you maintain that even keel, you will be a better ball player because of it.

Don’t get me wrong. . .I’m as competitive as they come. I understand that there is a tremendous amount of emotion in the game. More so late in a game, if the score is close. But throwing and kicking and spewing negative statements won’t change anything that has happened. Understand that the greatest players in the game fail, more times than they succeed. Focus your energy on what is ahead, not what has already happened. What can you do to be successful the next time you come to bat? Think positive. Be positive. You’ll be a better ball player and a much better person.

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