What You Can Learn From Minor League Baseball Players

I posted an article with this same title on a previous blog of mine, but I thought that in order to keep with by “Baseball, Psychology, and Life in General…” theme, it would be appropriate to post it on here as well.  I’ve made some slight modifications to my previous book review, so this isn’t just a flat out copy and paste from a previous blog.

Last summer I read Where Nobody Knows Your Name by John Feinstein, which is a book about minor league baseball players.  I found the book to be pretty fascinating for a variety of reasons.  Obviously, part of the reason is because I’m a baseball aficionado who keeps tabs on the minor leagues.  But with my background in I/O psychology, it’s interesting to see how what I’ve learned translates into the real world.

A lot of people see the glamorous life of the Major League athletes and assume that all athletes experience the same perks and lifestyle, and that’s far from the case.  When you’re watching an MLB game, you’re seeing possibly only the top 10% of professional baseball players in North America (that number is assuming that each MLB organization has 25 players on each of the farm team, when in reality most teams have even more than that, so you’re really seeing less than the top 10% and maybe even closer to the top 5%).  In other words, you’re seeing the elite talents in their industry perform.

As I read Where Nobody Knows Your Name, I felt that the book actually illustrates the struggle that most working class citizens go through.  Long before I read the book, I had often felt that baseball is the most job-like of all the sports out there.  That’s not to say that the other sports aren’t difficult or job-like in their own right, but baseball is played practically every day from February until early October or even early November if your team makes it to the World Series, with minimal days off, so it most reflects the schedule of a typical working class employee than other jobs do.

To say that it’s a grind for minor leaguers to even just reach Triple-A is putting it mildly.  Along the way, players deal with all sorts of various stressors.  They play a sport they love for minimal money (some ball players in Triple-A make $2,100/month…that’s $10,500 for an entire year of work!) and many more make even less than that (of course, there are some instances where a Triple-A player with MLB experience makes six figures, but that’s few and far between).  Minor league baseball players play this game they love for minimal money, while trying to balance a family/social life away from the ballpark, dealing with the stress of living up to expectations (family expectations, their own expectations of themselves, the team that drafted them or owns their rights’ expectations), and dealing with all sorts of career uncertainty (when will they get promoted to the next level? Will they get demoted? Could they get traded? What if they get released? What’s next for them in their life after playing professional baseball?)

A big takeaway for me from reading this book, as it was when I read Jason Grilli’s Just My Game, is the importance of keeping things in perspective, and to take life as it comes to you one day at a time.  Of course that’s easier said than done, but it’s important for you to be able to accept that life can change at any moment, for better or for worse, and your ability to adapt to that shapes who you are as person and the type of life that you ultimately live.

I leave you with the following points to provide food for thought:

  • Uncertainty is a part of life. Even those who go on to achieve great things in life were not always 100% sure they could achieve what they set out to achieve.  It takes confidence, hard work, and the ability to bounce back from adversity.
  • Pro athletes are people too. While their lives seem more glamorous and/or coveted than others, they live with the same stressors that other working class citizens live with.
  • Those self-doubts that you have are normal, and it’s okay to feel them. But when they take over your life, that’s when it becomes a problem.
  • Keep things in perspective. Because no matter how much you think your life sucks, and no matter how your life compares to your ideal life, you’re probably still doing pretty well and there’s probably someone out there who covets what you have.
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Goal-Setting and Strategic Planning

Goals are what direct and guide our behavior, whether you realize it or not.  By now, you’ve already accomplished a small series of goals.  You woke up, and got out of bed (unless you’re reading this in bed, then you’ve accomplished your goal of staying in bed).  You took a shower, you brushed your teeth, you left your home to go to work, you pulled out your phone or your laptop and began reading this blog (if reading an article on this blog on a regular basis is a goal of yours, then I have to commend you and thank you for your support).  The fact of the matter is that for the most part, everything we do in life is motivated by satisfying some sort of end result we’re looking to obtain.  So I figured I’d talk about goals, both distal (long-term) and proximal (short-term).

My experience has always been that it’s best to have a distal goal that is made up of a series of proximal goals, so that you can better track your progress along the way.  By doing this, you’re not constantly comparing your current predicament to your desired end goal (i.e., if you want to lose 15 pounds, you won’t be beating yourself up over losing “only” 6 pounds through the first two weeks because you’ll have mapped out a timeline for accomplishing your goal, and should be satisfied with your progress thus far).

Set a timeline and a deadline.  If you don’t meet that deadline…simply set another one.  Be disciplined, but after all it is YOUR goal so you should have some autonomy over when you accomplish it.  In the end, does it really matter if you lost that extra five pounds by that random date you set up? Ask yourself which is more important: accomplishing the goal correctly or accomplishing the goal on time?

I’ll leave you with these bullet points to think about:

  • Make a list of what your goals are, and when you realistically want to achieve them by. The important part here is to be realistic.  It’s great for the goal to be something that will challenge you, and in fact that’s highly encouraged.  But be realistic. For example, if you’re currently bench pressing 150 pounds right now, you probably won’t be able to bench press 300 pounds by this time next week, so please be realistic when setting up your timeline.
  • Make your distal goal a series of proximal goals. This allows you to monitor your progress, and enjoy some of those “small wins” along the way so you can assure yourself that you’re on the right track to successfully obtain that goal.  This also allows you to keep your focus on the journey of your goal attainment, and not just your destination.  For example, if you’d like to save $5,000 over the next calendar year, then figure out how much you need to save weekly or monthly ($96.15/week or $416.67/month) and map out how much you should have saved away during various points of the year to make sure you’re staying on track.
  • Set a deadline. Try to accomplish your goal by a certain date that you decide.  Again, be realistic about the point in time you’d like to achieve your goal by, but remember that if you miss that self-imposed deadline that it’s perfectly okay to replace it with another, realistic and challenging deadline.  After all, it’s your goal and your life, so who’s to tell you when you should accomplish your goal by?

Buckley Blog Bits – August 15, 2016

When I don’t have enough material to warrant writing a blog article about a single topic, I’m going to periodically post articles such as this one, where I post a few sentences or a paragraph devoted to a topic before posting another paragraph about another topic.  I’ll call these articles Buckley Blog Bits.

  • I was driving to Toronto for the Blue Jays game against the Astros this weekend when I saw a car with a license plate that read “COPING” on it. It made me start to think about how I don’t really care for the term “coping” when people discuss their battles with anxiety because I don’t perceive the word “coping” to be a positive term.  I’d rather hear someone say that they’re “managing” or that they’re “controlling” or that they’re “defeating” their anxieties rather than hear them say that they’re “coping” with it.  To me, that sounds like you’re living paycheck-to-paycheck with your problems, rather than investing in a long-term solution for your battle with anxiety.  To me, the term “coping” just sounds like your anxiety is more in control of you than you are in control of your anxiety.
  • It might sound weird, but it’s up to you to decide if you want to be happy or not. Even if you’re not living your ideal life right now, you can at least find a new, more positive way to interpret your current predicament.  It’s your responsibility to keep things in perspective, especially during times of adversity.
  • I’ve been reading Jason Grilli’s book, Just My Game, for the past week or so and while I’m not finished with it yet (I’m about two-thirds of the way through it), I thought I decided to share a few of my thoughts about the book. Grilli discusses in great detail how he was torn apart emotionally by his season ending knee injury in 2010…until he met a high school soccer player who was forced to have her leg amputated after being hit by a car, and that meeting that high school soccer player helped him remain positive about his own situation. My main takeaways thus far from the book are the importance of staying positive along your life’s journey, as well as keeping things in perspective.  Your life rarely ever goes according to plan but it’s how you overcome those unexpected roadblocks and moments of adversity that really define who you are and how successful you are.  In addition, keeping negative moments in the proper perspective is an important aspect of maintaining a positive attitude and living a more positive life.
  • The overall message that I’m trying to communicate here is to keep things in the proper perspective, take responsibility for how you react/respond to moments of adversity, and understand that positivity breeds success (success doesn’t necessarily breed positivity).

Blog Intro

Here is a quick background on myself before I begin to write regularly:  I have a Master’s degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, and I currently work as a Logistics Coordinator for one of the premier transportation companies in the nation.  I’m a baseball fan, and I spend most of my weekends either making the trek to Toronto to see the Blue Jays, or make the shorter trip to Buffalo to watch their Triple-A affiliate, the Bisons.

I also like watching combat sports, having attended a handful of UFC and Bellator events, as well as some boxing events and even a few WWE and WCW pay-per-view events over the years.

But in addition to watching sports, I enjoy reading in my spare time, especially books that pertain to psychology, business, and art/photography.  I collect autographed baseballs (I’m currently at 105 Toronto Blue Jays single-signed baseballs, meaning that I have around 15% of the all-time roster at the moment which I guess implies I have a solid collection so far).

I decided to create this blog as a forum for me to express my thoughts on the world around me…or at the very least, to rant and express my thoughts and opinions on baseball (notably, the Blue Jays and their farm teams), psychology, and just life in general at times.  I’m not going to treat this like some sort of public personal journal, nor am I going to sit here and tell you that my perspectives and opinions are the correct way to see things, because I’m always open to the opinions of others.  Also, what fun would it be if everyone felt the same way and agreed on everything? At the very least, I decided that I’d like to share my two cents in a more public forum.

I hope you enjoy reading my articles and random ramblings that I’ll post on here from time to time.  Feel free to comment and interact.  If at least one person out there is entertained by my writings and ramblings, then I’ve done my job.

-Matt