Every year I say it again: I can’t believe baseball is already coming to a close. For those of us who work in the game, the grind of a 162 game season completely overtakes months of our lives. Then suddenly…it ends.
The Kansas City Royals lost more than 100 games this season, so it’s appropriate that the theme of this newsletter is dealing with failure. Despite their record, the past several months actually felt easier for me in a lot of ways.
It could be because the team featured mostly young players, and watching them find their way in the big leagues made for plenty of exciting storylines. Or maybe it was the game-changing pitch clock and balanced schedule. Each played a part in keeping things interesting, even during the slower times.
Whatever the case may be, this is baseball. It will always have lessons to teach, but especially when failures outnumber the wins.
No other sport demands the kind of mental resilience that baseball does. The last hitter to end a season with a .400 batting average was Ted Williams in 1941. After more than 80 years his prestigious mark still stands, and even he failed 60 percent of the time.
When the Royals visited Miami in June, Marlins infielder Luis Arraez entered the series with a .392 average. It was only three months into the season, but talk of him reaching Ted Williams territory became part of the conversation. He entered the final week of 2023 regular play with a .353 average, the best in all of Major League Baseball.
There’s no question this was a difficult season for the Royals. To help the team push through the failures, it adopted the theme of living in the moment. Fans may have noticed players wearing t-shirts with the word ‘Today’ on them. These were meant to remind them to forget about yesterday and not worry about tomorrow. The only game that mattered was the one they were playing right now. It was fitting that the final road trip of the season highlighted three players in particular who have been masters of the ‘Today’ mentality for decades.
In Houston, I watched former teammates – and future Hall of Fame pitchers – Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke chat. At 40 and 39 years old respectively, they rank first and second in wins among active players. As for starts, Greinke has the most of any active pitcher with Verlander second.
Our last road series of the season was to Detroit, where we saw the legendary Miguel Cabrera play his final days before retirement. There is no one still playing who is within 1,000 hits of his career totals, making him one of the undisputed greatest sluggers of my lifetime.
There is no denying these three players are the best of the best. Between them, they have decades of experience in the big leagues…a feat that would not have been possible had they not learned how to adapt and deal with failure much earlier in their careers. It’s a valuable lesson that we all can benefit from, inside and Out of the Park.
When Rogers Centre opened in 1989, it was the first MLB stadium with a retractable roof. Originally called the Toronto SkyDome, it featured a hotel inside the building and was dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Nearly 25 years later, the hotel remains, but the venue is now one of seven with retractable roofs in MLB. Thanks to the new split schedule, the Royals actually visited each of them this season.
I’m always being asked to rank my favorite places to watch a game. I won’t make a list that captures every stadium in the league, but with this specific subset fresh in my mind, I will make one for retractable stadiums. And as is so often the case, my top spot belongs to the Home of the Mariners.
- 1. T-Mobile Park – Seattle
- 2. Minute Maid Park – Houston
- 3. Miller Park – Milwaukee
- 4. Loan Depot Park – Miami
- 5. Rogers Centre – Toronto
- 6. Globe Life Field – Arlington
- 7. Chase Field – Houston
I’ve written before that even though domed stadiums aren’t my favorite, every one of them is better when the roof is retracted. That rarely happens in Houston, Arizona or Miami where extreme heat or rain make open air play impractical. But in Canada, milder summers make for the kind of experiences that move Rogers Centre up a few notches on all of my lists.
There’s something about looking up from the stadium and seeing the iconic CN Tower. Add in its fantastic downtown location in one of my favorite North American cities, and a trip to Toronto is one worth making for any baseball fan. Though for the best experience, I recommend waiting until the dome renovations that are currently underway have been completed.
Most people would argue that no trip to Texas is complete without bbq. But as a KC guy, I have plenty of fantastic options at home.
What I do truly miss is a good deli. I grew up on the East Coast before moving to Chicago as a teenager, and we had an abundance of choices in both places. So when the Royals are on the road, I am always on the lookout for places to fill that void. And sometimes, I find them in the most unsuspecting locales…like Houston.
There is a restaurant I love there called Kenny and Ziggy’s. It has a sign inside with a quote from Damon Runyan that reads, “As I see it, there are two types of people in this world: People who love delis and people you shouldn’t associate with.”
As I enjoyed my delicious meal of matzo ball soup and corned beef on rye, it reminded me of the Jewish recipes passed down in my family…the ones that taste like home in a bowl. They may seem perfect now, but those time-honored dishes are the product of generations of testing, tasting and testing again. It’s a perfect example of learning from what didn’t work – failures, if you will – until you figure out what does.
You can’t help but love nostalgia. By far, though, the coolest experience in Houston was our visit to NASA.
Royals radio announcer Steve Stewart went to college with Jeff Lovell. He’s the son of Jim Lovell, the legendary astronaut of Apollo 13 fame. Thanks to this connection, we received a VIP tour, though anyone can – and most definitely should – visit Johnson Space Center.
I was in 8th grade when The Challenger space shuttle exploded. To this day, I remember exactly where I was when we got the news. I always had a healthy interest in space exploration. But since our recent tour, I will admit to being completely and totally enthralled.
We roamed an exact replica of the International Space Station, saw the Neutral Buoyancy Lab and even visited Mission Control. NASA works tirelessly to perfect every detail of every mission. It’s a level of precision I had never experienced before, but also exactly the kind of practice that should be demanded when lives are at stake and failure is simply not an option.
Rounding the Bases Rewind
One of the most inspiring episodes on Rounding the Bases this month was an interview I had with Dr. Gilles LaMarche, and we have our mutual friend Dr. Michelle Robin to thank for making the connection.
Dr. LaMarche is the Vice President of Life University who brings an unshakable energy to everything he does. Our discussion explores the art of wellness and how with the right attitude, you can always find a path to success, no matter the circumstances.
His positivity alone makes it all worthwhile, but his story is so powerful, it might change your whole perspective on life. Listen here.
And finally, I’d like to give another big thanks to all of the great guests who joined the show in September:
Beginning in November, new episodes will be released every Tuesday, available wherever you get your podcasts.
Would you or someone you know make a great guest on Rounding the Bases?
I had a number of interviews this month that could easily qualify as favorites. Instead, I’m bringing fans behind the scenes with me to the Royals pitching lab, otherwise known as The Donut Shop.
In a sport of failure, finding ways to improve your game is a constant. Gone are the days when each team had just one coach for pitching and another for hitting. Now, each discipline has its own team of experts. They spend their days pouring over data, spreadsheets and other technologies to help athletes perfect their performance.
So what does the art of pitching have to do with sugary breakfast confections? Watch below to find out.
Knowing how to deal with failure is a valuable skill, whether in baseball or in business. It was a great foundation to this month’s discussion with Casey Wright from Chief of Staff KC.
I want to extend a huge thank you to everyone who attended the KS SHRM 2023 Annual Conference in Overland Park. It’s wonderful to speak with any sized crowd, but the 450-person audience completely energized me.
It was a privilege to work with so many HR professionals from across the state, and when I hit the road with the Royals a few hours later, I was ready to take on the final stretch of the season.
In October, I look forward to keynoting events locally, at Lake of the Ozarks and in Naples, Florida. I would love to fill my remaining off-season availability by serving your audience.
Below is a link to my one sheet, which includes great information about my sessions. For even more details, please contact my speaking manager Charlotte Raybourn.
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