Baseball is back in swing, which means there are lessons to be learned every day. The Kansas City Royals have struggled to start the season, but as my broadcast partners and I always say…it’s not over till it’s over. Even if there are failures along the way.
Michael Massey is a young second baseman who had a brutal 5-43 start to the season. He was so cold that the coaching staff benched him for two games. When I spoke with him about this decision on April 18th, he told me, “I really respect what they did and just being able to kind of give me that opportunity to clear the head … somethings not working. So I need to sit here and just watch and reflect for a bit.” I asked Massey what he learned in those two days in the dugout and he told me, “The game will break you. Instead of fighting the process, you’ve gotta let it build you back.”
To translate, things won’t always go the way you want them to, but those moments don’t define you. Whether in baseball, business or life, the key is to embrace them, learn and emerge better before.
The night of our conversation, Massey began the game hitting .116 and managed just one hit over the next three games. Days later, he had a pair of hits in Anaheim, marking his first multi-hit game of the season. The next night, he had two more hits. And the night after that, he did it again. Massey had six hits total in his first 20 games, and then six hits in his next three. When I followed up on our initial interview about a week later, I asked him if he was out of his funk. “I’m not there yet as far as feeling super comfortable,” he told me. “But it’s close.”
Two hitless games with seven strikeouts followed. As Massey suggested, the game will break you. It can be easy to focus on the negatives, especially when you’re dealing with the longest stretch of them in your career. But with grit and resilience, anything can become an opportunity for growth.
After all, it’s not over till it’s over…inside and Out of the Park.
Baseball’s new balanced schedule means American League teams will face their National League counterparts one series per year instead of every three years. That will result in trips to National League cities every other season versus once every six years as had been the case for years.
My ranking of favorite stadiums will always begin with Fenway Park in Boston. After that, I can debate any number of other venues. One of my long-time top spots is Oracle Park, so I was thrilled that our first Royals road trip of the year was to San Francisco.
I’ve written about it before and will continue to do so because of its unique stadium experience. It’s on the water, draws big crowds and is in the heart of an incredible downtown, making it one ballpark that should be on every fan’s bucket list.
I can’t say the same about Globe Life Field in Arlington or Chase Field in Phoenix, if only because indoor baseball will never feel quite right to me. With that said, neither the Texas Rangers nor the Arizona Diamondbacks could possibly expect fans to endure the sweltering summer heat of their respective regions.
We were lucky enough to visit both parks in April this year when the weather was picture perfect. The roof was open for all three games against the Rangers and two of the three Kansas City games in Phoenix. Neither stadium makes my top ten, or even top 20. But if you’re going to visit, try to do so in April or late September. It’s your best chance that Mother Nature will allow you to enjoy open air baseball.
My longtime friend and former producer Max Leinwand now produces Los Angeles Angels baseball. He and my Angels counterpart Erica Weston insisted that I visit Pizzeria Bianco when we went to Phoenix for the next leg of the Royals trip. They promised it would be some of the best pizza I’ve ever eaten. As an added bonus, the Heritage Square location was close to our hotel.
My wife Susan and I followed their recommendation. We ordered the wood-fired spiedini appetizer followed by a Wiseguy. This month’s theme may be about not jumping to early conclusions, but from the first bite, I knew this was some of the tastiest pizza I had ever eaten, and that says a lot. I now feel the need to tell as many people as I can, even though it has gotten plenty of accolades on its own, with a pretty great backstory too.
Owner Chris Bianco started Pizzeria Bianco in 1988 in the back corner of a Phoenix grocery store. He won the 2003 James Beard Award for Best Chef Southwest and his pizza restaurants have received national recognition from Rachel Ray, the New York Times, and Food and Wine magazine, to name a few. Zagat even named him one of six chefs who changed the pizza game. All I can say is now I understand why.
Rounding the Bases Rewind
In April, interviews on Rounding the Bases covered a broad range of topics. My guests included tech trailblazers, an e-commerce juggernaut and even an award-winning comedy writer. Every one of them was fantastic, but the most profound was with Reverend Adam Hamilton.
If you aren’t familiar with Reverend Hamilton, he’s the Senior Pastor at Church of the Resurrection, the largest Methodist Church in the United States. His tremendous influence as a religious leader in this country is matched only by his ability to captivate audiences, regardless of denomination. It just so happens that he lives in Kansas City.
This is an interview that has been on my wish list for a while and it did not disappoint. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to check it out. And of course, another big thanks to all of my April guests for joining me on the show:
Don’t miss new episodes released every Monday and Thursday, available wherever you get your podcasts.
Would you or someone you know make a great guest on Rounding the Bases?
Celebrating successes is critical, even if those moments are few and far between. April offered a peek at the character of the Kansas City Royals as a team, perhaps none so much as on April 8th in San Francisco.
It’s hard to call the Royals 6-5 victory the game of the year when it took place only nine showings into the season, but I believe it is one that will make the Best Of list when we look back in October.
Down 4-0 through five innings, a Bobby Witt Jr. home run cut the Royals’ deficit to three. Trailing 5-1 through the sixth, they again reduced the Giants’ lead to three with a Franmil Reyes homer. The magic happened in the eighth, when team captain Salvador Perez hit a 3-run home run to tie the game.
What I remember most about this game was the performance of reliever Taylor Clarke. He came into the game at the bottom of the inning with one job: to keep the game tied so his offense had a chance to take the lead in the ninth. Three straight singles put Clarke in peril. The bases were loaded with no outs…or margin for error. But as we say, it’s not over till it’s over.
He struck out the first batter. And the second. Then again with the third. As I stood next to my front-row spot in the camera well, I decided to take a picture of Clarke. I hoped the usually mild-mannered pitcher might crack a smile or fist bump some teammates. What I saw next surprised me.
While walking through the dugout reception line, Clarke screamed out, “LET’S GO” before throwing his glove at the dugout wall just feet away from me. Three straight strikeouts kept the game tied, and he let out all of his emotion in that moment.
The Royals responded with a run in the ninth and won 6-5. It was the kind of game that makes baseball great, and what set the stage for my favorite interview in April.
Perez on the #Royals' resilience after their comeback win from four runs down: "We're gonna play hard to the last out. We have a young group that really likes to compete. You guys see that." pic.twitter.com/lwstcY67FR
— Bally Sports Kansas City (@BallySportsKC) April 8, 2023
Also be sure to check out this month’s interview with Casey Wright, the President of Chief of Staff Kansas City. We talk about resilience in business and baseball, hitting home the theme that it’s not over till it’s over. Watch here.
Keeping the Score
Every week on my podcast Rounding the Bases I get the opportunity to interview business leaders, athletes and everyone in between. No two experiences are alike, but each conversation tells a significant story and provides an enlightening lesson.
My blog Keeping the Score rounds the bases with a single, double, triple and home run from each guest on the podcast. This month, my blog covered the topics of connections with people, finding purpose and building connections.
Check out all recent releases here.
Upcoming Speaking Engagements
I’m already booking into fall and winter, as well as through the summer as baseball allows. I look forward to speaking to some incredible groups in the coming months, including:
- Atlas Roofing – San Antonio, TX
- Securian Financial Group – Nashville, TN
- Johnson County Community College – Overland Park, KS
If you are interested in booking me to work with your organization, please contact my speaking manager, Charlotte Raybourn.
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