If you want to make a great play...You have to go get the ball!
20 years ago this summer I played my first full season of professional baseball; playing for the Hickory (North Carolina) Crawdads, the Class A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Just a year before that, I was playing my senior season at Seton Hall University hoping and praying that I could earn an opportunity to play at the next level and continue to chase the Major League dream.
I remember that senior season so vividly. Every game, every pitch, every play mattered. As a team, we were chasing a Big East Championship. Personally, I was doing everything I could to help my team accomplish that goal while also trying my best to prove to scouts that I was deserving of a professional contract. Unfortunately, our Seton Hall Pirates team came up one win shy of that Big East title, but some how, just barley, I got a call from the Pittsburgh Pirates following that season, offering me a contract. My dream of becoming of professional baseball player had come true.
Just weeks after taking off that Seton Hall uniform, I was in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, playing for the "Crosscutters" and competing in the "New York-Penn" League; short season "A" ball. Besides "Rookie Ball", this was the lowest step on the minor league ladder. The road to "the show" was very long and bumpy road and I was just getting started. Luckily for me, I was able to hold my head above water that short season and headed into my first spring training in March of 2001. And what an experience it was. For the first time in my career, I saw an entire Pittsburgh Pirates organization, from the Big League players all the way down to the rookie level guys. Between 150-200 players all wearing black and gold, all working hard to become a big leaguer.
I remember saying to myself...
"How in the world am I going to pull this off? How am I going to stand out in this talented crowd?"
This was a question I would ask myself every game I would play for the rest of my career. A question that all ballplayers ask themselves night in and night out, game after game. Although it would be hard to accomplish, the answer to this question was actually quite simple...
"I realized that in order to be great, I had to go and get the ball. I had to be willing to make something happen. Not wait for it to happen, but go and make it happen"
And that is exactly what I tried to do throughout my 14 year career. I committed to making something happen and not waiting for something to happen. Looking back, I'm almost positive that this is approach is the main reason I was able to play as long as I did and push my talent to its limits and almost pull off the big league dream.
As I have transitioned in the business world, I have come to realize that baseball and business have so much in common. Sure, the uniform may be different, and the office may not look like a stadium, but the game of business and baseball are very similar.
You see, you have to be willing to compete day in and day out. You have to be willing show up when you feel good and when you feel bad. You have to be willing trust and rely on your teammates, but understand that it is ultimately up to you if you succeed or fail.
Just like baseball, business can be harsh and cruel. It will humble you more times than you would like to experience. It will make you question whether or not you are good enough or talented enough.
But thats what makes the journey so amazing. If it was easy, would the moments of success be so rewarding?
I remember the picture above like it was yesterday. A hot summer day in Lakewood, NJ when I was able to come back to my home state and play in front of a huge crowd of family and friends. What a dream come true that was. Playing a professional baseball game in front of thousands of fans in a beautiful ballpark. This picture, this play, is one of my favorite of my career. I must have stared at this picture thousands of times in the last 20 years. It was a great play in a big moment in the game. A speedy runner with runners on the corners and 2 outs. We needed to get out of that inning and the only way to do that was to make this play. And the only was I was going to pull it off was to go and get the ball. Not wait for the ball to come to me, but to go and get it. To go and make something happen.
This picture has been a reminder to me that in sports and business -
...if you want something great to happen, you have to be willing to go and make it happen. You have to be willing to go get the ball. You have to be willing to make that call. Send that email. Have that tough conversation. Learn that new skill.
And this comes with an understanding that great success comes with great risk. Going and getting the ball may lead to making an error. Making that call may lead to a "No". Sending that email may lead to a negative response. Learning a new skill may take longer that you thought. Working hard for a win may lead to a disappointing loss.
But that is part of it. The process of becoming great is what the journey is all about.The strikeouts, the errors, the tough meetings, the late nights. All of it. It's the courage to compete, face adversity and push forward after failure that will give you the ability to be great.
So go out there and get the ball. Go out there and be great!
- Ray Digmi Navarrete