As we are now past the shortest day of the year, it is only a matter of time until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training and another baseball season will begin. Baseball is off another great season full of exciting rookies, and not one but two divisions that took an extra day to decide the winner. The Red Sox won their 4th World Championship of this century after winning 5 the entire previous century.
Personally, I recently returned from a two week trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. It was an adventure trip, and it got me thinking about what going on vacation has with baseball. This also brings out the good going on in baseball and where it needs some help. I’ll narrow it down and review four aspects of vacation that relate to baseball: Relationships, Looking for the Story, Moments that Matter, and Building for the Future.
Traveling of any kind is always a great way to separate yourself from the pressures of work or school, but traveling internationally in my opinion can be an even more fulfilling experience. I don’t think I was asked more than one time “what I did” on this trip – and I love that. My “self” is not defined by my job – and too often as soon as we hear what others “do” we quickly lose sight of the person in front of us and conjure up images of what we expect a person who does that is supposed to be. To be free from those prejudices and alone with our personality and interests we bring to conversation is both daunting and rewarding.
Currently Bryce Harper and Manny Machado are still unsigned free agents, and what is intriguing about both of them is the conversation about personality in relation to both of them. Manny did no favors helping his public persona with his play in the post season which has been discussed ad nauseum, and Harper has had several personality run-ins in the past. When you are traveling in a small group – you can’t afford to brush off your fellow travelers and must treat all with respect. On our trip we vacationed with Australians and English, not to mention constant encounters with local Ecuadorians including our tour guides and drivers. Relationships and how you treat others matter, and making quality ones with travelers and teammates alike is important. Look no farther than players like David Ross, Alex Cora, and even guys like Jason Giambi who leave behind strong relationship histories as their legacy in the game as much as what they did on the field.
In our lives – we could easily spend all of our time staring at our little electronic screens looking and reading about everything others around us are doing. Yet one of the wonders that traveling does is helping create memorable stories. A typical Tuesday might see you work, possibly meet up with friends for bowling together, and call it a night. A fun night – memorable in its own right. However – when you are traveling – a Tuesday might see you hiking one of Ecuador’s tallest volcanoes Cotopaxi in the morning, enjoy an Ecuadorian picnic lunch with new friends, eat some guinea pig on a stick on the way to a town hidden in the mountains of the Andes, and enjoy some homemade chocolate fondue. Safe to say which night might be etched forever in your brain and come up more often in dinner conversation.
Baseball is no different. When we watch the World Series – we see David Price overcoming his personal post-season demons to pitch great in the World Series. We see Nathan Eovaldi, cast-off most recently by the Yankees before revitalizing his career and getting traded to the Red Sox. Then coming in as a power reliever and dramatically helping his paycheck this off-season in the process. Without the story – it
doesn’t have quite the same meaning.
Next is understanding how a single moment can encapsulate so much more than just that one moment in time. On this trip we got to do some incredible things in South America. We ziplined over a canyon and waterfall, white water rafted, and canyoneered through waterfalls in the Amazon rain forest. What is unique about these activities is that it is easy to point to these moments that symbolize aspects of the entire trip – and in fact facets of our personality – in just a few snapshots of time.
Similarly – baseball plays 162 games at least a season, and while many nights are like the Tuesday you go bowling at night as your entertainment, other nights end up in a story that you have dreamed about since you were old enough to dream at all. Thank you David Bode.
Finally – baseball and travel is about building for the future as much as living in the present. Baseball teams constantly must balance the promise of this season versus what that will mean for the teams future. The 2014 Oakland A’s famously went all in – trading Yoenis Cespedes for Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzjia and others before faltering in the one game playoff. This left their farm system barren for several years before re-emerging out of nowhere in 2018.
Traveling is about building up characteristics that are hard to get in other places. When you are in a foreign country with limited language knowledge, you can’t always rely on someone else to help in certain situations. You often have to read between the lines, realize that a formula of “what to do” may not always work. The Padres are example of how not to follow this formula. In the winter of 2014, they revamped their whole roster in hopes of competing right away. They had the ace, the veteran slugger, the nimble catcher, the young superstar…and it all failed. They had the formula right but couldn’t read the exact problem. They knew what might work but not what might work for them. Building for the future only works when you have an idea of where you want to go. So in our personal lives – the best way to disconnect, sit back and think about where we want to go…is taking a little vacation.