Third Inning – Business and Baseball: You Have to Swing to Get a Hit

During my 18 years, I came to bat almost 10,000 times. I struck out about 1,700 times and walked maybe 1,800 times. You figure a ballplayer will average about 500 at bats a season. That means I played seven years without ever hitting the ball. ~ Mickey Mantle 1970

Right Handed Baseball BatterIt was little Joey’s first season in the Little League Majors. At ten years old, he was facing pitchers two years older and 20 pounds heavier than he was, and it showed. But being a smart, though not big, kid, he figured he’d play it safe. He knew that even though they were much more experienced than he was, many of the pitchers couldn’t throw consistent strikes. If he just stood there and didn’t swing, maybe he’d get lucky and get walked.

His first time up to bat, it worked. After three balls and two strikes, the pitcher threw a fourth ball for a walk. Joey was on base, and he even managed to score a run when the kid behind him hit a home run.

His strategy worked so well, he decided to try it again the next time he was up. This time, he made it to a full count again, but the sixth pitch was a called strike. He was out, and walked, not to first base, but back to the dugout. Still, he was one for two – batting .500 – at least for getting on base.

The next inning was about the same – he stood there as three straight strikes went right by him. He was out again. Still, scoring one run in his first Major League game wasn’t too bad — was it?

After the game, the coach went over everyone’s batting average. Joey was a little surprised when the coach read his name aloud and said, “Zero.” Zero? How could you have a “zero” batting average? Hadn’t he scored a run? His coach saw the confusion and hurt on his face, and after the treats had been handed out, he pulled the little boy aside. “Coach,” said Joey. “I don’t understand. How do I have zero?” (Even though you get on base, a walk is not counted as an “at bat” so doesn’t count in computing batting averages… only hits. Today the statistic, “On Base Percentage” includes walks – you have to get on base to score. See MONEYBALL)

The coach put his arm around Joey’s small shoulders and leaned in close. “Son, you have to swing to get a hit.”

You have to swing to get a hit. Those words reverberated in Joey’s brain. Maybe it wasn’t enough to get on base just because the pitcher threw balls. Maybe he did have to take a risk to get in the game – to be successful.

Baseball BatterYou know how the story ends – the next game, Joey went in there swinging. Over the course of the season, he hit some, he got out some, he missed some. But he never forgot his coach’s wise words: You’ve got to swing to get a hit.

Whether your business is a small business, a home business, or larger, this is some of the best business advice you will find. Even when you don’t swing, you might score every once in a while because your competition is so bad that customers will choose anything else. But to really make something happen and win… to really be successful in business, you’ve got to get a hit. And to get a hit, you have to swing. It’s really as simple as that.

My dad taught me to switch-hit. He and my grandfather, who was left-handed, pitched to me every day after school in the back yard. I batted lefty against my dad and righty against my granddad. ~ Mickey Mantle

Don’t forget to swing hard, in case you hit the ball. ~ Woodie Held

Life will always throw you curves, just keep fouling them off… the right pitch will come, but when it does, be prepared to run the bases. ~ Rick Maksian

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