When Danny Espinosa of the Washington Nationals and I were teammates on the Santa Ana California Little League Cubs, we dreamt about one day becoming the next Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Jeter. In order to help us achieve this goal, our fathers Dan Espinosa Sr. and Jose M. Lopez dedicated countless hours as our coaches, but more importantly as our role models.
Both Dan and Jose had three things in common: their love for their family, their Mexican heritage and knowledge of illicit activity because the former practiced criminal law, while the latter had a few juvenile encounters with the law. As a result, they along with our super moms, Vicki and Margarita, invested all of their time in us because they saw baseball as a microcosm of life. They hoped that the lessons of the game, together with their direction and discipline, would steer us away from wrongdoing while guiding us towards success.
1) Fail better -- Baseball is the only sport where if you fail 7 out of 10 times you are considered successful, thus you have to learn how to get up from defeat. The difference between success and failure is how you pivot and persist in the face of adversity because life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond.
2) You can only control two things, your attitude and your effort -- "Baseball is 90% mental and 15% physical," Yogi Berra famously said. Therefore in baseball like in life you attract what you think. Be positive and never think you're better than your competition because that's when they'll pass you by. You can't always control the outcome, but you can always keep innovating and improving your skill sets.
3) Be competitive -- If you want to win your position or make the playoffs then you have to compete and beat your competition. At some point, everyone stops playing sports, therefore, what matters most is how you compete in life.
4) Respect the manager, team, umpires and opponents -- Every position on and off the field is an integral and valuable component to the game. You can't do everything on your own, thus if you want to succeed in society you have to respect the laws and get along with your fellow colleagues, students and others.
5) The calls will never always go your way -- In baseball, sometimes the calls will go against you just like in life. Consequently, you have to respect other points of view because everyone sees things differently. Instead of dwelling on bad luck you have to look forward and prepare for the next opportunity.
6) Anticipate where the ball will be, not where it has been -- If you want to be successful in life you should live with anticipation towards the future and not focus on the past. Derek Jeter's incredible shovel pass is the perfect example.
7) Do the small things well -- Baseball is a game of inches, and life is about how well you execute the daily small tasks when no one is looking.
8) Be coachable -- In order to improve, you need to take feedback from your coaches. Those who excel in life are the ones who have a willingness to learn and understand their role on the team.
9) Take care of your health -- Exercise is good for your health, but if you are injured you will be put on the disabled list (DL). In life you must take professional health advice and safety measures seriously, or else you will not be able to perform to the best of your ability which will cost you time and money.
10) Have a plan -- When playing you need to have a game plan. In life you must also plan your career. Our parents knew that less than 1% of athletes would become a professional, thus they made sure we planned to go to college. When we had an idea they said, that's a great, work hard to achieve it, but just in case you don't make it what do you want to do?
Lessons in Action
Even though only one of us became a professional ball player, we both succeeded in life because of our parents. Their lessons not only steered us away from wrongful activity, but helped to lead us when we needed it most.
In 2013, Danny spent several months in the minors in order to recover from an injury and after I graduated from UCLA, I too was developing in the farm system of Washington D.C. politics as an unpaid intern for many months. In our journeys we all face challenges and we all go through slumps. What matters most is that you remain positive and continue to persist and move forward in the face of adversity because life truly is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond. Despite our individual struggles, we cherished the numerous trials and tribulations as an opportunity to improve, just like our fathers Dan who overcame not becoming a professional baseball player and Jose who prevailed in reforming his life against all odds. Therefore, if we can succeed then so can you because champions are measured by how high they bounce after they fall.