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Lessons From the Diamond

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Baseball season is well upon us. For the next few months, millions will focus the bulk of their sports interests on our national pastime, and enjoy long games out at the ballpark.

Baseball fundamentally differs from other popular American team sports insofar as the ball rests with the defense, and the opposing offense is forced to respond to its advances. The pitcher, representing the defense, holds the ball and plays catch with the catcher until the offensive player puts it into play and alters the equilibrium.

We all serve as batters in the game of life. Sometimes, we are forced to react, to await the pitch that is heaved our way and decide what to do with it. We can let an opportunity pass by with the hope of getting a better one, or we can jump on the first one that we see and make the best of it.

Another unique quality of America's pastime is the way in which one teammate affects the other's capacity to make an impact. Though teammates are important in every sport, they do not limit any one player's ability to "go the distance" and score the fullest possible tally on any given possession. When on offense, an eligible football player can take the ball from any point on the field and score a touchdown. A hockey player can skate in from his own ice and net a goal. In basketball, anyone on the offensive side can dribble down and shoot as he sees fit.

Baseball is unique in that regard. When a player steps to the plate, the impact that he can make is completely dependent on who has preceded him (unless, of course, he is sufficiently fleet afoot and adept as to be able to steal the remaining bases without getting caught). If he leads off the inning or bats with the bases empty, his ability to influence the score is greatly limited; at most he can score one run. If he is the only player that the opposing team is worried about, they can pitch around him. It does not work that way in other sports.

The lesson that we learn is that we cannot do it alone, at least not on the diamond. No matter how capable we are, we still need to surround ourselves with quality people who will set the table and force others to pitch to us when the game is on the line. Any professional that works with others needs to appreciate the significance that their "teammates" play in the daily game of life.

Naphtali Hoff (@impactfulcoach) served as an educator and school administrator for over 15 years before becoming an executive coach and consultant. Read his blog at impactfulcoaching.com/blog.

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