4 Life Lessons from the Sacrifice Bunt
“The sacrifice bunt is probably the most valuable aspect of baseball that you can carry into the rest of your lives. Rest assured, this team won’t be the last area of your life where your sacrifice will add value.”
–Coach Dave Rivers, Coach Dave Season Two: All-Stars
I’ll just come right out and say it: I think the sacrifice bunt is what sets baseball apart from all other sports. In my years as a coach, it wasn’t my favorite button to push (that would have been the straight steal of home, which one of my teams pulled off three times in the same game–talk about exciting!). However, coaching the sacrifice bunt made for one of the most teachable moments every season. The sacrifice is a life lesson that cannot be learned early enough.
4 Life Lessons from the Sacrifice Bunt
Its very stance takes away most chances of personal gain.
Unlike the bunt for a hit or the squeeze bunt, the sacrifice bunt holds little element of surprise. The hitter squares early, often before the pitcher even starts his windup. The bunter should make no move toward first base until he has successfully laid down the bunt to advance his teammate.
It only shows up in the most detailed box scores.
Hitters usually have many opportunities throughout the course of the season to improve their personal statistics and help their team at the same time. If a successful sacrifice bunt leads to a run, that run won’t have an asterisk next to it to give credit to the bunter. In a detailed box score, the bunter’s name can be found behind the initials SH in an obscure part of the game statistics. Only a true fan would probably even notice the mention.
It is easily forgotten.
Once a bunter advances a base runner, the focus immediately turns to the succeeding hitter and whether or not he drives in the run. If he is successful in getting the runner home, the runner and hitter both add to their more valued stats. The guy who made that run more possible joins the rest of the bench in congratulating the players who started and finished the job while he plays the role the proverbial forgotten middle child.
It is not often celebrated.
When is the last time you saw a “Chicks Dig the Sacrifice Bunt” shirt at a baseball game? Right. Compare the way the players celebrate the sacrifice versus the way they celebrate the long ball…or the web gem…or the big strikeout from their pitcher…you get the picture.
Celebrate the Sacrifice
- Coach, I see you teaching your players to give kudos to the kid who just gave up his own opportunity for success for your team. You are teaching them that the name on the front of the jersey is more important than the one on the back. I celebrate you.
- Baseball mom, I see your hair pushed up in a cap because you were up late washing uniforms and up early to make sure that everything you would need for an entire day at the ballpark is loaded and ready in time to get your son to the field early. I see you running to the parking lot to make a quick run to the sporting goods store to get that pair of socks that he said he had before you all sprinted out the door. I see you smile politely at the coach when he decides that a great day of baseball means you’ll be washing that same “lucky” uniform that the team will be wearing again tomorrow. I celebrate you.
- Baseball dad, I see you working that side job so your kid can play competitive ball. I see you laying aside things you might have wanted to do for hundreds of hours in order to work on his game. I see him, too…taking you for granted. One day, he will hopefully recognize that a tiny, tiny percentage of the world’s children have the privilege of learning some of life’s greatest lessons through a game and that you have helped him learn those lessons. I celebrate you.
When our sons enter the world of competitive baseball, we are, in effect, squaring to bunt. Our stance, like that of the sacrifice bunt, should be one of giving ourselves up for the next generation. Coaches and parents, our job is not to live vicariously through our kids. This is their time.
Our sacrifices on behalf of our children (well beyond those that allow them to play baseball) will largely go unnoticed. For now. Even those sacrifices that are noticed can be easily forgotten. When a weekend of baseball climaxes with a tournament trophy, the plaque will say nothing of the sacrifice of the loyal parents.
If we truly understand sacrifice, we wouldn’t have it any other way. If this game is taught (and parented) the right way, our kids will get it eventually. Then, they’ll get to pass down the value of a sacrifice to our grandchildren.
As it should be.
Al Ainsworth is the author of six books:
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