The Anatomy of a Blowout (and Its Life Lessons)
The Anatomy of a Blowout (and Its Life Lessons)
The following scenario plays out time after time in baseball and in life. I call it the anatomy of a blowout. This is the story of a team that never seems to catch a break. In reality they have multiple opportunities to create their own breaks. To create some momentum. To not only avoid a blowout but actually compete for a win.
A baseball blowout contains transferable principles to many other areas of life. Stay tuned after the game…
The Blowout That Didn’t Have To Be
Pre-Game: The Monarchs drew the 8:00 a.m. slot on Saturday morning for their first tournament game. If that weren’t enough, several players didn’t arrive until fifteen minutes before game time because one of them couldn’t find his glove. That player was the scheduled starting pitcher. After rushing a new pitcher into his warm-ups, the coach arrived out of breath to the pre-game meeting with the umpires as his late arrivals quickly loosened their arms.
Top of the 1st:
The Monarchs threatened by putting their first two runners on base. However, on a full count pitch, their third hitter struck out on a pitch in the dirt. Both runners attempted to move up a base, but the Blue Sox catcher made a nice throw to third to nail the lead runner for the second out. A line drive that fell just in front of the center fielder should have scored a run, but the runner on second forgot how many outs there were and didn’t run on contact. The Monarchs’ fifth hitter struck out looking.
Bottom of the 1st:
A routine ground ball by the Blue Sox lead-off hitter should have been handled for the first out, but the Monarchs’ third baseman waited back on it and was unable to throw out the speedy runner. After a stolen base and a walk, the Monarchs made the play on a sacrifice bunt for the first out. The Blue Sox popped up a squeeze bunt attempt for the second out. With two outs, the Monarch pitcher made a great pitch on a 1-2 count for strike three. However, the ball popped out of the catcher’s mitt, and the catcher’s throw to first sailed over the first baseman’s head. A single scored that runner before the Monarchs could record the third out. After one inning the Blue Sox led 3-0.
Top of the 2nd:
The Monarchs scratched a run on three consecutive base hits but stranded runners on second and third to end the inning.
Bottom of the 2nd:
A wild pitch with two outs gave the run back in an otherwise good inning for the home team. The Monarchs trailed 4-1.
Top of the 3rd:
The Monarchs looked to take advantage of a fit of wildness from the Blue Sox pitcher, who walked two and hit a batter. With no outs and the bases loaded, the next Monarch batter swung at the first pitch, lifting a sacrifice fly into center to close the gap to 4-2. That was as close as the Monarchs would get after a popup and a strikeout ended the inning.
Bottom of the 3rd:
The game began to slip away when a Blue Sox hitter battled for a nine-pitch walk to load the bases with two outs. The next hitter lined a double into the right-center gap to clear the bases and give his team a 7-2 cushion.
Top of the 4th:
Three consecutive hits to start the inning plated a run with no outs for the Monarchs, but the base runner took too wide of a turn around third base and was tagged out in a rundown. A line drive double play ended the threat.
Bottom of the 4th:
Seven Blue Sox hits led to six runs and a 13-3 lead, threatening to end the game by the mercy rule.
Top of the 5th:
Three Monarch hitters swung at the first pitch they saw and all grounded out, ending the game.
A 13-3 Blowout in the Books, but What If…
The final score indicates that the Blue Sox were a far superior team to the Monarchs. However, a series of smaller mistakes and missed opportunities tells a more accurate story. How might the anatomy of this blowout have been different if…
before the game…
- the Monarchs’ player had packed his equipment the night before the game and warmups had happened as usual
- the scheduled starting pitcher had made his start instead of a pitcher rushed into service
in the first inning…
- the three-hole hitter had walked instead of struck out on a pitch out of the zone
- the runners had gotten a better jump and moved up a base on the pitch in the dirt
- the Monarch runner knew the game situation on the hit to center
- the Monarch third baseman had charged the slowly hit grounder
- the catcher had squeezed the third strike. Or tagged the hitter. Or made a good throw to first.
in the second inning…
- the Monarchs had gotten a key two-out base hit
- the Monarchs could have avoided the two-out wild pitch
in the third inning…
- the Monarchs’ hitter batting with the bases loaded had been more patient with a struggling pitcher
- the Monarchs could have picked up a key hit with two chances with a runner in scoring position
- the Monarchs’ pitcher could have made a pitch to get an out on the hitter who drew the two-out walk
in the fourth inning…
- the Monarchs could have avoided two base running gaffes that gave away two outs
- that line drive had been a couple of feet in a different direction
- the Monarchs had closed the gap before the disastrous bottom of the inning
in the fifth inning…
- the Monarchs hitters would have battled to try to reach base
- the Monarchs had been able to scratch a run or two to extend the game.
You could probably add several more “what if’s” that might have changed the game. The bottom line is this: A blowout is rarely one team’s absolute dominance over the other but a series of events that open the door to one team’s gaining a big advantage over the other.
Post-Game Huddle: Transferable Principles
The anatomy of a blowout on the baseball field contains certain transferable principles to life away from the diamond. Doing the little things right often lead to better results down the road. Let’s look down one of the many possible scenarios that could be used to give a young student-athlete a vision for his or her future:
- Extra preparation in academics usually leads to better grades.
- Better grades often lead to opportunities to take higher-level classes with other high achievers.
- Extra activities in school lead to a better overall college resume, not to mention fostering potentially helpful relationships. Ditto assuming leadership roles.
- Extra scholarships lead to fewer student loans.
- Fewer student loans lead to less stress and more options.
- A good reputation from part-time jobs leads to better letters of recommendation.
- Simply showing up on time for school, work, and interviews vaults the student above most of the rest of his or her peer group.
- Landing a good first job puts a young adult on a path toward better advancement opportunities and, with them, better financial stability and success.
You could go on and on with this scenario…or look at it conversely. A discipline that I think that is often neglected is that of reflection. Most people rarely take time to consider where they are, how they got there, and what changes they need to make to get to where they want to go. The little things in life–those that we do and those that we avoid–make a greater difference than we realize in charting a course for where our lives take us.
And to think, we have the opportunity to teach that to the next generation through a game. Even when that game is a blowout.
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About Al Ainsworth
Al Ainsworth is a values storyteller. He works with individuals, businesses, churches, and other organizations to pass along their values through the stories they tell…and re-tell. Al is the author of Lines in the Gravel (and 52 Other Re-Told Childhood Tales), Stories from the Roller Coaster (of a Faith Life), and Coach Dave: Season One. Subscribe to his email list for more values storying.