I Don’t Have To Be Better Than You.
I played college baseball at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina — The ONLY Military Academy in history to make it to the Division 1 College World Series. They did it in 1990, 4 years after I graduated — they had to get rid of some deadwood like me before they could make their run. We played in the Southern Conference. Still, every year, our schedule featured 10-12 games against powerhouse teams like North Carolina, Clemson, South Carolina, and NC State.
By all accounts, they were better than us.
We weren’t a team of A-list players. We were more like the “Island of Misfit Ballplayers.” The guys from those other teams were the ones heavily recruited and coveted out of high school.
We were the”also-rans” everyone had pretty much passed over.
Yet during my junior and senior seasons, we won 3/4th of our games against the big guys.
And it was no surprise.
You see, we weren’t the greatest, baseball players on the planet, but we had two significant advantages:
1) We had no females enrolled, and
2) We couldn’t leave campus during the week.
So, since there were no NCAA rules limiting practice time, and we had very few distractions, we could outwork every school in the nation.
Our daily schedule was meticulously planned by our ABCA Hall of Fame Coach, Chal Port. As much as possible, academics were scheduled from 8 am to noon. Each off-season day began with a noon box lunch/classroom session on our SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) Manual. The SOP clearly defined defensive assignments for every player in every possible situation, as well as base running, hitting approach, signs, and other fundamentals. At the end of the fall, we took a 100 question test on every position we were assigned. Every missed question was penalized with a 5-mile run. Since on my off days from catching, I played other positions, I had to take 8 different tests. I studied harder for those tests than any academic exams I took. I ran zero miles.
Early work on the field began at 2 pm.
Practices were scripted to the minute and were highly productive. The practices lasted up to 5 hours and involved daily live scrimmages to ensure game-like reality. For position players, any gap in our class schedules was filled with weight training or visits to the batting cage on the 3rd floor of Alumni Hall. We lifted and hit in our military uniforms.
On weekends, we scrimmaged against JUCOs or pounded out practices lasting up to 8 hours. Our conference schedule featured Saturday doubleheaders, and according to Coach Port, “The only way to learn to stand in the sun for 8 hours is to stand in the sun for 8 hours.”
When the season started, we played with confidence, knowing that we were better prepared than any opponent we faced. We were nearly always overmatched, and sometimes, we got outplayed. But when the Bulldogs took the field, two things we sure. We weren’t going to beat ourselves, and we weren’t going to back down. It was common for our coach to say things like, “They might be better than us”.
“They might have a lot of future Hall of Famers on that team. That’s fine. We don’t have to be better than them. We just need to play better than them for the next 3-4 hours”.
“Just keep it close, boys.” Coach Port would say. “They’ll get the olive (his term for choking) and screw it up in the end.”
“Victory doesn’t always go to the team with the best players. Victory goes to the team that plays the best.”
To play better, you have to prepare better.
As your fall season wraps up, you have a choice to make.
Are you going to follow the crowd and do what everyone else does, or are you going to prepare yourself to play better?
Dogpiles are made here.