If you follow me on Twitter you realize I sort of lose my mind during the baseball playoffs. I am enamored by the nuances of baseball and watch for little things with a critical eye.
The baseball season is often called a marathon. There is no room for mood swings in a 162 game season and the team that best manages emotions, demands, and pain, usually uncorks the champagne.
The Kansas City Royals play baseball as well as any team I’ve watched in my life, and the way they approach the game can teach us a lot about racing Ironman.
The Royals are: Calm, committed, patient, prepared, resilient, and relentless.
Dozens of things can go wrong during a baseball game, but the best teams have short memories. Both teams made big mistakes in the World Series, but the Mets seemed to sulk and let errors define their destiny. The Royals adjusted and moved on with a calm focus that got them back into their game plan. Shit happens. The Royals don’t let little things define the big picture.
They Royals know who they are and never waiver. Their style can be described as aggressive and there were several examples of “risky” decisions (by traditional baseball standards) on the base paths, but it usually worked in their favor. Why? Because all season they have committed to be aggressive base runners. They’ve trained themselves to react instead of overthink, and by default this puts their opponents on the defensive. Game after game, this is how they play and it has become a habit.
At one point during the clinching game, an announcer said, “It’s almost like the Royals have the script ahead of time.” And it’s true. They know their roles to perfection. They don’t improvise or showboat, they prepare to win baseball games. Kansas City trusts the script. And the story always ends with them winning.
The season itself is long, but each game is also a marathon. The Royals rarely forget this. They never seem to get rattled because they’ve built a powerful engine they believe will take them the distance. Just because someone jumps out ahead of them, doesn’t mean the race is over. During the playoffs they outscored their opponents something like 47-12 in the final three innings of the games. This is almost exactly like not burning yourself out before you get to the run. The Royals strategy is to patiently hang around until the end of the race, then turn up the intensity to close out the game.
During the playoffs, the Royals came from behind in 7 of their 11 wins. Every post game interview was laced with questions like, “How do you guys keep coming from behind?” And the answer was always the same, “We never doubt ourselves, we play hard and won’t give up.”
Royals’ catcher, Salvador Perez, sets the tone. Catching is a thankless grind. Perez took several foul balls off his body and trust me, that hurts. His first reaction was usually a brief glint of pain, but he seemed to consciously act like it didn’t bother him and almost laugh it off. He let go of the pain. He genuinely plays like a little kid in love with the game. Nagging injuries won’t deter him from doing the thing he loves. He shakes things off, and gets back to business. This attitude reflects in his teammates.
The Royals are sharks waiting for blood in the water. Make one mistake and they take you out of your comfort zone with a flurry of activity that never seems to end, until they’ve secured their place on top. They leave opponents shaking their heads and asking, “What just happened?” What happened is the Royals built a winning attitude, trusted their training, then seized the moment. They are a locomotive that will not be stopped and that is exactly the attitude you have to have to race an Ironman.