By: Jonathan Massey
In the Spring of 2007, an underperforming high school baseball team took the local community by storm. The Cypress Ridge Rams, who won a combined total of three district games their first two years as a varsity program, came out of nowhere to clinch the fourth seed in district, and move on to playoffs for the first time in school history. I was lucky enough as a sophomore to be pulled up for the playoff series. Even though we lost in the first round, it was an experience I’ll never forget, and put the program on the map.
Team 1- 2008 Season
When spring rolled around we were picked to finish again in the top four. Our expectation as a program was to win district. To say the year was a disaster would be an understatement. The team regressed and finished in last place in the district. The worst thing about the season was we had a chance to right the ship about halfway through district play, and instead of playing big, we crumbled under the pressure.
Team 2- 2009 Season
We returned for our senior year on a mission. And again, most polls/predictions had us finishing somewhere between third and sixth. Our team motto was “Round Rock or Bust”. Round Rock is where they play the State Championship in Texas. Yet again, we started out of the gate sluggish in district play. And yet again, about halfway through the year we had a chance to right the ship. But unlike the 2008 season where we crumbled under the pressure, this team rattled off six wins in our final eight games, including a win in the final game against Langham Creek on a walk-off grand slam to win 7-6.
The battle wasn’t over yet. This incredible run only put us in a tie for fourth place. In order to go to playoffs, we would have to beat Langham Creek again. To be honest, this game pretty much sums up our season. We grabbed an early 2-1 lead, but then a pair of 3-run home runs in the second inning gave Langham a 7-2 lead. Looking back as I write this, this team is by far the grittiest team I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of. We held them scoreless over the four innings which allowed us to build an 11-7 lead.
Now I wish I could say we rode off into the sunset, but that’s just not the way this team worked. We faltered in the bottom of the seventh and allowed them to score four runs and tie the game. But again, our resiliency was displayed. We held them scoreless over the next two innings to win the game in the top of the ninth on a go-ahead home run, 12-11.
Being a member of both teams, I’ve often wondered why was one team able to succeed and the other crumbled under nearly identical circumstances? Some might say Team 2 was more talented or more driven than Team 1. I assure you that wasn’t the case. Some will point that Team 2 had ‘been there before’ so they had experience on how to handle it. That played a role, but simply chalking it up to that would be a disservice to these guys.
I believe the biggest difference between these two teams is that Team 2 was on a mission to achieve excellence, while Team 1 was simply trying to avoid making mistakes. For those who think this is semantics, or a play on words, I promise these are two very different mindsets.
When you set out to achieve excellence, you find ways to win. Team 2 opened the second half of district play two or three games out of fourth place, which means if we didn’t turn it around soon, we would be too far out to climb back in.
I know baseball is a team sport and one guy doesn’t win or lose a ball game, but Chris Fritts won us the second half opener. He pitched seven innings and gave up one run, drove in the tying run with a two out double, and then on a dropped fly ball to the short stop, he hustled and scored from second base. We won 2-1 and it set up our amazing run. It’s not the way you’re supposed to win a baseball game, but when you set out to achieve excellence, you don’t care how it gets done, just that it does. We won and that’s all that mattered.
When one guy makes a mistake, everybody else picks him up. Here’s how Langham Creek scored the four runs in the bottom of the seventh… Bases loaded and one out, Langham’s leadoff hitter hits a low line drive to our centerfielder. It was one of those in-betweeners where nobody knows if it’s going to be caught. Our centerfielder lays out for it and it rolls all the way to the fence, allowing the three runs to score. If he plays it on the hop, he has a chance to get the guy out at second base and limit the damage to one run (if you’re wondering how the fourth run scored, he stole home on the next pitch to tie the game). My point here is that no one got mad at him, no one berated him for making the mistake. It was just, “okay we have to score another one”. Our pitcher did a great job of killing their momentum by retiring their next eight hitters, allowing our offense the time to score and win a game. That mistake could have killed us if we allowed it to, but when you are on mission to achieve excellence, you pick up your teammates.
So, my question for you is when you are working on your Durathro Program, or working on your 21-day plan, or really on anything, are you trying to not make a mistake or are you striving to achieve excellence?
Strive to achieve excellence, and the rest will take care of itself.
**Our summer Elite Pitcher’s Boot Camp schedule is now posted so pick the one that works best for you and come achieve excellence with us!