wrote a piece this evening looking at Bryce Harper's first game against the New York Yankees, a club he has said he idolized growing up. Harper spoke about his view towards opposing players on the field:
"I never say hi to anybody [on the other team]. I just stay over here," Harper said. "... I'm trying to beat them. That's what I am. If we're off the field, I'll go over and say hello. You can be my best friend, and I'll hate you on the baseball field. That's how I am. If you're my best friend, playing shortstop, I'll still take you out. That's how I am."I think Harper needs to have a few lessons with Crash Davis in order to learn his cliche's, because this is as far from one as you will find, especially from an 18-year-old. Was it badass? Hell yes. Immature? Well yeah that too.
I remember when I was in high school (Harper's age) and there were a lot of people who I played against who had this same mentality. Our conference rival was a cross-town high school filled with guys I grew up with, but for some of them when we got on the baseball field against each other I was nothing but the enemy. It's an attitude I never agreed with, and it's an attitude I never really saw to be all that effective.
Competitiveness is one thing. It's important to find a way to internally drive yourself to do your best. However, equally important, is balance. Not the balance between your set position, your stride, and your contact point (although that is important too), the balance that comes between being able to positively accept failure and to assess the reality of the situation in order to not self destruct. Often when a player falls into the trap of viewing the opponent as the enemy they lose the balance needed to overcome the failure that is bound to come in a game where you fail 70% of the time.
When you label enemies, you project the bad in the game on to them. Instead of focusing on how to fix your mistakes, you focus on how to destroy your enemy. It just ends up being a distraction. Why negatively focus your energy on another baseball player when you can positively focus it on solving the problem.
The good news is Harper has a lot of time to learn how to be a productive major league player, and person. Failure is a humbling thing, and he has never really faced a challenge which he has failed at. Perhaps this first test will be the best possible thing for him.
I'd be interested to hear others opinions on this. How do you strike the balance between competitiveness and demonizing your opponents?
wait...wasn't there a picture floating around on Twitter (maybe on Bryce's Twitter account) where he was talking with Pujols?
Actually, here's a link to it: http://www.nationalsenquirer.com/2011/03/bryce-harper-albert-pujols-hug.html
And here's where Harper was Tweeting about this picture: http://twitter.com/#!/BHarp34/status/43479607214743553