By Zev Feder
The Washington Nationals have invited its fan base to contribute ideas for their new N’Attitude campaign. Following a very productive off-season, in which the team has revamped its starting pitching rotation and seems well-prepared to compete with their division rivals, N’Attitude is a confident challenge and call to arms. (Like arms named Strasberg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann , Jackson, Storen, Clippard, Rodriguez, etc.?) Here is my contribution to their campaign: Sadaharu Oh, Bill Mazeroski and Pete Rose.
In sports, and particularly in baseball, you have control of your behavior, your PTCE — preparation, training, conditioning and effort — which will crucially impact but will not control your results. PTCE is where I look to determine attitude.
First, Sadaharu Oh: The Babe Ruth of Japanese baseball. My introduction to baseball in Japan came from reading what I remember as Oh’s autobiography some decades ago. Unless things have changed in that short time span – and I hope not — Japanese players honor the game. It starts with disciplined hard work to master technique and maximize ability; then bowing as you cross the foul lines onto the field of play to honor the game you are engaging in; and, finally, demonstrating that respect for the game and for your opponents by hustle and effort.
Pete Rose: Mr. Hustle and Effort. Pete ran to first base every time. If the pitcher threw ball four, he ran to first. If Rose hit a pop-up anywhere on the field, he ran hard. And a grounder in the infield was a foot race every time. Why? Because some percentage of such batted balls are hesitated on, bobbled or dropped and being in position to take advantage of the albeit rare mistake or bit of luck is what a ballplayer who honors the game does. (We won’t talk about Pete’s off-field issues.)
Bill Mazeroski: I only saw him play a few times. He played my position, second base, so I noticed him because of his attitude. What I saw in his body language when he fielded a ground ball was total confidence, even arrogance. But where that came from was his technique. (For the infielders out there, he got down in front of a grounder low enough that not only his hands were down but his eye level was down.) His training and preparation brought him the confidence that so impressed me.
I think the N’Attitude Initiative that the Nationals have engaged in has great potential. Attitude, and PTCE, is infectious and will build fan-loyalty to the team. But more broadly, sports heroes are role models and attitude affects success in life just as it does on the playing field. N’Attitude, if expressed effectively, can be applied in our schools and in our communities to great advantage. Children, particularly, in these times of celebrity glorification, need their basic education to include the attitude skills that lead to success and happiness in life, just as they do on the ballfield.