Contact theSOPAbout theSOPSupport theSOPWritersEditorsManaging Editors
theSOP logo
Published:May 23rd, 2007 10:50 EST
The Hard Truth about Success in Baseball

The Hard Truth about Success in Baseball

By Terry Sumerlin (Mentor/Columnist)

Longtime customers at J.B.’s Barber Shop know if they want to get me fired up all they have to do is ask about one of two things: my speaking schedule or the Houston Astros. I live and breathe speaking, and suffer along with the Astros.

Sherry and I became Astro fans about 30 years ago, when we lived in the Houston area. Games became family outings. On such an occasion, Houston was trailing by one run in the bottom of the ninth. Our daughter Jo Ellen, who was a grade-schooler at the time, jumped up and hollered, “Jose Cruz, hit a home run!" She was so pleased with herself when on the next pitch he hit a two run home run to win the game. We’ve been huge fans ever since.

This season we’ve followed their early struggles, and wondered what they might do to improve their offense. Management decided they needed to bring up Triple-A wonder Hunter Pence as a replacement for center fielder Chris Burke, who was struggling at the plate. Because of Burke’s popularity with fans and teammates, sending him back to Triple-A was a very unpopular move.

This is the same Chris Burke who was on top with Astro fans when he hit a solo home run in the bottom of the 18th inning to end the longest postseason game in Major League history and clinch the National League Division Series over Atlanta on Oct. 9, 2005. Since then he's had the inside track – until his bat let him down.

Those in the know seem to think that in time Burke will be back to the majors, if not with the Astros with another team. Right now the young man is understandably crushed. “I’m very upset," he said. “This is very hard, very difficult for me to accept. There are so many things going through my mind right now."

I feel for him. He seems like a fine person and such a hard worker. I can’t help wondering, though, if one of the things going through his mind should be “That’s life." That is also the path to success.

Hunter Pence, the young man that is now playing center field, sometime, somewhere, somehow will discover the same truth. Success is not without bumps, bruises, disappointment, discouragement and heartache.

Nonetheless, whether we lose our job, get demoted, don’t get the job we wanted, experience financial disaster, have health problems, are disappointed by others or stabbed in the back; we can still succeed. We may simply be on a long, difficult road to a caliber of success that will one day truly be worth the pain.

One of my favorite stories involves a young man who was walking along a path, when he encountered a bearded old sage. He asked the monk, “Which way to success?" The old man just pointed down the path. The young man headed off in that direction. Suddenly, there was a loud SPLAT. The seeker returned to the monk all bruised and battered, yet with the same question. “Which way to success?" Once again he just pointed, and again there was a loud SPLAT. Yet, this time it was worse than before. The young man returned battered, bloody and barely walking. But he persisted. “Which way to success?" he asked the third time. Before the monk could point, the man said, “Don’t point. Talk." “Success," the old man said, “is just past SPLAT!"

Many are they who would have success without SPLAT. They possibly look at what you do as glamorous, or you may look at what they do that way. “I wish I could do what he/she does," we sometimes whine. However, are we willing to do what she did in order to do what she does?

I once told Sherry that I knew I would make it as a professional speaker because I’d already tried and discarded everything that won’t work, including near bankruptcy. Yet, though at long last I have reached a certain level of achievement I dare not, you dare not and Chris Burke dare not think we have experienced our last SPLAT on the path to success.

BARBER-OSOPHY: Success can be oh so sweet, but only if we refuse to allow the SPLAT to make us oh so bitter.

For More Information: