In Doug Fister Becomes a Rock Star on the Big Stage of Postseason Baseball: Part 1, I wrote about how pitcher Doug Fister ended up in postseason play after a tough season with a losing team. In fact, players get traded all the time, and some lucky ones end up on contending teams. So what was different about this story, and why is Doug Fister my new role model?
Fister had every reason to be discouraged during the season in Seattle. He was working in a dismal situation, and the win-loss statistics said he was a loser. But you’d never know this from how Fister behaved.
He worked doggedly. He expressed support for his team even though their lack of hitting led to demoralizing losses. He did not turn over tables or bash walls or do any number of things frustrated athletes have been known to do. When he began pitching poorly in the second half of the season, he gave no excuses.
Doug Fister separated himself from the metrics placed on him. He practiced staying focused while developing his skills, refusing to let circumstances define him. He developed the capacity to work under the least rewarding conditions, foregoing resentment and blame. He worked with determination and trust, trust in his potential, trust in his team, trust in the potential of his world to get better.
And when his world did get better, he was ready, not just because he had developed his pitches, but because he’d developed himself.
People often talk about the character a pitcher brings to the game–whether he can stay focused under pressure, whether he has the resilience to bounce back after a big hit or a big loss. Pitchers are said to “stay within themselves” when they tolerate the uncertainties, pressures, and bad breaks inherent in the game and control their emotions so they can continue to pitch effectively. Fister’s character shone through all his bad numbers.
So many of life’s anxieties flare when we go outside ourselves. We worry about whether people like us or like our work. We feel inadequate, never enough. We wonder what others are thinking. We try to second guess what will happen. We play out scenarios in our head, all the “what ifs” or fears. We lose ourselves, and then we can’t pitch at all.
I had trouble writing this second post on Doug Fister. In the parlance of baseball, I had a personal rain delay and then hit a slump. I couldn’t remember what I wanted to say or how to let words come out. I forgot me and saw only “others” and “expectations” (like needing to hit a home run or give a huge payoff).
I finally realized that my writing block was a piece of the whole Fister story. Fister didn’t get lost in all the “outside of self” stuff that can burden and derail us. He let all the “-less” words drift away (hapless, winless, hopeless), and he paid attention to the things he could control: his practice, his pitches, and his attitude.
It’s easy to get distracted by the size of our stage or whether we’re getting our fair share of lucky breaks. But the story of Doug Fister reminds me that no matter where I end up playing, I can always work on being the self I want to be. To develop character, stay within myself, and throw as many really good pitches as I can–that’s how I can practice being Doug Fister today.
Questions for Reflection: What does it mean to you to stay within yourself? What kinds of thoughts and feelings come up for you when you go outside yourself? What does it mean to you to have character in your life? What will be important to you if you move to a bigger stage?
Writing Prompts: “When I stay within myself I ______” (then keep writing); “When I go outside of myself, my thoughts start to ______” (then keep writing); “The best way for me to stay focused and productive is to ______” (then keep writing); “If I move to a bigger stage I want to be able to ______” (then keep writing).
Postscript: The Tigers got knocked out of the American League Championship Series and didn’t advance to the World Series (despite Fister’s impressive pitching in a must-win situation), which just goes to show that even in fairy tales, there are no guarantees.