As we have endured our toughest stretch of the season the past couple of weeks, we have searched for answers on why we have struggled. We have juggled the lineup, changed up the pitching, and tried other conventional methods to get our team going. We have come to realize that it doesn’t matter what buttons we are trying to push, we just have to play better. Then the question becomes, how do we play better? The answer is toughness, it always has been and it always will be.
Toughness can signify so many different things in every person. In the team setting, it portrays a mindset… a belief in oneself and the team. An inner feeling that no matter what happens, I will get it done. A deep belief in the team concept… having the confidence that an individual can never fail on a true team because there will always be someone there to pick him up. This allows loose, free, relaxed play. The type of play that leads to better results.
The difference between baseball and the other team sports is the extreme pressure that the game fosters. Each individual has a spotlight on him at various times throughout the game… there is no handing the ball off or taking a play off. Baseball is a spotlight sport. There are times the spotlight is on, and there are times that spotlight can burn pretty bright. That’s where toughness comes in. This game is one of failure. One that will bury someone that is not tough. Talent is great in this game, but if it were that easy, we would not need scouts or recruiting coordinators, everyone would just go after the players that had the best tools. But that’s not how this game works. For every 1st rounder or high scholarship guy that fizzles out, there is a 17th rounder making the All-Star team or a walk-on starting at shortstop and batting third. The reason the 1st rounder/high scholarship guy don’t make it and the 17th rounder/walk-on do make it is the same, toughness. One has it, one lacks it.
We believe our players have the toughness, they just need to continue to mature and find it. We showed it on Monday in our series finale at Cal State East Bay. We overcame some errors, bad pitches, and a good opposing pitcher to notch up one of our more complete games of the year. This showed a lot of toughness after a very tough day on Saturday, maybe the toughest day this program has endured. Instead of folding it up for the year, our guys found the will to fight back. They displayed great team toughness. The trick is, how do we keep doing it. Hopefully the answer is simple… our guys just need to do it.
We have a big weekend versus a very offensive Cal State LA team. LA provides us a great challenge at this point in the season, and we have to play well to keep our playoff hopes alive. There is no secret formula for success, we just have to play tough.