The late, great Sparky Anderson attained renown as a Hall of Fame manager of the Cincinnati Reds and Detroit Tigers. He led each franchise to a World Series title (2 with the Big Red Machine). The incredible success of The Main Spark perhaps lent credence to the phrase “those that can’t, teach,” since he was one of the most inept batters ever at the major league level.
In his only season in the bigs, Anderson hit a paltry .218 and had some of the worst power and efficiency numbers ever. His minor league career was only marginally better. He loved the game; he was not a very good batter no matter how great his effort nor how dedicated his preparation. His struggles provided him valuable insight into the psyche of those he later managed, however, and Anderson admitted that had he been a more successful player he might never have learned the game and all its nuances.
Anderson came to realize that a necessary component of a great hitter is their intractable, indelible, permanent and unshakable belief that they are great. He showered his star players with praise, on the one hand, and since he also considered their ongoing success a matter of fact, he held his stars to a higher standard, too. With less successful players, Anderson was brutal and honest and quick to render judgment, good or bad, and fit each player into a “role” on the team. Once a player accepted his role, Anderson was loyal, caring, and understanding.
Anderson was proof that even if you aren’t a great hitter you can still enjoy tremendous success in the game. He knew that not every player was destined for stardom, and he understood that each player deserved consideration as an individual, as long as they provided unique value as a piece of the overall puzzle.
Find your role on your team, whether star, substitute, or otherwise, and be the best player possible. Even if you’re not a great hitter, you can be a great teammate.