I Use This: Best Score Keeping Pen Ever

I recently came across an amazing multi-color pen that reinvigorated my enjoyment for keeping score at baseball games.  With Spring Training starting this week in Arizona, you might get a kick out of this as well.

The pen is called a FriXion 4 color from Pilot.  What makes the pen so great, is that it features the Frixion erasable ink from Pilot.  This means, you can keep score in ink and not worry about making mistakes.  

Personally I enjoy scoring plays in black, outs in red (as well as errors), and player changes in blue.  RBI’s, and outstanding plays earn green ‘!’s or ‘*’s.  The 0.5mm gel ball tip writes smooth, and for the most part the ink rarely binds or runs dry.  The fine tip makes it easy to make small annotations in score keeper boxes.

How does it work?

The ink is like a bit of science magic.  When you heat the paper – say with friction, over 140 degrees Fahrenheit, the pigment molecule switches places with a transparent molecule and voila!  It appears at though the ink has been erased.  However, in reality the “ink” is still on the paper.  In fact, if you freeze it, it will come back.  However, I put the 140 there for a reason.  In most parts of the world this is rarely a problem.  In Phoenix however… 140 is easily attained in the summer in a closed car.  So you could see all your hardwork quite literally vanish before your eyes.  So don’t put your pen or scorebook anywhere you wouldn’t put your dog. 

How do you get one?

I bought my Pilot Frixion 4 color from JetPens.com for about $11, but they now sell them on Amazon (with Prime) for less than $9

Good luck and happy score keeping!

5 Lessons From Baseball for Business Owners

On my 50th birthday, I thought about calling it 50 Baseball Lessons for Business Owners, but let’s just stick with 5 shall we?

5  Lessons From Baseball For Business Owners

I love baseball. You may have heard the cliché, “Baseball is life.”  Well, I believe that Baseball is Business.  And, according to Dr. Art Markman in his book Smart Thinking, analogies are powerful tools we can use to reveal new insights into old problems.  With that in mind, I want to share my thoughts on Baseball and Business.  Your mileage may vary.

  1. Baseball Has No Clock

Despite the addition of Pace Of Play Rules to the sport, professional baseball does not have a clock.   A baseball game ends when all twenty-seven outs have been recorded and there is a clear winner. No winner? Play another six outs.  No clear winner?  Keep going until someone wins. No matter how long it takes.

Baseball players don’t go home until the work is done!

Running a business is the same.  Sure we have deadlines, but most of the time these are arbitrary and self-imposed.  The real deadline is more like baseball.  You can not quit until the work is done (and sometimes not even then). Erroneously, many people focus on time-management strategies, but in reality, the “Get-Things-Done” strategies have the greatest impact.  It is easy to be “busy,” but unless you finish, the game never ends.

Business, like baseball, doesn’t end until the work is done.

  1. You Strike Out A Lot

Man, I hate to fail because failing sucks.  More than that failure is shameful!  Remember how your parents reacted when you flunked a test or failed to turn in a homework assignment?  (If you’ve never had that pleasant experience please switch to another blog – I don’t know you.)  I remember and I never wanted to fail again.  Of course, that didn’t stop me from screwing up, but holy cow, for a long time I avoided failure like the plague, which ironically only seemed to make it harder to succeed.

Then I observed how baseball players step up in front of thousands of fans… every night… and strike out.  Over, and over again.   I am quite sure they don’t want to fail, but it happens and they never stop trying!  

The best hitters fail 7 out of 10 times.  I’m in awe of the kind of internal fortitude that it take to face that kind of humiliation and keep coming back for more.  With this high-level of failure, it is difficult to imagine that these guys are the best, but they are and I believe it’s because they never stop trying.

It turns out business is more like baseball than school.  Maybe that’s why no one calls school “the real world” but people call baseball “life.”  Zig Ziggler famously said most sales happen after the 7th “no.”  Think about that.  Seven failures in a row before you get to success.  Sound familiar?

In Business, like in  Baseball, you will strike out a lot, but the success comes to those who keep going until they get a hit.

  1. Winners Face the Toughest Hitters First

Competitive baseball teams put their best hitters at the front of the order.  Pitchers don’t get to ease their way into the game, they start off facing their biggest challenges.  To be a winning pitcher, they must figure out how to get those guys out.

In my business, I have learned to tackle the hard problems first.  Avoiding them, is a lot like pitching around tough batters.  And the results are usually the same.  Pitchers who walk a lot of batters don’t stay in the game very long.  Entrepreneurs who don’t face their toughest problems early often wind up working for someone else.

If you want to stay in the game, face your most difficult problems first.

  1. Your Last Hitter May Be Your MVP

One thing I have observed about playoff baseball is how often Most Valuable Players come from the bottom of the lineup.  On my son’s team, we won our first little league championship when the last batter in our lineup hit a game winning homerun.  

Why does this happen?  Because when the competition is fierce, the strengths balance each other.  This means small changes loom large and it is your weaknesses, not your strengths, that make the difference.  This is how great teams distinguish themselves: by building upon their strengths, but also working on their weaknesses.

Too many teams do one or the other.  Either they ride their best players, putting everything on them.  Or they try to shore up their weaknesses while losing sight of their strengths.  To build a winning team you have to do both.  

In Baseball and business, good teams have great players. Exceptional teams improve all of their players. Build on strengths; work on weaknesses.

  1. Success Is A Chain Made Of Execution.

There are tons of sports analogies with business, but in my experience, no competitor ever comes crashing through my front door to tackle a developer.  No one blankets my sales team so they can’t receive a lead.  In short, no one is allowed to interfere directly with my team.  My team’s success depends almost wholly upon their ability to execute, effectively and efficiently,  in a way that allows the next team member to do their job when it is their turn.

That’s the number one reason I like baseball.  While it is extremely competitive, opposing teams are not allowed to interfere with each other.  If they do, it’s a penalty (yes there are a few exceptions).  Not only can opposing players not interfere with each other, players on the same team really can’t even help each other either.  There are no double teams in baseball, no pick-and-rolls.

Success in baseball comes from talented, well-trained players doing their job then passing the ball to the next player who does the same.  A successful play is a chain of well executed individual efforts.

What a beautiful metaphor for business.   Do your job.  Do it well.  Do it to the best of your ability.  And then, most importantly, finish so the next guy can do the same.  Set your teammates up for success.  We call this execution.

Teams are only successful if each person does his job.  Success is a chain built of execution.

 

I love baseball for a myriad of reasons and I hope my simple comparisons give you a new way of looking at your business.  

Do you have a different way of mapping a sport to your company? Tell me about it in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

Stars and Strikes – Good Read

I just finished reading stars and Strikes by Dan Epstein is an interesting tour through baseball history. Recommended to me by friend and fellow baseball fanatic John Bodow, Stars and Strikes tells the story of Baseball during Americas Bicentenial.

Stars and Strikes

I find it gives me a strange feeling to have lived long enough to read about “historical” events that occurred during my own life time. As I read the book, Dan recounts popular music “I loved Boston!” and popular players – I recallgoing to see The Bird pitch. I realize Mr. Epstein also grew up in Detroit and through his book we are sharing memories of our childhood. Well, I am not sharing mine with him, but he is rekindling mine.

He is also adding more background, flavor, and perspective than I would have had at 10 years old. Yes it is hard to believe the Bicentenial was nearly 40 years ago. I still vivedly remember putting red white and blue crey-paper in the spokes of my bike and hand crafting a long coat. I don’t know where my mom found the triangular hat – but they were every where that year.

She probably found it at K-Mart (No one had heard of Walmart or Target in 76). There were parades, and fireworks, and picnics. That was the summer I learned how to cut through a cheap steak on a paper plate with a plastic fork.

As for the book it is a pleasing blend of baseball and history. I will grant you that it does get a bit tedious when he recounts much of what was happening in some games. I just don’t enjoy reading baseball statistics for players I have never heard of. However, I found it easy to skim those parts and get to the real story – my story, the story of growing up in the mid 70’s.

Seventy Six was important for another reason. This was the last year of the reserve clause, the year before Free agency became a thing. This was the last time baseball players made salaries people could relate to. Personally I am glad for the athletes. There should be no cap on what someone can earn.

However, this book puts a perspective on an era that is otherwise impossible to remember or relate to.
If you are a fan of baseball, and you can recall the Bicentennial then I highly recommend this read.

Stanford Baseball

Stanford is an amazing place to visit and thia weekend Ryan and I travelled to Palo Alto to visit the Cardinal High School baseball camp.

Stanford Baseball Camp Impressions

So the first thing we noticed when we arrived and walked the campus is the pristine state of everything.  The color schemes, the landscaping, nary a blade of glass was out of place nor a spot of dirt appeared on any building.  Stanford is Disney quality presentation in education.  This seems consistent with Palo Alto’s understated wealth.  No SUVs and Big Trucks here – it’s Teslas and McLarens.  It is hard to comprehend the scale of wealth in this tiny community.

Perhaps this puts it in perspective for a Nationally ranked school that just won the Presidents cup for top athletic program in the country for 20 straight years (1994 to 2014), they only admit 1 in 20 applicants.  The total underclass population is just 7,000 compared to ASU’s 98,000.  And yet the campus feels larger, better maintained and everything about the place feels absolutely top notch.

Stanford leaves you with the impression that this is what excellence looks and feels like.  Palo Alto reminds you that the world will pay top dollar for excellence. 

Sunken Diamond

The Sunken Diamond is among the most beautiful baseball facilities I have been in.  Klein field is intimate and understated but don’t let the trees fool you, there are top notch facilities tucked into this park like campus just out of sight.  The coaches here had no problem deploying 260 ball players to fields, and cages around the campus.   What is more they kept them busy.

The Camp

This is a very interesting camp because of the kinds of players it attracts.  Actually, it’s also about the kinds of coaches it attracts.  More than 40 college coaches help with the camp and every ivy league school except Yale is present. 

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I actually was able to ask the coach from Harvard how the “Call Me Maybe” Effected their program.  He explained that it was a bit of a headache for his staff because they played that song everywhere they went.  A group of seniors and juniors scripted the video and put it online and it went viral.  The University and Athletic department loved the exposure it generated, however the rival schools had fun with it too.

Big and Talented

Coach Stots, the former head coach for Stanford Baseball for nearly 4 decades opened the camp with an entertaining and energetic speach.  He pointed out that of the 260 ball players – 11% play college at a D1 level.  Of those, only 6% are drafted into the minors.  Of those, only 3% play ONE DAY on the pros.  Getting a college education from baseball is a fantastic opportunity and well worth it.

And yet, I believe a camp like this sorts for the players that are most likely to attend a D1 school and play.  And wow are these kids big.  Most of them are in the six foot one to six foot two range.  There are a slug of kids over six three and a very few below six foot (guess what?  They are wicked fast and they can hit).  But this is what division one ball players look like.  Big, fast, and talented. 

According to Coach Stots there are two kinds of recruit.  Talent and Technique.  Talent, six foot four.  Hits the ball over the fence with a flick of the wrist, throws the ball 100 miles per hour.  There are very few of those.  The rest are technique.  They have some talent.  They have been well coached, and these coaches are looking for players who can fit their program. 

Matt Novis Gets MLB Pitch Hit and Run Love

I don’t know how I missed it, but right after the Home Run Derby, MLB network published this story about the Pitch Hit and Run Competition:

Matt gets several prominent mentions in the article.

Matt With Trophy

I feel it was pretty special that they focused on Matt’s story.

Travel Log Day 2: Part 2 – The Champion

Champion

Blogging on the road is harder than it looks. Well, it is for me. There are a couple of things that made this challenging.

  1. Mixing iPhone and Camera images can be cumbersome and tricky.
  2. RAW (the image format) sounds great in principle. In practice, it doubles the number of images you have to deal with and gobbles up your storage.
  3. It’s hard to have a rhythm when you travel.
  4. If you spend all of your time on your keyboard you might miss the thing you came to see.

So having said all of there, here’s the skinny.

Matt is the 2014 Pitch Hit and Run 13 & 14 National Champion

How about that? It was a close contest. Andy from North Dakota actually hit 4 pitches while Matt only hit 3. After that Matt did what he has always done and just focused on the things he can control.

After the pitching they went to hitting. Andy had a few nice hits off the Tee, but they were pretty far off the center line.

If Matt was going to make up ground, he would have to do it in the hitting. Each pitch is worth 75 points for a maximum total of (6 x 75) 450 points.

Hitting, however is open ended. It is double your distance. The record is a whopping 365 feet – held by a 12 year old believe it or not! That is a 730 point value. More than many kids total score.

Matt’s first hit was a line drive to second base. Not a great start. His second hit was much better, about 275 but thirty feet left of the tape. His last hit was the championship shot. Everyone oohed and ahed when he hit it. I would later find out that it was 294 feet, four inches off the tape. Suddenly Matt was right back in it.

The final challenge was running and both Matt and Andy put in times very close to 7 seconds. The question was, how did they balance out? Was 4 pitches more valuable than Matt’s long hit?

In the end, Matt’s hit made the difference. He was crowned National Champion with a score of 1226.

Matt is named Champion
Matt is Named Champion

Later Matt told me that none of the kids did as well at National as they did at home. There were a couple of reasons for that. First, they have travelled, there is a lot going and it’s a daunting being there. The same thing happened to Ryan’s group.

But, at the end of the day the real award was shagging fly balls in the outfield during the home run derby.

Matt Shagging Fly Balls
Matt Shagging Fly Balls

Matt was out there when Geancarlo Stanton hit his epic blast ¾ of the way up the deck in left field. It was awesome from the seats, I can’t imagine what they looked like from the ground.

I could not be more proud of Matthew. He put in the work, and he earned it.

Photo Stream

If you want to see all 177 photos (integrated from my phone and my camera) as well as the picture of both boys with their trophies, check out my iCloud Pitch Hit and Run 2014 PhotoStream

Travel Log Day 2: Part 2 – The Competition

The competition

We finished with fanfest and are now on the bus to Target Field.

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This is it. This is why we are here – mostly. While we are here for the national competition, we are really here for the event. The kids will go with the guides and be with them the rest of the night. The parents are now on their own to film and watch. I am a little – not sad, but wistful perhaps, as I would love to follow Matt the whole way. This has been an experience we have shared up until now. I do however want to give MLB and the PH&R credit. They do a great job of including the parents and anticipating everyone’s needs.

Pitch and Run

Target field is beautiful. The day is overcast but it is very comfortable with surprisingly low humidity. Perfect for competition.

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Warm ups

The kids warm up and then its pitching. The target here is a little different. It is a cut out. As Ryan pointed out this is probably better because it is clear. If the ball goes in it is a strike. If it does not, it’s not.

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Most of the kids, many who hit five or 6 strikes in their team championship are hitting two or three here. For Matt’s group:

Andy – 4 strikes
Matt – 3 strikes
Casey – 0 strikes

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Hitting

The Blue Angels have flown over three times which is awesome.  The hitting is the biggest part for the boys.  For the girls, they don’t seem to have as much variance in power as the boys do.  It is not uncommon to see a boy hit a ball 50 feet farther than another boy of the same age.  That is pretty uncommon with the girls.  With hitting, it is your distance times TWO.  So you can gain up to 700 points hitting if you can really crush a baseball.  The record is 365 feet.  A 300 foot shot down the line will net you a cool 600 points.  Pitching at 75 points per pitch can yield 450 points.  Running, another 400 or so.  So pitching and hitting strategically are your best options.

In this round Matt had a hit that was a flat low line drive.  His second hit was much more to his wheel house, a good 260 – 270 but a decent way left of the line.  His final hit – was 294 a few inches off the tape.  It was by far the farthest hit of the day.  This would prove to be key.

Matt at Pitch Hit and Run

Matt at Pitch Hit and Run 

Running

Matt turned in a respectable 7.08 seconds.  His chief competitor?  7.05.  I did not get many pictures of Matt running because I had a lot of stuff to juggle.  However in the end I got pictures of the kids.  We just had to wait until the end of the derby to know who won.

 

Competition over who won?

 

Travel Log Day 2 – Home Run Derby Day

8AM Breakfast of Champions

Today started early. 8:00 AM central time. But it started great. We got to go to the MLB special invitee brunch with mascots from around MLB.

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10AM Fanfest

The kids got to participate in a skills camp with hall of famers Dave Winfield and Andre Dawson. Then we move on to the next activity.

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Batting Practice

This is right up Matt’s ally. Batting practice.

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The guy tending the machine had better watch out when the 14 year olds get in the cage.

Autographs

The dads were way more excited than the kids when pitching legend Rollie Fingers showed up to sign autographs.

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Travel Log – Day 1 – Arrival

We arrived in Minneapolis without much drama. We had a boring flight which is what you want in travel these days. We woke up at 4:30 AM to get ready to leave by 5:15 so we could arrive at the airport in time for our 7am flight. We got up a little early, but it all worked out as we needed time to check a bag and get through security.

Like I said, the plane flight was uneventful, and the crew were very nice. When we landed, both Matt and I agreed the gate area in Minneapolis was amazing.

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What made it impressive was that every table had power, USB ports, and iPads. It was the most useful space I have ever seen at any airport.

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We were then met at baggage claim by the event coordinator. They put us on the shuttle to the hotel. There, we were greeted by more staff, and checked into the Pitch, Hit, and Run event.

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All in all this is a very well run event. With a few hours to kill before the welcome dinner,m Matt and I decided to hit The Mall Of America.

Mall of America

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I remember hearing about this years ago, but the MOA really is very impressive.

Matt and I wandered, bought a gummy worm large enough to put a saddle on and road the rides at the Nickelodeon indoor theme park.

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Welcome Dinner

The welcome dinner was a top notch affair and they really loaded the kids up with some nice gifts. I wonder how we will get it all home.

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USA Baseball in the Desert

USA Baseball

This week out in Peoria, Glendale, and Goodyear Arizona, USA Baseball takes advantage of the amazing facilities provided by the Cactus League – Arizona's marque, spring training league. At professional baseball facilities used by the LA Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Cleveland Indians, and Cincinnati Reds 64 teams from around the west coast compete to win a National Championship.

But lets be honest, there are LOTS of youth Baseball National Championships. If you can afford the fee, there are tournaments that will reward you with a nice trophy. The real attraction out here is:

  1. The level of competition
  2. The opportunity to be selected to the national team.

Lots of tournaments boast having scouts. But only at the USA Baseball tournament might a scout pull you aside and ask you if you have a passport. The poster child for being selected is Bryce Harper who in 2008 played for the San Diego Show. He went on to play for two National teams.

While, it is exciting to think of being selected, it is a staggeringly rare occurrence. It feels like Big Foot sightings. He might really be out there but none has seen one. And so the real value of a tournament like this goes back to the first reason, competition.

To play at a high level, you need to play at a high level. The potential of a National Team selection draws the best players on the best teams. And that makes for some great competition. The strange thing about baseball is that there appears to be no better way to get better at Baseball than to play better and better competition.

So despite the heat, and the astronomical odds against being selected, they come and compete in the heat. If you want to see the future of baseball, it is here, in the desert, playing for the dream.

Dreams do come true

Write after i wrote this one of the players in Matts team was pulled aside by two scouts and told he was “in the pool” of players being considered for the national team.

Players, parents,
and coaches congratulated the young man. Being recognized for your performance is always a great feeling.

Awesome!
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