An obscure article about a young baseball player caught my attention. It provided a golden teaching moment. Let me explain.
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Because of the astronomical salaries commanded by top professional athletes and because teams have a fixed budget, no coach or general manager can afford to mortgage the franchise by paying millions of dollars to a player who can't perform at a high level for many years.
The situation becomes even more complex because these million-dollar contracts are often guaranteed regardless of the player's performance or professional longevity. Once upon a time, a manager or a coach would sign one of these players based a gut feeling. Today, managers use laptops and spreadsheets to analyze every aspect of a player's strengths and weaknesses.
It's long been an accepted tenet in baseball that once a pitcher exceeds 100 pitches a game, his performance will decrease and his career will be in jeopardy. So the baseball community reacted with astonishment at the news that a high school pitcher had a 100-miles-per-hour fastball — an unheard of speed — and could comfortably throw 200 pitches a game on consecutive days.
Squadrons of scouts with radar guns and video cameras descended on his small community. The rumors were correct. The legend was real, and thus began an arms race of bidding for his services.
After incredible publicity and negotiations with lawyers, agents and representatives, the young man signed a lucrative multimillion-dollar contract. He entered his first game like a conquering hero. For the first half of the season, he lived up to his expectations — throwing a rocket-like fastball and easily exceeding 100 pitches a game. But then biology caught up with him. His speed decreased. His accuracy evaporated, and he was repeatedly injured. And then disaster struck — he tore a major ligament.
So what's the lesson here? Everyone has limits. If you exceed them, you must be prepared for the consequences. Sure you can burn the candle at both ends for a time, but sooner or later you'll pay the price. You only have so much mental and physical energy. If you don't pay attention to your well-being and you allow yourself to be whipsawed by the demands of others, you won't be able to go the distance.
Jun. 14, 2011