Some would say it isn’t Spring until you hear the popping of a leather baseball glove or bats clattering with baseballs while crowds are cheering. That’s right folks, just like that baseball is upon us, which also means the end of the Spring semester is near. Baseball season rejuvenates me because it reminds me that days will soon be longer and warmer. Most recently, I’ve begun to think about how baseball parallels some of our universities in that they think very much alike. With a relatively new baseball commissioner, one of his goals has been to decrease the time of games because of the low TV ratings and loss of young viewers. They also understand that while the average time of a baseball game has increased the actual playing time is down. Pitchers are taking longer between pitches, batters have longer batting rituals and replay (which has been a disaster) is slowing things down. With those issues to tackle, the commissioner has begun to suggest drastic measures to the game which have been controversial. This article is to help stimulate a conversation of the parallels between Major League Baseball and our institutions and how you can help.
“Things have always been done this way”
Yep, we’ve all heard it. Possibly, the worst excuse that a leader can give as a reason that things should stay the same. This is what’s happened in baseball. As a way to make the games shorter the commissioner suggested that batters stay in the batting box and that pitchers have a pitching clock which tells them how long they have to deliver the baseball. They’ve even suggested that in extra innings teams are awarded a FREE player on 2nd base. All seem outlandish but they are solutions that are closer to “saving” the game that used to be America’s favorite sport. Players and reporters have completely bashed the ideas stating that baseball should be untouched and that things should stay the same. I strongly fight that idea. The sport is over 100 years (like some of our colleges) and we can not expect that things remain the same. As a parallel, we can not expect our students to be the same as they were 100 years ago and therefore we must adjust. If you consider yourself a “purist” one can also argue that you are stubborn-ist. That is, you are unwilling to listen to opportunities that can potentially make your organization, office or college better. I ask that you stay open-minded and considerate to what those around you are suggesting as it can revolution your space.
The Unwritten Rules
There are a ton of unwritten rules in baseball that drive me ABSOLUTELY nuts! Unwritten rules are rules that are simply created by the culture in which it sits in. They are not part of any written rule book but are rules that the culture accepts and abides by. For example, in baseball if a pitcher throws the ball at the opponent it is expected that the opposing pitcher will do the same. Not only is this ridiculous but it is also borderline assault. There is also an unwritten rule that if a player hits a home run they are not allowed to admire the home run as it flies out of the park or flip their bat in excitement. I think that the baseball culture has forgotten that it is a sport and it is entertainment. Some have called the NFL the no-fun league but I now officially hand that crown to the MLB. Think about this, what are your organization, clubs or college’s unwritten rules? They may never be talked about bu they are certainly insinuated through action or lack thereof. I think that it is important to question these values and policies. Politely of course. Unwritten rules can actually hurt the creativity and growth of an organization. As you begin to take action expect that you will receive push back but remember that it can take years for a new culture to develop. Sometimes even new leadership.
Have a Proof of Concept
One way that baseball is trying to prove their ideas work is by using in the minor leagues where games don’t matter as much. The minor league system is made to help develop young players. In Higher Education, we may call this orientation or the one-credit mandatory freshman New Student Seminar Course. This is where we can begin to test new ideas and new concepts and use analytics (data) to make recommendations that are appropriate. This is one thing the MLB does pretty well. Similarly to our institutions, decisions in baseball, down to the batting order and player requisition, data-driven. As one that enjoys analytics, I can say that while I do enjoy the human element it is easier to defend your actions through numbers. Whether it is a new mentoring program or creating a new culture find the minor league system of your institution and test it. More importantly, gather the data to see how you have been effective and where you can improve.
Recognize Your All-Stars
Lastly, don’t ever forget that despite the tension in the room or the disagreements that you may have, it is important that the people around you are recognized and are having fun. Hence, All-Star weekend. This is a special recognition of the superstars on every team that have been spectacular in the league. They are rewarded by having a full week off and playing along one another. Some even get to compete in the Home Run Derby. By the way, Kudos to the MLB for finally making this event exciting again. But events like this are essential for organizations because it allows their members to rest, feel appreciated and have fun at what they’re doing. It reminds them why they got involved in the first place.
With that, I look forward to an exciting baseball season, especially for me, since I am a Red Sox fan. I also hope that you can all learn and benefit from what Major League Baseball does really well and what it needs improvement on. So put your baseball cap on, grab some cracker jacks and get ready for an eventful summer!
Antonio Talamo is a young higher education professional that has experience working in Student Activities and Advisement. He has brought his talents to Montclair State University where he will be the Coordinator for Commuter Students and Programs . He has grown from a go-to-class-go-home student to a professional who is passionate about giving students the best college experience at any level. He is a huge sports fan that loves the New York Giants and the Boston Red Sox and swears he is the reason the Red Sox broke the Bambino curse.