Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Baseball Ahead!

For some, Spring officially arrives at the sighting of the first robin or when the first tulip pokes through the ground. For me Spring has sprung when the first baseball player steps on the diamond. The crack of the bat and the pop of the ball in a glove sounds like hope to me. A new season filled with new opportunity lies just ahead.

There's some concern surrounding my St. Louis Cardinals. The media is convinced that our boys are too young and inexperienced and that the departure of veterans Scott Rolen, David Eckstein and Jim Edmonds spell the demise for the Redbirds.

I will admit, the loss of Jim Edmonds leaves a vast hole in the makeup of this team and his knowledge and experience and leadership could have benefited young outfielders like Rick Ankiel, Ryan Ludwick and Chris Duncan. But Edmonds required coaxing to step up as a leader on the team. And each of those outfielders had some time with him last season during which, I hope he imparted words of wisdom and tips of the trade. It's time now for each of them to step up. Ludwick and Ankiel have been around a while. And even though they don't have the gold gloves or all-star appearances or everyday stats to elevate them into leadership roles, I think they have the respect of others and the ability to rally the troops and be the glue this team will need to hold it together through the first couple of months of the season.

Experience is valuable. But chemistry is everything. No matter the age of the player or how seasoned he is, if he can bond with his teammates and learn to play well with others, the team will succeed. Playing a team sport is a lot like singing in a choir.

Believe it or not, there is far more training involved in putting together a good choir than just getting in a room and singing in the same key. In order to be a good choir member, you must be able to hear your part and sing it boldly while maintaining an ear for the singers around you. In other words, if you can't hear the voices on either side of you, you are singing too loudly. You are not being a good choir singer.

So it goes in team sports. You must play your position to the best of your ability and give 100%. All the while, you must be mindful of the players around you, hear them, see them... You must play beside your teammates. You must maintain a team mindset. You are not the star. Sometimes, you may be a soloist but you are still a member of the whole. When everyone knows his part, the whole group succeeds.

Our boys might be young but they are talented. And the guys we've lost were merely members... not the whole. The Cubs can spend all the money they want. The Reds and the Astros can bring in the arms and Pittsburgh can rebuild at a rapid pace. Names may change and faces may not be the same but they are still the Cardinals.

The Cardinals will always be in the race. That's who the Cardinals are. That's what they do.

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