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Between the Lines: Nine Principles to Live By
by Orel Hershiser and Robert Wolgemuth

 

Principle #1
BELIEVE YOUR COACHES

 

It would have been bad enough if just one of these things had dropped on me. But having them happen at the same time was more than I could take. It was time for something radical.

Cars and trucks zoomed past me as I stood on the shoulder of the I–75 entrance ramp, less than a mile from the entrance to BG (Bowling Green State University). The wind whipped through my hair and tugged at my jacket. I squinted from the dust that kicked up in my face. Standing there with my thumb in the air, hoping for a ride, I had never felt this hopeless. Never.

Of the three reasons why I had gone to college—to get an education, have fun, and play baseball—I was failing in all three. It was my first time away from home and I wasn't doing well. Running away seemed logical for a guy in my situation.

Academically I was in serious trouble. It was final–exam week and I knew I wasn't going to get a passing grade in a single subject. Living in a noisy dormitory, trying to get myself up every morning, hitting the snooze button too often, and missing lots of classes had brought predictable results. Why bother to take the stupid tests?

Socially, I felt like a loser. My girlfriend had just broken up with me. She wanted us to "still be friends." Maybe my disappearing from school would make her feel so terrible that she'd take me back. I hoped it would.

It might have been possible to survive the bad grades and the broken heart, but the real crusher was getting cut from the baseball team. This was the reason I had gone to BG in the first place. It was what I'd lived for.

No passing grades, no girlfriend, and no baseball. Miserable didn't come close.

I scribbled a clever note to my roommate, leaving a hint as to where I was going. I guess I wanted to make a statement and have people chase me, find me, comfort me, and help me to start over. An eighteen–year–old in my condition doesn't completely want to run away and cut all the strings. But a guy with any pride at all didn't just walk up to his parents or his friends and say, "Look, I'm a failure. I have no excuses. Can you help me?"

Taking off like this, I felt a strange mix of fear and excitement. I'd never pictured myself as a rebel, but I needed to do something rebellious. Something bold. I decided that running away would attract attention to my pain and maybe detract attention from my failure. I had blown it, big time, and I didn't want to face the consequences of my losses and poor decisions. So I stuffed my duffel bag with an extra pair of jeans, a couple of shirts, some underwear, and my Dopp kit, and walked out of my dorm.

Without a car of my own, hitchhiking was my transportation of choice. And with a face that looked more like Opie from Mayberry than Charles Manson, I had no trouble getting rides. A mother with a car full of kids picked me up first. Brushing crackers and a couple of toys to the floor, I made a spot on the backseat.

Another young mother gave me a ride, telling me that she never picked up hitchhikers but thought I looked like a "decent young man." Unfortunately, she only took me to the next exit. I need a long ride, I thought to myself as I crawled out of her car and stuck out my thumb. I haven't even made it out of Ohio.

A huge truck, spewing exhaust from giant chrome pipes, slammed on the brakes, the tires laying down a long black skid. I ran along the shoulder to catch up to the truck. With the smell of burning rubber still coming off the tire marks on the road, I climbed in.

I'd never been in the cab of an eighteen–wheeler. "Yo, buddy," the driver laughed, sticking out his hand. I shook it. This guy wouldn't have been afraid of anyone.

Pulling back onto the highway he looked at me and smiled. Most of his teeth seemed to be in place. "You like Charlie Pride?" he asked, working on a wad of bubble gum the size of a golf ball. "Yes, sir," I lied. Heading east on the Ohio Turnpike and doing sixty–five was more important to me at the time than telling the truth.

At the Pennsylvania line, he was turning south toward West Virginia. He pulled over and stopped. I crawled down from the cab and thanked him for the ride. I really meant it.

In just a few minutes, a traveling salesman picked me up. He moved a pile of papers from the front seat to the back, and I got in. After a few minutes of quiet, he tried to ask me about myself. I was evasive. Then he told me that he was a born–again Christian. I nodded, like I was interested in hearing more. He talked nonstop and I tried to act like I was listening. He kept talking and I kept nodding. Charlie Pride or Jesus aside, at least I was going home to New Jersey.

HOMECOMING?

Right after my senior year in high school, my family had moved from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, to the Detroit area where my dad had accepted a partnership in a large printing company. But home for me was never going to be Michigan, so I'd decided I was going back to New Jersey. I guess I thought there would be banners across Main Street, welcoming me home like some war hero. (What was I thinking?)

So I kept heading east. For the moment, it was my only goal.

A guy about my age stopped to pick me up. Except for his nonstop smoking, I didn't pay much attention to him. He had a nice car and I liked the aggressive way he drove. We hardly spoke at all, which was fine with me. In fact, I don't think we made eye contact once. Unfortunately, as he was whipping around a big truck on the right, another truck was merging into the same lane and we slammed into the back of it. A wreck was not something I had expected but it was a perfect illustration of how I felt about my life. I couldn't even hitchhike right.

The interview with the state trooper didn't go well. Technically, hitchhiking was against the law, especially on an interstate highway. "Uh, you know, uh... I'm a student, just getting a ride and I don't even know this guy's name and, uh..."

I guess I didn't look like a typical hitchhiker with my preppie haircut and clean clothes. The trooper asked me a few more questions then let me go. Of course, I couldn't just stick out my thumb and start hitchhiking right in front of him, so I started to walk along the shoulder.

With only the sound of the gravel crunching under my shoes a sense of complete despair came over me. "What am I doing?" I said out loud. Okay, now what? I'm out here in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a few bucks and some clothes. I graduated from Cherry Hill East but all my friends are gone. They're not home waiting for me. And what am I going to do when I get back there? Stand in front of people I know and tell them I'm a failure? Tell them I went off to college but I couldn't hack it?

I can't describe how empty I felt. I guess this is what rock bottom feels like.

The sun was setting. Soon it would be as dark outside as I was feeling inside. I wasn't so brash that I was going to stand along the side of the road through the night, so I snagged one more ride then started looking for a motel—a motel with a telephone.

"Dad, this is Orel," I said, faking some bravado. My dad was ready for my call. Jeff, my roommate, had called my parents to tell them I had run away.

"Oh, you've really done a number on your mother now." His voice was stern and strong and his words hit hard. I'd never wanted to disappoint my mom. Realizing what I was putting her through made me feel terrible. My dad might as well have said, "Oh, Orel, look what you've done. You're not even considering what you are doing to anybody else; you're just thinking about yourself." He would have been right.

Dad was good in a crisis. He was angry, but completely under control. I was relieved because I knew deep down he was happy that I was safe.

"Get on a bus," he said. "Come home and we'll talk about it when you get here."

After spending the night in a motel, I boarded a Greyhound bus bound for Detroit. As a baseball player, bus trips were very familiar. I knew the fun of riding a bus home celebrating a big victory and I knew the pain and loneliness of riding a bus after a loss. But this bus ride was one I would never forget. It followed the biggest defeat I had ever known. My parents had tried to instill in me a will to hang in there—to persevere, regardless of the outcome. But I had given up. When the going got tough, I ran away. And even worse than my dad's stern voice and my mother's broken heart, I was disappointed in myself.

The boy on the bus to Michigan was not the man I wanted to be.

COACH DAD

As I look back on this experience more than two decades later, it is perfectly clear to me that this was a watershed moment, a fork in the road. The impact of those who had "coached" me during my childhood was now being challenged by the harsh reality of growing up. Would the words and examples of these mentors hold or would self–pity and failure swallow me up? Would I decide to deal with the truth and do the right thing?

I'd like to tell you that as the bus drove from somewhere in Pennsylvania to Detroit, I sat there paging back through these things that brought me to this moment. Actually, I wasn't that introspective. All I really did was stare out of the window and think about how hard it was going to be to face my family, especially my mom. I was the oldest of four kids, and I didn't feel like a responsible big brother. Some role model I was.

I tried to sleep.

Finally, the brakes hissed our arrival in Detroit. For me, this was the end of the line. A small group of people began gathering around the bus. Stepping down onto the sidewalk, I scanned the crowd, looked around for a familiar face. But no one had come to meet me. I knew it was my dad's way of letting me know that, although he loved me, he wasn't going to coddle me or treat me like a child.

He was very wise in knowing just how far to push before I would break. "Let him go," I can remember him saying to my mom when I faced failure as a young boy. "He's got to learn."

Having a welcoming committee at the bus stop would have sent the wrong message. I looked around for a taxi, crawled in the backseat, and gave the driver my parents' address.

A strange mix of fear and relief surrounded me as I stepped out of the cab. It was great to be home. This was not a familiar house but it didn't matter. It was the people inside I had come to see. Hugs from everyone made me feel much better. The smell of something good was coming from the kitchen. But before I sat down to enjoy my first home–cooked meal in weeks, my dad let me know, "If you're going to live here, you're going to work and then you're going back to school." He wasn't angry, but true to his German roots, he spoke with unwavering resolve. I didn't argue. I knew better than to argue.

THE TACKLE BOX

As I look back over my growing–up years, I realize how perfectly suited my dad was to me. His sternness made sure that my failures taught me important lessons, but he was always there for me when there was an emergency.

Like the time my friend Jack Rex and I decided to drive to Florida for spring break. At twenty, we were old enough and barely smart enough, if you know what I mean.

Rather than budgeting our money for the week, we spent too much on the drive south and too much on things we didn't really need during the first few days. Soon Jack and I were counting change on the bed, hoping to have enough to keep gas in my Camaro Z28 for the trip north. I thought of phoning my dad for some help, but didn't want to admit we had been foolish enough to run out of money.

We went to the grocery store and bought a loaf of bread, some peanut butter, and a plastic knife. Sitting on the bed in our hotel room and eating sandwiches, I called home and told my parents that everything was going great. Pride is a powerful thing.

Sure enough, we had budgeted just enough gas money to get home. Sprawled out on the family room floor, I was soon laughing and telling stories to my siblings and parents about Jack's and my adventures in Florida. After a few minutes of fun, I finally admitted, "Hey, I'm starving."

Sheepishly, I then told them how we had almost run out of money and admitted that I had been too proud to ask for help. I looked at my dad and saw a big smile on his face. "Go get your tackle box," he told me.

"What do you mean, go get my tackle box?" I replied.

"I said, go get your tackle box," he said again with a twinkle in his eye.

I dutifully went out to my car and retrieved the tackle box that had made the trip to Florida and back.

"Open it up," my dad said as I set it down on the family room floor. I obeyed, still wondering what he was up to. With my family gathered around, I felt like I was on display.

"Look under the tray," he said, once the box was opened. I reached under the tray filled with lures and found an envelope taped there. I pulled the envelope free and tore it open. Two crisp one hundred dollar bills fell out. Everyone laughed. I laughed, too, amazed that my dad had taken good care of me, even when I didn't know it.

"LITTLE O"

Even though I passed my dad in size a long time ago, I will always be "Little O" to him. And Orel Leonard Hershiser III was not only my dad but my first great coach. He was a competitor from the word "go." I saw that in his business life, when he played cards with his friends or when he raked the infield before one of my Little League games. He was never satisfied with the status quo, so I saw him push himself toward perfection. And he held up the same standard for me, my sister, Katie, and my two brothers, Gordie and Judd. A Saturday of cleaning the garage was not just an ordinary chore, it was an exercise in the pursuit of perfection. Dirt and clutter were enemies to be conquered.

As his oldest son, I inherited this same competitive spirit—every bit of it. And, as it turned out, I was going to need it.

NOT A MEMBER OF THE "IN CROWD"

Several weeks ago, while dropping one of my sons off at school, I saw lots of kids huddled together in the parking lot, laughing and joking. Then I saw a couple kids off by themselves, wishing they could be included. My heart was drawn to those kids because, as a youngster, that had been me.

Everyone my age was bigger and more mature than me. Growing up was an endless sequence of being overlooked by the in crowd and having a hard time making friends and good grades. I was the last to shave, the last to have a steady girlfriend, and the last to drive a car. I felt like an alien, trying to figure out how to survive in a world where I wasn't up to par in size, academic strength, or social skills.

But, deep down, my dad's tenacity connected with me. I remember admiring his ability to finish what he started and his commitment to doing his best.

"Average may be good enough for other kids," he might as well have been saying to me, "but you're not other kids. You're my son." Although, of course, I didn't select this man to be my dad—my first coach—I did choose to watch him and listen to his advice. I wanted to be like him.

During these years I also always heard the sound of my mom's voice cheering me on. A good coach and an enthusiastic cheerleader—what else could a skinny kid named Orel Leonard

Hershiser IV ever need?

GRANDPA SANDWICHES

As my first coach, my dad planted a competitive spirit in me, but (he still doesn't like to hear me say this) I probably didn't get my athletic ability from him.

Our first home was in Buffalo, New York. We lived just a few miles from a man who became another one of my early coaches—my maternal grandfather, Harry T. Gillman. Grandpa Gillman's influence on me was profound.

He wasn't a large man but Grandpa Gillman was a gifted athlete. As a young man he had excelled in swimming, golf, and baseball. The war and his dad kept him from pursuing a career in sports. Actually, during the thirties and forties, professional athletes were not admired—or paid—like they are today. Often men went into professional sports as a last resort rather than a career.

From the time I was old enough to slip my hand into a baseball glove, Grandpa Gillman played catch with me in his back–yard. At lunchtime we'd go into the kitchen and he'd make me a ham–and–cheese sandwich with lots of mayonnaise and spicy mustard. He called them "Grandpa sandwiches" and they tasted awesome. A sandwich is always better when someone else makes it for you, especially someone you love. Ham–and–cheese sandwiches, baseball, and lots of love. Grandpa Gillman was the best.

Sometimes Grandpa took me to the drugstore and bought me comic books. Back home we'd play Chinese checkers and Parcheesi with the board spread out between us on the floor. Grandma made me soft chocolate–chip cookies and let me eat them between meals. In their backyard, I played by the hour. Grandpa would make a circle in the dirt with his finger and show me how to shoot marbles. And I would play catch with him—he taught me how to hold the ball, how to step and throw—and, when he got tired, I'd toss the ball up against the fence...over and over and over again. They never told me to stop.

Grandpa Gillman introduced me to golf at the age of five. After school he would take me out to the Lancaster Country Club and we'd play two or three holes before Grandma joined us for dinner. Between ordering dinner and the time the food arrived, I'd go to the putting green until they'd call me in to eat. Sometimes after dinner I'd go back to the putting green again. If it hadn't been for the light on the corner of the greenskeeper's shack, it would have been pitch black. This was no problem at all.

But sports wasn't Grandpa Gillman's only specialty; he was also a great life–skills coach. I can remember watching how he treated people with dignity and respect. The consummate gentleman, I saw how he cherished Grandma. He thanked people constantly, even those who didn't expect it. I can picture how he acted when he and I would take his car in for service, leaning over the fender next to the mechanic. "Wow, I would never have seen that," he would say. Not only was he honoring the mechanic, he was right in there, watching and learning. Grandpa was a student of the people around him. He was always involved.

Absolutely no one was beneath this man. When a serviceman made a call to his house, Grandpa would offer him lunch, then sit down with him and eat sandwiches he or Grandma had made.

On some weekends when my parents worked part time for a

retail pharmaceutical company, inventorying drugstores, Grandpa and Grandma Gillman took us to the Central Presbyterian Church. I can remember the sounds of the church service, the smell of the old wooden pews, and the feeling of sitting in the big sanctuary. I can especially remember listening to the music. And I remember standing between my grandparents when the offering plates were brought forward, singing the Doxology.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Praise Him all creatures here below.
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts.
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

There was something very special about those moments. Standing between these people I loved and being filled with wonder at the sound of this hymn. These memories helped to shape my heart.

WALKING TALL

Dave Martin was the varsity baseball coach at Cherry Hill East High School. As a freshman with dreams of making the varsity team, I can remember passing him in the hallway. Hoping he'd notice me, I'd straighten up and try to walk tall. And I worked harder than the rest of the boys in gym class. Coach Martin was a man's man—a man who hadn't lost his athletic prowess. He may have been a little rough around the edges, but he had a big heart. He was a hard worker who loved his students and the school he worked for. Loyalty was a big deal in his book. Even though he was in the athletic department and not seen as an academic giant, he always spoke highly about the school and seemed to be well liked by the other teachers.

Coach Martin was a gentleman. He taught us to treat girls properly and, as far as I could tell, he lived a life of order and principle.

He also had high standards when it came to picking his varsity team. In the spring, there was only one baseball tryout—for the varsity team. As a freshman, this was all I wanted. Years of Little League and youth baseball had prepared me for this tryout. For the guys who weren't good enough to make the varsity, there was the junior varsity (JV) team. But for those who lacked the skills for either, there was the freshman team. A couple of my friends made varsity, a few more the junior varsity. I made neither and spent the season playing shortstop and pitching on the freshman team.

My sophomore year I tried once more. Coach Martin cut me again, but this time he put me on the JV team. Finally, the next year, with my dad's work ethic and my Grandpa Gillman's talent, I made the varsity team, although I wasn't a huge contributor.

Then, in my senior year, it happened. My body and skills caught up with my will and I made it as a starter. I was one of the team leaders, selected as all–conference in South Jersey, and I saw my name in the local paper on a regular basis. My parents were very proud.

Coach Martin continued to have my respect as an important coach, and now he was becoming my friend. I would visit his office between classes or drop in on him instead of going to study hall. He was often busy grading papers, but he'd take time to talk baseball or college possibilities with me. Sometimes we'd go outside and I'd help him get the field ready for a game.

But baseball wasn't the only thing he cared about. I can remember Coach Martin telling me to be sure to finish my homework. Even though I know he saw some potential in me as a baseball player, he wanted me to be a complete person. He also knew that actually making a living playing baseball was a long shot, a very long shot.

A CHANCE AT THE BIG LEAGUES

But let's get back to my story. Once the dust had settled from my running away from college and my return to my parents' home in Detroit, I enrolled in summer school back at Bowling Green. The campus during the summer months was a different place. There were fewer activities, fewer friends to call...fewer distractions. It was exactly what I needed and my grades showed it.

After summer school, I played on a team that won the All–American Amateur Baseball Association national championship. I was the starting pitcher in the title game. By my junior year at BG, I had grown three inches and gained fifteen pounds. The speed of my fastball had picked up five miles an hour and I made the school's traveling team.

During that season, BG coach, Don Pervis, and I were approached by local big league scouts. I had seen them in the stands with their radar guns and clipboards and I hoped they were looking at me for the June 1979 amateur draft. I was right.

On the night of the draft, I sat in my apartment staring at the telephone, praying it would ring. It did. The man on the line told me that he was with the San Diego Padres and he was taking me in the first round. I was ecstatic. I couldn't believe it. I called my dad and he couldn't believe it either!

After a few phone calls to my friends, I began to smell a practical joke. Their guarded enthusiasm was a tip–off. Sure enough, my fraternity brothers had made the call, not the Padres. I laughed and acted like I could take the joke, but inside I was crushed.

The next day, the real call came. It was from the Los Angeles Dodgers and I was being taken in the seventeenth round—I knew this call was the real thing. No one would joke about something like this.

In a few weeks Boyd Bartley, a Dodger scout, came to our home in Detroit to present their offer. Because I wasn't going to turn twenty–one for three more months, my dad had to be in the meeting. Mr. Bartley offered me ten thousand dollars, an assignment, and a dream. "We'll send you to our Class A team in Clinton, Iowa. You'll have the chance to grow and develop and work your way up the ladder to play in the big leagues. We want you to pitch in Dodger Stadium some day."

I was awestruck by his words. My dream was about to come true. I was going to turn pro. After a short meeting in the kitchen with my dad and mom, I took the offer.

The next four years would be a blur of playing baseball in some pretty interesting places: Clinton, Iowa; San Antonio, Texas; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and a few winter ball stops in Scottsdale, Arizona; Valencia, Venezuela; and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

NOW THE WORK BEGINS

Six different cities and four and a half years in the minors and the call came.

At the end of the 1983 season, after finishing third in the Pacific Coast League in saves and seventh in earned run average (ERA), I was called up to the big club—the Dodgers. My first role was in the bullpen and I finished the season with eight innings pitched in eight different games in relief. I did well the next spring and made the club out of camp for the 1984 season.

The following spring, my wife, Jamie, and I found a rental house in Placentia, forty–five minutes to an hour and fifteen minutes from Dodger Stadium, depending on the traffic. Because we only had one car I needed to find a teammate who lived in the area and who could drive me to the park when I needed a ride.

Burt and Ginger Hooton lived close by and Burt agreed to let me ride with him. He was a soft–spoken Texas guy. One of the veteran starters, Burt was known for his overhand fastball, knuckle curve . . . and strong character.

And on those long drives to Dodger Stadium, Burt Hooton became a good friend—and coach. Since he was unwilling to shake his Texas musical roots, the radio provided a backdrop of country music most of the time, but I'm not about to tell a guy who's giving me a ride that I don't like his music.

It brought back memories of that awful hitchhiking trip from Bowling Green, but the music was the only thing that was the same. Everything else was different. Instead of running away from college, riding through Ohio in an eighteen–wheeler, I was a big leaguer, riding along with a veteran big leaguer. Imagine the awe of sitting there, soaking in the wise words he spoke. Because Burt was not a small–talker, there were times when five or ten minutes of complete silence would go by. But when he had something to say, it was always something worth listening to.

Just like Grandpa Gillman did with his mentors, I pumped Burt with questions and soaked in all his answers. I had questions about work ethics and strategy and the Dodger coaches and the day's opponent. My friend always filled me in. It was great.

But on one of those rides to the ballpark, Burt said something I never forgot. It sealed him as one of my most important coaches. "Orel," he began between my questions and Hank Williams, "You've made it to the big leagues."

I could tell he wasn't finished, so I sat quietly.

"But the work has just begun. It took a lot of work to get to the majors. But when you got here, you took someone else's job. Now everyone is going to want your job. It was hard to get here but it's going to be even harder to stay here."

In the years that followed, these words became profoundly true.

"BULLDOG"

In my book Out of the Blue I told the story of when my first major league manager, Tommy Lasorda, gave me the nickname "Bulldog." It was May of 1984, my first full year in the majors. I've often referred to the meeting in his office as "The Sermon on the Mound." Because he had been told to, Ron Perranoski, my pitching coach, escorted me into Tommy's office. I was carrying a 2–2 record and my ERA was a miserable 6.20. I knew I could do better than that and suspected that Tommy agreed. I was glad that Perry had come along—although Tommy wouldn't have met with me, or any of his players, without their coach present.

No person had ever been more intimidating to me than Thomas Charles Lasorda. He was an enthusiastic leader, but although I had not played for him for more than a few months, I also knew that he was loud and brash. Verbally, he took no prisoners. A few days before this meeting, I had given up a two–out double in Houston to José Cruz with two men on base. Tommy was furious. But his anger was not directed at my mechanics or pitch selection. He was mad at me because he thought I was pitching timidly and didn't believe in my abilities.

Now I was sitting in his office. "You don't believe in yourself," he shouted. "You're scared to pitch in the big leagues! Who do you think these hitters are—Babe Ruth? Ruth's dead! You've got good stuff. If you didn't, I wouldn't have brought you up. Quit being so careful. Go after the hitter. Get ahead in the count."

Although I was being aired out, I was sure that I heard a compliment hidden in Tommy's words. I've got good stuff? He brought me to the big leagues because he believes in me?

Tommy wasn't done. "If I could get a heart surgeon in here, I'd have him open my chest and take out my heart. Then I'd have him open your chest, take out your heart, and tell him to give you mine. With my heart and your arm, you'd be in the Hall of Fame! I've seen guys come and go, son, and you've got it."

Tommy finished his sermon with a flourish. "Take charge! Make 'em hit your best stuff! Be aggressive. Be a bulldog out there." And then, almost like he had surprised himself with a stroke of genius, he announced, "That's going to be your new name: Bulldog. It's the ninth inning, we bring you in and you're facing Dale Murphy. He hears, ‘Now pitching, Orel Hershiser.' He can't wait till you get in there. But if he hears, ‘Now pitching, Bulldog Hershiser,' he's thinking, Oh, no, who's that? Murphy's going to be scared to death!"

I admit that I was a little insulted by the rah–rah pep talk and the nickname, but I knew Tommy had spoken the truth. I had been tentative and too careful. Two days later we were in a tough situation against the San Francisco Giants. The call came from the dugout, "Can anybody down there pitch?" The bullpen was spent so I volunteered, in spite of a tender elbow and an arm weak from overwork.

I'll never forget the walk to the mound and the three innings that followed. I could hear Tommy shouting from the dugout, "C'mon, Bulldog! You can do it, Bulldog! You're my man, Bulldog!" I was a major leaguer. I was good enough to be here and had what it took to win. And I started to believe it because it's what my skipper had told me.

Tommy Lasorda had introduced me to the importance of truth–telling—tactless as it was—and the power of an encouraging coach.

A TEACHABLE SPIRIT

You may be thinking, All of this is interesting, but I'm not an athlete. I don't need a coach to help with my pitching or give me a clever nickname. How does all of this apply to me?

That's a good question.

Remember my early coaches were people who helped me with life, not just baseball. My dad, who was never satisfied with average. My mom, who believed in her children. My Grandpa Gillman, who lived his life as a consummate gentleman and ready student. Dave Martin, who spoke well of others. Burt Hooton, who took time with a lowly rookie. And Tommy Lasorda, who spoke the truth.

My best coaches have not always been the ones who knew the game. Their best counsel has not always been about playing baseball. They've been people who set a standard for my life, giving me something to follow. So I've looked for coaches—experts—in finance, health and fitness, spiritual disciplines, parenting, business, and organizational skills. These people have helped to shape me.

Over the years, after a good outing, I have heard people compliment me on my baseball skills. I have watched the late night edition of ESPN's Sports-Center or Baseball Tonight or read complimentary accounts in the paper the next morning.

Clever headlines over the years have been fun to see:

"Reds Fail Orel Exam!" after a big win against Cincinnati.

"OOO OOO OOOrel," during my record–breaking scoreless inning streak.

"Hot Dog," on the day when, in hundred–degree heat and with one day's rest, I beat the Expos at Shea Stadium.

"Dog Gone," when I retired from the game.

But here's the headline I will always aspire to: "Orel Hershiser: A man with a teachable spirit."

Who have your coaches been? What good things did they teach you? Be on the lookout for good coaches. Watch their lives, listen to their advice... and believe them. You may never achieve what you want to accomplish if you don't have someone in your life who has already found what you are striving for.

Even though I've retired from baseball, I'll never be too old for another coach to believe in.

Copyright © 2001 by Orel Leonard Hershiser IV
Excerpt posted with permission from http://www.twbookmark.com

Many thanks to Time Warner Bookmark (Little, Brown & Company, Warner Books, A Time Warner Company) at: www.twbookmark.com. We appreciate their cooperation with OfSpirit.com to share this chapter of their book with our visitors for education, entertainment and empowerment. 

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