What Baseball Can Teach You About Business

Baseball is an allegorical play about America, a poetic, complex, and subtle play of courage, fear, good luck, mistakes, patience about fate, and sober self-esteem.
—Saul Steinberg

Watching Major League Baseball’s All Star game last night I couldn’t help but think about all the lessons baseball teaches us that can be applied to blogging, marketing, business, and life in general. No other game (at least none I’m aware of) truly translates its teachings beyond the game.

After the game was over I started making notes for this post, but I decided it would be better to let others make my point for me. I’m not sure I could have made it through this post on my own without it turning into a passionate plea for why baseball is the greatest game ever invented anyway.

Some of you will certainly disagree, but chances are baseball still plays a part in your life.

You may never have seen a game or know the rules, but you likely know if you got to second base on your last date, thrown someone a curve, covered your bases, been in a pickle, or taken a rain check.

You’ve stuck out, hit the ball out of the park, and played hardball. No other sport so permeates the culture as the game of baseball.

How many phrases has your business contributed to the language?

I’m a seamhead, which for those of you not familiar with the term, is a person who can quote player statistics from a hundred years ago and relive details of a game seen more than 30 years ago as though it happened yesterday. I’m passionate about the game of baseball in a fanatical way, which brings me to my first point.

It's Over!
Creative Commons License photo credit: BenYankee

One Passionate Reader Is Worth More Than Thousands of Visitors

You should enter a ballpark the way you enter a church.
—Bill (Spaceman) Lee

You see, you spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball, and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.
—Jim Bouton, Ball Four, 1970

There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem – once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit.
—Al Gallagher, 1971

Are you working to bring visitors into your site are are you working to make them passionate spokespersons for your brand? Not everyone likes the game of baseball. You can find all sorts of complaints from it taking too long to play to there not being enough action, but it doesn’t matter.

Those of us who are fans will continue to be brand evangelists as long as we live ensuring that the game will not only go on, but thrive.

Your Customers Control The Conversation

Baseball is the only sport I know that when you’re on offense, the other team controls the ball.
—Ken Harrelson, Sports Illustrated, 6 September 1976

Never forget it’s your customers who are in charge. You don’t have to bend over backwards to please every one, but your goal is to tailor your business to the needs and wants of the market, not the other way around.

You may be at bat and, but it’s your market that controls the ball.

Playing It Safe In Business Is Dangerous

No matter how good you are, you’re going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you’re going to win one-third of your games. It’s the other third that makes the difference.
—Tommy Lasorda

Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.
—Frederick B. Wilcox

Accept the fact that many of your idea will fail, but don’t let it stop you from trying. You have to take some risks if you want to get ahead. If you put enough out there you’re going to win some of the time in spite of yourself. Take a chance and take action if you want to succeed.

Life will always throw you curves, just keep fouling them off… the right pitch will come, but when it does, be prepared to run the bases.
—Rick Maksian

Don’t forget to swing hard, in case you hit the ball.
—Woodie Held

Again not everything you try will work and often your business or blog will feel like a struggle. But if you keep at it sooner or later an opportunity will present itself. Until then do what you can to prepare for that now unknown opportunity so when it does arrive you can capitalize on it.

Yankees
Creative Commons License photo credit: Melle_Oh

Take Responsibility

It never ceases to amaze me how many of baseball’s wounds are self-inflicted.
—Bill Veeck, The Hustler’s Handbook

Your success or failure are in your control. If you fail don’t blame your competition or the market. It’s not about someone else happening to notice you and promoting you. It’s about you making sure they notice you in the first place.

If you make a mistake it’s ok. Own up to it and accept you made a mistake. Apologize, make things right, and move on. To err is human. To deny that fact will cause much more damage than admitting to it.

It’s Just Conjecture And It Ain’t Necessarily Easy

Well, boys, it’s a round ball and a round bat and you got to hit the ball square.
—Joe Schultz, 1969

There are two theories on hitting the knuckleball. Unfortunately, neither of them work.
—Charlie Lau, 1982

There are a lot of ways to make money online. Unfortunately no one can tell you precisely how to do it. Two people following the same strategy and tactics will not necessarily have the same results.

Listen to all the gurus you want. Learn from them and take their theories to heart. Just know that there are no guarantees. No one knows absolutely how to hit a knuckleball and know one knows absolutely how to be a success.

One person will tell you that nofollow is the secret sauce and the next person will tell you it’s rubbish. Content is king one day and links are king the next. Optimize your pages, but don’t optimize them too much.

Unless you’ve written the algorithm it’s all theory.

_MG_9227
Creative Commons License photo credit: BIGDOG3c

Can Your Customers Trust You To Be There?

Baseball is reassuring. It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.
—Sharon Olds, This Sporting Life, 1987

Baseball connects us across generations. Fathers play catch with their sons and daughters. Grandparents take you to a game and share stories of the heroes of of days gone by. Despite tweaks over the years, the games is still essentially played the same as it was over 150 years ago. We trust it to be played the same way tomorrow.

Does your business inspire that kind of trust and confidence? Are your readers familiar enough with your blogging voice to where they can hear you speaking about a subject that may never have crossed your blog. Do you meet their expectations? Do people believe they can buy from you without getting ripped off?

Are You Measuring Results?

Baseball fans love numbers. They love to swirl them around their mouths like Bordeaux wine.
—Pat Conroy

Baseball is an island of activity amidst a sea of statistics.
—Author Unknown

Baseball statistics are like a girl in a bikini. They show a lot, but not everything.
—Toby Harrah, 1983

Baseball fans are junkies, and their heroin is the statistic.
—Robert S. Wieder

Statistics are kept for most sports, but I don’t know any sport where the statistics are so integral to the enjoyment of the game.

Not so much words of advice, but a connection to analytics. If you aren’t measuring what’s happening on your site, why? Go out right now before you do anything else and sign up for Google Analytics or some other stats package and add the relevant code to your site. If you aren’t you’re just guessing.

Not everyone enjoys pouring over mountains of numbers and looking through them for patterns. I do and with 100% surety, I can tell you it comes from studying the backs of baseball cards with friends as a kid.

I’ll leave you with one last quote by one of the most quotable people to ever walk the planet, who just happened to be a baseball player.

It ain’t over till it’s over
—Yogi Berra

Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.

9 comments

  1. I love this post.

    I’m not a baseball fan, but you’ve made me see how the game relates to business. I especially like the bit about swinging at every pitch and realizing that not every swing will be a success but trying anyway.

    It’s a unique idea for a post and very well done. Great job!

    • Thanks Kristine. You already know I’m a baseball fanatic. Maybe one day I’ll share all the reasons why I love the game, though I warn you I can talk from now till the end of time and not run out of things to talk about.

      Baseball really does permeate the culture more than any other sport. There’s an endless supply of quotes about it. I grabbed most of these in about 10 minutes and could have easily found so many more.

  2. I had to laugh when I saw this, because I’ve been working on a guest post for you equating SEO with… baseball. Last night’s game was a great one (if you’re an insomniac) and even gave me some ideas to help me finish off the post.

    Now I just need to get them out of my brain and onto the paper…

    • Funny Rudy. Send the post when you have it. More baseball is always good in my book. Funny too, because I know your a baseball fan and I thought of you while writing this post. I knew it would get a comment out of you.

      The games was great. One advantage to living in the mountains is games like this don’t end so late for me. It was only 11:38 for me when the game ended.

  3. I love this post Steven. All these things do translate to all sorts of business and life situations. Nice of you to write in a great lineup of examples for us.

    I’m a big baseball fan here following the Twinks. Plus now I get to watch my sons in their instructional leagues having fun on the ball field.

    I recently posted a short interview with Sean Aronson, a media relations guru for the Saint Paul Saints, of which Bill Veeck’s son Mike is principle owner. It was to see you quoting Bill in your post.

  4. Thanks Chris. I had another post in mind when I started and decided to find a quote or two. I came across so many that easily translated to business that I changed the post to what you see.

    You must have enjoyed all that Justin Morneau did the last couple of days. Oddly in a few years everyone will think it was Josh Hamilton that won the derby and forget about Morneau.

    You have to feel good about the Twinks chances the second half. Cool too about the kids. For me it’s playing softball weekly that keeps me on the field.

    Nice about the connection to Bill Veeeck. I had found a couple of other quotes by him, but they were more specific about baseball. Some of the best quotes were too baseball related for the post.

    Here’s a couple more good ones from him.

    “Baseball is almost the only orderly thing in a very unorderly world. If you get three strikes, even the best lawyer in the world can’t get you off.”
    –Bill Veeck

    “I have discovered in twenty years of moving around a ball park, that the knowledge of the game is usually in inverse proportion to the price of the seats.”
    –Bill Veeck

  5. After spending 9 hours at the All-Star Game, covering 15 innings, the 14th inning stretch and the real Village People singing along with the guys smoothing the dirt between the half inning in the 6th, I was inspired:

    Take me out to the ballgame
    take me out to the crowd

    Buy me some Coffee, Insomniacs
    I don’t know if I’ll ever get back

    So it’s root root root for any team
    If they don’t score who’s to blame?

    so it’s 1:37 and 15 frames out
    at the All-Star Game!

    • Joe were you at the game then? I would have loved to go. I doubt it’s possible, but I’d also love to be there for the first game of the new stadium next year.

      Nice poem. Seems to sum up how many in the crowd were feeling late in the game.

      Earlier in the summer I watched the Rockies/Padres 22 inning game. First time I ever saw a 21st inning stretch.

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