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The Meaning of Baseball

By Brian Anderson

Special for the Republic

July 16, 1998

Andy Fox said a funny thing to me the other day after I lost to the Reds. It was a disappointing loss and I was in there shaving, and Andy said, "Baseball at times like this is like the school bully. Every day you come in and the game beats you up, beats you up and sends you home, and every day you keep coming back."

It's funny. The game does work that way. We've been taking a lot of lumps, but every day we come to the ballpark expecting to win.

I had a bully when I was in the third grade. Every day I went to school, he threatened to kill me. I'm still alive. I never beat him up like I hoped to do. The school bully, another one, eventually got me in the sixth grade. He sent off a henchman and came up to me and drilled me, sucker punched me.

It's a funny game. The cruelest of situations can happen, yet you bounce right back the next day.

The guys we have are indicative of that type of philosophy. No one gets down around here. We're not exactly lighting up the standings, but every day we come in and expect to win. Guys are upbeat every day.

A lot of teams might mail it in the rest of the year, 30 games below .500 and a long season left. But it's a testament to what these guys are about how we come out scrapping every day.

I think it's easier for position players. They can have a bad night, go 0 for 4 with three strikeouts, and they know they're going to be in there the next day. But a starting pitcher has a bad outing and has to sit around and think about it for a while.

If I go out and have a bad ballgame and lose, it's not something you accept, but, hey, you have an off night. But to have a lead with two outs in the eighth inning. . . . Barry Larkin, yeah, he's a great hitter, but keep him in the yard. Keep the ball in the confines of the fences. And I didn't do that. And to lose the way I did in the ninth, giving up a leadoff hit - that was as frustrated as you'll ever see me.

I dealt with that by going out. I didn't want to sit around and think about it, so I thought, "Well, my roommate's off tomorrow, let's see if he wants to see a movie." So we went out and saw Lethal Weapon 4. It kind of loosened things up.

You try to leave it at the field. That's the main thing you have to do in this sport, leave the game at the field. You can't take it home with you and beat yourself up over it.

It's such a long season and the game is so mental, you can't afford to take things home. Especially, especially if you have a family. A lot of guys say you can get as upset as you want at the field, but once it's time to go home and step into family life, then you become a father. You're not a baseball player anymore.

For me, my outlet is doing something fun. Comedy. Go see a movie. My roommate, Bobby Coy - he and I somewhere down the line we ended up having the same father or the same mother. We came from the same place. It's amazing how much we're alike. If I have a bad one, I go home. I don't stay upset too long because he's a pretty funny guy and we both enjoy the same kind of humor.

By the way, he asked me: What do you get when you cross a dyslexic, an agnostic and an insomniac? A guy who stays up all night and wonders if there's a dog.

People might be surprised that I have a roommate. I like living by myself. I really enjoy it. But he didn't have a real good living arrangement out here, and I thought, what the heck, I could do a guy a favor and he's a solid guy and he's just like me.

It's been fun. It's been good. You tend to get lonely when you go home every single night by yourself, and you get up every day by yourself. He's not around that much because he works a lot, but we've got a pretty good partnership going.

Now I've got a story, as far as sports being so mental is concerned. A guy was a prisoner of war for seven years in Vietnam. He was literally in a cage like a dog. For seven years.

He was an avid golfer, about a 20 handicap, had never broken 90. But every day of his captivity he visualized golfing. He even visualized driving to the golf course.

He had laid out his own golf course in his mind. He totally made up his dream course. He visualized everything, from tipping the caddy to tying his shoes. It was a really graphic visualization.

And then he visualized every shot. Every shot was a perfect shot. Every swing a perfect swing. He visualized the leaves on the trees, every step down the fairway. For seven years he did this, every single day.

Finally, he's freed. He goes home. He gets his strength up, and the first thing he does is play golf. And he shoots a 74. The guy hadn't swung a golf club for seven years, hadn't done anything, had never broken 90 before that. But seven years of intense visualization taught him how to golf without ever practicing. True story.

It's amazing what the mind can do. The power of the mind. So to all you kids out there, you can if you think you can.

Sitting on bench takes on new meaning

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