This last Friday, I had the opportunity to see the Single-A Charleston Riverdogs play the Columbia Fireflies at Joe Riley Park in Charleston, SC. What made this game different than any other minor league baseball game happening across the country that night, was that the Designated Hitter for the Fireflies was not just your typical 20 something, struggling their way through the minors – it was Tim Tebow. Yes, that Tim Tebow. Heisman Trophy winning, National Collegiate Football Champion, Florida Gator, and Denver Bronco Tim Tebow.
I didn’t go to the game specifically to watch him play, as I was planning on going several weeks prior with my family to celebrate my birthday. The rest of the crowd seemed to be there to watch him; who either loudly booed or cheered specifically for a man with a .224 batting average. I wasn’t even expecting much from Tebow (although I did want to see him hit a home run). But as the game progressed, I started to learn more from him than nearly any athlete I had watched in several years – and I have seen a lot of them.
The lessons that Tim Tebow taught that night were ones that we should talk to our kids about while at the ballpark, athletes that we may coach, and even to our co-workers. They are lessons about being doing something with a purpose, being a good teammate, and giving your best effort. And although Tebow has achieved more athletically and financially than many of us every will, he never seemed get away from the basic skills and techniques that hoisted him to such a prominent level of popularity across the America.
Here is what he taught us Friday night in Charleston:
If you want to be successful, be inquisitive and do things with purpose
In between ABs, on the on-deck circle, even while stretching – you could see Tebow asking his coaches questions. This took place throughout the entire game. Because he didn’t play in the field, he spent most of his time while the team was on defense, standing side-by-side with the head coach in the dugout, discussing situations and asking what going on. After he his only hit, a single in the 3rd inning, he spent most of his time on 1st and 3rd base in non-stop conversation with his coaches.
During his on-deck time, he wasn’t just taking practice swings for the sake of doing it. He worked on breathing, lower-body movement, timing-up the batter, hand placement – you name it, he was working on it. In between BP swings, he worked with his hitting coach while most of his teammates sat and rested. There were very few instances, from the beginning of warm-ups to the end of the game itself, in which Tebow was not doing meaningful, purpose driven activities.
Remember, we are talking about Tim Tebow. This guy is a pretty good athlete. I would argue a very good athlete. He could rely on his natural talent and just go out there thinking that everything was going to happen the way he wanted it to. He doesn’t. He talks to his coaches and teammates about getting better constantly. When he is not doing that, he is not just over in the cage going through the motions. He is doing something with the hope of getting better. These are invaluable lessons to learn.
If you want to be successful, be a good teammate
Minor League Baseball is many things, but one thing it is not is the place where you learn to be great teammate. It’s a place that finally, after years of high school and college ball, one can focus (and get paid) on their personal growth and to hone their own skills as a ball player. Players on the team may only know the guys on their current club for a just a month or so, as they are hoping to get called up to another (and better) team. So being fired up for a bunch of guys that you are really not that invested in is somewhat of a rarity in the minors.
It was clear that Tebow doesn’t understand this concept. There was no one cheering more, high-fiving harder, or more supportive of the guys on defense while he was in the dugout. Obviously, coming from the football world, the concept of team is something that he understands a bit more than the average minor league baseball player. And if you observed Tebow’s demeanor towards his teammates throughout the game, the entire club began to follow his lead.
So, what does his high-fiving a lot teach us? The answer is simple: successful people support the people around them, even if they have had more individual success in previous situations. And furthermore, if you are around a group of people that support one another, you will make each other better. Selfishness may seem cool in today’s culture, but those who serve each other reap the greater results than those who are just focused on themselves.
If you want to be successful at something, always hustle.
Tebow only had one ground out this game, to first base, in the 6th inning (he also had two other ABs resulting in outs - one being a strikeout and the other a high fly-ball that almost left the yard). And although it was apparent to everyone in the stadium that he was going to be thrown out, Tebow ran harder to first base than anyone on either team the entire game. He ran just as fast to first base as a kid that was trying out to make the varsity team in high school.
You can usually tell how much a person wants to be involved with something by how great their effort is. If they don’t try, it usually means they don’t care. Well let me tell you – Tebow cares. A lot. And even if you know you are more than likely going to fail at something, by putting in your best effort, you can at least go to bed at night knowing you did your very best, rather than wondering what would have happened if you were to have tried harder.
After reading this, whether you work in athletics or business, take a second to ask yourself this question: do the members of your team work as hard as they could, care as much as they should, and continually support their peers? If the answer is yes – then you have one hell of a group. If you don’t (and my guess is most you reading this answered this way), then you could learn a few things from Tim Tebow.
Look, I’m not trying to get on the Tebow bandwagon and start wearing black tape under my eyes with a Bible verse written on it. In fact, there are MANY things that we don’t see eye-to-eye on. I'm not going to buy a Gator jersey or a Firefly hat. However, there is the one thing that we agree on:
If you are going to do something, don’t do it half-way. Nothing should be done in a half-ass manner.
Especially when people doubt you can do something (and nearly everyone has doubts that this baseball thing is going to work out for him in the long run), you try harder. You don’t pout. You don’t hang your head. Tebow, much like all of us, has failed time and time again. However, let’s not look at what he has done or think of the results that may or may not happen with is current journey.
Look at how he got there and is walking this path now. It’s a path paved with diligence, supporting of those around him, and an unrelenting attitude to not fail. And even if he does, you know that he will move on to the next thing, giving everything he can. Because that is who Tim Tebow is. And it is what we all should do.