What’s the difference between good and great? That’s a question that affects a lot of what we do, from our jobs, to our ministries, to our service in the community, to what it means to be a father, mother, husband or wife. What separates good from great? Father’s Day is coming up soon. You can be a good father, and that is definitely commendable, but what does it take to be a great father?
There are undoubtedly many answers to this question, but one of them, an important one, can be illustrated by a recent story in the sport of baseball at the college level. This is when sports become valuable beyond just being entertainment. Sports often provide a simpler way of looking at life lessons.
Cal State Fullerton (ever heard of that school? You have probably if you know anything about baseball at the college level) is a mostly commuter college in southern California that since the 1980s has been a force to be reckoned with in college baseball. They have won three national championships and almost every year they place in the NCAA Baseball Tournament against teams from more popular elite schools like Stanford, University of Texas and UCLA. They start the tournament off tomorrow against Brigham Young at the Stanford Regional playoffs. This, from a school that doesn’t even have a football team.
An article in the Los Angeles Times yesterday attempts to explain some of the reasons how this has come about. Most of it can be traced back to an inspirational coach who could spot little-known talented players and coach them to greatness. Beyond his eye for talent and inspirational leadership, it is probably hundreds of little things that have made these teams so great. One example is something we can all learn from.
Augie Garrido, the coach who turned things around for the little-known baseball program, was a stickler for details. One training tool he used, for instance, made a huge difference in their pitching. The finesse of great pitching is not just throwing strikes, but in where those strikes are located. Are they right down the middle (more easily hittable) or are they “on the corners” like lower or upper inside corner of the strike zone (closest to batter) or lower or upper outside corner (farthest away). These pitches are still in the strike zone; they are just harder for the batter to hit and more easily become actual strikes. It’s what coaches and commentators call “location.”
To help his pitchers learn the importance of location, coach Garrido devised a simple drill. He would have his pitchers practice pitching to their own hitters in a known sequence of pitches. In other words they would throw a fastball then a curve ball, then a change-up — whatever variety of pitches they could throw — the point is: the batter would know what was coming thus taking away the element of surprise. Initially the hitters hit their pitches all over the field and frustrated the pitchers no end until they discovered they would have to locate their pitches better. The batter might be expecting a certain type of pitch but he didn’t know where that pitch would be in the strike zone. Thus the difference between good and great. Good: a fastball when the batter is expecting a curve. Great: a fastball the batter can’t hit even if he is expecting a fastball. That’s the difference.
So what does this mean for us (besides learning something new about baseball you might not have known)? Here’s something. For the past couple months I have been helping almost daily with a friend of ours whose husband is suffering from a broken neck and related issues. If he’s ever going to walk again, he needs to start with getting up on his legs. They have a frame with a sling that will lift him up hydraulically onto his legs just to get him standing if even for a few minutes a day. What’s good is that I’ve been on call daily to help his wife perform the task of getting him up, because it is a two-person job. But here’s what Marti has helped me to realize that would be great — to minister to his wife. To find out how she’s doing; to pray with her; to reach out to her in empathy since she has been so courageously positive for such a long time with very little progress to show for it. You could say that so far I’ve done good, like throwing strikes. I’ve been helpful with her husband. But now I want to be great. I expect to help her as well with whatever she needs personally and emotionally. I want to go beyond just throwing strikes: I want to hit the corners.
Why don’t you think about this and write me a similar story of how you can turn something good into something great. Encourage us all with what this might mean to you.