“That’s What Losing Sounds Like…”

By Ben Campopiano
April 19, 2012

t’s no secret we got swept in Spokane last weekend. Sure, it’d help our egos a bit if what happened up there, stayed up there. But the reality is that we got beat. And then beat again. And then beat once more.

Losing is never fun. Whether it’s a game of checkers or a Division I baseball game against Gonzaga, nobody wants to lose. Just ask any kid old enough to count. But losing happens. We all know it happens quite a bit. And in baseball, it happens more often than in any other sport. Even the best big league teams lose 40 percent of the time. (The 2011 World Champion Saint Louis Cardinals lost 42% of their regular season games last year.) But as Donny The Bus Driver told me as he drove us to the Spokane airport, “It’s life. It happens. Nothing y’all can say or do to change it now. Just move ahead.”

And that’s pretty much what we do. Since the first day of the fall Coach O’Brien has told the team that baseball – like life – is 10 percent what happens to you, and 90 percent how you react. Much like everyday life, we know that errors will happen. We know mistakes will be made; and we definitely can expect to lose some things. But the 10-90 principal stresses that it’s the response to those moments that make us who we want to be – not the moments themselves. Coach O’Brien stresses to the guys that the best way to handle mistakes, losses, and adversity is to: 1) admit it, 2) learn from it, and 3) let it go.

So when we got back on the diamond Monday, what did we do? We tried to… admit it, learn from it, and let it go. We met as a team and talked about the mistakes we made. We brought up some issues, admitted a few things, and owned up to each of our mistakes. Then we “got dirty” and worked our way through the Gonzaga “Game Notes.” During every game the coaching staff keeps notes – positive and negative – so that players are given specific feedback about the game. After three games in Spokane, there were a bunch of positive notes and a slew of negative ones needing to be discussed.

Besides covering Game Notes, we watched clips from the movie MoneyBall. Specifically, we watched scenes depicting the A’s struggles during the early part of their amazing 2002 season, and how they overcame their deficiencies to go on a record-setting winning streak and make the playoffs. In one scene, Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) walks into the A’s clubhouse after another early-season loss and finds the players basically having a dance party. After taking a bat to the stereo system, Beane waits for complete silence and says, “That’s what losing sounds like.”

Our guys take losses like Beane does – extremely hard. If you walk into our clubhouse, or ride our bus home after a loss, you’ll hear what losing sounds like to us – dead silence. The players are often so distraught after losses that Coach O’Brien implores them to keep things in perspective and take it easy on themselves. He reminds them about ex-NFL head coach Marty Schottenheimer’s rule to enjoy or dwell on games until midnight, then move on to the next day. And just like Beane does after losses, we focus on improving and developing the next day by breaking down film, stats, and Game Notes and having the best practice of the year.

The hard part about being in the middle of a scuffle, slump, or losing streak is that you never know when the end will arrive. In MoneyBall you get to see the finish… the amazing winning streak that follows the early-season struggles. You can endure the early struggles of the A’s because you know the good will come.

Similarly, last year’s Cardinals are fun to talk about because they won it all after being so bad early on in the summer. Even Troy Tulowitzki says now that the Cardinals were one of the “worst teams in baseball” in June. But the Cards took home the hardware in November, and that makes the story fun to tell. There’s millions of examples of individuals and teams struggling early but pulling through in the end. Coach Lee might even tell you about the 2010 Giants team that was 8 games back of the Padres in July but went on to get rings in the fall. The key though with these examples is finding out how they did it – and then trying to follow suit.

Reading today about Tim Lincecum’s recent struggles (3 Games Started, 2 Losses, 10.54 ERA) the journalist took note of how, when he does scuffle, he’s much more talkative to the media than when he’s riding high. This allows him to not only learn and grow from his struggles, but also to move beyond the mistakes.

“I think it’s just a form of, I wouldn’t say venting, but just being a little bit more reflective on what you’re going through,” Lincecum said. “Being verbal with it for me helps me just kind of get it out there on the table so I know what I’m dealing with, instead of stirring around in my head, which is what happens to me  a lot. This game brings you right down to where you need to be. I think it’s like a test, about staying even-keeled and being mentally strong and I think this is what it is right now. I think it’s just going to make me stronger.”

Just like everyone within the San Francisco Giants organization knows Lincecum will soon return to his All-Star form, everybody within the Santa Clara baseball program knows our winning ways will return soon as well. How am I so sure of our future success? Because right now it’s 10:05pm and our team is taking Lincecum’s lead and holding a players meeting at the field to put things on the table, verbalize, reflect, and get stronger. That’s what winning sounds like.



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