Last week, the Texas Rangers wrapped up the 2015 season and what a season it was! It began with the team being pronounced DOA during Spring Training. Early on the team suffered a rash of injuries to key players. But in the end, the Rangers overcame an almost insurmountable August deficit as they improbably laid claim to the AL West title and secured a playoff berth.
Exactly what was at the heart of the Rangers surprising turnaround is open for debate, but you can point to any number of reasons for the team’s resurgence.
There was the rookie manager who quickly developed a knack for pushing all the right buttons, in all the right situations.
There was the key mid-season acquisition of pitching ace, Cole Hamels.
There was an offense that finally turned it up at the plate when runs were at a premium.
There was dependable starting and relief pitching for much of the season’s second half and down the stretch.
While all these factors certainly contributed to the Rangers success this season, perhaps the subtlest, yet most compelling reasons for the team’s about-face may have been a simple mid-season message delivered to a struggling player. It came not from his teammates, not from his coaches, and not from his manager. In fact, it did not come from anyone within the Rangers’ organization; rather it came from someone at home.
The player in question was Rangers #17 Outfielder from South Korea, Shin-Soo Choo, and the messenger was his wife of twelve years, Won Mi Ha. Amid her husband’s woes on the field, and the Rangers continuing poor play, Won Mi softly reminded Choo about the strong and sturdy foundation he had built throughout his life and his career. She told him everyone’s foundation gets shaken, but if strong, as his was, it would endure and it would carry him through, especially in times of doubt and change. All he had to do was remember who and what he was.
According to Choo, that conversation helped clear his mind. Instead of trying to live up to his mega-contract and stretching to be the player he thought everyone wanted him to be, he went back to basics, relied on his natural ability and simply started doing what he does best, just playing baseball.
“I’m not thinking about one game or one week. I’m just seeing what is right in front of me and doing what I do. I’m not thinking about a big picture….What I have to do is just be me,” said Choo shortly after his wife’s quiet pep talk.
Choo went on to have a strong second half, and the Rangers went right along with him.
I believe that Won Mi’s astute words to her husband had a lot to do with the Rangers turnaround; that they resulted in Choo’s almost immediate change in attitude, which in turn resonated with his teammates, permeated the clubhouse, and made its way out of the dugout and onto the diamond.
Post heart-to-heart with his wife, Choo, and by extension his teammates, began playing like the talented baseball players they all fundamentally were. The team seemed to relax, have fun and let the game come to them. When Choo found himself, the Rangers found their identity as a team, too. On an elemental level, they believed in themselves when no one else did, and the results became self-evident.
All of this leads me to ask one question: Haven’t we all been in Choo’s shoes from time-to-time? I know I have.
Life has a way of coming at us non-stop, and sometimes it can shake us to our core. It is in those times that it behooves us all to take Won Mi Ha’s essential message to heart: When times gets tough, as they inevitably will, rely on your foundation; if it’s sturdy, it will carry you through.
So, today, when you click out of your social media alternate reality and you step back into the batter’s box of the real world, remember who you are and how you got here. Keep your feet, and your head, firmly planted on your own foundation and be your authentic self. Then, no matter what kind of nasty pitch life hurls your way, you will be ready for it. And you will no doubt knock it out of the park. #TexasRangers