At the moment, I really have to persevere. My season started off pretty rough and then I completely turned it around. This is a game of numbers and I had my numbers right where they needed to be. But then I had two of the worst starts of my career (one which was the worst start of my career) and three consecutive starts which, as far as numbers go, could completely ruin my season. I know it’s not over, but I also know I’m going to have to work really hard to get back over the hump again.
Anytime I’ve been in a slump, the only way I can get back out is to trust. I need to trust that the ability God has granted me is good enough and that I can overcome. Then I just have to go out and compete. Throughout my entire career, one of my greatest strengths has been displayed when I find myself up against the wall and things aren’t looking great. In each of these moments I have been able to go out and find a way to make it happen. But this can be really tough sometimes. This game will mentally exhaust you if you let it.
The hardest part about staying mentally locked in during baseball season is not getting too far ahead of yourself. You have to stay in the moment. You have to stay one start at a time, one pitch at a time, one out at a time. If you start looking too far down the road and think, “Ok, I need to start this many more games and I need to pitch this well or my season is not going to go as I want it to,” then you won’t be able to stay in the moment like you should. The pressure mounts and you won’t put every little thing into your pitch like you need to. I’ve done it and it never works.
I’ve also done the opposite—living in the moment, trusting the pitch, and trusting the job will get done. This usually works out much better.
You may have heard Christians say they don’t care what happens in this life since we’re only here for a short time. They may say, “I know I’ve received the Lord and I’ll inherit the Kingdom no matter what so results on earth don’t matter.” I disagree. In the Bible Paul says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24).
I also think about the story in Matthew 25 about the talents. God has given me these talents. He’s placed me on a big stage where He may want me to succeed or He may not, but that’s not up to me. It is up to me to be prepared—to go out with the expectancy of pitching really well so I may use the talents God’s given me to bring Him glory. I want to use these talents as a form of worship to the Lord. When we compete like this, it gives us an edge.
Results on the ball field will not steal my joy. I have some great helpers at home in this department. My wife is the most patient, peaceful wife in the history of the world. As Forrest Gump would say, she and I are like “peas and carrots.” I feel a calmness when I’m around her, and I know she feels the same around me. I also have four little girls who couldn’t care less how I played that day. They just want to hug and kiss me, then bring me outside so they can swing a golf club, swim, or play Barbies with me.
I have a larger life to live and I’m not willing to dwell on the failures of a moment on the field.
The key to this game is to have more ups than downs. The ones who are most successful in baseball are those who are the most prepared, most confident, and working the hardest. If you dwell on your past failures, you will be none of these. If you trust the process and the abilities God has given you, you can overcome.
Adam Wainwright is a pitcher with the St. Louis Cardinals and a regular contributor to The Increase, providing monthly articles and opinions.