Life Lessons from Pete Rose

When I was a child, I was a baseball fanatic. I loved fielding, hitting, sliding, and rooting for the Cincinnati Reds. My brother, two neighbor boys, and I played endless games of "tennis ball" in the neighbor’s yard. The rules were simple--right field was closed, pitcher’s hand, and over the bushes for a home run. I loved those bushes.  Don’t tell my sixth-grade teacher, but my parents once allowed me to skip school, hang out with Grandma, and watch the Reds play their opening day game on TV. This was serious stuff. Although my dream of becoming a professional baseball player didn’t work out, I learned many valuable lessons from practicing, playing, and watching the game. Last night my dad and I got to hear one of the all-time greats, Pete Rose, talk about baseball and life. I know this is a blog about weight management, but if you are receptive to a little creative thinking, Pete Rose can help you, even if you aren’t a baseball fan.

Pete Rose holds more baseball records than any other player. “I hold the record for records,” he told the laughter-filled audience. Here is a bit of the list—most games played, most at bats, only player to play 500 games at 5 different positions, most singles, and of course, the most major league hits of any player in the history of the game (4,256).

He also made more outs, yes, more outs, than any other baseball player. He had an impressive .303 career batting average. But that means he failed more often than he succeeded when he stepped to the plate. Arguably the greatest hitter ever, failed more than he succeeded. But baseball isn’t just about hitting, it’s about fielding the ball and running the bases, it’s about helping your teammates win games. How is this related to weight management? Weight management isn’t just about how much you eat, it’s about what you eat, it’s about how much you exercise. It’s also about who you surround yourself with and how you respond when you mess up. Do you stay in the game or head for the clubhouse? Do you make errors in the field when you strike out? That is, do you skip working out because you are eating poorly?

The Hit King talked a lot about his approach to the game. Early in his career he became known as “Charlie Hustle.” When he got a walk, he ran to first base. When he hit a routine ground ball to the second baseman, he didn’t jog down the line. When he didn’t swing at the ball, he watched it all the way into the catcher’s mitt. This is simply how he played the game. He was disciplined--these were his habits. From an early age, his dad taught him to play hard because that would give him the best chance at success. The longer he played the less he thought about it—he just did it. The same goes for everyone else, if you want to succeed, develop some disciplines. If it’s weight management, do some things the same way all the time. Eat breakfast each morning, walk—rain or shine, give up soda, or weigh each morning. Whatever you decide, decide. Know your style for success and stick with it.

Pete had some other advice, about coaching. You may remember, he was a player-coach at the end of his career. “You can’t coach everybody the same way. Some guys need a pat on the butt, others a kick in the butt, and some you just leave alone.” He discussed how the best coaches knew how to manage people. My dad and I talked a bit about this after the show. We’re both sort of coaches—he’s a pastor and I’m a psychologist. Although we agreed that a pat on the rear is generally the most appropriate approach (figuratively speaking), we must help people dig deep for what motivates them. If you are trying to manage your weight, you too are a player-coach. Be a good coach even when you aren’t playing well. Write down what you’re eating and track your exercise. Look for your areas of weakness and then develop a plan. C’mon you can do that. If you’re in a slump, don’t quit—you’ll regret it later.

Pete Rose doesn’t know me, but I want to thank him for an entertaining career and sharing some good advice last night. I also want to thank my dad, who has taught me countless life lessons, for joining me for a wonderful evening.