Monday, May 29, 2023

Keep swinging…. The lesson of Alex Cora



I have been a baseball fan my whole life… from my early days growing up watching the Pirates win the ‘71 and ’79 World Series and more recently following the Braves and watching them win in 1995 and 2021.  It’s in this context that it may seem a little crazy for me to reference Alex Cora…. never a Pirate nor a Brave…. but as a Dodger in 2004, he achieved an incredible feat in a game at Dodger Stadium that has inspired me recently as a lesson for business, leadership, and life.

It was late in the game, bottom of the 7th inning, when Cora came up to the plate, and quickly went behind in the count 1-2 (that’s 1 ball, 2 strikes for those non-baseball fans).  What came next is the fodder for the history books.  Alex Cora proceeds to foul off 14 straight pitches… one after another… and on the 18th pitch of his at-bat he hits a 2-run homerun…. The longest string of foul balls before hitting a homerun in recorded MLB history!!  Long-time Dodger announcer Vin Scully called it:


“What a moment! 9:23 on the scoreboard, if you want to write it down for history. What an at-bat!” Scully exclaimed. “That’s one of the finest at-bats I’ve ever seen, and to top it off with a home run, that is really shocking.”


While this incredible baseball achievement is recorded in the history books, I want to focus on the implication for the rest of us…. those of us who are “swinging” at the plate of life/business and who can learn deeply from this story.


Like many others, as you live your life you face challenges and exhilarations professionally and personally.  As a life-long optimist I typically see the “glass half-full,” and usually bounce back quickly from setbacks and challenges.  Recently the combination of some very challenging health news from a family member, combined with some extreme business dynamics has set me back on my heels a bit and I have struggled finding the “next gear” forward.  It’s in this light that the lesson of Alex Cora’s 14 foul balls comes to mind.  Its deeply true that we can’t control many of the issues that come our way (remember the recent blog essay, “The lesson of Donny”) …. all we can do is control how we react to those issues/setbacks and my lesson from this baseball moment is to “keep swinging” regardless of “the count!”


The odds were against Cora that night in 2004.  With a 1-2 count, he had almost a 40% chance to strikeout in that “at-bat” and a very small probability of getting a hit of any kind, none-the-less a homerun.  Instead of being defined by “the odds,” he just kept swinging…. Just kept trying to put the ball in play… he recalls about the night:


“From what I remember of the at-bat, I only had one thing in mind — to shoot the hole between first and second,” Cora recalled. “I just kept rolling over, rolling over.”


Let us all take a lesson from that night in 2004 and try our best to ignore the pundits and the statisticians of life/business.  Regardless of the challenges/setbacks, we need to keep trying to make things better… make tomorrow a bit better than yesterday…. let’s work to keep our energy up and to “keep swinging” to put “the ball in play” in whatever situations we face personally and professionally!



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