Saturday, September 18, 2010

Leadership is stepping back to the plate and hitting a home run

 Want to see an example of leadership? You would have seen it in the game the White Sox played against the Twins this last Thursday.

Let me set up the scene for you. Twins' pitcher Carl Pavano hits White Sox captain Paul Konerko with a pitch just under the nose and bloodies Konerko's mouth.  Pause.

Konerko hit by pitch in 1st inning.


Now let me set the background for you. All season long the White Sox have been battling back from a poor start in the season. They had an amazing run midway through the season, coming from 9 games behind, to put them in first place. But then their bitter rivals, the Minnesota Twins started playing out of their minds and eventually overtook the Sox in the standings. And they especially did that by outmatching the Sox all season, winning 13 of 18 games against the Good Guys.  The Twins didn't play that well against any other team, and statistically, they're no more talented than the Sox. They should have at least split wins this season. But instead, it just seemed like they had the Sox number mentally all season, even to the point of bullying the Sox with bean pitches. (It kind of reminded me of the rivalry betwen the Bulls and Pistons in late 80's).  So this was the last game of the last series that the Sox would play against the Twins this season. Before the start of this series, the Sox were 6 games back from the Twins with about 20 games left in the season. Their only chance to stay alive was this very series, and they had to sweep the Twins.  But by this game, the Sox had already lost the first two games of the series.  Their season is basically over for them.

Let's give a little more back story. Paul Konerko is a 10 year Sox veteran and World Series hero. But as he ages, he also has been battling for his career over the last few years with the Sox.  Trade rumors have regularly surrounded Konerko. But this guy has always been totally committed to his teammates, always the toughest leader on the field, and always the best player, no matter what. He's the kind of player that makes Chicago a great sports city. He's not the overly vocal type, because his game and his character speak for itself.  Not suprisingly, this season he has been playing out of his mind as well, on track to having one of his best seasons of his career.  But there's a very strong chance he won't be back next season in a White Sox uniform.

So back to the game. The trainers insist that he come out of the game. Why wouldn't they? The season is basically over. Why kill yourself for nothing? But Konerko insists on staying in the game.  At his very next at bat, Konerko allows Pavano to throw him one pitch.  Konerko hits a home run.

Konerko hits home run in 3rd inning.
The Sox lost that game. They needed to sweep the Twins that series. The Twins instead swept them. The Sox aren't going to the playoffs, and for all other intents and purposes, this will be a forgettable season for them. But that moment will be unforgettable for me, and not because of baseball, and not because I'm a Sox fan. (I promise I would have done this if it were a Cubs player - but this just makes me feel better about being a Sox fan).

I just want to be clear about something...this about way more than baseball. So let me take my Sox hat off as I evaluate this.  This is the kind of guy you want to be around. This is the kind of guy that you want in your organization, in your church, in your neighborhood, in your family, in your brigade, in your school. You marry your daughter to this guy. This is the kind of guy that shows you what leadership looks like: you get hit in the mouth, you come right back and hit a home run.  This is the kind of guy you do not get rid of.

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