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In honor of Mother’s Day, I’m doing things a little different today. As I look at where I am today with my coaching and the work I do with young pitchers, I can’t help but think back to the first pitching lesson I ever gave…

My mother was my first student

I don’t remember my exact age, but I must have been 8, maybe 9 years old. My brother and I used to give her kind of a hard time (in a loving, joking way) for “throwing like a girl.” I’m not sure what prompted me, but I guess I felt bad, and one day I decided I would try to help her out.

I still remember throwing the ball back and forth, sharing some of my 8 year old pitching wisdom, and watching her gradually get better. I think the reason this memory is so indelible has to do with the obvious role reversal… Like most kids growing up, my mother was my biggest teacher… and here I was actually teaching her something!

So with Mother’s Day coming up, today I’m going to share just a small sampling of the many lessons I learned from my mother over the years.

4 things my mom taught me that made me a better pitcher & coach

1. Do your daily duty

Whenever things got tough, my mom had a way of putting things in perspective… She’d remind me that there were people a lot worse off, that we had a responsibility of sorts…

In life, you can’t always control the circumstances that surround you. The important thing is to face life head-on, and do what you can in your current situation to move forward in a positive way.

She called this “doing your daily duty.” What are you in a position to do right now that can have a positive impact on your life and others? This could mean all sorts of things… focusing on your training, doing your school work, or lending a helping hand to someone who needs it.

The lesson for pitchers is simple: Stop making excuses, start taking action.

2. Treat people with respect

This is something that was basically just bred in me from the time I was a small boy. I can’t really point to a specific moment or incident where my mom imparted this lesson to me; it was more just the cumulative effect of her words and actions, again and again. But regardless, the message was always clear:

Other peoples’ feelings matter. Treat them with respect.

For pitchers, this means treating your coaches with respect (even if you don’t see eye to eye), treating your teammates with respect (pick them up, don’t knock them down), and even treating the umpire with respect (that’s right, they’re people, too).

I know I sometimes I fall short of this ideal, but I do my best… and as she would probably tell me, that’s all you can do.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – attributed to Plato

3. Keep learning, keep growing

My mom is one of the most curious people I know (my dad’s right up there, too, actually… probably why they’re such a good team). If you ever asked her something and she wasn’t sure the answer, she wouldn’t just shrug her shoulders or try to come up with some incomplete answer to appease me.

More often than not we’d head over to the Encyclopedia (remember those?), and she wouldn’t rest until we’d found the answer, and we’d learned something together.

That approach had a big impact on me. It told me that it’s okay if you don’t have all the answers… the world is a fascinating place, keep learning, keep growing… That’s the approach I took with my pitching and I apply it every day with my work as a coach.

The lesson for pitchers: Keep Learning. Keep Growing. Get Better.

4. “Have Fun!”

I think we all know playing baseball’s supposed to be fun – it is a game, after all. This was my mother’s send-off to me before every game I ever played: “Have fun!”

As I got older, I’d tell her that my goal wasn’t just to go out there and “have fun.” I wanted to go out and play well! Playing well was fun. But that didn’t stop her, and I’m thankful for that. It reminded me that my mother didn’t really care if I was a star pitcher; that’s not what mattered to her. All she cared about was having a happy, healthy son.

And at the end of the day, I knew that whether I pitched lights out or got lit up, my mom would be right there with a big hug and a warm heart. And nothing that ever happened out there playing a game could change the way she felt about me.

Thanks for all the lessons, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day!