Baltimore Bodhisattva: What We Can All Learn From Buck Showalter

small_8179518917Buck Showalter

He would not like this because it is about him and unlike a lot of people, he never wants it to be about him.

“It’s the players game”, he said in a September interview with baseball author David Laurila, “Its about them. They have to want to please each other. They have to want to accomplish something together as a group. Once they get to that point it doesn’t matter if you manage them or if I manage them. “

Behold, Baltimore baseball’s supreme enlightened one, Orioles skipper Buck Showalter. Baseball fans know that Buck Showalter was named the 2014 American League Manager of the Year by a vote of the Baseball Writers Association of America. This is his third time in receiving the honor having done so in 1994 with the New York Yankees and in 2004 with the Texas Rangers. Buck Showalter is widely regarded as one of the greatest minds in the game of baseball and is known for his meticulous preparation, attention to detail, effective use of his roster and bullpen and an uncanny ability to turn losing franchises into champions.

In the 2014 season, Buck’s Orioles overcame the loss of three key players (3rd baseman Manny Machado to knee surgery, catcher Matt Wieters to Tommy John surgery, 1st baseman Chris Davis to suspension for use of an amphetamine) to achieve a 96-66 win-loss record.  They swept the Detroit Tigers to capture their first American League East Championship in 17 years.  A far cry indeed from the days just before Showalter’s arrival when the team had hoped to avoid losing 100 games and seemed destined for permanent status at the bottom rung of the AL East.  The Orioles under Buck Showalter have been restored to their former glory.

Beyond baseball, I see Buck Showalter as a wise sage and a guru who offers inspiration that we all can apply within our own lives.  He teaches us to:

Live In The Moment

Listen to interviews and you will often hear Showalter and the players talk about staying “in the moment.” In an October interview he said, “…so you try to stay in the moment and not want something so much. Sometimes you can want something so much and get in your own way…”

Show Loyalty

A master with the media, Buck Showalter never, ever, ever breathes a negative word against his players or the organization.  A reporter’s tough question about a player’s error or a struggling pitcher is immediately brushed off with a “real proud of how they played tonight” or a “these are the best players in the world.”  This culture of trust and respect allows players to play without fear and perform at their highest potential level.

Lose the Ego

While he always deflects credit for the team’s success from himself to the players, coaches and the overall organization, it is undeniable that the environment that he creates allows for the kind of success the team has achieved during his tenure.  In the above-referenced interview with David Laurila he said, “I get the shelf life of managers. I understand it, when my voice gets tired and old, and they don’t want to hear it anymore, I’m gone. Get another slapdick in here behind me”  – as if just anyone could duplicate the winning culture that he has created for the Orioles organization.

The 2014 Orioles were not expected to be at the top of the American League East by most “experts” prior to the season.  When asked in an October interview to sum up why the Orioles made it to the American League Championship Series, Buck said “It would take a while. Why do you think? I don’t know. We kind of know who we are and never got caught up in the disease of “me.”…”

Let Actions Speak Louder Than Words

In the interview with David Laurila, Buck said that during Spring Training he tells his players, “your actions will speak so loudly that I can’t hear a word you say. We don’t talk about it. Show me. Every game is a revealer.”

See Challenges Instead of “Problems”

In the same interview, Showalter said, “There is not a “woe is me.” It’s where is the next challenge coming?”  He never panics, so the team never panics. Fans and pundits may panic at times, but it ultimately has no effect.

Stay Conscious, Present, Non-Reactive

Watch Buck Showalter in the dugout during a game.  He is a serene and emotionally controlled presence who rarely registers any reaction to anything happening on the field be it good or bad. He stands in detached non-judgment and non-reaction. Watching him, you may be lulled in to thinking that he is not paying attention when all of a sudden he picks up the phone or throws out a challenge and hustles out to state his case to the umpire. You learn that he is paying attention in the deepest way possible and that he misses nothing.

Maintain Perspective

While known as a fierce competitor and a detail-maven who expects excellence and hates to lose, Buck Showalter maintains perspective. During the American League Championship Series against the Kansas City Royals he said in an October pre-game interview “…God forbid, we might get down two (games). The world doesn’t end. That’s one of the strengths of our club is we don’t — just like Kansas City — you don’t, woe is me, the sky is falling. I don’t know how people can live — you turn the page emotionally and mentally and realize you put your best foot forward and that night it didn’t work out”

When an interviewer suggested that Buck Showalter had waited a long time to get to the American League Championship Series he replied,  “Not really. It’s not going to drive my life. That’s not the way I’m going to be defined. The bottom line is what kind of father, your children ‑‑ it’s not going to ‑‑ I haven’t been waiting around like this…It’s an honor every day. The thing I’m most excited about is the players getting an opportunity to do this and trying to have an impact on their lives. I mean, I got it. I’m a ship passing in the night. This is fun to watch, and believe me, I’m happier than you can imagine. But most of it comes from getting to see the players get what they put into it.”

Have Faith

In Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers, Buck Showalter instructed pitcher Zach Britton to intentionally walk Tigers’ third baseman Nick Castellanos to put the go-ahead run on base in a one-run game.  “We’re going to walk this guy.” he reportedly said to the team, “The next guy is going to hit into a double play and we’re gonna go home.”  Of course he could not see in to the future and predict what the outcome of that decision would be, but he had faith in his players and he rolled the dice.

When asked in the post-game interview if he hesitated to put Castellanos on base, Buck said “Sure I did. What do you define hesitation as? Nobody’s that smart. Just needed a little karma, change the way that inning was going. Had a lot of faith in Zach and there (are) a lot of factors going on there.”

A Little Karma. A Lot of Faith. If a Bodhisattva is an enlightened being who puts others before themselves and works for their benefit, then indeed we have one here in Baltimore baseball. We can all learn a lot from Buck Showalter.


Sources

Q&A:Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles Manager, September 2014, David Laurila http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/qa-buck-showalter-baltimore-orioles-manager

http://m.orioles.mlb.com/news/article/97687848/oct-5-buck-showalter-postgame-interview

http://m.orioles.mlb.com/news/article/98230362/oct-11-buck-showalter-pregame-interview

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/keithallison/6043053157/”>Keith Allison</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;