Whenever I chat with Padres outfielder Kyle Blanks, I always walk away from the conversation feeling a little bit smarter about life. The guy has mad perspective. It could be the multiple injuries he’s had, or the tough road he’s faced since his major league debut in 2009, or the fact that his middle name is Nathaniel. People named Nathaniel always have pretty good perspective, don’t you think?
No? Just me? Okay.
A few weeks ago, I was talking with Cameron Maybin about his wrist injury, and when I asked Cam if he was frustrated about not playing, he told me to go ask Kyle about a thing called “Happy Time” in baseball. … So I did.
Happy Time is, in essence, looking for the positive in a situation. Baseball is a game of failure, a game where even when you’re succeeding, you’re still failing in so many ways. It’s probably the only sport that exposes that failure on a daily basis. Now, add that to the frustration of going through multiple season-ending surgeries like Kyle did, and it can make for one bitter, negative ball player.
Kyle refused to be that guy.
Instead, he started to look for the good in the bad. Instead of beating himself up about going 0-4, for example, he focused on something he did well … and then he let the bad stuff go. He didn’t dwell, he didn’t commiserate … he let go of the last at-bat, the last surgery, the last setback, the last WHATEVER … and he moved on and focused on the positive.
Sports draws so many parallels to life. As Kyle was talking to me about his approach, I thought of several areas in my own life where I’m guilty of pushing too hard or wanting to beat myself up about something I could have done better. And when has that ever helped? It hasn’t. If anything, it just paralyzes me more.
I think about how tough it is, especially in baseball, to make it as a professional athlete. Kyle’s story is so incredible … Not just because he overcame his physical injuries, but because he overcame his mental ones. He’s had some bad luck since making it to the majors at age 22, and he could have stayed bitter or resentful in a lot of ways. But he just worked and persisted and matured with every resistance.
Most players, if they have overcome a slump, credit the comeback to relaxing a little bit. “Not living and dying by every pitch, at-bat, etc” is what I hear a lot. But there is a HUGE difference between saying that and really being about it when adversity hits. And I love that a 6-foot-6, 260-pound slugger like Kyle Blanks isn’t afraid to embrace what he calls the “Happy System.” 😉
Here he is talking about it: