The OSAA baseball and softball playoffs are nearly upon us.
In addition to the exciting races for league titles, dozens more teams are fighting to make the postseason.
One thing that makes this part of the season so much fun is when a mediocre team develops into a state contender right before your eyes.
History is punctuated with teams that had to scramble to make the playoffs only to find themselves in a dog pile after winning it all.
Something about baseball and softball lends itself to late season runs.
I love the psychology behind those miraculous, mysterious, glorious streaks.
Sometimes it takes one guy or girl getting healthy at the right time. Once in a while, the spark comes from someone getting ridiculously hot. It doesn’t have to be a regular starter or even an all-star, either.
I have talked to players who were on teams that made miracle runs.
I have asked them, “What was the moment when things changed?”
Often, they will talk about a moment when their season appeared to be over, only to see someone do something unexpected that keyed a rally, a win and new confidence.
Once in a while, the key moment can come in a players-only meeting or from a rousing speech from a coach.
I have seen teams endure some terrible tragedy only to unify and focus the grief into an unstoppable desire to win.
I happen to think it comes down to trust.
Teams that completely trust one another believe their teammates will do something spectacular in a key moment. After a mistake, those teams forgive their teammates instead of grumbling or blaming them. Besides, they believe they will overcome any bad luck the game throws their way.
I would rather be the galvanized, focused team than the talented, undefeated favorite in the playoffs.
That’s why I don’t buy the cliché ‘winning develops chemistry’.
Winning can bring a team together, develop confidence and swagger, but until that team faces season-ending adversity, they may not have what it takes to win it all.
Another phenomenon that develops at this time of the year is the bandwagon.
Everyone in town becomes the biggest fan once the team has gotten hot.
Relatively few people were paying attention when the team experienced ‘the moment’ where the rally began.
I have said many times over the years that fans should be careful bailing on a team that appears to have no chance or gets down 0-2 in a series or 5-0 in the first inning.
If you give up hope on a team that suddenly figures it out and rallies to greatness, you shouldn’t be at the wheel of the rooter bus.
The adversity intensifies the joy when you win.
The fear that it could be over can become the fire that keys the glory.
Your favorite team might be the next to take a trophy no one else thinks is within reach.
May you be watching when the spark is fired, no matter its source.