George Brett played for the Kansas City Royals for 21 years. His career speaks for itself; he is enshrined in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. He was a 13-time All-Star and was the AL MVP in 1980 where his slash line (Batting Avg, On Base %, and Slugging %) was a ridiculous .390/.454./.664 with 24 HR, 118 RBI and only 22 strikeouts in 449 AB. Brett finished his career with 3,154 hits which is good enough for 15th in the history of the game. Brett was known to say on more than a few occasions that he "wanted his last at-bat to be a ground ball to second base...that way he could run like mad and try to beat it out."
One of the greatest players of all-time wanted to ride off into the sunset by trying to beat out a routine ground ball hit to the second basemen. How cool is that?!
I had the privelege to play for Coach Sam Riggleman, in college, who will be inducted into the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame this January. One of the many things Coach Riggs expects from his teams is what he calls "Stopwatch Pride." Cubs manager, Joe Maddon, phrases it as a "hard 90." Regardless of what you want to call it, stopwatch pride is simply this: Run your best time, everytime, from home to 1st to put as much pressure on the defense as possible.
If your best time is 4.2 seconds from home to first (which is the MLB average for a right-handed hitter...that's pretty fast in case you were wondering) you better be a 4.2 runner down the line regardless of where or how hard you hit the ball.
Stopwatch pride is embodied by two plays in particular on a baseball field. The first is when you hit a ball right back to the pitcher and he has the ball before you have even left the batter's box. Second, when you hit a pop-up straight up on the infield. When these two things happen in a game, your best effort running the bases should be on full display!
Baserunners who play with stopwatch pride...
"Okay, Coach. I hear you, but when does the defense actually make an error on either of these two plays?"
Good question. I submit to you example A from last night:
Yes, you read that right. Last night, in a game played by the best baseball players on the planet, Brian Dozier got a double on a ball popped up on the infield that didn't even get close to the infield dirt! Watch the clip below...
Here's another example for you. Unfortunately, there isn't a YouTube video of it so if you want to see CY Young canidate, Jake Arrietta who can spot fastballs at 98 mph, airmail the first basemen on a comebacker right to him, you will have to click this link, Rizzo nabs Marte at Second.
These two plays have happened in the past three days. While Dozier and Marte were not necessarily displaying "stopwatch pride" and running their best time from home to first on these two plays, they didn't assume they were going to be out. How many times have we seen players on TV or opposing teams we have played against (sure as heck shouldn't be a Charger player!) who throws their bat, slumps their shoulders, jog, or don't even get halfway to first base on plays similar to these? As infrequently as errors may occur on these simple routine plays, the point is that they do happen. Even if the play gets made 99 times out of 100, the one time the play doesn not get made, you better be standing on first or second base.
Run your best time, all the time. Your teammates are counting on you to do so. If you run hard for them, you might just impress a college coach or scout who has their stopwatch out and gets your time down the line.