Playing baseball is one of life's gifts to me. It is my Field of Dreams. Everything is right with the world when I am playing.

Think about it. A baseball field is in an enclosed area where there are clear boundary lines for the field of play and we have clear lines for what is out of bounds (foul lines). Everyone playing has an assigned position with individual responsibilities as well as responsibilities in working together as a team (double plays, cutoffs, backing up, etc.). A team needs more players than can be in the game at once. Those extra players provide backup for those in the game but also allows the team to build a team of diverse skills, some of which are specialist players who are used for specific game needs. Playing to win against an opposing team forces us to be at our best individually and collectively. Having impartial officials that both call the game and ensure both teams follow the rules maximizes the competition within the rules.

Wouldn't it be nice in our business or organizations to have the playing field defined with clear lines with what is "out of bounds?" Wouldn't it be great to have our responsibilities defined and aligned? Think about how great it would be to have more staff than we need and backups that have special skills we sometimes need? As much as an umpire can be considered a necessary evil, wouldn't it be great to have an umpire between you and your greatest competitors to ensure we compete within the accepted rules of the market?

So for me, at the ripe old baseball playing age of 56, just playing the game is still special. But being technically undefeated (winning every game that we played) this season was special. Before I tell you what is special about this team (the Angels), I probably should bring some of you up to speed. I am not playing for the Los Angeles Angels in the MLB with Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. This is the 45 and over age division of the recreational Houston Hardball League. This is not softball so it still hurts when you get hit by a pitch but not as much as it would if we were facing pitchers that throw 80 or 85 mph. Finally, baseball at this age is about having fun. It's being around the guys on my team, playing against some of the same guys for years and even being around some of the umpires for years. It is still fun to compete and even more fun to win. But we stay grounded by reminding ourselves, "We all have to get up to go to work in the morning."


In the last 13 years since I started playing baseball again, I have played on a number of teams. For the last 5 years, I have played on the Angels and we have some special chemistry. Here are some of the characteristics that make the Angels a great team:

We Want to Win

We have won the playoff championship 5 out of 9 seasons together. We finished in first place in the regular season in at least 7 or 8 of those seasons. We outscored our opponents 125-26 this season. We want to win every game. We're not ever going to the Show (the major leagues) but we still have a thirst for winning.

We All Contribute

Like most good teams, we have some really good players that contribute a lot. But we win because everyone contributes. I bat last in the batting order because I deserve to. But I do contribute. I work the count well and get a lot of walks along with some occasional singles or doubles. I am very good at bunting and am totally confident bunting with two strikes. I will steal bases when I get on base. I play a good right field as well. My contributions may not impact the game as much as other players but we all contribute.

We're Confident

Not sure if our confidence as a team is the chicken or the egg. Did our confidence and belief in ourselves make us a winner or did being a winner drive that confidence and belief in ourselves? I guess it doesn't matter. We just believe that every time we walk on the field we will win.

We Respect Our Opponents

I know some of our opponents probably see us as cocky but we do have a healthy respect for our opponents. There are some really good players on those teams and some good guys. I know some of them from playing on another team together, from coaching Little League for our sons, from business, etc. We know that many of these teams are just one inning away from taking it to us.

We're Aggressive

We like to play aggressively. We steal a lot of bases. We have players diving for balls even though their aging body is telling them not to. We throw runners out trying to get an extra base. We have to turn off the aggressiveness when we get a big lead. In baseball at this level, it is appropriate baseball etiquette to not play aggressively when you are up by 10 runs. One time, I didn't turn my aggressiveness off when I should have. We were up by way more than 10 runs. I was playing right field and a player (Steve) came up who was in his mid-60s in age. Probably one of the nicest gentleman I have ever met who just loves the game and a veteran. He doesn't get many hits anymore and doesn't run very fast anymore. He hits a hard line drive to right field that I field on one hop. Some of you may be anticipating what I did next. Yes, I threw him out at first base. You can only imagine the fun my teammates had, at my expense, when I got back in the dugout. I apologized to Steve after the game and just like you would expect from a person like him, he had no hard feelings.

We Have Fun

We keep things light and are always joking around during the game. When we are in the field, one of our players has a routine. After our pitcher gets his first called strike, our player will say "C'mon Blue" like he's upset with the umpire for the call. New umpires get a little confused since our player should be happy about a called strike. This is just one example of a cultural characteristic of our team - something I call contrarian sarcasm. Two of our players are twins and this comes from them. They grew up fighting and getting on each other's case but now that they are almost 50, it is just a way to lighten things up. Also, we have fun in the dugout and although "what gets discussed in the dugout, stays in the dugout," we sometimes forget that one of our players has his son or daughter (ages 8 to 11) being our bat boy/girl. Those kids are getting an education on life that they will never get in school.

We Strive Towards Having a Short Memory

We want to win, we want to contribute and we respect our opponents' abilities - all ingredients to make it difficult to have a short memory when you make a mistake. Major league baseball players only are successful hitters 25% to 30% of the time so 40 and 50 year old players in the Houston Hardball League shouldn't have too high of expectations of themselves and their teammates. I believe a short memory is possible when you can train your mind to focus forward and not backward. I also think believing in the potential of yourself and your fellow players allows you to accept a mistake and move on.

We Root For Each Other

It is a special team when players enjoy other teammates contributions more than they do their own. You know if you contribute, someone is going to say something to recognize what you did. Of course we have some egos on the team, but never at the expense of each other. We never are trying to "one-up" each other by saying something like, "That was a nice hit but did you see mine?" The other night, I was up to bat with the bases loaded and we were up by about 9 runs. I got behind with a no balls and two strikes count on me. I fouled a couple of pitches off to stay alive and then worked the count up to 3 balls and two strikes before getting a base hit. When I eventually made it back to the dugout, you would have thought I just hit a walk-off grand slam to win the game or something.


The above characteristics do work for us as a team. Another successful team might have some different ingredients. In terms of your teams in your business/organization, maybe you should ask yourself the following questions to assess whether your team needs to display the above characteristics:

  • Are you clear on your team goal - what can only be achieved by working together as a team? How do you determine a "win" and how many of those do you need?
  • How can your team members contribute in different ways and how can all team member contributions be appreciated even if they are not equal in impact?
  • How can you get a little "swagger" in your step about your team, to have some confidence based on track record and belief that you can win every battle against your metrics?
  • How can you have respect for your internal/external competitors and their strengths/advantages - both to emulate them when you don't have those strengths but also to differentiate yourselves to gain an advantage? Competition doesn't have to be unfair or unfriendly. It should push everyone to be at their best.
  • How can your team members be more aggressive in pursuit of the team's goals and their contribution to achieving those goals?
  • How can your team have fun not just when you go on an offsite but every day in your version of the "dugout"?
  • How can you move on quickly from mistakes and not dwell on them - both mistakes that you make and ones that others make?
  • How can you root more for one another, turn into a fan for one another and not just be focused on your own contribution?

* *

The spring season playoffs for the Houston Hardball League have now started. Those games will have nothing to do with our past successes. I know we can win and we will deserve to win if we can prove we are the best. Now we need to play well and play as a team to win the game on the field. The championship is within our reach. Now it is up to us. The same thing goes for each one of you and your teams. Good luck to you in your Field of Dreams.

Just do as Babe Ruth said, "Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game."

Mike Goodfriend is a teamwork engineer, executive coach, and meeting facilitator. Since 1989, Goodfriend & Associates has been helping leaders and leadership teams increase their strategic advantage through achieving higher levels of competitive advantage, teamwork/alignment, leadership competency and excellence/customer satisfaction. Mike Goodfriend can be reached at 713-789-6840 or via email


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