December 04, 18 | admin

Value of a Good Opponent For Baseball Players

Part of being a stand up player is tipping your cap to your opponent, even though, on occasion, you’d rather stick out your tongue while striking them out. Shortly after the Yankees extra inning loss against the Mariners in game 5 of the 1995 American League Division Series, Yankees player (jersey number 36) David Cone walked over to the Mariners clubhouse to congratulate manager Lou Piniella and the entire Mariners team on their first American League Championship Series appearance.

Why did he do that?!?

David Cone did it because he was doing what all the great players do: demonstrating exemplary sportsmanship.

The baseball experience is a GREAT way to learn how to help young athletes gain better self-control, learn competitive self-restraint, playing with honesty and integrity, with respect, awareness and compassion for the other team. Self-regulation is one of the hardest things about being a kid. These are skills that become imperative not just in sports, but in life. You don’t need sports to excel at sportsmanship, but it sure helps!

Foster good sportsmanship on and off the field, introduce your players to these guidelines for how to view and deal with opponents.

Never Demonize Opponents as “The Enemy”

Opponents are opportunities, not enemies. After all, you both have the common goal of wanting to win! There’s nothing to win if there is no opponent to play, so just by that rule alone, this is not your enemy, but an opportunity and reason to play baseball, which is why everyone is here. There should be an anticipation. You’re excited to play another team that you know will challenge you and assist your team in becoming better players. Opponents give you your bravery.

Opponents Bring Out the Best

Your opponents will always be your mirror. They will opportunistically point out your flaws, and they will make you understand and pay for your mistakes. Opponents will show you your weak spots and the places your group of athletes needs to improve on as a team, and individually. Your team will learn to be prepared for your opponents’ collected strengths, their temperament, their fatigue tolerance, you will learn skills that can catch an opponent off guard. Opponents will also look for these traits in your team and attempt to exploit them. The lessons that opponents teach will prepare a team for excelling in future games.

Always Bring Respect
Sometimes, opponents are like any regular Joe trying to play a game. Other times, you may run into players trying to get under your skin and provoke you intentionally. This is actually a centuries old tactic, don’t fall for it!


What kind of game are you going to play if you’re white hot, fist-fight angry?

Distracting players with nasty taunts and insults is a classic way to make each other lose focus and play like a bunch of wild animals chasing a cinnamon gumball down the gutter (not good). Never use these tactics yourself, they’re unfair and beneath you. And they’re not what baseball is really about.

But when it happens to you: Use your playing to say what you can’t. Play like fire and be still as the mountain on the inside. Show that no taunt in the world will effect your game. Show respect to your opponents, even if they are being total corncobs. Show respect to your team (don’t fan the flames of insults), stay cool and collected, and make beautiful plays.

After You Lose, ALWAYS Congratulate the Other Team

Oh, you don’t want to do this, heck no you’re not going to do it, you’d rather break your own Louiseville Slugger over your own head sooner than you’d shake hands with the other team that just took away your win: WRONG!!!

Even if you have to tape a picture of David Cone to your forehead: remember that being a great player means you are an example of good conduct on and off the field. David Cone didn’t just shake ONE team mate’s hand, he went to their clubhouse and thanked them ALL, and the manager.

David Cone wins, and he wins at whatever he does, because THAT is sportsmanship.

Exercise: Form two lines with your young, upstanding athletes and pretend that the kids in each line are team opponents, alternate which line will be the “losing” team. Make sure they give each other eye contact, smile, and shake hands. Get them into the practice of seeing that when playing baseball, one plays against the game, not necessarily each other. See if they can go one step further than the usual “Good Game” comment, see if they can say “Great Hit” or “Congrats” based on individual play.


The ultimate aim of baseball lies not in winning or losing, but the character of its players, and the spirit of the game.