Success Tips From a World Series Hero

04 Feb Success Tips From a World Series Hero

In 1969,Ron Swoboda played a key role in helping the New York Mets win their first World Series championship beating the Baltimore Orioles. Swoboda is an intelligent, articulate, affable guy who played nine years in the big leagues. He is known for a phenomenal catch he made in game four of the ’69 series. He is also a Mets icon. He is held in such esteem that he was asked to throw out the first pitch of game four of the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodges this past season.

Swoboda was in South Florida to coach the Mets Fantasy Camp and he was generous enough to sit down with me and share his thoughts on baseball and life.

What do you think makes a winning team?

“To win it all you have to have it all. Baseball has such a long season with lots of games. There’s a lot of ebb and flow. In baseball, if you are getting better you can stumble a little bit in the beginning of the season, but there’s a point where you need to do the things you need to do, if you’re going to succeed.”

“I won one year. One year I played on a winner. If you look at the league, most guys don’t get that opportunity. This is before wildcard games were started (which I think are a great idea). In baseball you better be able to get ‘um out and shorten the game. That means good pitching. A winning team in baseball has to have good pitching because good pitching beats good hitting.”

“In 1969 we had a superior pitching staff; this helped us hold down the opposing team’s offense. We were never out of games in the third inning. If we got three runs, we’d win. Great pitching takes pressure off the hitter. You didn’t feel like you needed five or six runs to win.”

 How do you put a good team together?

“There are basics. If you are the guy putting the team together you have to have some go-to guys that create impact. You can win with a handful of impact players. There is absolutely a connection of having go-to pitchers. Starting pitchers and finishers. If you have a handful of those kind ‘a guys, you can be a winner. Not every guy on a winning team is a champion or a go-to guy. But if you have a good core of go-to everyday winners, they can lift the game of the other players. Impact performers can create a space for the average performer. Most teams have some impact players that can take you deep in the game; they create opportunities for the more average guys to contribute in winning ways. If you don’t have those guys to get the game to a certain point where you can win it, then you don’t have any lift. Take a guy like me, who was an average player, and throw in some of those moments where the team lifts you, then you make championship plays. We had a great starting rotation and we could close games. Our starting rotation got better and our game got better as the season went on. There were injuries, but we played through them. We scored more runs, because we picked up Donn Clendenon, but without good pitching we’re not there, period.”

“We played good defense behind that great pitching. So when the ball came into play, we made the play. We were a very good defensive team and pitching is part of defense.” Cause with good pitching the ball doesn’t come into play as hard, as tough; you don’t have many difficult fielding plays. It keeps you in a position where what you’re able to do…is enough.”

What should a baseball player do if he finds himself in a slump?

“I think you look hard at what you’re doing, what’s happening to you and see if there is something you can fix. That’s the hardest time for ‘ya. You have to ask meaningful questions, but you know, practice becomes so much more important because you gotta figure something out. Now a days, you have video back up, we didn’t have as much of that. You look at what you’re doing and ask yourself when you are practicing, what’s the thing that will get me back to something useful? You keep going to fundamentals. Am I doing the fundamentals? Is there something in there that is keeping me from succeeding? If you don’t understand the fundamentals you are always going to be a bigger victim of the ups and downs. If you really understand the fundaments you can find your way out of the valleys a little faster.”

How do you handle failure?

“I really believe if you can impersonalize it, you’ll be okay. Failure is only YOU if you’re willing to accept it. If you’re not willing to accept it, and you are willing to work through it and not take it personally, you will be better off. There is something about when you fail at something, you take it personally. You think, ‘I’m no good at this; I just can’t do this’…well you just don’t know. Most things are stages of growth and the only way you get to stages of growth is with a constant effort. Otherwise you flatten out or you go away. Look, the survival rate in baseball is pretty low. Most guys who come into professional baseball don’t even get a sniff of the big leagues. They move on and they don’t progress. But it’s not just the guys with innate ability, it’s guys that hang in there and work at it and don’t accept failure; Don’t accept it and don’t take it personally. They aren’t embarrassed by an initial failure, they don’t accept the fact that that describes them, and that’s hard to do. Get your ego out of the way. Ego is not a bad thing. It’s keeping your ego from turning on you when things go rotten, that’s the hard thing.”

 Why did the Mets lose the World Series this year?

“They lost because Kansas City’s skill set played into what the Mets were struggling with, defense and putting the bat on the ball. Kansas City is full of contact hitters; they put the ball in play. The Mets were like someone with a big suitcase running to catch the train. They were running to catch up…they let games get away from them. The Mets were weak in a few defensive positions and Kansas City was on fire. Their team attitude was incredible. “

Do you think the Mets have a chance in 2016?

“Definitely. They replaced the players they lost and they’ll start the season with even better pitching than last year. They are going to be good right out of the gate.”

How do you think baseball relates to life?

“First of all, baseball is like life because it begins in the spring and ends in the fall, it goes through a complete growing cycle. Baseball makes you disciplined and that helps you succeed in life. Everyday you have to get there on time, you have to practice, and you have to do the drills. You can’t get there an hour late; if you’re late you can’t play. It makes you demand high standards from yourself. You build a solid base of good habits that you execute everyday even if you don’t feel like it.”

“In baseball as in life, when you are succeeding you are relaxed and confidant. When you win eleven games in a row you don’t need a pep talk, you think ‘Hey, we can make this happen.’ When you are on a winning streak the game slows down. When you are not succeeding you lose your sense of what you can do. Understand the work you have to put into a task and then practice it.”

What kind of support did you need to be successful?

“I am very lucky. I have been married to my beautiful wife Cecilia for over 50 years. She is a woman of substance. From the minute I saw her, there was something about her that made me say ‘This is a quality human being, and I want to be with this person, if she wants to be with me, then that’s the best thing that can happen to me.”

Ron Swoboda is an amazing man. He lives in New Orleans and is a radio and television broadcaster for the Triple-A Zephyrs. He is also writing a memoir, the working title is Here’s The Catch. It’s about the 1969 season and the events that were taking place during that year, the Vietnam War, (Swoboda went to Vietnam with the USO) Apollo 11 the first spaceflight that landed humans on the Moon, and the infamous Woodstock music festival.

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This photo is me & Ron playing golf together at The Champion Course at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

His thoughts about baseball and life can be applied to sales. He says, “You need to play the game with joy, the game is the celebration of all the work you put into it.”

Sales Tips from Ron Swoboda:

  1. To be a winner you need to master the fundamentals. Even if you stumble, you can still win if you do the things you need to do.
  2. Have your team communicate. Some people are good at prospecting (openers). Some people are good at closing the deal. If they work together and share ideas, they can lift the entire team to peak performance.
  3. Nothing beats perseverance. “Failure is only YOU if you’re willing to accept it”. Having a bad month in sales does not make you a failure. Don’t take lack of success personally. Impersonalize failure and keep going.
  4. Understand the work you have to put into it and practice. Review your performance. Use technology to improve your skills. Sell with joy.