I was having a discussion with one of my students last week about hitting and her approach to the plate when she admitted, “If I strikeout, it really bums me out. It’s tough to go up and hit again.” (I doubt she really said bums me out, but that’s the way my 54 year old brain remembers it.)
I understand that. No one likes to go to the plate and strikeout. It’s the ultimate failure — you had three (or more) shots at hitting the ball and missed on all of them. But really, strikeouts are a part of the game. Since all of fastpitch softball is essentially built on failure and your ability to overcome it, hitters have to learn to get past the immediate feeling and go on with the rest of the game. Otherwise they’re not going to have too much fun. Unless it’s becoming a habit, in which case they probably need to work on seeing the ball better.
So to help her gain a little perspective, I gave her a Babe Ruth quote: Every strikeout brings me one at bat closer to my next home run.
That got me to thinking. I know the Bambino hit 714 homes runs in his career, a record that stood for many years and was considered unbreakable until Hank Aaron broke it. But how many times did The Sultan of Swat strikeout? The answer, according to the Baseball Almanac , is 1,330. Or almost twice as many times as he hit home runs.
That’s a lot, isn’t it? Must put him pretty close to the top of the list, right? Not even close. The Babe actually sits at #95, just behind Dean Palmer and just ahead of Deron Johnson. Which of course begs the question who are your all-time leaders? Surely they must be some pretty bad players.
Well, first of all in order to make the list you had to have a lot of at bats, which really bad players don’t get. That narrows it down some. In truth, the top 10 all-time includes some names you might recognize. In order, they are: Mr. October Reggie Jackson (with a whopping 2,597); Jim Thome; Sammy Sosa; Andrews Galarraga; Jose Canseco; Willie Stargell; Mike Schmidt; Fred McGriff; Tony Perez and Mike Cameron. Lots of Hall of Famers on that list. Thome and Cameron are still active too, so they have a chance to move up.
Right behind these guys is a player whose swing is often used as the model youth baseball and softball players should follow: good ol’ A-Rod, Alex Rodriguez. That’s probably not news to you Yankees fans. Other prominent names in the top 50 include Lou Brock, Mickey Mantle, Adam Dunn, Derek Jeter, Barry Bonds (the current career home run record holder) and Willie Mays. Even Pete Rose, who holds the all-time record for hits in a career with 4,256 struck out 1,143 times.
If you’d like to see the full list, you can find it here. It definitely puts things into perspective as you check out your favorite superstars and see how often they struck out too.
The point, though, is they didn’t let it get them down. They just put it behind them and went on to the next at bat. That’s what fastpitch hitters have to do too. You can say you’re taking your cue from the Hall of Famers, and the greatest to ever play the game.