There’s a scene early in the film Bull Durham where the Kevin Costner character is being sized up by the Susan Sarandon character. She’s making a choice between two minor league ball players as to whom she’ll guide and girlfriend throughout the season. Up to this point, Sarandon – by virtue of her charismatic charm, not to mention an incredible body – has controlled things.
Costner’s character knows where this is going. He’s spent most of his life in baseball, knows his skill-set and can throw-out a steal to second as well as Cartlon Fisk. In short, he doesn’t need a try-out. That’s when he gives his I believespeech as he heads for the door. It’s a short but memorable rant against Astro-turf, the designated hitter, and conspiracy theories, and praise for the hangin’ curve ball, opening your presents on Christmas Day rather than Christmas Eve, and “…long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.”
There’s an uncomplicated, romantic appeal to certain sports figures. They’re frank, sincere, and steadfast, and they don’t need an attorney or press secretary to parse their language. It’s no wonder that many of them not only see life on the field that way but off the field as well.
John McCarthy teaches kids the skills they need both on and off the field – focus, persistence, generosity, and humor. He’s more interested in teamwork than batting averages, and more concerned with effort than talent. Ultimately, he wants them to understand that bad calls and good calls have a way of evening out both in the game and in life.
McCarthy describes himself as “an average college kid and washout baseball pitcher” in the Baltimore Orioles organization who, in 1992, started his Home Run Baseball Camp for kids. From running what has become the biggest summer camp in Washington D.C. to the critically acclaimed inner city reading and baseball program Elementary Baseball, John has worked with over 15,000 kids from every socio-economic background. He also serves on the adjunct faculty at Wilson High School, teaching Alternatives to Violence to over one hundred juniors and seniors each year.
In my book, What Do You Stand For?, John offered his own list of “I believes.”
“I stand for…success over winning…asking, “How can I help you?”… focusing on one’s effort rather than talent…writing thank you notes… having lunch with Headstart students then reading them Hop on Pop… firing 3-2 knuckleballs with the bases loaded on the road…riding the waves at Huntington Beach…being a practical idealist…that something is not an ideal until it costs you something …letting neighborhood kids use your lawn for sports…Writing letters to your grandmother …bringing flowers for the big shots’ secretaries (they’re the ones running the show)…shining your shoes …staying late to play stickball with your crew…giving someone a raise before they have to ask for one…giving teenagers their first job… giving a kid in the Dominican Republic his first baseball glove…calling it a tie if you forget the score in Ping-Pong…backing up a kid when an adult puts his hands on them in anger…backing up your friends…giving memorable toasts at weddings…taking flowers to your kindergarten teacher…learning janitors’ names…buying turf shoes for your whole staff …asking yourself if you are sharing enough every day …writing a letter to your favorite college professor… working on a service project with a spiritual leader…eye contact…arriving early to work to sweep up and pick up the trash …a good poker face …spending time working with the grounds crew…encouraging kids to eat more fruits and vegetables…being optimistic…going for it on par 5’s…going entire seasons without saying something negative to an Umpire…doing small things in great ways…volunteer teaching at a public school…delivering more than expected.”