Doing Some Reading

by Ryan Krzykowski

Not long ago I was invited to participate in a day long training program for assistant high school coaches who are interested in becoming head coaches in the near future.  The primary organizer of the Academy began the session by asking each of the coaches what they had been reading lately.

Wow, what a great question.

It reminded me of the advice we used to give our players years ago — that they need to read something every day.  Personally, I’ve found that reading right near the top of the list of activities that grow and stretch me.  Reading makes me better.  It gives me a chance to understand and think about the world from another person’s perspective.  I might agree with them, and I might not.  But either way, I am forced to evaluate thoughtfully.  I learn to appreciate the viewpoint of others, while also getting the chance to increase my own level of self-awareness.

Reading is among the greatest gifts we can give ourselves, and the benefits usually extend into the lives of others.

For example, I finally took some good advice I was given years ago and read The Matheny Manifesto, by former big league catcher and manager Mike Matheny.  What a fantastic read.  I cobbled together some thoughts on the book that go like this:

I read The Matheny Manifesto by Mike Matheny and found it extremely helpful, engaging and applicable to our mission.  Matheny’s overall premise is similar to that of Bill Severns and others who we are in alignment with missionally, basically that sports for kids have a variety of fixable issues and that coaches are well positioned to offer solutions.  Matheny also incorporates his Christian faith into his methodology as a coach, both with children and major league players, and does a fantastic job of striking just the right chord with his approach to sharing his faith. He will not be heavy-handed or judgmental about it, while at the same time making it clear that his personal principles will not be compromised and that we have a God whose love is unfathomable and graciously available to all.

There were a handful of topics included in Matheny’s book I found especially useful.  First, “The Matheny Manifesto” itself — the actual five page letter that was written and read to a group of youth baseball parents, aloud, in front of the fireplace in the Matheny home.  This letter is a gem, and while Matheny details the awkwardness of the situation as he shared his heart and deeply held personal feelings about youth baseball, the letter is extremely well thought out and well written.  Additionally, I applaud Matheny for having the courage to share it in the manner he did. It probably helps that he has the big league pedigree that provides credibility the average coach lacks. On the other hand, his playing career also puts a target on Matheny’s back as he risks coming across as a know-it-all.  Ultimately, while the scene is certainly awkward, I felt great respect for Matheny as we read about him doing what he believes is best for kids, and really, for all involved.

Another part of the book I especially appreciated was a section in which Matheny shares about some of the best teammates he ever played ball with.  And rather than simply say “So and so was a great guy”, he gets very specific, giving us meaningful details and insight into the qualities these men displayed that earned them a place in his book.

A personal favorite of mine was about Robin Yount (who happens to be my favorite ballplayer of all time), and Matheny tells a story of how the usually soft-spoken Yount stood up in a team meeting called to discuss whether or not to share the players’ share of merchandising revenue with the team’s support staff.  Yount advocated sharing the money, noting that the players were fairly well-compensated, while to the support staff, this was a game changing amount of money. It’s refreshing when our image of a childhood hero bears some resemblance to reality.

One final aspect of the book I found enjoyable was the skillful way in which Matheny’s personal journey was woven into the narrative.  As an author, (with some help from professional Jerry Jenkins) Matheny did a nice job of making his most important points by mingling them with personal anecdotes, all while basically sharing his life story.  While the book isn’t a pure autobiography by any stretch, we come away feeling like we have gotten to know the real Mike Matheny. It’s much more enjoyable to read a book that challenges the status quo and brings up important issues, while still being enjoyable to read.

Take some time over the upcoming Christmas season and see if you can’t knock out a book or two.  Have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year from all of us at CFC.