"I Ain't in a Slump. I'm Just Not Hitting."
I think your life depends on your attitude. How you face things says a lot about you and about how people treat you, a lot about what you can do and can't do, a lot about your happiness or unhappiness. You are what you think; maybe that's why some people need attitude adjustments.
Nobody can be all smiley all the time, but having a good, positive attitude isn't something to shrug off. It starts right when you wake up -- for me that's six o'clock -- and you can almost tell if it's going to be a good day or a miserable one by how you feel in your head. There are lots of things in life you can't control, but how you respond to those things is the one thing you can control.
I always believed in myself, believed in my abilities. Everybody in baseball -- everybody in life -- goes through periods where you can't seem to do anything right, where it's easy to get down on yourself or get discouraged. If I wasn't hitting, I figured that I just wasn't hitting, not that I couldn't hit. I didn't learn how to hit in a day, and I wasn't going to forget how to hit in a day, or even a week. That's how I kept myself positive, by not getting all negative.
I try to accomplish something each day. Do something good. I work out almost every morning, and that makes me feel like I started the day right. Honestly, everybody has a bad day, but usually you can think of something that you did that was OK, so the day wasn't a total loss. If I wasn't hitting, I could still help us win by how I worked with a pitcher from behind the plate. Today, if things are going wrong around the house, maybe it's a good day to work on the lawn or to paint the shutters. As long as you keep doing stuff, your luck might turn.
Being part of the Yankees for so long, I can tell you that attitudes get passed down. Our teams from the late 1940s through the early 1960s had great camaraderie and a winning attitude. Even today you don't see guys on the Yankees moping or whining or blaming other people when things go rotten. In the 2001 World Series, Derek Jeter was having it tough because his shoulder was injured pretty bad, but he never used it as a crutch, or even mentioned it, or expressed his frustration. I think he knew that worrying about it or blaming his injury would hurt his own positive attitude, and the team's.
The best way to deal with any bad situation is to believe in yourself and have confidence that things will get better. After all, if you don't believe in you, why should anyone else? Baseball is a game of confidence, and of overcoming failures and fears. That's what life's about, too. I found that out early on as a teenager, when Branch Rickey told me that I'd never be a major-league player after a tryout in my hometown of St. Louis. I was pretty disappointed, that's for sure, but I kept a positive attitude because I thought I was good enough to make it. That rejection only made me more determined, and a year later, the Yankees signed me and things worked out OK.
Two years after that, I was in a pretty tough place, in the Navy as part of a six-man crew on a LCSS (Landing Craft Support Small) for the Normandy invasion. Our job was to shoot at the German gun emplacements to protect the troops wading ashore behind us. I understood the danger, but there really wasn't time to be scared. We worked like the devil to keep the boat moving so it wouldn't be a target. We got shot at, but we were never hit. I remember saying to myself that I was only nineteen, I'm too young to die. That's how you had to think.
The saying about turning a negative into a positive...well, I think it's true. I always look on the brighter side. My family still jokes about when I drove them up to Cooperstown for the first time. I said that we were lost, but at least we were making good time. Same thing when I was managing the Mets and we were in last place: I said it ain't over till it's over, and we made it to the World Series. I guess that was my attitude and it still is.
Copyright © 2002 by LTD Enterprises