The Situation: Runner at first, 8th inning, 3 hitter up, 0 outs, tie game.
The Play: The hitter knows he can get a big hit and put his team in the position for a big inning. But when he looks down to the third base coach, he gets the bunt sign. He’s mad. He doesn’t want the bat to be taken out of his hands. He tries to bunt the first 2 pitches and fouls them both off, then swings at a changeup in the dirt and strikes out.
The Outcome: The 4 hitter singles, putting men on first and second, but the 5 hitter hits a big fly ball for an easy out and the 6 hitter strikes out to end the inning.
What went wrong? The problem here comes from ego and commitment. Every player that goes to NCAA Division 1 baseball believes in his skills. Baseball is a game of failure, and to adapt, baseball players have to have a cocky swagger about them, so that they can always show confidence despite the inevitable failures. That confidence is great. Ego is another thing entirely.
Even the best players in college baseball will be asked to execute the short game for their team. They have to be wiling to put their ego aside and use their skills to help the team. In this situation, the 3 hitter was selfish. He was put into a situation where he was asked to get the runner into scoring position so that another good hitter could try to drive him in. But he was so upset at the coach’s decision to have him bunt that he did not commit.
There will be times in baseball at all levels when you do not agree with your coach’s call. That hunger and desire to put the team on your back and win the game is a great thing. It’s an intangible that everyone wants. But it can’t get in the way of helping your team win. When the hitter in this situation was asked to bunt, he should have allowed himself to be mad (for a second), then pulled himself back to the situation at hand. He should have channeled that anger and made the decision that he was going to lay down the best sac bunt his team has ever seen so that the 4 hitter could put them ahead. That’s how you help a team win: but being a part of it, not trying to carry it.
In high school there are often stars. They can carry a team. In college, the team is everything. You will win as a team and lose as a team, and no one person, no matter how skilled he may be, is above that. Individual desire and confidence is great. But the will to do anything your team needs to win a ball game is even more impressive.