Play Like Kaline

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When I was a kid, Al Kaline was one of my favorite baseball players. As an adult, he is much more than that. I was introduced to Kaline in 1969 by way of a black and white Zenith television set. Kaline at that time was already an icon in the major leagues. When he retired in 1974 he had played in 18 All-Star games, had over 3,000 hits, more than 1,500 runs-batted-in and was a World Series Champion. Kaline played his entire 22-year career with the Detroit Tigers. 

I was eight years old in ’69 and had fallen in love with baseball. I would watch entire games by myself, then run outside to find someone to play catch with.

One warm summer Saturday afternoon, my dad sat down to watch a Tigers game with me. The cameras cut to Al Kaline who was on deck. Dad put down his iced tea, sat up on the edge of his chair and pointed at the television:

“Steve, see number six? That’s Al Kaline. He always runs to first base when he gets a walk, shakes hands with his teammates and he never argues with the umpire. Play like him.”

“Okay, Dad, I will.”

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Play like Kaline. It made the back of my neck tingle. I heard what dad said. But I translated it to hitting, fielding, running and throwing. Kaline was an all-time great.  I was gonna be a great baseball player.

Throughout summer baseball leagues and high school ball, “Play Like Kaline” was still being defined. I was a three-sport athlete. I started to recognize how hustling on the field, sportsmanship and respecting coaches and officials not only made me a better player but a better person too. But “Play Like Kaline” was still mostly about sports. Graduating from high school, the real message became clearer.

College wasn’t for me. I found work at an Ore Ida Foods factory in Greenville, Michigan. At 19 years-old, working with mostly older people was a whole new, and often strange, world. Now, playing like Kaline had a different feel. We all worked for the same company but the “coach” had a difficult time getting all of us “players” to work together as a team. Still, I knew that working hard, helping my co-workers and considering others is what made me feel best about myself and I earned the respect of many co-workers. 

I left the factory after a year, attended college and went on to have great careers in retail and the movie theatre industry. I haven’t always played like Kaline. I’ve argued with people, disrespected others and gotten lazy from time-to-time. I’ll bet even Al Kaline has broken my dad’s expectations of Al Kaline. Overall, I like me. I’ve always made an effort to lead a disciplined life. I find it makes me a better player and a better person too. So will you.

Want to Play Like Kaline?

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  • Run to first base when you get a walk.

Do more than is expected of you. You’ll like yourself better when you exceed other peoples assumptions – especially your own. Sure, you could walk to first base after “ball four” and no one cares. But running there, hustling to get there, inspires others and keeps you motivated.

  • Shake hands with your teammates.

Sportsmanship and fair play never go out of style. Neither does being helpful. Know what your co-workers, family members, friends and neighbors need. Then help do something about it. You’ll find personal growth, prosperity, respect, love, and understanding will fill your heart and life.

  • Never argue with the umpire.

It’s never helpful to raise your voice, call people names, bicker and fight. Rather, reasoning together with love and respect gets more done and is a more effective way to problem solve and live more meaningfully. It can also keep you from getting thrown out of the game!

Play Like Kaline.

 

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Kaline (left) with Tiger great Willie Horton.
Me (right) with my dad, Don.

 

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