Today is June 21 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you take advantage of timing?” The adage ‘timing is everything’ is only partly true. For those who navigate the chaos they understand the necessity to take advantage of timing. If opportunity knocks and it is your time, are you going to open the door or wait for someone else to open it for you? Hall of Fame inductee Michael Jack Schmidt took advantage of timing afforded him and in so doing helped launch his professional baseball career.
At first glance timing was not his friend. During his junior year in college Schmidt helped his Ohio University team win the conference and regional championships and earned a trip to the College World Series. Unfortunately, he was only 20 and did not qualify for the Major League draft that year since the minimum age at that time was 21.
At the end of his senior season Tony Lucadello from the Philadelphia Phillies offered Schmidt a signing bonus of $25,000. Schmidt’s father/agent told Lucadello to leave and come back with a more serious offer. The next day Lucadello returned and offered Schmidt $35,000 and, a trip to Philadelphia to take batting practice with the Phillies and sign his contract.
While in Philadelphia for the weekend, it just happened the club had an exhibition game on Monday in Reading, Pennsylvania against its Double-A affiliate. Schmidt was invited to play shortstop for the Phillies. He played alongside the veteran Phillies and, according to Schmidt, “I hit a home run to win the game. That game and hit possibly saved me two years in the minors. I started my career in Reading as a result.”
His opportunity to play alongside the Phillies cemented his position with the club and Schmidt stayed in Reading, spending the rest of the 1971 season at the Double-A level. In 1972, he was promoted to the Triple-A Eugene Emeralds of the Pacific Coast League. He was called up to the Phillies in September and made his major league debut against the New York Mets on September 12, 1972.
He would go on to play 18 seasons in Philadelphia and become one of the greatest third basemen in baseball history. Schmidt was a twelve-time All-Star and a three-time winner of the National League (NL) Most Valuable Player award (MVP), and he was known for his combination of power hitting and strong defense.
As a hitter, he compiled 548 home runs and 1,595 runs batted in (RBIs), and led the NL in home runs eight times and in RBIs four times. As a fielder, Schmidt won the National League Gold Glove Award for third basemen ten times. He would help the Phillies win their first World Series championship in 1980 and Schmidt was selected as the series MVP. Schmidt was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1995 and is widely considered to be the one of the greatest third basemen in baseball history.
So, there are a few lessons to learn here. First, timing was not on his side when he was a junior in college as he was not old enough to enter the professional baseball draft. Second, when the time did come for him to enter the draft his family rejected the first offer. That in and of itself was risky since there was no guarantee the Phillies would return with a better offer. When they did, the new offer included an opportunity to take batting practice with the Phillies. Timing proved on Schmidt’s side since the Phillies had an exhibition game during his visit to the major league club. He was then given the opportunity to play and made the best of it. Schmidt’s story offers so many opportunities for reflection.
What might have happened if he was 21 during this junior year in college? Would he have still landed with the Phillies?
If the Phillies did not have that exhibition game, and Schmidt never had the opportunity to play, would he have stayed in the minor leagues longer, thus delaying this opportunity to play in the major leagues?
If the Phillies had passed on Schmidt the Baltimore Orioles were looking to draft him. Luckily for Schmidt that never happened as Brooks Robinson played 23 years at third base for the Orioles (1955-1977) and there most likely would have been no room for Schmidt.
In the poem “Days, the British poet Philip Larkin wrote
What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?
Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.
As the ‘days come and wake you’ how often you take advantage of timing? If not, what do you find yourself doing? Are you complaining how time is not on your side?
Are you waiting for the ‘right’ time to do something? Are you even awake to recognize the time?
For those who navigate the chaos they understand there is no ‘right’ time, they simply look to take advantage of the time in front of them.