Excel Leadership Network is planning a leadership connection and training event in Phoenix later this month.  We’ll be meeting, and then attending a Spring Training game.  My family loves to go to exhibition games in Arizona.  My wife, Lori wants to make it an annual tradition.  Yes, Lori is the instigator.  She’s not a huge sports fan, but she likes the quick break, the weather--its great in March in Arizona (and in Florida too!), the relaxing atmosphere, and she knows it’s an easy sell to the boys and me because there’s baseball!


But there’s an even bigger reason we like Spring Training.  There’s an attitude in Spring Training I wish we could adopt all year long.  The Spring Training outlook is one I am trying to implement every day.  Here are some elements to the Spring Training mindset:


1.   The Good Stuff Is Magnified.


Every good thing a player does in the spring is amplified.  Every success is a first and it is celebrated.  Since the sample size is low, the stats for the hot hitters are bloated.  Batting averages like .667 and .500 are common.  Every little accomplishment is a big deal.


The Apostle Paul tells us to:


Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! …whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.—Philippians 4:4 & 8 (NLT)


That’s natural in Spring Training.  We magnify the wins and think about the good stuff.


2.  The Bad Stuff Is Minimized.


One of the great elements of the Spring Training mindset is that mistakes are no big deal.  If a pitcher gets rocked and gives up a bunch of hits, he simply explains, “I was just getting my work in.”  If he gives up two homeruns, he can say, “It’s no big deal, I was just working on my changeup…”  If a hitter strikes out twice he says, “I was working on a new approach.” 


The “Just getting my work in…” approach covers a multitude of sins.  If a ballplayer messes up in spring, it isn’t the end of the world.


The Spring Training attitude communicates that we don’t have to take ourselves so seriously.


Paul gives us similar instructions in Philippians 3:  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.—Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT)


Let’s not beat ourselves up over our mistakes.  We’re just getting our work in.  Let’s forget the past and look to Jesus.  That’s the attitude I want to have.


3.  This isn’t all there is.


On our family trips to Spring Training we typically watch our team, the Angels (they must be God’s team too, right, they are Angels!) lose more games than they win.  Currently they are way down in the Cactus League standings.  They don’t sport a great record.  Bur who cares?  This is the Cactus League.  Records here are meaningless.  The Big Leagues don’t start until later.


Cactus League and Grapefruit League standings are rarely ever published.  You have to search for them.  And honestly, I couldn’t even find the standings with a “Google” search.  And it doesn’t matter.  Because this isn’t all there is.


And Paul says standings here are earth don’t count all that much either:


But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…

--Philippians 3:7 (NLT)


I want to exude an attitude where I’m not all caught up in the here and now.  I want to be more concerned with the next life, with heaven, with the real big leagues. 


4.  Keep Reproducing


In Spring Training games the stars, the starters, and the veterans play a few innings and then they come out of the game and let the rookies and prospects play.  It is great to watch the stars perform, but it is also fun to watch the newbies and think about the future.


When the rookies come in it is obvious they are not the finished product yet.  The play is sloppier and there are more errors.  Routine plays don’t seem so routine.  But the message is clear:  it’s not just about this year.  The 2016 team is important.  But the clubs are also concerned about 2017 and 2018 and 2019 and 2020.  They know that even the best ballplayers age and slow down and retire and die.  They know they need to invest in the kids, the rookies, and the future.


Paul wrote about reproduction,   Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do.—Philippians 3:17 (NLT)


I want to live with that attitude that embraces reproduction.  Yes, Easter 2016 is important.  But what am I doing to train others so that Easter 2017, 2018 and 2025 are covered?


5.  Hope springs eternal.


Recently I mentioned to a friend from the Northwest that I was going to Spring Training.  He immediately jumped in, “The Seattle Mariners are looking great this year.  They are tearing up the Cactus League!”  I responded, “Spring Training games don’t count!”  He wasn’t fazed, “This is going to be the Mariners year!  I can feel it!”  I stopped him and said, “Seriously, the Mariners stink!”  He put his arm around me and “JD, you are missing the whole point of Spring Training:  Hope Springs Eternal!”


The Spring Training attitude is one of hope.  Every slate is clean.  Every team starts off undefeated.  Every fan thinks, “This is our year!  I can feel it!”


The apostle Paul declared, I can do all this through him who gives me strength.—Philippians 4:13 (NLT)


I want to live with that hope!  I want that attitude.  And we can all have it.  After all, we have all made the team!  Jesus brought us on to His team and we are all first-stringers!  


So, I’m walking with a spring in my step today.  I’m trying to love with that Spring Training mindset.  How about you?  And by the way, this is going to be the Angels’ year.  I can feel it!