From Chicken Soup for the Baseball Fan's Soul

The Power of Motivation

People are always asking me: “Tommy, when did you first realize that you could motivate people.”

I think I have always had the ability to motivate, but I remember one time in particular, early on in my minor-league coaching career for the Los Angeles Dodgers, when I had a situation that really tested my motivational skills.

I was coaching in the Pacific Coast League for Spokane. It was the bottom of the eighth inning and we were leading 3–2. Bobby O’Brien was pitching, and I knew that if we could just get this next batter out we could go on to win this game.

So I went out to the mound and I asked O’Brien a question.

“Bobby,” I asked, “if the heavens came apart right now, and that great Dodger in the sky came down to get you, would you rather go as having gotten this final batter out, or would you rather face the Lord after having given up a hit to this guy?”

Bobby hardly hesitated. “I would rather get him out,” he said.

“Okay then,” I told him, “then that’s how I want you to pitch—as if you were going to die getting this guy out.”

I felt good having shared such an inspiring visual message with Bobby and I left the mound and started back toward the dugout. But before I even got there, O’Brien threw the next pitch, and gave up a hit. The other team scored two runs and we went on to lose the game 4–3. After the game I called Bobby aside.

“What happened?” I asked him. “You said you wanted to get this guy out if it was the last thing you ever did.”

“Skipper,” he said, “you had me so afraid of dying, I couldn’t concentrate on pitching.”

Tommy Lasorda
As told to Ernie Witham

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