Today is April 1st, and you know what that means? (Other than the socially acceptable day for making a fool of others.) It means only four days til baseball season is officially in full swing! (Pun intended, obviously.)

I have never been more excited coming into a new season of America’s favorite pastime than I am this year! Why? Because this year my understanding of baseball (and all that happens off the field as well as on) has grown leaps and bounds thanks to the manager of my favorite major league team, Mike Matheny.

Which also means I’ve never been more excited to be a St. Louis Cardinals fan!

You see, Mike Matheny wrote a book. Well first he wrote a letter to the parents of his little league team frankly telling them how he intended to use his unique method of coaching on their rowdy boys. When he began managing professionals and not twelve-year-olds, using the same coaching philosophy, his “manifesto” caught the attention of fans and publishers alike, and now his old-school views on baseball–and life–is destined to take the world of sports by storm.

That’s high praise for a 220-page hardback book on how to handle knuckleballs and knuckleheads.

The Matheny Manifesto: A Young Manager’s Old-School Views on Success in Sports and Life is a long title for a book with a succinct message: character is more important than winning.

It is the personal journey of a humble man of faith who happens to love baseball. His love for the game is what inspired him to train hard as a strapping young boy and work his way through college. It’s what motivated him to push through the setbacks of the minors and injuries of the majors.

It’s what compelled him to address the disturbing shift in values he saw in parents and coaches that was threatening to strike out kids’ chances of loving the game as much as he did. And a fierce competitor like Matheny was not going to lose the battle!

After identifying the problems–like the obsession folks have with coaching from the stands, putting pressure unfairly upon the kids, and other mistakes well-meaning parents and fans make–he offers a better way. Not a new way, but a return to principles like teamwork, dignity, faith, and humility. Matheny calls them his 8 Keys to Success, and they include things like showing proper respect for the coaches and umpires, and seeing the game as a platform for young kids to develop character as well as skill–and understanding the difference between the two.

He shares from his personal experiences of his growing up years, and his time with the Brewers and Cardinals organizations, as well as from the advice and examples seen in fellow big leaguers such as Robin Yount, Cal Eldred, Joe Girardi, and Albert Pujols.

This book should be required reading for every player, parent, coach, or coach-wanna-be. I truly think it changed my perspective on sports in particular and life in general. It was a sobering reminder not to assume I have all the right answers–as Mike Matheny would be the first to tell you–or to be quick to defend myself when misjudged.

And as already stated, it was a reminder why I love baseball so much, yet another reason why I’m excited April is here.

“It breaks your heart.
It is designed to break your heart.
The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again,
and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings,
and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone.
You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time,
to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive,
and then just when the days are all twilight,
when you need it most,
it stops.”

From A Great and Glorious Game: Baseball Writings of A. Bartlett Giamatti

I received a copy of this book as part of the Blogging for Books program through Crown Archtype Publishers.

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