Small Ball

In the sport of baseball, small ball is an informal term for an offensive strategy in which the batting team emphasizes placing runners on base and then advancing them into scoring position for a run in a deliberate, methodical way. This strategy places a high value on individual runs and attempts to score them without requiring extra base hits, or sometimes without base hits at all, instead using bases on balls, stolen bases, sacrifice bunt or sacrifice fly balls, the hit-and-run play, and aggressive baserunning with such plays as the contact play. A commonly used term for a run produced playing small ball is a “manufactured run”. This style of play is more often found in National League game situations than in the American League due in large part to the absence of the designated hitter in the National League.


I don’t follow major league baseball. Heck, I don’t even follow little league baseball. (Or particularly like watching  baseball!)

Winning vs. Entertainment

As a spectator sport, it takes a certain type of baseball fan to appreciate small ball. Americans like fast-moving entertaining baseball. We want to see homers, players running into one another in the outfield, and close plays at home.

But watching batter after batter take balls to get walked? Not so much. 

So it’s a balancing act for professional baseball management. On the one hand small ball wins ballgames. On the other, winning doesn’t matter if fans don’t show up.

In professional sports there’s winning and there’s winning.

A Life of Small Ball

In the same way, American culture celebrates big, dramatic, and entertaining lives. We love it when someone does something big. Success looks like a stadium of people waiting to hear you speak or your creating something so big that you become a household name.

That– we suppose— is what success must look like.

Or is it? 

  • Is a big thing a success?
  • Is success big?
  • Is success external?
  • And what does this success cost in relationship to other things?

Personally, I find going for the big home run to be more exhausting than the elation of the big moment. [Forget that fact that hitting a home run while losing the game isn’t much of a success.]

Let’s take this out of the ether of hypothetical. “What are you really talking about, McLane?

I’ve turned a corned over the past couple of years. I’ve largely given up on the idea of going for big, ambitious, household-name-styled success and instead embrace a lifestyle of small ball.

I believe success comes as the result of more than a moment– though, at times, a moment exposes your success to a broad audience– instead, success is the result of a thousand good choices and behaviors.

In my personal life, I don’t need to be celebrated as a great dad or husband. Instead, I just want to be a great dad/husband by making a thousand good choices. It’s better to be healthy than to be seen as healthy while actually being unhealthy.

In the Cartel life, [a term we use informally to talk about leading The Youth Cartel] we aren’t interested in being big, with complex structures, large staff, and loads of property & products to manage. That’s someone else’s success, not ours. Instead, we feel like if we do a thousand things well/right/good the next thousand and the thousand after that will come to us. We’re not out to compete with anyone or put anyone down… we just want to do our thing in a way that’s healthy and sustainable for us.

The Impact of a Small Ball Life

When I travel for work people ask me about the impact of that on my family life. I suppose, if you don’t travel that much, that hanging out with someone who travels for work can feel like that must imply success. While I certainly like traveling and meeting new people, I see travel for work as just that… travel for work. It’s my job! I like to say, “My life is either really big– going cool places, meeting cool people, doing cool stuff– or really small. Outside of taking kids to school I work at home and so my life revolves around my family, house, and neighborhood.

I like my “big life” and I like my “small life.

But given the choice, I’ll take a thousand small successes over one big win, all day any day.






2 responses to “Small Ball”

  1. KJ Avatar

    I love what Rick Warren says to Pastors, which may sound ironic coming from a guy who certainly plays “big”…He says, “Guys, you don’t have to hit a home run every week….just consistently hit singles!”

    1. Adam McLane Avatar

      @KJ – I like that Pastor Rick guy.

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