The Major League Baseball Circus is in town tonight.

The Major League Baseball Circus is in town tonight.

Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey made the traveling circus an irresistible American spectacle.  When the circus came to town, everyone noticed. This week, Major League Baseball’s 2014 All Star Game festivities are in my home town of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The featured game is being played tonight at Target Field.  All of the hoopla would make the Ringling brothers smile.

Modern melodrama

During the rise of the circus, the New York Times labeled baseball as “America’s favorite pastime.” With 162 games in the regular season, baseball is our culture’s most repetitive sporting attraction. The pace of baseball mirrors real life: it plods along over nine innings and doesn’t finish until the home team has made at least 27 outs.  In between are a series of melodramas: balls and strikes, hits and fouls, successes and failures. Cheering and swearing. Sounds a lot like my day yesterday.

Target Field is one of my family's "happy places." We love the buzz and mini-drama of major league baseball games.

Target Field is one of my family’s “happy places.” We love the buzz and mini-drama of major league baseball games.

Baseball as life

Target Field is one of my “happy places.” Every year our family makes a list of “must-do” events for the summer. Going to a Twins game is always on the top of the list because we are blending most of the Seven Fs: family, friends, fitness, fun – and when the Twins are in the pennant race, it’s also about faith and future!

This book is a great summer read: the hopes and challenges of Triple A baseball players are good reminders for good leaders.

This book is a great summer read: the hopes and challenges of Triple A baseball players are good reminders for good leaders.

Summer reading

My recommended summer reading today is also about baseball: John Feinstein is America’s most acclaimed sportswriter. His books, A Good Walk Spoiled (about professional golf) and Season on the Brink (about college basketball) are page-turners. Last year he published a fascinating portrait about human hope and persistence: Where Nobody Knows Your Name. It’s a dense and rich human melodrama about professional baseball players who are living and working one level below the major leagues. Every day they wake up with the hope they get called up by the owners of a Major League team to play at “Target Field.”

Even if you don’t like baseball – or sports – just reading the 15 page introduction will tickle your belief in the human spirit. The book follows the lives of 8 players and one umpire who are trying to make it to the big leagues. Baseball is a demanding path, even the best hitters fail 2 out of 3 times. Most pitchers lose more games than they win.

Good advice

10The richest part of the Triple A baseball experience is the intensity by which the players encourage one another. When the best players get “called up” to the major leagues…everyone celebrates their success, even though they just lost one of their best players. It’s because no one wants to stay just one level below the Major Leagues for very long. The temptation of fame and fortune is cruel. So they bond together to help each other stay positive and strong. It reminds me of Chapter 10 in our Good Leadership Today eBook.  I wrote about the influence of my grandfather Hunter – advice echoed in an encounter with Harvey Mackay.

Good leaders make a habit of embracing the melodramas in the circus of every day living. And we bind together like baseball players who encourage each other to stay positive and focused on success in the big leagues.

Thank you for recent summer reading suggestions.  Please keep sending me your favorites to pass along.