Hitting a baseball and St. Benedict–(a note while awaiting the final game of the 2017 season)

Succeeding only 30 percent of the time as a batter in major-league baseball is considered to be a superior performance; in fact, if a hitter succeeds only once in every four opportunities, that batter is considered a decent major league hitter.

As I write this reflection on the last day of the season, there have been 32 major league batters recorded as succeeding at the 30 percent level and another 23 at the 29 percent level. (Only six players from the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers, the teams battling for the World Series championship, are in this group).

Each of the 30 major league teams has a roster of 25 players during the heat of a season, and about 10 of those 25 are pitchers who are not expected to be good hitters.

Thus, during a season, about 450 batters are playing; or, accounting for pitchers and substitutions, about 350 players come to bat each day.

(In mid-season, a minimum of nine players per team come to bat. With 30 teams playing, that means at least 270 batters come to bat per game–300-360 if we allow for pinch-hitters.)

Of those who hit, only about 7.5 percent of them are hitting at a superior level, and fewer than half of all batters are successful once in every four attempts to hit.

One could say well over half of major league hitters in any given season are unsuccessful. Or, put another way, one might say professional baseball batters are a legion of failures.

(Note: my speculation is based on batting averages, not on the more forgiving on-base percentage. OBP*).

But baseball is a game of hope and a game of constant striving that demands putting failures behind–much as life itself demands.

St. Benedict of Nursia would have understood this crazy game, and, as do most baseball coaches, the saint who wrote the well-known Rule of Life would have urged players to set their failures aside and face the next moment with confidence and hope and faith.

In other words, learn from mistakes and improve. (Of course, the saint, who was primarily addressing monks, would have accounted for God in any talk of success and failure).

But, given his hopeful approach, I propose that St. Benedict of Nursia should be known as the patron saint of baseball. (There are many who give this honor to St. Rita, but that’s a bit of Hollywood fantasy.)

In fact, I think St. Benedict should be the patron saint of athletic performance. Every performer in baseball, basketball, golf, football, etc., succeeds best by remembering Benedict’s Rule, especially his encouragement to those who fail: they must “always begin again.”

*Calculation note: Baseball statisticians use the calculation of on-base percentage (OBP) to measure a player’s success on offense. The formula for calculating a batter’s OBP is as follows:*
OBP = (Hits+Walks+Hit by Pitch)/(At Bats+Walks+Hit by Pitch+Sacrifice Flies).
Batters are not credited with reaching base on an error or fielder’s choice, and they are not charged with an opportunity if they make a sacrifice bunt.*

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