02: Leadership Impacts on the Mental Game of Baseball with Chris Colabello, Part 1

You might think of baseball as a purely physical sport, but have you ever thought about just how important the mental part of the game can be? Today’s show is the first for the podcast, and we have great conversations lined up where we’ll talk to leaders and performers from a variety of fields AND the people who support them: the executive coaches, performance coaches, meditation teachers, and researchers. The goal is to create a full conversation around leadership development and what it means to find deeply fulfilling work. My first guest just happened to do that in the world of major league baseball.

The mind is the greatest weapon you have as a baseball player.
— Chris Colabello

Chris Colabello is one of the great Cinderella stories. He was undrafted out of Division II college and played 7 years of independent league baseball in Worchester, MA, for the Tornadoes. He made some swing changes with the help of a hitting coach named Bobby Tewksbary, and the two of them began a meteoric rise to the major league level. Chris ended up hitting in the middle of the Blue Jays lineup in the 2015 ALCS, which was one of the best offenses ever. I wanted to have Chris on the show because he is thoughtful, genuine, and about as open-hearted as a pro athlete gets about the mental game, leadership, and the struggles he’s faced and overcome. He’s also from my hometown of Milford, MA, and our dads grew up playing together in high school and college. We had never actually met until this conversation, so we have a lot to talk about--so much so that we’ve cut the interview into Part 1 and Part 2. Join us!

What you’ll hear in this episode:

  • How Chris started out hot in the minor leagues in New Britain, CT. He was the MVP of the team, made the all-star team, and was on to winter ball in Mexico
  • How Chris got invited to big league camp and really felt relaxed going into AAA after playing in the World Baseball Classic
  • The mental struggle of performing well at each level--day in and day out
  • The tough mental and emotional grind of baseball, which is “not that hard, physically”
  • Why Chris says that a 21-22 year-old kid who is drafted is in NO WAY prepared for the challenges ahead
  • Why you MUST have support systems in place and not “go it alone”
  • Playing for high stakes at the highest level when someone is always ready to take your job can take the fun out of the game
  • 2013: in AAA with the Twins, where Chris made a name for himself and combined talent with confidence
  • How people don’t see the minute challenges that baseball players face in being mentally “tuned in”
  • The major league mentality, and how Chris didn’t let an 0-for-2 start in a game bother him
  • No one is immune from the small seed of doubt that starts to take root and grow in your mind
  • How meditation helps with centering your mind and being at peace with who you are
  • How he found out about the call to the big leagues
  • The quick flight to Atlanta and a start in right field
  • For Chris, there were a lot of “firsts” and a lot of learning
  • 2014-2015: Why Chris turned down an offer to play in Korea to pursue his MLB dream
  • How Chris started out like gangbusters the first week of the season, with “an incessant belief in myself, where preparation meets opportunity.”
  • Much success, but suspicious thumb pain which turned out to be an almost completely severed nerve in the right thumb
  • Chris struggled and was sent back to the minors and claimed by Toronto off waivers
  • How Chris started out 6-for-8 for the Blue Jays, had the “most fun” of his life, and got to post-season play
  • What it was like to be in the middle of one of the best offensive lineups in history
  • The leaders on the team: Mark Buerhle and Josh Thole
  • How the veterans and young guys were on equal footing, always doing whatever it took to get the job done
  • Consistency was the key to their success, but it wasn’t of the cookie cutter variety
  • How Chris was on top of the world with the highest high when he got the shocking March 11 phone call that changed everything

 

Resources:

Find Chris on Twitter: @cc20rake