There is an unwritten rule in baseball, a cardinal sin if you will, that says never take the third strike. If you look at the third strike and allow the umpire to call you out because you failed to swing the bat, this is not acceptable in the baseball world.
Unfortunately, baseball players from the major leagues on down do not understand the importance of this rule and the game is worse off for it. Please allow me to explain the advantages in obeying the philosophy of never being guilty of looking at the third strike. In baseball, as in life, by not swinging at the third strike you have allowed someone outside of yourself to control your destiny, the umpire.
As a young boy growing up in Anadarko, our coaches taught us that if a pitched ball, especially the third strike, was close enough for the umpire to call a strike, it was also close enough for you to swing at. In other words, there was no excuse for you not swinging at the third strike if the ball was close to the strike zone. Our coaches were so committed to this rule that if we failed to swing at a third strike we would be benched for several games to follow.
So you can imagine, when we had two strikes on us, we were at what Homeland Security would define as high alert. We choked up on our bats and made sure no pitch got by us that was even close to being called a strike. It worked well from the time I started playing baseball at the age of 8 until I graduated from high school; our teams won state championships in baseball.
Here are some of the possibilities of what can happen if you swing at the third strike. If you swing the bat and foul the ball, you are still alive; you still have another strike coming. If you swing the bat and hit the ball, putting it in play, the fielders may miss it or make an error in their effort to throw you out, so you are on base in a position to score. If you swing the bat you may get a clean base hit, still in a position to score. If you swing the bat, you may even hit a home run. If you swing the bat with runners on base, you get a chance to knock in runners therefore scoring runs for your team. So you help yourself with runs batted in (RBI), but even more importantly, you help your team win the game. If you swing at the third strike and strike out, at least you go down swinging. I find great credibility in this. If you do not swing the bat, you only get called out by the umpire.
With this information, why do coaches allow their players to look at the third strike and let the umpire make a judgment call? It makes me feel that somehow we have forgotten the importance of not letting others make decisions for us and controlling our own destiny. By not letting someone call us out, we are still battling to win. Baseball is much like the game of life; we must never give up on ourselves or our team. In real life, our families and friends are our team; they need to know we are in this thing together and we will fight to the bitter end to stay alive. We need each other today more than ever before. Don't be guilty of taking the third strike. Swing the bat.
"Donkor Khalid, Oklahoma
Khalid, formerly Don Kuykendall, was Oklahoma Player of the Year in 1963, a member of the Oklahoma All-Century High School Baseball Team and played for Oklahoma State University from 1963-1967.