In Baseball and Business, there’s No Place Like Home Plate

In Baseball and Business, there’s No Place Like Home Plate

by Susan Neuhalfen

The Argyle Chamber of Commerce welcomed former Major League Baseball pitchers Todd Van Poppel, Mike Munoz, Argyle Coach Ricky Griffin and Liberty Coach Johnny Isom for a breakfast at the Lantana Golf Club to speak to local business leaders about success on and off the field.
The retired players were placed on a panel in front of the audience and asked to answer the same questions pertaining to baseball, business and life.

All agreed that the same leadership values, discipline and hard work that athletes put into baseball should be put into business, too.  Coach Isom took it a step further and equated business to hitting statistics.

“Things don’t go well every time you get up to bat,” said Isom.  “Sometimes you aren’t successful and same goes for business. That teaches you life lessons.”

All agreed that relationships were the most important thing when it came to business. Van Poppel went on to say that he’s found if you want to be successful you can’t make your business about the bottom dollar, you have to focus on relationships, not just with clients, but with your employees as well.  Coach Griffin took that thought full circle and back to baseball.

“To be successful, I have to know my players,” said Griffin. “The most important thing is that
I want the players to feel they can talk to me.”

When asked about his transition from the major leagues to business, Munoz discussed the fact that he had been brainwashed by 12 years in the big leagues to work with the guy next to him whether he liked him or not.  He’s found that in business there aren’t a lot of people that want to do more than earn a paycheck. You do, however, have those who want to win.

“If you do have people with that winning mentality, place them in revenue generating positions,” said Munoz.  “They will thrive and your business will thrive.”

One question from the audience came from a mother of two athletes asking how to keep her kids loving the game without burn out.  Van Poppel was the first to answer:

“In the south we play all year round and that’s not good,” Van Poppel pointed out. “The game has to be fun. Don’t worry about them falling behind by not playing, they’ll catch up.”

Van Poppel also stressed that staying active through cross training would keep the kids from damaging their bodies from overuse.  Munoz agreed and pointed out that the fact that so many athletes are getting surgery as early as high school is proof that we’re pushing them too young and their bodies need to rest.

When asked what advice they would give to a younger version of themselves, each had a different answer.  Coach Griffin, who grew up in a much more rural Frisco, said he would tell himself that there is always someone better than you are at what you do.  He said that once he got outside of a (then) very rural Frisco, he learned that the hard way.  He emphasized that you should never be content with your best and always push harder.

Todd Van Poppel who played in the majors for 14 seasons with several teams including the Texas Rangers, had a different answer.

“I would tell myself that life is short, slow down,” said Van Poppel.  “I wish I had spent more time listening and meeting people instead of always being too intense about the game.”
Mike Munoz, who spent 12 seasons in the majors echoed Van Poppel’s sentiment.

“I always tell my guys there are two reasons to play ball – to make money and have fun,” said Munoz, who is now a pitching coach for younger players. “I tell them they aren’t making any money yet, so they may as well have fun.”

Everyone on the panel agreed that balance was the most important thing for them now and putting Christ first was the key to making everything else work.

Munoz said that in his marriage, baseball was a tool at first.  He would be out of town for most of the month and when he came back, things would get off scheduled and off sync for everyone.  Putting Christ at that the center of the marriage helped him balance his time management in retirement. Van Poppel made it clear that he put Christ first, family second and that put everything in perspective for him.  Argyle coach Griffin had the same perspective but pointed out that during his days in the majors, it hadn’t always been that way.

“In the mindset of time management, my ‘want tos’ have changed,” said Griffin. “My wife has made a lot of sacrifices for me. My players know that Thursday is date night and they’d better hurry up because I’m locking up early.”

Coach Isom pointed out several times in the conversation that Christ was at the center
of his life.

“Whenever I get off balance,” explained Isom.  “I get centered on Christ.”

In the end, all agreed that though their major league careers gave them great insight, and they wouldn’t want to trade those memories, but what’s important to them all now (in order of importance) is God, family and then business. If that business happens to be baseball, that’s even better.


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