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| August 6, 2013 | 1 Comment

Sandy Koufax, Babe Ruth, Lefty Grove, Steve Carlton, Randy Johnson and Warren Spahn are some of baseball’s alltime best pitchers. They also share one common trait. They are all left handed or “southpaws.” Most Major League pitchers (about 70%) are right handed. This stands to reason because most of the general population tends to be right handed. But, why in the world would you call a left handed pitcher a “southpaw?”

We can find the answer in the way ballparks traditionally have been constructed. Stadium architects will do everything they can in advance to prohibit any obstruction to the “batter’s eye.” In straight away centerfield, just over the wall of most ballparks, you’ll find an area where there is a break in the stands. No one is left-baseball-glovesallowed to sit or stand in this area. This area is typically grass or some other solid dark color. By doing this, chances are less likely that a batter will “lose” the ball in a light background or a fan’s clothing. In the 2001 World Series Yankees third baseman Scott Brosius, “lost” the ball on a grounder to third in a banner that was hanging on the wall between the field and the stands. The banner was promptly removed. The league will go out of its way to assure that an outside force doesn’t affect anything that occurs on the field.

In addition, the league has given thought to the certainty of nature. One of the laws of nature is that the sun will rise in the east and set in the west. This is a universal truth. Therefore, home plate is typically at the west-end of the field with second base being to the east placing batters so that they would face away from the sunset and there would be no chance of losing the ball in the glare.

If second base faces the east, then first base must be at the south end of the field. A left-handed pitcher, when standing on the mound has his pitching arm to the first base side of the infield. The first base side of the infield is the south side. Consequently, a left-handed pitcher is often referred to as a “southpaw.”

Think about that for a minute. In the construction of a ballpark, the direction that home plate will face is considered before a grain of sand is moved. It’s a given fact that there will be no one sitting in straight away centerfield to distract the batter. Major League Baseball has put a lot of advance work in planning baseball fields and avoiding problems.

I am reminded of a story of a young salesman for a kitchenware company. One day he realized how he was spending all of his time crisscrossing town and little time giving sales presentations. He asked himself how he could overcome this problem. He decided that every night he would map out his sales calls. He scheduled all of his morning calls in a certain area of town and then his afternoon calls would be conducted on the other side of town. This enabled him to see twice as many prospects every week!

The salesman’s closing ratio didn’t change one percentage point. The only thing that changed was his planning. He doubled his income by simply planning in advance. Baseball has done this by deciding in advance what things could keep a batter from peak performance and then has eliminated them from the batter’s equation for success.

There you have it. “Southpaw” is a name given to left-handed pitchers because their left hand faces the south end of the field. The reason that their left hand faces south is because baseball believes planning and strategy are ingredients to success. They’re right. Let’s use that knowledge in our life.

- Ron White


Ron White USA’s #1 Memory Expert, Speaker, Author and Baseball Fan invites you to share your story for his upcoming book Lessons From Baseball. Share your story! Plus download FREE Gift – Ron White’s Lessons From Baseball by Ron White


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