St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny's New York Times bestselling manifesto about what parents, coaches, and athletes get wrong about sports; what we can do better; and how sports can teach eight keys to success in sports and life.
Mike Matheny was just forty-one, without professional managerial experience and looking for a next step after a successful career as a Major League catcher, when he succeeded the legendary Tony La Russa as manager of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012. While Matheny has enjoyed immediate success, leading the Cards to the postseason four times in his first four years−a Major League record−people have noticed something else about his life, something not measured in day-to-day results. Instead, it’s based on a frankly worded letter he wrote to the parents of a Little League team he coached, a cry for change that became an Internet sensation and eventually a “manifesto.”
The tough-love philosophy Matheny expressed in the letter contained his throwback beliefs that authority should be respected, discipline and hard work rewarded, spiritual faith cultivated, family made a priority, and humility considered a virtue. In The Matheny Manifesto, he builds on his original letter by first diagnosing the problem at the heart of youth sports−it starts with parents and coaches−and then by offering a hopeful path forward. Along the way, he uses stories from his small-town childhood as well as his career as a player, coach, and manager to explore eight keys to success: leadership, confidence, teamwork, faith, class, character, toughness, and humility.
From “The Coach Is Always Right, Even When He’s Wrong” to “Let Your Catcher Call the Game,” Matheny’s old-school advice might not always be popular or politically correct, but it works. His entertaining and deeply inspirational book will not only resonate with parents, coaches, and athletes, it will also be a powerful reminder, from one of the most successful new managers in the game, of what sports can teach us all about winning on the field and in life.
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About the Author
Mike Matheny played thirteen years as a catcher for four Major League teams, won four Gold Gloves, and holds the MLB record for most consecutive games without an error. He was the manager of the St. Louis Cardinals for six seasons, leading the Cardinals to the postseason in each of his first four campaigns and winning the National League pennant in 2013. He and his wife, Kristin, are the parents of five and live in St. Louis. For more information about Mike’s Catch 22 Foundation, and to keep up with his blog, visit www.MikeMatheny.com.
Jerry B. Jenkins is the author of twenty New York Times bestsellers, including the Left Behind series. His writing has appeared in Time, Reader’s Digest, Parade, Guideposts, and dozens of Christian periodicals. He has collaborated on as-told-to autobiographies by Hank Aaron, Orel Hershiser, Walter Payton, Nolan Ryan, Mike Singletary, and Billy Graham. For more information about Jerry, visit www.JerryJenkins.com.
Read an Excerpt
Whatever Happened to the Love of the Game?
I’m a fierce competitor, and I don’t apologize for that. I want only that kind of player on my teams, too. But while coaching—and parenting—in youth sports, I have to keep that in its proper perspective. To create an atmosphere in which young people can reach their full potential, I must first make sure they develop a love and a passion for their sport, before any other lessons can be taught—including the will to win. Argue with me all you want, but I’m going from what I’m hearing from my current players, former coaches, and former teammates.
When I was a kid, we loved sports. We played baseball, basketball, and football because they were fun and we enjoyed them. Organized sports were great, but most of the time we played on our own. Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan has said that the difference between the way kids play today and the way he and his friends played is that now they only play with uniforms on.
Somehow, the more organized sports became, the more they became about the parents and not about the kids. All of a sudden, kids didn’t seem to love sports as much as I did when I was their age—and that’s something I thought needed to change.
My very first baseball memory was Wiffle ball in the backyard, baseball in its purest form. I was the third of four boys growing up in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. We played all sports, competed at everything, and like everyone else— probably including you—made up our own rules.
Mom tried to change those rules. She wanted to make every ball we hit over the fence a three-out infraction, since the neighbors always complained about us being in their yard. But what kid could ever follow that rule? Baseball is all about home runs and mimicking your favorite player, and in those days I was Tom Seaver when I pitched and Johnny Bench when I was at the plate.
Sometimes I would work on my left-handed swing so I could watch the ball bounce off the neighbors’ roof. My brothers and I would make sure Mom wasn’t watching before we hopped the fence to retrieve the only ball we had that wasn’t cracked.
Even though we aimed away from the house with the dog, that animal had a sporting goods store’s worth of our Wiffle balls. The Sandlot movie, which would come along a couple of years after I signed a pro contract, could have been our story. But none of us dared go to the door or jump that fence.
We talked our dad into putting up lights so that we could play at night, and often we played so late the neighbors yelled out their window that it was time for the game to be over.
It seemed my older brother Rusty could throw a Wiffle ball ninety miles an hour. He loved putting welts on my bare back, since pegging—throwing the runner out between bases by nailing him with the ball—was permitted. Mom tried to change that rule, too, to no avail.
I don’t know what your game looked like, but here are some more of our details:
• Rock, paper, scissors served as our review process.
• The tie always went to the runner.
• Appropriating Dad’s black electrical tape to give the skinny yellow bat a little more weight was deemed completely legal.
• The greatest accessory was a plastic helmet from your favorite team.
• A drive into the far corner of the yard was an easy double if you hustled out of the box.
• Second base was a Frisbee we hadn’t tossed for years.
• A worn patch of dirt served as home plate.
I fell in love with the game of baseball in that backyard before I ever wore a jersey or played on an official team. I learned base running, cutoffs and relays, rundowns, even bench-clearing brawls with my brothers and neighborhood kids.
My dad worked construction and my mom for a church missionary association, so there was never enough money for an Atari, Nintendo, or Xbox. I’m grateful, because if we’d had those, I might never have known what baseball was really all about.
We kept score but never remembered, dinner was an annoyance, and the end of summer was a tragedy.
One of the first things I did for my own kids was build them a Wiffle ball field on our property—backstop, bases, home-run fence, scoreboard, lights, sprinkler system, the whole bit. On their birthdays, our kids get to choose what we do, and almost without fail, even to this day, it includes Wiffle ball late into the night—sometimes until dawn. Big-league teams have played Wiffle ball at our place.
What I love about baseball has evolved over the years, though.
As a first-time player on an organized team, I loved a chocolate swirl ice cream cone with sprinkles at Dairy Queen after the game, even when we lost.
I later fell in love with playing in front of a crowd and the thrill of making a play.
Back then, fun trumped winning, and wearing the same jersey as your friends was the definition of success.
I loved the smell of the bubble gum you could get only at the ball field, and seeing how many pieces I could keep in my mouth during the game.
Over time and the onset of puberty, fun turned to ferocity, and testosterone made every game live or die. I learned how much it really meant to me when I couldn’t control the tears after letting a ball roll through my legs cost my team the game.
I soon realized the sport had changed for me. Far beyond a source of joy and a sense of accomplishment, it came to define my social status. Baseball became part of who I was—not just how others saw me, but how I viewed myself. Its heroes, past and present, became like Greek gods, and getting even a glimpse of them in person was surreal.
I’ll never forget getting to travel and seeing how I matched up to the talent in other areas, finding out how much more work I had to do. How exciting, that first out-of-town trip without my family, my first night in a hotel with a bunch of kids too rowdy to sleep—or let anyone else for that matter.
I loved using a hose to fill my jug that needed to last an entire day, showing up early to rake the infield, praying it wouldn’t rain, enjoying a Snickers bar as a between-games meal, and being covered with dirt from head to toe.
Who can forget discovering you’re on the local scouts’ radar and have a legitimate chance to play a game that can pay for your education, are you kidding me? What’s not to love about showing up on a college campus and joining a team of guys you’ve never met but you know already have your back?
Why did I come to love baseball?
The game became the pacesetter for my life. What could top:
Lying in bed at the University of Michigan, dreaming of playing professionally, earning a degree along the way because you can catch and throw.
Getting an actual check for signing your name, just because you have potential.
Waking up every day knowing you have a chance to improve your odds of making it to the Show, and realizing you actually play every single day.
Now occasionally praying for rain so your body can recoup.
Getting the call that tells you your lifelong dream has come true and you’ve become one of the select few who ever make it.
Sharing a locker room with superstars and future Hall of Famers and finding yourself in the same lineup.
Getting paid to play a game—well enough to get a great start in life.
Asking for autographs from legends, and having them actually engage you in conversation as if you’re in the same fraternity—because you are.
Truly realizing the depth of your love for the game by how you feel when it’s taken from you—twice.
Getting another chance to chase the dream and actually experience a winning season.
Feeling the buzz of the crowd in the postseason and the month-long celebration known as October baseball.
Stepping up to the plate in the World Series and facing the best of the best on the baseball world’s biggest stage.
Having hung in there long enough for your kids to get to walk onto a major-league field and understand the passion the fans hold for this great game and its players.
And finally to watch the sun set on a career some believed would never happen, and to humbly, silently say, “I told you I could.”
Maybe my wife, Kristin, and John and Ann Mabry were the only three parents who could truly understand where I was coming from that night, a true lover of baseball standing before them and reading what otherwise had to sound like a very strange letter. I was no guru, hardly a know-it-all, and I certainly didn’t want to come across as a Little League dictator.
But neither did I have any interest in being involved in a youth baseball program that disgraced the game that had virtually been my life and helped shape my character. Ironically, if I had learned anything from baseball, from all the coaching and the training and the practices and the development, it was that so much more went into making a child an adult than teaching them athletic skills and how to win games.
In the few short decades since my childhood, I had seen a shocking shift in the values and actions of parents and coaches that I believed made it nearly impossible for the youth of today to love the game the way I do. If I was right, youth sports was long overdue for an overhaul of business as usual.
Excerpted from "The Matheny Manifesto"
Copyright © 2017 Mike Matheny.
Excerpted by permission of Crown/Archetype.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
"Why Would You Write a Book?" 9
The Letter That Went Viral 11
Part 1 The Problem
1 Whatever Happened to the Love of the Game? 27
2 The Problem with New-School Parents 34
5 Coaches with Complexes, or You're Not Billy Martin 45
Part 2 A Better Way
4 Our Grand Experiment 57
5 Parents Just Trying to Get It Right 75
6 What a Great Coach Looks Like 89
Part 3 The Keys to Success
7 The Coach Is Always Right-Even When He's Wrong 103
Key #1 Leadership
8 Let Your Catcher Call the Game 113
Key #2 Confidence
9 Don't Think Less of Yourself, Think of Yourself Less 131
Key #3 Teamwork
10 Stand Your Ground 161
Key #4 Faith
11 Respect the limp-Even If He's Blind 163
Key #5 Class
12 Stay in Your Lane 175
Key #6 Character
13 Nothing Worth Doing Right Is Easy 190
Key #7 Toughness
14 Seek Help When You Need It, Express Thanks When You Get It 205
Key #8 Humility
The Manifesto Impact 219
Afterword Bob Costas 225
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
An excellent book relating to leadership, especially to the younger generation. Mike Matheny explains and demonstrates how teaching baseball skills along with character skills can stay with the student far after the baseball part of his life is finished. He also shows very clearly how winning at all costs is not needed to be successful not only in baseball but in life.
Important book for all parents and coaches.
I do not play baseball nor am I follower of baseball. Yet for some reason I was prompted to read "The Matheny Manifesto" by Mike Matheny. I figured I might be bored but was pleasantly surprised as Matheny captured my attention holding it throughout the book. Yes, there were some stats and explanations about baseball I did not appreciate as some baseball fans, nevertheless, so much of what he wrote held truth I could relate to as a parent. He talks about eight keys that lead to success: humility, leadership, confidence, character, faith, teamwork, class and toughness. This inspirational story can teach us "about winning on the field and in life." I think that is why I enjoyed it so much. I received this book for free to review from blogging for books.
Rating: 4 of 5 stars (very good) Review: Mike Matheny has enjoyed success in his baseball career, both as a player and as the current manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. He holds many views about the game that would be considered “old-school” and has applied those thoughts to both baseball and life when he has coached youth baseball. These beliefs and what he does with his young players has been communicated in a letter he gives all parents titled the “Matheny Manifesto.” It has become an Internet sensation, but more importantly, it has become a code by which other coaches and parents of youth sports participants would be well to follow. The book has many pieces of advice that nearly everyone involved in youth sports has heard, such as let the kids make mistakes without being overly critical and that the coach is always right, even if he or she is not. There are some topics that might be surprising, especially in today’s specialized youth sports culture. Matheny advises parents to let a kid try all the sports he or she wants to play instead of determining early which one would be “the one.” He also speaks out against the culture of rewarding every participant for being present. On that topic, he simply says that this kind of reinforcement does not prepare the child for the inevitable failure that he or she will face in real life. Matheny also talks about his faith in one chapter, but does not preach nor expect anyone else to also wear his or her faith on the sleeve. Instead, he simply explains how his Christian faith has helped shape his values and I thought this was one of the better written chapters in the book. His account of his playing and managing career in the major leagues was also very good and it tied in nicely with the points he was trying to make regarding youth sports. This book is one that should be read by anyone involved in youth sports, no matter the role. While some readers may not follow every bit of advice not wish to read about Matheny’s faith, the book as a whole is a good reminder that these athletes are still kids, and these games should be about them and not the adults. I wish to thank NetGalley for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Did I skim? No Pace of the book: Very good – the breakdown of each chapter into smaller sections on a certain topic makes reading the book easier. If the reader just wants to read certain parts for reference or review, this format makes that easier as well.