Stay Level

These two simple words encapsulated the 2023 baseball season in Billings, Montana- “Stay Level”. I was blessed with the opportunity to be the Manager of the Billings Mustangs in the Pioneer League this year and one thing our team focused on the entire season was keeping our emotions in check and “staying level”. Over the course of 4 months and 100 games it’s a tall task for anyone to keep their composure every day, and there were times that we didn’t. However, by the season’s end we accomplished our goal of making the playoffs and proving that it’s not how you start, but how you finish.

The group of men I coached this year is unlike any I have ever had. They banded together like brothers and were so tightly knit you could make a sweater out of them. When one guy was having a tough day, two or three of his teammates stepped up in his place. It was a special summer and one I will never forget. The level you see in the photo is close to 100 years old and sat on my desk all season. It belonged to my Grandfather and it reminded me every day about controlling my emotions. Listed below are three helpful hints to keep your composure and “stay level” when you are faced with a difficult situation.

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good spirit lead me on level ground.”

Psalm 143:10, NIV

Keep Things in Perspective

We started out the season 3-3 and then went on a 9-game losing streak. Not a great way to start the season. There was pressure from the owner and the front office was feeling the heat as well. The first thing I told the media was the same thing I told the players before the season started, “One in a row.” That was the mindset we had on opening day, and we kept that going through the end of the season. This way there are no streaks. We simply lost 9 times. They just happened to be on consecutive days.

This mindset allowed us to “stay level” later in the season when we went on a franchise setting 15-game winning streak that helped vault us into the playoffs. There was no pressure to keep the streak going because we just happened to win one game 15 times in a row. When you keep things in perspective like we did and focused on one game at a time, you don’t get caught up in the pressure of trying to climb a mountain that seems impossible to scale. Like my mentor Bill Crawford says, “Don’t pole vault over mouse turds.”

“Don’t pole vault over mouse turds.”

Bill Crawford

Having a Small Focus

Our mantra of “One in a row”, has origins that date back 16 years ago when I met a world renowned pitching coach named Tom House. We were working at a baseball camp together in San Diego and he used the term “Aim Small, Miss Small.” That resonated with me, and I adopted it quickly into my coaching philosophy. It also bled into other areas of my life which was an easy addition considering my disciplined lifestyle and quest to be as efficient as possible in everything I do.

Our focus this season in Billings became so small that we went from focusing on one game at a time to focusing on just one inning within that game. I encouraged our players to go a step further and break it down to just one out at a time and then one pitch within the out. We used the acronym “W.I.N.” which stands for “What’s Important Now?” This allowed us to be fluid throughout the game and make adjustments in real time. We stayed in the moment and didn’t allow the emotions of the game to dictate our response. Having that small focus at your workplace allows you and your colleagues the opportunity to target what is most important first, which should increase productivity. 

Pray Throughout the Day

This is something that I focused on this year and the benefits were amazing. For years I have spent time reading the bible and praying first thing in the morning and then doing it again right before I go to sleep. In-between those times I didn’t spend a lot of time with God but would periodically during the day. This season I read the bible right before the game and began the process of narrowing my focus. During the games I would pray for wisdom, whether I was in the dugout or the 3rd base coaching box. It was a great reminder to lean and rely on God throughout the game, instead of just saying a small prayer before it.

I encourage you to incorporate more prayer into your daily routine. Do it silently at your desk or when you are driving in your car. It’s even better to do it with others if you have the opportunity. One of my former pastors Troy Johnson talked about reading the same scripture 3 times a day. Once in the morning, again at lunchtime, and then before bed. He called it “Upload, Reload, Download”. This is just an example of how you can include Jesus into your busy schedule all day. Even if it’s in small pieces. Remember all those pieces add up to something bigger.

Next month I will be writing a blog titled “Finish Strong“. It will piggyback off this blog and I am excited to write it! Here are some things to think about and apply to your life:

  • Slow down and keep things in perspective. You have probably gone through hard times before.
  • Think about the acronym “W.I.N.” and focus on What’s Important Now.
  • Slowly add prayer throughout your day and I am sure you will see a positive outcome and newfound perspective.

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6 Comments

  1. Thanks Billy. Great lesson!

  2. Erick Lashley

    Great message Billy…keep up the excellent work and sharing of these profound experiences!!!

  3. Great words Billy ! Congrats on a great year !⚾️⚾️👍👍

  4. Loved it Billy. The Chicago Dogs have led the American Association in Chapel attendance the last 3years, with 95% attendance. I appreciate your trust in the Lord. He and only he can lead us where we want to go. Great stuff my friend.

  5. What an amazing journey! The wisdom you learned and talk about is very inspiring.
    Thanks!

  6. Richard Hopper

    I’m beginning to love this man and I have only known of him for a few days. I pray daily that my gifted grandson (rhp) can be around people like brother Billy as he plays the best game ever invented. He never had a dad around but I have let him know he has a Father in heaven and a best friend in Jesus. The High Wheelers are blessed to have this gentleman. Hope I get to shake your hand at Salt River Field in April.

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