LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. – Before the Braves boarded the bus for Wednesday’s short spring road trip to Kissimmee, they gathered in the clubhouse to exercise their attitude and maybe do a little work on their fundamentals and their focus.
It was an early morning workout of a completely different kind when former Navy SEAL Team Six sniper and current-day Jesup, Ga., chiropractor Howard Wasdin addressed the team for nearly an hour.
Two messages he wanted to stress: Preparing to win and respecting their status as role models.
While Wasdin’s time as a SEAL was all about life and death – he was awarded a Silver Star and a Purple Heart for his actions in Somalia in 1993 – he said certain aspects held true even for the fantasy world of baseball.
“If you have an elite team, it doesn’t matter if it’s a SEAL team or if it’s a baseball team,” he said. “Some of the (same) things are there: Physical fitness is important, of course. Mental toughness, I touched on that. And there’s the parallel of attention to detail. Every little detail, every little thought goes into the process of winning it before you get there. Right now, it’s about taking little, teeny goals and getting to a big goal. Especially some of these younger kids, they’re thinking so far ahead that they’re not in the here right now. This is where you need to be.”
A young Braves team, one picked by many forecasters to lose far more than it wins this year, needed to hear that. Learning to Win 101 is anything but a crib course.
And while they are at it, one other thing the former Navy SEAL wanted the players to keep in mind: “I was telling these guys the hope and inspiration they are to the people watching them,” Wasdin said. “It’s a huge responsibility. Anything I ever did was in the shadows. These guys' lives are right on the front page. They got it tougher than I did.” (I may take some exception to that final sentence.)
Little surprise that the Braves took time in the spring to hear from Wasdin, given manager Fredi Gonzalez’s fondness and respect for all things military.
The kicker to the day was how a decorated hero reacted in the company of ballplayers. The man wounded in Africa got downright nervous upon meeting former manager Bobby Cox. “I’ve been a fan of that man since I can remember,” Wasdin said.
Just how big of a Braves fan was the SEAL Team Six man? Well, he waived his usual speaker’s fee (he has made nearly 300 appearances, mostly corporate gigs) to give Wednesday’s talk. “I would have paid them to do this,” Wasdin said.