Play ’em all!

article by Chris Burke

article by Chris Burke

I was blessed to play the game of baseball for a long time. From the age of 4 to 30, I competed nearly every day with the goal of becoming the best player that I could be. Along that journey I also found other sports that I loved to play, basketball and football especially.

Participating in these sports gave me a tremendous advantage once I got to college and decided to solely focus on baseball. The game of basketball taught me about physical fitness, endurance, and hustle. Football taught me about teamwork, physical toughness, and the importance of weight training. Without the lessons that I learned playing these sports, I would never have been able to accomplish what I did in baseball.

One of the things that saddens me about our culture today is when kids are forced into focusing on one sport at an early age. The pressure of high-level travel teams, the urging of overzealous high school coaches and the expectations of some parents has all but eliminated the true multi-sport athlete. Kids are missing out on so many experiences, life lessons, and great coaches that could have long-lasting influence if they were encouraged to play other sports.

In my time in the Major Leagues, some of the best conversations I had with teammates were about stories from other sports. Guys loved to sit around and tell old “glory days” stories from high school football or basketball. They would talk about golf, soccer, track and field, buzzer beaters, halftime speeches, crazy teammates and hardnosed coaches, with fondness and thankfulness that the scope of our athletic memories is not limited to just baseball.

Without question, the number one offseason sport played by baseball players is golf. Earlier in the magazine, Cory Kaufman and I broke down some of the similarities with golf and baseball swings (page 18-19) to point out the obvious consistencies and hopefully rid the myth that one swing “messes up” the other. I started playing golf at the age of 13 and while I never played it competitively, I did spend countless hours throughout my career trying to improve my game. This work NEVER interfered with the results I had on the baseball field.

Today, when I hear dads tell me that they don’t let their sons play golf because “it could harm their baseball swing,” I get very upset. The reality is that for most of us, the game of golf is more about the quality time we get to spend with family and friends than it is about our scores. I am thankful that I had a dad that understood that and introduced me to a game that has been such a joy in my life. The memories I have made, the conversations I have had, and the relationships I have fostered on the golf course are very dear to me. What a shame it would have been if my dad had banned me from golf, for fear that it would hinder my baseball swing.

My hope is that we can get past the myth that other sports are detrimental to kid’s development in their “main” sport. I hope that parents, coaches and athletes realize that playing multiple sports makes for a more well-rounded competitor and person.

I am so blessed to have memories from the other sports that I have played in my life; the coaches, teammates, and lessons that I experienced are some of my fondest moments. Let’s get back to encouraging kids to play ’em all like we used to do!