Years ago, I read a book by Orel Hershiser chronicling his great season of 1988. That year, Hershiser began what was to become the record for consecutive scoreless innings by a pitcher (59). It was a magical year for Hershiser and his Dodgers, who rode the unlikely pinch-hit home run of Kirk Gibson to a fairy tale World Series victory over the vaunted Oakland Athletics.

Nothing stands out to me from that book quite like Hershiser’s chapter on his pitching-mound mindset.

“Next pitch.”

That’s what he told himself after every pitch. Good. Bad. Otherwise. What mattered most wasn’t the pitch he just threw, but the next one. And then the next one. And so on.

The lessons are endless here.

Coach, what is most important for you isn’t what just happened, but what will happen next, including your reaction to what just happened. What is most important isn’t what that player has done, but what he might do next. What is most important is what you do next, regardless of the situation. What you do next determines the tone for what happens next, and this never ends. Coaches need a “next pitch” mindset all the time.

This is also vital for players. Failure dominates baseball. Hitters make outs far more than not. Pitchers (especially young ones) throw way too many pitches outside the strike zone. Fielders make errors and bad decisions at alarming rates. What should be the response? “Next pitch.” That’s the most important one for the hitter who just struck out, for the fielder who just booted one, and for the pitcher who can’t find the plate. Dwelling on what just happened (except to learn from it and move on) is defeating and counterproductive.

Next pitch.

And, by the way, life is the same way. As believers in Jesus, we can have a “next pitch” mentality because Jesus gave us a “next pitch” reality through His death and resurrection. What has happened, what you’ve done,what’s been done to you can destroy you, for sure. But, the gospel of Jesus tells us that He has and can redeem all of it, wiping it clean, and allowing you to focus on the next pitch in life.

For baseball and for life: Next Pitch.