From High Heat to High Tech - 5 Things to Never Do - My Journey from MLB to Corporate America


As a player goes from chasing a dream to living a dream, there are several learning moments along the way that can be useful in business. On my path to the big leagues, I was given a lot of those learning opportunities and have narrowed it down to five that have carried over to the corporate world and my role at Extreme Networks. I hope you will benefit from them as well. 

1 - Never think that you don’t belong.

[On the Field] When I was in rookie ball, my manager pulled me into the office to let me know that I was being promoted to Single A (yes that’s a promotion). After the handshakes and congratulations, he looked me straight in the eye and said, “no matter how far you move up in this game, never think you don’t belong there.” I wasn’t sure what he meant at the time but whenever doubt crept into my mind as I moved through the minor leagues, it was that phrase that gave me the confidence to get through it and focus on reaching the next level. 

[In the Workplace] Can you think of a time that you’ve gotten promoted or newly hired and how excited you were but then you start to struggle or see the success of people around you and doubt yourself and wonder if you belong there, if it was a bad move, or what your exit strategy will be? I will tell you the same thing I tell myself over and over – you are there because you worked to get there. You belong there just like you’ll belong at the next level.

2 - Never give your opponent too much credit.

[On the Field] It is the pitchers and catchers’ responsibility to learn and know the scouting reports of the opposing team’s hitters. What their strengths and weaknesses are, tendencies, and latest trends - are they slumping or on a streak. From these reports, you can build a strategy on how to pitch each hitter based on game situations. As you can imagine, some reports are overly detailed, and you can easily cross the line from strategy to unnecessary trickery. I had a catcher give me simple, yet eye-opening advice on facing our opponents before a game. He said, “hitters are people and people make mistakes, they’re going to hit great pitches and miss bad pitches. Let’s respect their talent but make them earn the right to compete against you. Never give your opponent too much credit!”

 [In the Workplace] Sometimes I get too focused on what our competitors are doing, or I try to lay out the perfect strategy going into a cold call but if I am not careful, I end up over-strategizing and tricking myself out of a great opportunity. This “never” phrase helps me stay focused on my own strengths while still being aware of the scouting report of the competitors.

3 - Never throw a different pitch just because you can.

 [On the Field] One of the happiest days in my pitching career was when I learned how to throw a curveball but the most important day in my pitching career was learning WHEN to throw a curveball. I see young pitchers all the time that want to throw pitches just because they can, but they don’t understand the purpose behind it. If you’re having success with your fastball, then use it until the hitter shows you that you NEED to throw something else. 

 [In the Workplace] Whenever I am riding a wave of success or have a strategy that seems to be working, I make sure to ride it as long as possible before I completely change things up. It’s good to tweak things here and there along the way, but overall, the “pitch” is the same until I am shown that it needs to change.

4 - Never tell yourself the word DON’T while you’re trying to DO.

 [On the Field] I was once told that the human brain has a difficult time understanding the word don’t while physically trying to do something. A pitcher that has thrown 3 balls and no strikes may think, “don’t walk this hitter” or “don’t throw another ball.”  A hitter that has two strikes might think, “don’t strikeout”. In these scenarios, the players are physically trying to do something while telling themselves not to do something. The word don’t gets canceled out because the brain won’t recognize it so now the signal the pitcher’s brain hears is, “…. walk him” and “…. throw another ball” and the hitter hears, “…. strikeout.”  We’ve all done this before. Think of the last time you were sick to your stomach and nauseous, what were you telling yourself? Don’t throw up! What was your brain hearing?

 [In the Workplace] As I get ready for a big call or a meeting with leadership teams, my instincts are to tell myself don’t say this, don’t do that, don’t mess up, etc... but I have learned to turn don’t into do by focusing on what I am trying to accomplish rather than what I want to avoid.

5 - Never forget WHY you started the journey.

 [On the Field] They say you can’t plan a baseball career, you can only prepare for one. This is so very true. From the time that I was 5 years old watching MLB games on TV, I always wondered what the players did to get there and how I could do it. I never wondered if it was possible, the proof was on the TV right in front of me. So that was it, I was going to find a way to make it happen (that was my WHY). When you’re determined to reach a destination without a map, you take risks and find a way. Slowly those risks turn into opportunities that ultimately lead to your WHY.

[In the Workplace] Where I am now is not the goal but it’s necessary to get me there. I am not referring to my physical location or my position in a company. I am referring to my overall performance and the journey to improve. Every experience along the way, good or bad, prepares us for the next step. Keep moving forward in the direction you want to go and never forget WHY you started. 

If you’re interested in seeing how you can take your career to the next level at Extreme Networks, check out our careers page and become part of something Big with Extreme.

About the Author
Jimmy Serrano
Sports Partnership Manager

After graduating from the University of New Mexico, Jimmy he spent 10 years playing in the MLB and in the KBO. At Extreme, Jimmy is responsible for our sports and entertainment go-to-market strategies and building key marketing relationships.

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