Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press On' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
- Calvin Coolidge
Todd Kincannon mentioned on Twitter that Mark Wohlers is the hardest throwing person on the planet. That and the opening of Spring Training put me in a mind to write about Steve Dalkowski, who most likely actually was the hardest throwing person on the planet.
How hard did he throw? Let me put it this way- the man is legendary in baseball circles for the speed of his fastball, despite the fact he never played in the majors. How many people become minor league legends? (I saw Minor League Legends open for Depeche Mode in '94.)
During the course of research to refresh my mind on the stories about Dalkowski, I decided against writing a full post about him, for the simple fact that the post I intended write was already done seven years ago by Steve Treder at The Hardball Times.
Looking again at the story of Steve Dalkowski does bring to mind a couple of questions though. Dalkowski had an amazing gift in his arm, but what came of it? Instead of the fortune and fame a gift like that could have garnered if properly focused, he has become a cautionary tale of what might have been. Perhaps some of his raw ability to throw a baseball was contravened with a possibly below average intellect, but even a desire to succeed resulted in working on his craft instead of relying solely on natural talent would have helped. Maybe if Dalkowski had been able to focus himself to the job of pitching not only when he was on the mound, but also when he was away from the field, we would be reading an entirely different baseball record book today.
Focus is one of the most difficult things to maintain, and there is really no Viagra type pill to keep up motivation. But successful people seem to have the common denominator of tenacious desire to succeed and the wherewithal to do whatever it takes to achieve it. This will to succeed can spill overshadow other aspects of life.
To stay with the sports theme, Michael Jordan is given remarkable natural ability to run, jump and shoot a basketball. So was Allen Iverson. Michael Jordan was known to be the first one at practice and the last to leave. Iverson is best known for whining that his coach expected him to work during practice. Which one do you think has 6 NBA Championships to his credit?
But it is not just on the playing field and practice court that success is created. You must actively avoid harming your chances at success. Treder's article shows how drinking ruined not just Dalkowski's career, but his entire life. Similarly, you see very few CEO's talking like Spicolli or Jay and Silent Bob (okay, just Jay. Silent Bob doesn't really talk much and doesn't sound like much of a stoner when he does.)
While this is a lesson best learned during the formative years of childhood, it is still better late than never. So, people, get it in gear, straighten up and fly right, and don't just dream, but set goals. Once goals are set, get to work. Achievement is a matter of sweat.