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October 11, 2012

Hall of Famer visits area schools to inspire students

ONEONTA — According to Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg, being successful on or off the field is not about taking shortcuts.

“You have to put in the time,” he told students at Oneonta High School on Friday afternoon.

He went on to say performance enhancing drugs should not be a part of sports — not only because using them is against the rules, but because it is illegal.

Sandberg, born in Spokane, Wash., visited Oneonta High and Richfield Springs Central schools as part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s fifth annual salute to Character and Courage. His visit was also in conjunction with the museum’s nationwide launch of its “Be A Superior Example” program.

“BASE” promotes the benefits of four foundations — fitness, nutrition, character and fair play — to represent each of the four bases on the diamond. The program also educates students and adults about the dangers of performance-enhancing substances.

Oneonta athletic director Joe Hughes said he felt having Sandberg speak at the school was a great opportunity for the students and athletes to hear some advice and words of wisdom from a Hall of Famer.

“His message is good and could be true in all fields, not just baseball,” Hughes said. “These are valuable lessons that need to be out there.”

The 282-career-home-run-hitter admitted he used to be scared to take tests. He said he would study extra hard to get a good grade.

“The same applies on the field. You always need to prepare extra hard,” he said.

Sandberg had a 16-year Major League career that resulted in 10 All-Star Game selections, nine Gold Glove Awards and the 1984 National League Most Valuable Player Award. He said he never imagined he would become a Hall of Famer. Maybe a veterinarian or something connected with English since he was good at that, he said.

“I remember being in your guys’ seats, not knowing what I wanted to do with my life and wondering how school and my classes would impact me down the road. I just always tried to do the best I could in school so I could go to college. And college and my athletic skills opened doors for me,” Sandberg said.

Sandberg was a star high-school quarterback. In 1977, he was named to “Parade Magazine’s” High School All-America football team, identifying him as one of the top two football players in the state of Washington. He was recruited to play quarterback at NCAA Division I colleges, and eventually signed a letter of intent with Washington State University. He rescinded the letter after being drafted in the 20th round of the 1978 baseball amateur draft by the Philadelphia Phillies.

Sandberg said he always put in his best efforts because he wanted to be prepared no matter what happened. He said his biggest fear was failure, and it continues to be, even today, as a manager.

There was a time in life, he said, when the only goal he set for himself was to spend one day in a Major League uniform. That turned into playing for a week and then to managing in the big leagues once he retired from the game.

That dream came true for Sandberg last week when he was named as the Phillies’ third base coach.

Sandberg said he set a goal, did the research on what he needed to do to accomplish that goal and spent six years climbing the steps to where he wanted to be. He spent time managing single A ball, AA ball and the last two years with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs of the Phillies organization.

According to Sandberg, the game of baseball teaches “patience” and the ability to “hang in there” when things get tough.

“If you get three out of 10 hits that is exceptional,” he said.

Sandberg said he started his rookie year out at 0-31.

“It was not looking good, but I kept with it and things started feeling more natural to me. Everything started to click once I got the nerves of being in the big leagues out of my system,” he said.  

Having a fitness plan and eating right also played a big role in Sandberg’s success on the field, he said.

“What we put into our bodies is basically who we become,” he said.

Sandberg encouraged the students to set some sort of fitness plan for themselves as well as being disciplined about the consumption of food no matter what career path they chose because he said it will make them feel better about themselves. He also encouraged them to treat others how they would like to be treated.

“I think being respectful goes a long ways, and not only does it go a long ways, but it can take you a long way,” he said.

Last Thursday, Sandberg participated in the launch of a permanent online registry the Hall of Fame initiated to encourage participants of all ages to pledge to lead a life of healthy choices, free of performance-enhancing substances. He also shared his stories of sportsmanship and integrity through Hall of Fame programs during the weekend.

 

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