Callaway, the pitching coach for Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Cleveland Indians, shared some of his philosophies on both subjects during the keynote address of the eighth annual Northeast Mississippi Community College First Pitch Banquet on Monday night in the Claude Wright Room of the Haney Union.
The 17-year veteran of professional baseball began his speech with a reminder to the Tigers about the close bonds that will form during their time at the collegiate level. Callaway used his relationship with Northeast assistant and former University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) teammate Richy Harrelson as an example.
“The guys that you meet on your college team and you spend all this time with, you’re going to remember them years and years down the road,” he said. “You’re just going to make friends for life. I’m fortunate enough to be Rich’s friend and we all keep in touch.”
Callaway, who was part of one of the biggest turnarounds of this past MLB season after Cleveland claimed an American League (AL) Wild Card playoff berth, encouraged the Tigers and other young athletes in the building to be gritty each opportunity they have to step onto the diamond.
“Grit is passion and perseverance over a long period of time,” Callaway said. “Talent doesn’t make you gritty. You can teach yourself to be better. Even if you fail ten times in a row, that eleventh time you might succeed.”
He then presented a slideshow to the approximately 200 people in attendance that was originally shown to the Indians during the 2013 spring training portion of the season.
It was based off the poem “Live Your Life” from Native American leader Chief Tecumseh. Callaway challenged the audience through Tecumseh’s words to live in a positive and beneficial manner every day.
“Think about what you do on a daily basis and go out there and do it the right way,” said Callaway. “Make sure that you’ve done things the right way so everybody can be proud of you.”
Callaway, a World Series champion as a pitcher with the Los Angeles Angels, also applied the poem in baseball terms to encourage the Tigers to give their best effort during each practice and game.
“Make sure that you do everything you can to succeed,” he said. “Whether you play one more game or 10,000 more games, you want to be able to walk away and say, ‘Hey, I did everything I could. I had a successful career and I’m happy with what I did.’
“You don’t ever want to have regrets in this game. Leave it all out there.”
Northeast head coach Kent Farris thought Callaway’s dialogue was perfect for his squad as the 2014 campaign edges closer to its start.
“I was very impressed with the message that Mickey gave and more importantly the passion with which it was delivered,” Farris said. “Hopefully our players realized that he was speaking to them specifically and giving them a very sound plan for success not only in baseball but for life in general.”
With the First Pitch Banquet under their belts, the Tigers now shift the attention to Monday, February 10 and the season opener against Jackson State (Tenn.) Community College. First pitch of the lid lifter is slated for noon at Harold T. White Field in Booneville.