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Baseball, SAP Mentors and Projects

The fall classic

Some of you on SCN may be aware that a certain sporting event was recently completed at the end of October.  This event known as the Major League Baseball World Series 2011 involved two teams the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals.  Now I understand you are confused how a “World Series” could be played between two teams in the USA, so going forward I will use it’s other name the “Fall Classic” instead. 

Baseball on SCN huh?

You are probably wondering why a blog about baseball is being written on SCN.  Well this isn’t the first related baseball blog(SAP had a ExperienceSAP and Major League Baseball involving What Baseball and Business Intelligence have in Common), but I think there is a lot to learn from this year’s fall classic and examine some interesting ties back to SCN.

The SAP Mentor Connection

As you may or may not know I happen to be a SAP Mentor.  All the SAP Mentors have those wonderful shirts that have a number on the back.  When I choose my shirt number I picked 29 after one of my favorite baseball players, Chris Carpenter a starting pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals.  During this season Carpenter or Carp as we call him in STL was the ace of the staff and has been ace in previous years.  He has also won a CY Young which is given to the best pitcher in the each baseball league every year. 

The fall classic story

I’m from St. Louis so there is going to be some bias here, but I will try to be fair to all parties involved.  At the end of August 2011, the STL Cardinals were 11 games out of the playoffs.  Most of the fanbase including myself had written off this team.  The interesting part however is that team did not quit yet.  One of the stories that comes up is that Carp called a players only meeting to try to get the team to rally back and see if they could somehow make the playoffs.

Playing like today is the last game

For the next month of September the Cardinals went out and played like each game was the last game of the season.  During this timeframe they were helped out by other teams not meeting expectations.  They also were helped out by a key decision by the Phillies(the best team during the regular season) to play to win their final season set of three games instead of just resting during those games and phoning it in.  On the last day of the season Carp pitched his best game all year a complete game against Houston and with that win and the Phillies win against Atlanta, the Cardinals magically advanced to the postseason. 

Wild Cards vs “The Team” – Division Series

The Phillies IMHO were one of the best teams in baseball that has been seen in several years.  Great pitching and offense, with starting rotation and lineup that would punish you in every inning.  Most analysts expected the Cardinals to fold against the Phillies.  Then something happened and the Cardinals led by their ace managed to do the impossible again and beat the Phillies.  The lesson learned here for all of us is just because analyst commentary says you can’t win, the game must be played first.  In our projects when we are faced with challenges that seem next to impossible, we must remember that sometimes our team working at best performance can overcome the impossible.

National League Championship Series

The next stop was a series against Milwaukee Brewers.  This was against a team that Cardinals could not take the division lead from and win the division in the regular season.  In order to win the Series the key was to win games where Milwaukee was the visiting the team.  Once again knowing the strengths and weaknesses of what you are up against and playing to your personal best is the key to success.  When faced with a technical challenge on project we must look beyond what is impossible, but rather what can we do.

Word Series/Fall Classic

The final stop was the fall classic.  After accomplishing what seemed to be impossible in the previous two rounds, the Cardinals met the strongest opponent the Texas Rangers.  The Cardinals took an early lead in the series, but then falter in the next few games ending up trailing 3-2 after five games and on the brink of elimination in game 6.  Game 6 started out as one of the worst games played by both teams.  Pitching was not so great and the defense made several key mistakes.  The Rangers went up with the lead by 2 runs going into the final inning of the game.  In the bottom of the 9th(the final portion of regulation in baseball) the Cardinals were down to their single last chance to score(in fact their last strike) and David Frese would come up big and tie up the game.  The game went into extra innings(baseball equivalent of overtime) and once again the Cardinals faced near elimination, but came back.  Finally in 11th inning David Freese hit the game winning “walk-off” homerun that sent the series to the final game 7.  The lesson learned here is never consider something finished until it is truly completed.  In our projects no matter how smooth testing can be, we can’t say we are sucessful until go live occurs and the system is live.

Game 7 was a blessing because due to rain in St. Louis the games were postponed by a day.  This meant that Carp would pitch on “short rest” and give the Cards a final chance to win.  It turns out that Carp once again was “on fire” and so was the cards offense.  Carp pitched into the 7th inning and showed once again why he was the staff ace.  The Cardinals went on to win the series and celebrations started in St. Louis.  Even in my neighborhood fireworks could be heard celebrating the win.  We must in our project be not afraid to use and have those key resources to lead us to success.  We also must be willing once we achieve our success to celebrate and share that with our members of our team.

SAP Mentors, SCN and a baseball team

The SAP Mentors are like a baseball team composed of several individauls with unique but similar talents.  Each member of the team has a different position that depends on both personal accomplishment and team involvement.  We gather under a common “skipper” Mark Finnern who provides a general framework for the team to achieve goals and evil plans to improve, and influence the SAP EcoSystem in general.  SCN is one of many “ballparks” in the SAP ecosystem where the SAP Mentors can be found doing what they do best.  The best part of the SAP Mentors is that engaging with them is matter of joining the “conversation” and doesn’t require the ability to throw lefthand 95 mile per hour fastball(although if you can, I’d be happy to become your agent). 

Just wait till next season

The beauty of pro sports including baseball is that every team starts out “perfect” each year.  Even though the Cardinals won this year, there are no guarantees that next year will have the same or similar outcome.  We get the chance to enjoy the fact our team won, but in February for baseball the process starts over again.  For our projects we also need to remember that repeatability is not guranteed. 

Still not a fan, well I understand

I understand that you may still not be a fan of baseball or the cardinals or sports in general by the end of this blog.  Hopefully though you can appreciate the accomplishments of team that was considered to have no chance to win anything, but instead achieved their ultimate goal.  For my friends who love history, I recommend watching the documentaries by Kens Burns on Baseball as a better way to understand the impact of the sport in the society of the United States.  I also promise no more blogs on baseball on SCN until the next time the Cardinals win another World Series :). 

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  • Stephen,

    I read your blog with great interest, as this did not involve routine SAP CRM lingo (Transaction, ABAP, Web UI, Enhancement Pack etc etc..).

    It was really interesting to corelate SAP Mentors Team/Projects with Baseball. Sports have impacted society in general, it's important to learn lessons from the playground and bring an ethos of sportmanship in the Team/Project.

    I will look forward to next World Series as well, although my knowledge of baseball is very limited because in our part of the world Cricket (Read Sachin Tendulkar) rules all sports:)

    Harshit Kumar

    • Harshit,

      Fully understood about World Cricket capturing the full interest.  I have worked with avid Cricket fans and even we even tried to educate the other person about their favorite sport.  Even though the rules are quite different, we found a lot of similarities in our passion for following a particular sport.

      I think that team sports in general offer many lessons for those us who watch, follow, and even attempt to play them at a recreational level.

      On another note there is a particular industry analyst for CRM who is a die hard Yankees fan.  He even wrote a few books on CRM that I have recommended in the past.  There is definitely room to merge both interests.

      Take care,