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Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Travis Snider follows the Zen of Green

Diamond sutra: Thus he has read Shawn Green’s book.

During a difficult 2011 season that included two trips to the minors, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Travis Snider took up reading about Zen.

It started with a book by former Blue Jay outfielder Shawn Green, The Way of Baseball: Finding Stillness At 95 MPH in which he talks about how baseball taught him to be in the moment and how to find inner stillness.

“That kind of propelled me into a few other books,” said Snider, who is competing with Eric Thames for the starting job in left field. “I had read that book right before I got called up.

“I couldn’t put the book down and read it twice. It was not just an enjoyable read for me but I was able to relate to a lot of things.”

...“I don’t claim to be Buddhist or any particular religion from that sense,” he said. “But I definitely was able to take some things and put them in perspective . . . Our minds as competitors can get the best of us at times and (it’s a matter of) being able to take a step back and saying, “OK, I’ve done everything I can do to this point, just go out and play.’

“At times, it’s easier said than done but that focus that you are able to refine over the years of experience is what’s key for me moving forward in my career.”

Repoz Posted: March 06, 2012 at 05:19 AM | 14 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: blue jays, books

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   1. Enrico Pallazzo Posted: March 06, 2012 at 09:06 AM (#4074853)
This headline made me instinctively think that Snider was smoking cannabis as a meditative aid. I'll admit, I was hoping that was the case. Could cannabis be construed as a performance enhancer in that case?
   2. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 06, 2012 at 09:16 AM (#4074855)
I thought it was referring to money.
   3. Rants Mulliniks Posted: March 06, 2012 at 10:07 AM (#4074881)
I hadn't even heard of the book, but I'm surprised that a practicing Jew like Green would write about the benefits of Buddhism.
   4. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: March 06, 2012 at 11:00 AM (#4074910)
I hadn't even heard of the book, but I'm surprised that a practicing Jew like Green would write about the benefits of Buddhism.


Buddhism, at least in the various forms that have made their way to the West, is a very open religion, and really might be better described as a set of religious practices than as a set of religious beliefs. There are lots of very serious Christians who have taken a lot from Buddhism, people like Thomas Merton, and I'd be shocked if there weren't also prominent Jews who've investigated Buddhism in various ways. Judaism, like Christianity, has a long and influential history of mystical and esoteric practices (most famously Kabbalah), many of which have ideas in common with various forms of Buddhism. So a Buddhist Jew is unusual but not especially shocking.
   5. Matthew E Posted: March 06, 2012 at 11:38 AM (#4074939)
It's not a bad book at all. Green clearly wrote it because he had something to say. I'm not the least bit interested in Zen, but I liked it anyway.

It's interesting: on the one hand, Green says that the Zen helped him with his swing because of, I don't know, nothingness and mindlessness or whatever... but in lots of other places in the book he shows that he actually studied baseball pretty damn hard. He had a whole section on pitchers tipping their pitches; he had to be tremendously observant and diligent to take in all that information and make use of it.

Blue Jays fans will find that Carlos Delgado and Tony Fernandez come off particularly well in this book, and Cito Gaston doesn't. I've already read one guy's comment today, somewhere, that Snider and Green have a few parallels in their careers, and Gaston played a similar part for both of them.
   6. Greg K Posted: March 06, 2012 at 12:11 PM (#4074958)
I've never met the guy (and my opnion is based almost solely on his time in Toronto), so take it for what it's worth, but I can't imagine anyone not liking Carlos Delgado. Just seems like an all-round class act.

And Green's book sounds well worth a read too. There seems to be a tendency amongst Jays fans, particular of my age and younger, to glorify the early 90s teams and ignore the subsequent teams. Which makes sense. There's only so much devotion Jacob Brumfield can inspire. But I can see Shawn Green slowly being forgotten by Jays fans, which is a shame.
   7. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: March 06, 2012 at 12:39 PM (#4074983)
I haven't read the book, but zen -- or the ability to relax in the moment and not let your conscious mind interfere with your body -- is absolutely critical to any athletic success. IIRC, Lewis makes a similar point in Moneyball when comparing Beane and Dykstra as players.

   8. Bug Selig Posted: March 06, 2012 at 01:22 PM (#4075050)
Zen helped him with his swing because of, I don't know, nothingness and mindlessness or whatever... but in lots of other places in the book he shows that he actually studied baseball pretty damn hard.


That's not really contradictory. Zen isn't about not being observant or not mastering your craft through hard work. It is, as applies to sports, the skill of filtering out extraneous, non-helpful thoughts when it is time to perform.
   9. Enrico Pallazzo Posted: March 06, 2012 at 02:27 PM (#4075156)
I've heard it said several times before (and possibly in Moneyball? re: Dykstra/Beane segment) that the best hitters don't have a plan. They don't think about what they're doing. They just do it. You think Vlad Guerrero ever had a plan? I remember an interview with Carlos Pena (from a linked BTF article) where he spoke of his struggles to get out of his own head.
   10. Matthew E Posted: March 06, 2012 at 02:58 PM (#4075219)
That's not really contradictory. Zen isn't about not being observant or not mastering your craft through hard work. It is, as applies to sports, the skill of filtering out extraneous, non-helpful thoughts when it is time to perform.


No, I don't think it's contradictory either (I figure that thinking is what you do in practice and workouts and stuff, so that when it's time to do it for real, you know it so well that you don't need to think) but the way Green presents it in his book, there is quite a contrast there.
   11. zachtoma Posted: March 06, 2012 at 03:59 PM (#4075317)

Buddhism, at least in the various forms that have made their way to the West, is a very open religion, and really might be better described as a set of religious practices than as a set of religious beliefs. There are lots of very serious Christians who have taken a lot from Buddhism, people like Thomas Merton, and I'd be shocked if there weren't also prominent Jews who've investigated Buddhism in various ways. Judaism, like Christianity, has a long and influential history of mystical and esoteric practices (most famously Kabbalah), many of which have ideas in common with various forms of Buddhism. So a Buddhist Jew is unusual but not especially shocking.


Leonard Cohen, also a devout Jew, has spent years of his life at Buddhist monasteries.
   12. Jorge Luis Bourjos (Walewander) Posted: March 06, 2012 at 04:29 PM (#4075359)
Matthew, I've read half of the book and I don't read Green's discussion of his approach as contradictory. MindFULness - in many respects the opposite of mindlessness, allowed Green to fully focus on the task at hand. By being fully present instead of lost in thoughts, worries, and anticipation while at the dish, he was able to notice pitchers' tells and exploit them. Before he was too inside his own head to really notice. It also helped him maximise his off-field work, whether scouting pitchers, practicing his swing, etc, because he focused on each task in itself as opposed to just as a means to a desired result (the tale about "Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.")

BTW, the book is just wonderful. If you are interested in meditation and Buddhist practices (I assume you're interested in baseball or else you wouldn't be here, unless you just dig on arguing about libertarianism), it is a great exploration of how they can transform your daily life, full of concrete examples. Green's discussion of his application of dharma to hitting, the grind of baseball season, and life is fascinating and instructive.
   13. rlc Posted: March 06, 2012 at 08:29 PM (#4075540)
If you want to read more about Jews who want to integrate Buddhist ideas into their spiritual lives, try googling Juddhism/Juddhist.
   14. Walt Davis Posted: March 06, 2012 at 08:39 PM (#4075547)
Or Lisa Simpson -- Buddhist, vegetarian, Talmudic scholar.

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