by John Mitchell, AATC Executive Director

Remember the last time an article compelled a second read … then a third … and then you passed it on? Me too – not very often.

Recently saw a heart-warming story in The Athletic Dallasby talented sports writer Levi Weaver that caught my attention. If you saw it, you’ll remember. The story was about long-time Milwaukee Brewers, now Texas Rangers pitcher Tim Dillard. It’s a story that makes you want to spend time with the guy – not because he’s a major league baseball star. You’ll want to hang out with Tim Dillard because his attitude about life is inspiring. This is a guy you’ll want your kids and grandkids to embrace as a roll model.

Without reprinting the entire story, here’s the abbreviated back-story used as a set-up. Levi shares that Tim Dillard was a “pistol” growing-up; that rambunctious kid sometimes headed down life’s road less traveled.

Like most of us, the grown-up version isn’t the same as the more experienced one today. At one point Tim’s mom apparently launched into a reprimand of her son for making too many videos about blowing-things-up. “So, he called me into his room to see this video he had made about Mary Poppins,” says Jane Dillard. “I watched the most popular nanny in the world opening her umbrella, soaring into the sky… and then here comes a helicopter that shoots her down!”

Since then, it’s safe to say the kid has changed. “He’s the best person in the room,” says Texas Rangers manager Chris Woodward.

As the story goes, it seems Woodward recently texted his players asking for their top three definitions of the word, champion. “The version Tim provided was mind-blowing,” said Woodward. “He truly cares about every single person on the team – a definition with an impact far beyond anything he’ll ever do with his right arm.”

Athletic author Weaver pressed Dillard to share his answer and he acquiesced. Here’s the part you’ll want to read a second time, then a third, and then hit forward … Dillard said, “I’ll express to you what I share with my own children because we only teach our kids the philosophies that we ourselves believe and reinforce.

I tell my kids to be a champion for others. Help them, serve them – that’s character. I’m not the best baseball player who’s ever lived and I can’t play forever … so what really matters in this life?

When I’m done playing this game and I’m tired and broken and super poor. I’ll still be filled with joy; not because of any pride or ‘success’ I may have garnered on the field, but rather the joy that came from fighting for my teammates, for following the rules and for learning that a champion is not about the person on the highest podium. It’s not about the guy on the field hitting the most home runs or striking out the most hitters. It’s the person who decided NOT to be a bare-minimum person, a bare-minimum teammate spreading the disease of negativity. That’s easy, that’s lazy – anyone can do that.

It takes a true champion to cultivate relationships, invest in people’s lives, pay close attention and look for those crucial intimate moments to build each other up. The greatest moment in a player’s life is that moment when they realize it’s not all about them. Selfishness produces disunity while selfLESSness produces UNITY!

The wonderful side effect of loving and caring for teammates more than yourself is that all the anxiety and all the pressures of this life and this game fade away and all that’s left is a baseball player who is truly free! Free to fail, free to succeed, free to be present in the moment with the people they’re with.

A champion is a person who defeats themselves in the loving pursuit of others.”