“I hate losing more than I even wanna win … and there’s a difference.” — Billy Beane from the movie “Moneyball.”
Hating to lose is not just the philosophy of the Oakland A’s general manager who was played by Brad Pitt in the blockbuster movie in 2011. It’s how Munster senior Taylor Michalski goes through every day of her life.
Just ask her.
“I don’t like losing,” she said simply.
“My dad (Tony) and I play card games — rummy, poker — and there’s no way he’s going to let me win. So I get it from him.”
She’s been trying to carry that attitude over to her Munster teammates for the last four years as a starter in the outfield.
An all-area selection last year after hitting .371 with 26 runs scored, 17 RBI and 10 doubles, Michalski said she hasn’t gotten off to the start she hoped for this season. Then again, she’s a perfectionist and nothing less than a base hit every plate appearance would be satisfactory.
“I haven’t been hitting the ball as much as I should,” she said. “I’m the leadoff hitter and it’s the job of the leadoff hitter to get on base, and I’m not doing my job.”
Take the Mustangs’ first game against Lake Central. Michalski did get on base twice in five plate appearances. That’s a .400 on-base-percentage, which makes players millions of dollars in Major League Baseball. But she probably focused on the two strikeouts, which are out of character.
What she’s starting to realize is that teams know how good she is and that they’re pitching around her.
“She’s the best all-around softball player we’ll see all season,” Lake Central coach Jeff Sherman said after that game, a 5-4 Indians’ victory in extra innings.
High praise from a team that plays in the tough Duneland Conference.
Michalski prefers not to think about how other teams approach her at the plate.
“I try to let all of that stuff go,” she said, while waving her hand over the top of her head symbolically.
Munster coach Beth Thornburg isn’t worried about the numbers Michalski is producing. Her work ethic and leadership more than make up for any struggles due to opposing teams pitching around her.
“What sets her apart from most is her mental approach to let bad things go and look ahead,” Thornburg said. “No one’s going to out-work her and she’s ultra competitive. And as a two-year captain, she’s able to be positive with kids on the field this season. It comes natural to her. She says things to players when it needs to be said.”
Michalski’s leadership with younger teammates so far this season might lead to a secondary career when she’s done playing softball at Boston College in a few years — motivational speaker.
“When we have our talks, I focus on fun,” she said. “We’re all here for a reason. When the pitcher gets down, I just tell her it’s just a game and she’s obviously good enough to be here on varsity.”
One of those talks after practice on Monday worked, leading to a conference win over Andrean after a tough first week of the season for the Mustangs.
As for her own perceived struggles at the plate, she’s putting in more work in her own brain as a student of the game.
“I’ve seen most of the pitchers and I have an idea how they’ve pitched me in the past,” she said. “I also watch them during warm-ups to see how they’re throwing and my dad remembers where they’ve pitched me, too.”
She’s going to work hard to do her job as the leadoff hitter, but it’s not about the numbers for Michalski this season. It’s all about not losing.
“I love winning … ya know what I’m saying? It’s like better than losing.” — Nuke LaLoosh, from the movie “Bull Durham”