Lefebvre: Enjoy the game

Jim Lefebvre was named the 1965 National League Rookie of the Year. His baseball resume includes coaching the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Giants, Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners, among many other accomplishments. When it comes to advice, the 70-year-old baseball guru has this to give: Have fun.

“The big thing is … you gotta have fun playing the game of baseball,” Lefebvre said in an interview with the North Kitsap Herald. “That’s exactly what the game is all about.”

Lefebvre is the guest speaker at the 13-year-old Babe Ruth League World Series Banquet of Champions Aug. 14. He will also held a clinic for all Kitsap area coaches.

The tournament begins Aug. 15 at the Kitsap Fairgrounds. The opening ceremony is at 6 p.m. following the first three games.

Lefebvre was not involved with youth baseball leagues when he was younger. However, he and his brothers were annual counselors at his father Ben’s baseball camp on Catalina Island when he was younger.

During the 12 years he spent at the annual camp, Lefebvre and the rest of the campers would play baseball all day. Life at camp was chores, helping campers, playing ball. Every summer.

The camp was where Lefebvre learned to become successful at anything, you must enjoy it. You must have a passion for it.

“If you don’t enjoy it, it’s not worth it,” he said.

Even as a manager of the Mariners (starting 1988) and Cubs, Lefebvre said bottom line, the game must be enjoyed.

“You want to have a good game plan,” he said. “Get people focused and get out there and play.

“If you don’t like the way you play, do something about it, but enjoy the game.”

It takes more than enjoyment, however, to win.

Teamwork on every level is required. If a team has a good pitcher, it needs a good catcher, Lefebvre said. Each player needs to know the other players are reliable. If a mistake is made, someone will be there as support. No single person can do it all, he said. Everyone is accountable.

Lefebvre learned about supporting each other on a team early on in his baseball career.

During his rookie year with the Dodgers in 1965, following a loss and poor performance at the plate, Lefebvre said he got an inspirational talk from Sandy Koufax.

Koufax, the left-handed pitcher and youngest player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, told Lefebvre everyone has his or her off days. Some days go your way, others don’t. But a poor day can’t affect your attitude. The next day, Lefebvre hit his first home run. Lefebvre finished his rookie year with the Dodgers hitting .250 with 12 home runs and 69 RBIs.

Though his priority was keynote speaker and clinic instructor, Lefebvre’s World Series plans to stick around for the series and watch the game he loves.

“It’s a great story — for America,” Lefebvre said of the world series coming to Kitsap. “A local town … hosting a Babe Ruth World Series … That’s the way it used to be, and should be.

“It’s fantastic,” he said. “Baseball is us.”


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