Volume 80 | Issue 6
November 2012

Play Ball

Dave Barnes

To know me well is to know of my deep passion for the game of baseball. For as long as I can remember, baseball has been my sport and pastime of choice. In fact, many would say “obsession” is a better description. If being a part of multiple fantasy baseball leagues, owning more than 30 baseball bobbleheads, and being a partial season ticket holder for a team more than 500 miles away qualifies me as obsessed, then I definitely am.

Every part and nuance of the game, the history, the sights, smells, and age-old traditions lure me. And yet, to many, the game is boring, slow, dated, and hard to follow. I obviously find that assessment difficult to accept. In a typical game there is so much going on each minute—constant shifts in strategy, approach, and intention. Yet, while all this is unfolding right in front of us, we are Barnesunaware of the small, crucial decisions shaping the game. We notice the majestic home runs or the stolen bases, but what we don’t see is that the pitcher chose to throw the wrong pitch in the wrong place or that if the shortstop had been placed two steps to his right before the pitch was lobbed, he would have thrown out the batter instead of just missing the ground ball.

It has struck me recently that there are parallels to this “game within a game” in other parts of my life. This summer I had the special treat to watch my beloved Detroit Tigers in the company of some dear friends from ACUI. As I made the long drive back to Virginia and reflected on my duties as president, I realized that the behind-the-scenes strategies of Association governance and the intricacies of a baseball game have many similarities.

Some strategic decisions by a baseball club or a board of trustees are big and evident so everyone understands the anticipated impact. When the board responds to pleas of the regional directors that the time has come to review our regional structure to determine how to best meet members’ needs, it is not unlike a baseball team making a blockbuster trade in the middle of the season to give their team the best chance to win the most games possible.

But often, strategic moves are much more subtle. Recently, the Board of Trustees made a special appointment to the board to take a focused look at the executive director transition and search in the coming years. In addition, acting on the conversation about ACUI’s research agenda, the board created a task force to examine and make recommendations on the Association’s role in leading research. These quiet yet key strategic decisions to appoint a person here or create a task force there will go a long way toward determining the future of this association. Yet such moves are not as readily apparent to the membership.

In the same way the non-obsessed might not realize that hitting the cut-off man correctly can save a run, it’s OK if you don’t notice ACUI’s more modest initiatives. That’s my job. As your president, I help ensure we do what’s necessary to eventually get the big wins. Our success comes not only from laying out our game plan every five years but also in making strategic adjustments between each inning, before each at-bat, by each pitch. And just as some watch Baseball Tonight on ESPN to see the highlights of the pennant races during the season, I hope you will read this column and others in The Bulletin, The Commons on the ACUI website, and your regional websites and newsletters to keep up with these small yet vital decisions of your Association leadership as we work to serve you.