Mudita: Alabama Baseball Players Find Joy in their Teammates’ Successes

After a solid 16-1 start to the season in 2020, the year was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Alabama was aimed to succeed with one of its best starts to a season in quite some time. However, the pandemic had other plans for the program, causing it to prematurely hang up its glove and stow away its bats despite a promising start.

In fall ball later that same year, the team regrouped to prepare for the 2021 season, but things were different. COVID restrictions forced different groups to work out at assigned times rather than as a whole team, and many players were forced to focus on bettering themselves individually at home rather than as a collective unit with their teammates.

One would think that with so much time spent isolated, the focus would shift to individualism rather than a collective effort. In short, it did at first. However, following the end of the 2021 season, the players’ perspectives had changed heading into fall practices ahead of the 2022 season.

“I think it really hit us last year whenever — with COVID and everything — every pitching group was different,” Guffey said. “Every lifting group was different. Like, you never even saw half the position players. Like, I didn’t know everybody’s name until almost three-quarters’ way through the fall of COVID year and I think that was pretty frustrating.

“I think coming up towards the end of the year it really started catching up to us, so I think a lot of the older guys on the team understood this year that we were gonna have to make a change and we were gonna have to really have to make an extra effort to bring this team together and make us tighter.”

That change? mudita.

While the team leadership knew that it was going to have to find a new focus for 2022, it couldn’t quite figure out exactly what kind of new approach it would need to take. In 2021, the program’s players had mainly been focused on their ownlves rather than the collective successes of the team, so that would be the starting point.

According to graduate transfer outfielder Tommy Seidl, it was actually Alabama softball coach Patrick Murphy that first introduced the players to the term ‘mudita.’

“I think coach Murphy from the softball team is the one that introduced the idea of ​​mudita to us,” Seidl said. “It definitely defines how we all feel about this team. We have so many guys that are going to contribute — it might not be every day but everybody is going to contribute — so we feed off of each other’s energy and each other’s success because we know when it becomes our turn, we’re going to do the exact same thing for them.”

“Mudita benefits our team because we play for something greater than ourselves when you’re playing for the team. One man’s success or failure doesn’t define our team’s success, so it’s easier to play more relaxed and compete harder when you know that you’re playing for something that’s bigger than yourself.”

Armed with the newfound approach, the term was introduced to the team, which began to see a renewed sense of dugout energy and support for the collective group. Instead of a group of individuals playing college baseball, the players had formed together into one cohesive unit that praised each other for their personal successes.

This season, the Crimson Tide has started the year 12-5 with one game against Southern Miss to go before hosting its first SEC weekend series against Florida. Obviously all players would have rather seen and undefeated 17-0 start to the season, but the shifting mindset has caused the players to be focused on the small successes rather than the entire season as a whole.

Another byproduct of the changing mindset has been a renewed focus on praising people’s performances, regardless of what the scoreboard reads.

“I think the difference between this year and years past is we are no longer playing to whatever the scoreboard says,” Jarvis said. “It doesn’t matter what the inning is or what the score is between both teams, we’re playing as hard as we can no matter what.”

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