When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”  – Yogi Berra

New York Yankees #8 Yogi Berra Jersey T-shirt

Yogi Berra (the nickname of “Yogi” is not be be ignored here) supposedly gave this Zen-like advice to a young second baseman being sent down to the minors after popping out too many times with the Yankees.

It caused the young man to stop and study the wall of the Yankee dugout for over an hour.

This “koan” has meaning for the rest of us. Even if we don’t get sent down to the minors, we will reach many forks in the road. And we will have to take them.

As we approach the start of another baseball season and enter a new spring, we need to reexamine the wisdom of the Yogi.

You can’t deny the koan quality of  some of Yogi Berra’s sayings. Is it a coincidence that Lawrence Peter Berra (born May 12, 1925) is better known as “Yogi?” A Yogi is a practitioner of Yoga and refers to ascetic practitioners of meditation in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.

Yogi in a classic pose of meditation

Yogi in a classic meditation pose

When Yogi asks us “How can you think and hit at the same time?” and we meditate on that koan, we are brought to the realization that he is right. How can you? You can’t. You need to be totally into the moment to hit. Any thought occurred before that moment. You can over think hitting.

And so, Yogi continues: “I never blame myself when I’m not hitting. I just blame the bat and if it keeps up, I change bats. After all, if I know it isn’t my fault that I’m not hitting, how can I get mad at myself?” A lesson in self-forgiveness, for sure. Sometimes you need to change bats.

In the book, When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It!: Inspiration and Wisdom From One of Baseball’s Greatest Heroes, we get a good number of modern koans to study.

“Baseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical” is Yogi’s take on the mind-body connection.

“If you ask me anything I don’t know, I’m not going to answer” is a much more refreshing and honest philosophy than that of those people who answer even when they don’t know.

Let us sit in the grass of the outfield, listen for the crack of the bat and study his koans.

When You Come to a Fork in the Road, Take It!: Inspiration and Wisdom From One of Baseball's Greatest Heroes