“Humble and kind.’’
I text or say those words to my 17-year-old son at least a few times a week. We both like country music, and the title and refrain of the sappy Tim McGraw song are a simple reminder to keep his ego in check whether he’s talking about grades, material things or a compliment from a boss, coach or teacher.
Over the past several months, I’ve found a new, unexpected source of parenting inspiration in this effort: the surging Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Phoenix baseball team’s unexpected run to the MLB playoffs has me glued to the TV most game days, staying with it through the post-game interviews with players and first-year manager Torey Lovullo.
What has struck me the most in those interviews is the humility of the superstar athletes, whom Lovullo has repeatedly said consider themselves a family.
More than a few times after watching a big win or record-setting performance, I’ve commented to my son on how the player in the spotlight wasn’t gloating or taking all — if any — of the credit. Most bring up other teammates’ roles.
Their parents must be beyond proud of how they conduct themselves publicly.
Nowhere was the selflessness more on display than on Labor Day, after the Dbacks’ 13-0 drubbing of the league-leading Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium.
Outfielder J.D. Martinez hit four home runs, a feat more rare than a perfect game and one that has happened just 18 times in Major League Baseball history.
In a clubhouse interview, Martinez shrugged when asked how he did it.
“I don’t know how to explain it,’’ he said.
“It’s one of those things where, you know, you work real hard just trying to find that perfect swing and find one of those days where everything just kind of lines up. And today I felt like was one of those days.’’
Asked about another record related to his four homers, he paused for a second and called it “cool.’’
“I don’t really pay any attention to that,’’ he said.
In a Fox Sports interview right after the game, Martinez praised his teammates when asked about all the homers he has hit since being acquired from the Detroit Tigers in mid-July.
“I’ve got to give them all the credit because they the ones that are really supporting me and really pushing me,’’ he said.
There was no showboating on social media either, even though the four homers were the talk of the night on sports websites and social media.
The only mention of Martinez’s historic night on his Instagram account, where he has 136,000 followers: the reposting of an MLB video of the four homers. The caption: “What just happened’’ followed by three praying hands emojis and a few hashtags including #sothankful.
There was no grandstanding by the other Labor Day star for the Diamondbacks, starting pitcher Robbie Ray, either. Ray had a perfect game through five innings and ended up striking out 14 batters.
The 14 strikeouts put him in record territory: the first pitcher in MLB history to strike out 10 or more in four games against the Dodgers in a single season.
Ray summed up his performance in mechanical terms.
“Not falling into hitter’s counts is important against this lineup because they can do damage, especially when they’re ahead and they get something in the zone,’’ he said. “So I was able to get ahead of guys and take advantage of that.’’
Fellow pitcher Zack Godley was equally nonplussed just days earlier when discussing his role in the Diamondbacks 10th consecutive win, saying in a television interview that he “just tried to make pitches and get guys out.’’
I asked longtime azcentral baseball writer Nick Piecoro if the players’ humility is genuine or the result of top-notch media training.
“It’s not media training,’’ he said. “They are good guys. They also legitimately understand how long and humbling the baseball season can be and know that even if things are going good now it can change in a hurry.’’
So next time the Diamondbacks are on TV, don’t shut it off when the game ends if your kids are around, especially if they play sports. Stick around for the interviews (or look for Dbacks videos on azcentral.com.) J.D. Martinez, Paul Goldschmidt & Co. can teach them about more than baseball.