How to Innovate: Hit ‘Em Where They Ain’t

by Bob Schwartz

Willie Keeler

Here’s a bit of advice on innovation from baseball great Willie Keeler, who played in the majors from 1892 to 1910.

Batters usually hit to the field on the side of the plate they bat from. Right-handed batters stand on the left side of the plate and usually hit to left field. This is known as pull hitting. Some batters can time their swing so that they can hit to the opposite field—that is, right handers to right field—and this is appropriately known as hitting to the opposite field. In either case, when fielders know the tendency of the batter, they can be positioned to best catch the ball.

The greatest batters can hit the ball wherever they want, leaving fielders having to guess and work for every out, and leaving those hitters with awesome statistics.

Keeler was one of those greats. He was called “Wee Willie” because he was only 5’4-1/2” tall and weighed 140 pounds. That did not stop him from compiling a .341 career batting average (14th all time), hitting over .300 16 times in 19 seasons, and hitting over .400 once. If you’re not a baseball person, just trust that this is really good.

How did he do it?

He advised keeping the ball away from opposing fielders. “Keep your eye clear, and hit ’em where they ain’t.”

So if you are starting or renewing a business, starting or renewing a career, no matter how “wee” you think you are, take it from someone who knew. Hit ‘em where they ain’t.