Lessons from Baseball

As the 2016 baseball season gets underway, Kansas City is still basking in the after-glow of the Royals 2015 World Series victory. Waiting 30 years will do that to a community. We at Rosin Preservation were not immune from the fervor leading up to November 5. The accumulation of late nights definitely left our minds sleepy and made days at the office less productive. Over the winter, I have wondered what lessons we can take away from last year’s winning baseball season.

Persevere

Perhaps the most important takeaway from the 2015 Royals echoes Yogi Berra’s famous line, “it ain’t over til it’s over.” When the Royals were down by two runs at the top of the 8th inning in Game 5, their fans knew better than to head for bed before all was said and done. I will admit that my sleep-deprived self wished for a quick last inning-and-a-half that night. Once the Royals came back to tie the game, though, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. Sleep was not in the cards before the last pitch, which finally came in the 12th inning.

The same holds true for many preservation projects. An old building sits vacant. No one knows quite what to do with it. Some are inclined to write it off as a goner, clear the site, and move on. But perseverance is key to preservation. Historic buildings rarely come with a one-size-fits-all solution. Sometimes the answer is only found after considering multiple scenarios. After decades of vacancy, many in Kansas City had written off the Cosby Hotel as a goner, especially after it was declared a “dangerous building.” Fortunately, passionate individuals and civic leaders came together to find a viable solution to save the building. Today it is once again filled with vibrant businesses and a jewel in the downtown landscape.

The Power of Incremental Changes

In Royals-speak this is “keep the line moving.” Get yourself on base and let the next guy take his turn. The strategy is not based on home runs but rather on an accumulation of singles, doubles and walks. Moving players around the diamond one base at a time consistently led to victory and ultimately the World Series crown.

With buildings the lesson is inverted, although the premise remains the same. Over time, a series of small changes makes a big impact. First the building gets new siding; then new windows. A new furnace may replace radiators and add ductwork. Rooms are reconfigured and finishes are updated. Most big tax credit projects are home runs, the transformation happens in one fell swoop and under the guidance of preservation standards. By contrast renovations that use few, if any, incentives tend to be “small ball.” Only when we step back do we clearly see the loss of character brought on by these multiple small changes. The lesson here is to understand how the small detail will affect the bigger picture.

Now that the first pitch of 2016 has been thrown, we will sit back and enjoy the season as we root, root, root for our home team. Go Royals!

 

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