Ralph R. Zobell | Posted: 8 Nov 2012 | Updated: 8 Nov 2020

Military books on Veterans motivate baseball players

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Two required reading books have been added to the academic regimen of textbooks for BYU’s baseball team.

The books "Unbroken" and "Lone Survivor" are part of a team unity exercise by new coach Mike Littlewood and his staff.

“My main reasons for having the players read these two books are to understand the incredible teamwork, perseverance, dedication, commitment, hardship, and trials those guys went through and endured,” Littlewood said. “Marcus Luttrell would have given his life for members of his team and to a lesser degree I'm asking our players to do the same.”

For junior BYU pitcher Desmond Poulson, who read Lutrell’s "Lone Survivor" in a 14-hour period during last season’s road trip to Pepperdine, that book provided insight into his father’s Army background. Poulsen’s father was away serving in Desert Storm when “Des” was born, so his mother named him after that operation.

To other BYU baseball players, that book gives insight into a former teammate Dan Vargas (shortstop 2006-09), who is currently serving as a SEAL.

Assistant BYU baseball coach Brent Haring has re-read "Lone Survivor" for the past several years each Christmas break and plans on doing so again next month.

For junior BYU pitcher Marc Oslund, the book "Unbroken" gives him new insight into why a high school football stadium in his hometown of Torrance, Calif., is named after Louis Zamperini, a 1936 Olympian. Oslund, who was recruited as a college quarterback, played twice in Zamperini Stadium and recently took a photo of it after reading the book.

As the BYU baseball team reads these books, they are randomly called upon to share what they have learned with their teammates. Some of those phrases might include:

“Louie was more concerned about sanity than he was about sustenance. He kept thinking of a college physiology class he had taken, in which the instructor had taught them to think of the mind as a muscle that would atrophy if left idle. Louie was determined that no matter what happened to their bodies, their minds would stay under their control.” "Unbroken," p . 145.

“This self-respect sustained them even as all else had been lost: dignity. This self-respect and sense of self-worth, the innermost armament of the soul, lies at the heart of humanness; to be deprived of it is to be dehumanized, to be cleared from, and cast below, mankind. Men subjected to dehumanizing treatment experience profound wretchedness and loneliness and find that home is almost impossible to retain. Without dignity, identity is erased. In its absence, men are defined not by themselves, but by their captors and the circumstances in which they are forced to live…Dignity is essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship can hold a man’s soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it.” "Unbroken," pp. 182-83.

“They taught us to be sharp, self-reliant, and above all, to make key decisions on which our lives and those of our shipmates might depend. That word: teamwork.” "Lone Survivor," p. 89.

“...The real battle is won in the mind. It's won by guys who understand their areas of weakness, who sit and think about it, plotting and planning to improve. Attending to the detail. Work on their weaknesses and overcome them. Because they can.

“Your reputation is built right here in first phase. And you don't want people to think you're a guy who does just enough to scrape through. You want people to understand you always try to excel, to be better, to be completely reliable, always giving it your best shot. … There's only one guy here in this room who knows whether you're going to make it, or fail. And that's you. Go to it, gentlemen. And always give it everything.” "Lone Survivor," p. 140-141.

Of the former Olympian Louis Zamperini it is written on the World War II Registry: “His was an unbelievable 47-day survival in a rubber raft after his plane was shot down; the brutal torture, medical experimentation and forced labor he endured at the hands of his Japanese captors. He entered the Army Air Corps and became a bombardier in a B-24 squadron. On May 27, 1943, during a search and rescue mission, his plane crashed into the Pacific, leaving him and two other survivors in a life raft; 47 days later, after one of the three had died, he and his pilot washed ashore on Wotje Atoll and were quickly scooped up by a Japanese patrol. Then followed more than two years of hell. After narrowly averting being executed, he wound up in prison camps in Japan itself, where his captors unsuccessfully tried to recruit him to broadcast propaganda for them.”

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