Darrel Chaney spent 11 seasons in the major leagues with the Reds and Braves. After his playing days, he worked in real-estate, sales, and broadcasting. But perhaps his most-rewarding work has been as a motivational speaker, because he came to realize that he could impact the lives of others. His book, Welcome to the Big Leagues: Every Man’s Journey to Significance (coauthored with Dan Hettinger and available at DarrelChaney.com) combines baseball and faith-based themes to build self-awareness and self-worth.
Sometimes an interview will take an unexpected turn. In talking to Darrel about his career, and his own life journey, I realized that a fun conversation about baseball had suddenly shifted gears – as had Darrel, when he realized what a difference he could make in others’ lives.
And I knew it deserved its own story.
He is committed and dedicated to helping others. I hope you enjoy reading about it.
You’re most at peace when you know you are having a significant impact on other people’s lives — that your life is mattering to someone. That’s when you have inner peace. – Darrel Chaney
You got your start in public speaking with Gordy Coleman and the Reds Speakers Bureau.
Actually, my first speech was in 1969, when my hometown [Hammond, Indiana] had Darrel Chaney Day at Wrigley Field. I made a speech that night.
Both clubs I played for [the Reds and the Braves], I did speaking in the offseason. And I got to where I was comfortable doing it.
Accentuating the positive was always important to you, even at the beginning.
In all of my talks, when I got to a motivational point that I wanted to make, it was giving people encouragement. I never thought much about it – about what I was saying. And that it could have an impact on someone in the audience, or maybe all of the audience. And I look back all the speeches I made in those days, and the opportunities I missed to have an impact.
But when you wrote your book, you became aware that your words did, indeed, have value.
When we were collaborating on the book, Dan Hettinger really brought to light and made me understand that I was making an impact on someone’s life through my words — whether I was talking about myself or one of my teammates, or a business situation.
And this “journey to significance” is a daily thing.
When the book came out, I not only had a pretty successful baseball career under my belt, but also a pretty successful business career in sales. I was hired and fired a number of times throughout baseball and my business career, and I came to realize that we have an opportunity as individuals every day to have an impact on someone’s life. Even a simple yes or no can have a lasting impact – even an eternal impact.
The book has added a dimension to your speeches, too.
Most of my speeches since the book came out – even the motivational parts — all pertain to some chapter in the book; one of the stories. I go into my speech thinking, ‘OK, you have a chance to make something happen here. You can have an impact.’ I’m talking about a significant impact – something that may bring someone closer to Christ. Someone who doesn’t think their life matters, and by me speaking and giving them encouragement, maybe they can know and understand that their life matters, no matter what kind of situation they are in.
That’s been my whole focus, and it’s worked really well for me.
The book isn’t a #1 bestseller, but let me tell you, it has had an impact on a lot of lives.
The whole bottom line is to make people realize that they are significant. — Darrel Chaney
That has to be rewarding to you – to know that you have made such a difference.
It is. Now I don’t have to guess if I have had an impact; I have people come up to me all the time and say, ‘I want to buy your book, because my son needs to hear that.’
You recently had an especially dramatic example of your impact.
I had a woman come up to me, and she was crying. She said, ‘that’s the most meaningful speech I’ve ever heard. I lost my husband about a year ago, and I have a 26-year-old son who has had a real hard time with that. He doesn’t think his life matters.’ I gave her a book and said, ‘you have him read this.’
That’s when you know you’ve got something cooking!
It must make you feel like you have such a purpose in your own life.
Yes. I’ve always made light of my own career. Sometimes you have to; self-degradation, I guess you could say. But the book and the baseball career and the spiritual connotations of the book – the whole bottom line is to make people realize that they are significant, and they have a chance each day to make a significant impact on someone’s life – and because of that, their life matters, and it matters a lot — and a lot of times, it will matter eternally.
When Dan wanted to write the book, he wanted to write about my life in baseball and his life in the church, but he said, ‘I need your name and life in baseball as a hook to get people to read it.’
And I said, ‘Dan, who is going to read a book based on the life of a part-time baseball player who never really was a voice for anything?’
But I was a voice, and I didn’t realize it.
I feel I can speak to any kind of forum now, whether it’s a lumberjack convention or a high school or a church. It plays well for me in any kind of venue and in any kind of audience. But my number-one audience is moms and dads with their children—especially Little League and up—when you can make a point and have it make an impact on all of them, when they are sitting there together. I really like that audience.