By Mike Hyland, Senior Vice President of Engineering Services, American Public Power Association
This weekend marks the opening of Major League Baseball’s 140th season. With that first pitch, we won’t just have the excitement of another year’s worth of baseball games but also the rush of nostalgia for all the things that we loved growing up with it: peanuts, Crackerjacks, America’s pastime.
When thinking back on all the aspects of the sport that I adored as a youth, one that always sticks out is This Week in Baseball (TWIB), a syndicated highlights program that served to give those of us who lived in the pre-cable TV era a chance to enjoy all that had happened in the many games during the previous week. It says something about the power of this program that I, a lifelong Phillies fan, could get this excited about a show hosted by Yankees’ play-by-play commentator Mel Allen.
One of my favorite parts of major league baseball, and one that easily stood out while I watched the many different games that would be recapped and shown on TWIB, was the concept of the five-tool player. This elusive breed of ball player possesses not just excellent talent hitting for power but also hitting for average, base running skills and speed, fielding like a vacuum cleaner, and strength in throwing. When I think of the five-tool players, I think of Hall of Famers such as Rod Carew, Mike Schmidt, Stan Musial, and Joe Morgan. Of the tens of thousands of players who have suited up and played major league baseball, only 310 are hall of famers, many because of their excellence as five-tool players. They are a baseball scout’s dream to recruit, and a baseball fan’s delight to watch in action.
Although these days I still occasionally catch a Phillies game on TV, I spend much more time with activities surrounding my career in the power industry. But, similar to watching players on TWIB or at Philadelphia’s old Veteran’s Stadium, there’s an excitement any time I find a five-tool utility, one that excels at reliability, safety, environmental consciousness, low-cost efficiency, and first-class staffing.
From the over 3,000 utilities in this country, how many would make our utility Hall of Fame? How would we even discern who deserves those H.O.F. initials behind their names?
In place of batting titles and records for steals, we have a number of indicators already such as Reliable Public Power Provider designations, Safety Awards of Excellence, Energy Innovator Awards, and Kramer-Preston Personal Service Awards. Each of those awards and designations requires excellence in multiple attributes that make up a five-tool utility. As an industry we should be determined to take on all those attributes, to be examples of industry excellence and representations of the utility of the future.
A five-tool utility benchmarks itself similar to the way ball players monitor their batting average or on-base percentage versus other players on their team, other players in their league, and ultimately other players in the Hall of Fame. Reliability indices, safety incident rates, worker retention, and other metrics all have their own batting average “Mendoza” lines. A Hall of Famer doesn’t set the goal of a .200 batting average, but rather breaking .300. The same goes for a Hall of Fame utility — striving for middling reliability or an average safety program doesn’t get your utility into that elite club.
Achieving this as a utility isn’t just a job or a mandate, it’s an extension of so much of the fun that we had as kids playing baseball and imaging we were Babe Ruth or Sandy Koufax. We wanted to believe for a moment that we were Hall of Fame ball players. Now we can strive to be part of a Hall of Fame utility.