Figley: Cutting the cord of mobile phones

During his 21-year baseball career, Paul Molitor was a seven-time All Star who collected 3,319 hits. Playing primarily with the Milwaukee Brewers, he posted a lifetime batting average of .306, stole 504 bases and knocked in 1,307 runs. He even won the 1993 World Series MVP while playing for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Following an impressive career, which was characterized as much by grit and intelligence as by offensive prowess, Molitor was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on the first ballot in 2004. He amassed an affirmative voting percentage of 85.2 percent in the process.

After joining the Minnesota Twins coaching staff in 2014, he impressed the organization enough to be hired to manage his hometown club in 2015 following the firing of longtime manager Ron Gardenhire. Not shy about making an immediate impression on the team, Molitor has established guidelines surrounding his players use of mobile devices.

Molitor knows that major league ball players are highly invested in cellphones and mobile devices much like the rest of society. He knows that social media has a presence in every locker room and in every major sport, even in Minneapolis. That’s why he has imposed limits on device usage for the 2015 season.

Most notable is his insistence that all such devices are off limits to Twins players starting 30 minutes before the first game pitch and until the game’s completion. Why is this necessary you ask? Because players sneak back to the clubhouse throughout the game to check their smartphones in the same way other people do incessantly.

Molitor elaborated by saying, “Just have to have some parameters. We obviously need rules.”

Former Twins manager Gardenhire tried to do the same thing last season without success. So what makes Molitor believe he can do any better? He wants to improve team chemistry, without the distraction of phones, iPads and the like. Maybe players will even actually learn to appreciate each other by talking and spending quality time together, from one human being to another.

If Molitor’s approach is successful on the diamond, what could it mean for all of us? Everywhere you turn, mobile devices are there. In traffic. At work. The grocery store. Restaurants. Even public restrooms. Machines increasingly control us instead of us controlling them.

Who among us can’t cite instances of extreme usage of these addictive gizmos? Co-workers regularly receiving and responding to text messages instead of doing their jobs. Trying to enjoy a restaurant meal or shopping experience while contending with an obnoxious cellphone user nearby. Sitting at an intersection and looking next to you to see the driver sending a text message, oblivious to traffic or anything else in proximity. People with Bluetooth headsets protruding from their ears for all to see.

All these instances call out for self-discipline and the need for the establishment of reasonable limits. Yet, how many of these individuals are even aware of the narcissistic nature of their actions?

In an age when it’s rare for the average family to enjoy a meal together at home, it seems mobile devices have invaded that time too. While one would think children and adults both might agree to take a break from tweets, beeps and chirps madness; think again.

As technology has seemingly made communication easier and more instantaneous, why does it so often seem like the smallest elements of human understanding and interaction have become more complex and difficult? What makes mobile devices so intoxicating that people will choose them over interacting directly in the workplace, with friends at a restaurant, or around the family dinner table?

While it’s generally assumed that the human race has gradually become more intelligent due to the advancement of technology and innovation, reality intrudes. Especially when one considers the simple things that have taken a back seat along the way as we either feel technologically important or try to look that way to those around us.

Although he doesn’t say it in so many words, maybe Paul Molitor realizes this more than you might think. If we’re honest, we can all learn a lot from his approach by taking a break from mobile madness to focus on what is real. Currently, the Twins are holding their own in the tough American League Central, but Molitor’s impact will not simply be felt in wins and losses. Just maybe, his new-found focus might remind us how technology has altered how we live our own lives.

Let’s go Twins!

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