Mind Games

Douglas Stewart '53 has seen a side of professional baseball that's a long way from the big contracts and huge egos of the major leagues. As a performance consultant to the Milwaukee Brewers, Montreal Expos, and Boston Red Sox, the sports psychologist has spent a lot of time in dusty minor league dugouts helping players deal with a very different world.

"These kids were used to being stars in high school," Stewart explains. "Then they get to the minor leagues and discover everyone's just as good as they are, if not better. It's a big adjustment."

Stewart has adjusted quite well to several career changes of his own. After studying psychology and playing football at Kenyon, he shot photos for the U.S. Army from 1955-59 and was the overall winner of the black-and-white division of the World Armed Forces Photography Contest. He went on to work as a professional photographer before earning an MFA in photography from Ohio University. He began teaching at Northern Illinois University, where he founded and directed the photography department. He also created the first permanent American collegiate overseas photographic studies program in Salzburg, Austria.

Stewart was fascinated by the psychological dynamics he encountered in the classroom, and decided to pursue an advanced degree in counseling. But he didn't want to leave his photography experience behind.

"I started checking into doctoral programs and most schools said, 'You want to do what? You want to combine photography and therapy? Give me a break,'" he says.

It was a different story at Northern Illinois, however, where his approach was more well known because of his teaching experience. He resigned as a faculty member and entered the doctoral program in counseling psychology. His dissertation concerned the use of photography in psycho-therapy, and he went on to become one of the founders of the Photo Therapy movement. Stewart's innovative work was featured in an extensive Life Magazine article.

He eventually worked with a partner to open a business consulting firm in Milwaukee that drew on his counseling skills. In search of high profile clients in 1982, he contacted the Milwaukee Brewers and invited them to a seminar. That led to nearly twenty years of work as a consultant to several Major League Baseball teams.

"You have to be very careful to not step over the line into the physical side of the game," he says. "That's where coaches and managers are in charge. You don't tread on that. You're there to work on the mental side."

Stewart worked primarily with players coming up in the minor leagues. One of the biggest problems he encountered was players who were simply too hard on themselves. As players moved up the ladder, Stewart often had to help them restore their confidence in the face of intense competition. Some players also had issues with success. They might start to wonder how they would ever perform consistently at the major league level if they make it that far. That's a lot of pressure for youngsters who often aren't even old enough to drink.

"His parents are expecting him to set the world on fire and be in the majors in the next year and a half because he was so good in high school and they watched every game he played," Stewart says. "And all of a sudden he's hitting about .240 and wondering if the team will even keep him."

Stewart also worked with prospects from Latin America, who must adjust to a different culture as well as the pressures of life in professional baseball.

Stewart's tenure with the Boston Red Sox ended two seasons ago when the team was sold. It gave the seventy-one-year-old a chance to devote more time to another interest -- the theater. He is a member of the SRO (Seniors Reaching Out) Players, a senior theater organization in Santa Fe, New Mexico, as well as on the advisory boards of the Senior Theater League of America and the Santa Fe Playhouse community theater.

His play, Reunion at Mt. Sanguine, was awarded third place in the 2002 Oklahoma Community Theater Association competition for new work and was premiered by the Second Stage Seniors group in Peoria, Arizona. It was produced as the 2003 season-opening performance of the senior theater company in Palm Coast, Florida.

Stewart got the idea for the play when he attended his fiftieth high-school reunion in Ohio. "I'm standing in the middle of this reunion thinking, 'I'm in the middle of a play. All I have to do is go home and write it.' So I did."

He has also written several short plays. Jeffrey's Magnet was produced in 2003 at the Santa Fe Playhouse. Waiting for Dr. Hamlett was awarded third place at the 2002 International Senior Theater Festival and in 2003 was produced at the College of Santa Fe, while In Rumi's Field was also presented at the 2002 Festival.

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