Cubs President Theo Epstein says an 'unusual' player meeting during a rain delay led to their 2016 World Series win

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Theo EpsteinThe Cubs hadn’t won a World Series in 108 years.Yale University

Theo Epstein, the president of operations for the Chicago Cubs, gave a rousing Class Day speech in May at his alma mater, Yale University, that struck at the heart of finding success in the most difficult situations.

Speaking to the graduating class of 2017, Epstein recounted the feeling of desolation that he and his team felt going into extra innings in the final game of the 2016 World Series.

The Cubs hadn’t won a World Series since 1908, the longest postseason baseball drought in history. They were mounting a remarkable comeback after making up a deficit of three games to one, and they were four outs away from beating the Cleveland Indians. But the Indians tied the game after a spectacular play, and the game stopped for a rain delay.

Cubs players huddled into a room, and some were in tears. Epstein pointed to this as the moment that turned possible failure into success. He told students:

“It was an unusual sight. We hardly ever had meetings, and never during a game. I inched closer to the door and saw Aroldis Chapman, the pitcher who had given up the game-tying home run, in tears. I lingered just long enough to hear a few sentences. ‘We would not even be here without you,’ catcher David Ross said as he embraced Chapman. ‘We are going to win this for you. We are going to win this for each other.'”

More players joined in, shouting encouragement. Perhaps this sounds like typical locker-room encouragement, but Epstein said this was far different.

“During rain delays, players typically come in off the field and head to their own lockers,” he said. “They sit there by themselves. They change their wet jerseys. They check their phones. They think about what has gone right and wrong during the game. They become engrossed in their own little worlds.”

He said this was a choice the players made to turn their mindset around, and that all people have their “rain-delay moment” when they can make the conscious choice to react positively rather than wallowing in failure.

“There will be times when everything you have been wanting, everything you have worked for, everything you have earned, everything you feel you deserve is snatched away in what seems like a personal and unfair blow,” he said. “But when these moments happen — and they will — will you be alone at your locker with your head down, lamenting, divvying up blame? Or will you be shoulder to shoulder with your teammates, connected, with your heads up, giving and receiving support?”

Watch the entire speech:

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