I spend my life trying to figure out the best ways to teach kids & adults the finer points of baseball (Hitting + Throwing + Fielding + Athleticism). I’ve narrowed it down. Keep it simple, informative, and important. Show them, explain it, repeat it, and then repeat it again, and again, and….you get the point. My job is to critically think about everything I say to a student before I say it. Young baseball players are very influential. Basically, they listen to everybody. Unfortunately, “Everybody” isn’t exactly the best baseball coach. Who is “Everybody”? “Everybody” is mom, dad, volunteer coach, friend, aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa, and the professional baseball coach. My point is that the kid doesn’t know the difference. They’re going to usually listen to everybody. And this can be the downfall of many a baseball player. An influential ball player needs to know what works best for him. He needs to eventually become his best coach. He needs to know what works for him and what doesn’t. Most people that give you advice do it because they want the BEST for you. Unfortunately, they are not QUALIFIED to give that advice and don’t really know what they’re talking about. Anyways, my point is that a huge part of baseball player development is learning about who to listen to and who to trust when it comes to instruction. I remember being a pro and going out of my way to please everyone and to listen to everyone, forgetting to trust myself and understand what works best for me. It’s a huge part of the development of a baseball player. Who do I listen to? What works for me?
I wanted to address some questions that I receive on a daily basis. These are from players, parents, and coaches that I have had the pleasure to work with. I figured if they wanted to know than maybe you do too. In no particular order, here we go:
Q.) My kid lacks confidnece, how do I get him to be more confident?
A.) Confidence comes from experiencing some sort of success. Success is hard to come by, especially as a youth baseball player, and especially in live game situations. So, success can be gained through intense and consistant practice, training, and instructional sessions. It’s easier to create success when it can be had in a controlled environment. Once success is obtained in practice sessions it will be more likely to transcend into game situations……the ultimate goal. In a 30 minute hitting lesson a player can take 200 meaningful swings…..it may take 3 years of little league games to get 200 live, game-situation swings.
Q.) My kids coach is terrible, what should I do?
A.) Seek help from outside resources. Find someone in your area that can teach your kid. Ask around. Do not rely on a little league or a club baseball coach to get your son better. In most cases they’re a volunteer. Their best interest is in their own son. Or they lack the knowledge of the game to properly teach it. Some good coaches are out there but they are far and few between. Once you get into high school you should be around a better cast of coaches in all aspects. Nevertheless, how you prepare yourself on your own time is going to be the difference maker in your own baseball career.
Q.) Should I play Club or Travel Baseball?
A.) Yes. Baseball at the local little league or park district level can be a terribly watered down product and not a good gauge of your kids true talent and ability. Seek out a select team, or some sort of option outside of the local little league and park districts. Whether it’s right or wrong, kids are now playing on select teams at 8 years old. I think more realistically, you should make every effort to be a member of a select team by the age of 12 years old, especially if you are serious about playing in high school and beyond. You can still play little league as well but for those who can play at a club level, do it!
Q.) My kids team is terrible and I’m sick of it!!!!
A.) Baseball is an individual sport, especially at the younger levels. Your best resources as an individual player are you, your family, and those you choose to surround yourself with. Parents!!!! Seek this out. You will always have a choice in where your kid learns the game and trains properly. You may not always have a choice in which team they play for.
Q.) How do I get exposure for my high school kid that wants to play in college?
A.) Hopefully you have a little bit of help from your high school coaches, but let’s not assume that. You want to be getting serious exposure by the age of 16. You have to ask yourself….who is watching me play? If college recruiters or scouts are not attending your high school and summer-team games then you’re not being seen. That’s ok. You can do a lot yourself in terms of research and marketing your son. Make video’s of game footage and workout/training sessions. Send them out. You can obtain nearly every college baseball coaches email by doing a little “google” research. Send them a letter. Post on a YouTube site that you can refer them to. Remember: They want to see a combination of not only baseball skill (hitting, fielding, throwing) but athleticism (running, agility, strength). Lastly, remember this, If you perform well enough and stand out in your area, THEY WILL FIND YOU, trust me. Be very skeptic of recruiting services in general. Technology these days allows us, as athletes to get a certain level of exposure. Beyond that, you want recommendations. Maybe that guy you have been training with knows a lot of college coaches and scouts and is willing to help you by writing a letter of recommendation or make a call for you :-).
Q.) Who is the best all-around baseball player right now?
A.) Mike Trout is the best all-around baseball player on the planet right now
Q.) Who is the best hitter in baseball right now?
A.) Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter on the planet right now.
Q.) Who is the best all-around shortstop right now?
A.) Troy Tulowitzki is the best all-around shortstop on the planet right now.
Q.) Who is the best defensive shortstop ever?
A.) Tough. Omar Vizquel had the better hands but Ozzie Smith had better range AND won a world series. Ozzie Smith is the best defensive shortstop ever.
Q.) Who is the best pitcher you ever faced?
A.) Two come to mind. I faced a 19 year old C.C Sabathia in Double-A (Akron, 2000) and a 21 year old Josh Beckett in Double-A (Portland, 2001). For me, C.C Sabathia was the best pitcher I ever faced. More to come……
I love this blog and I’m grateful for those that read it and support me. I’m always hopeful of impacting someone’s baseball career in a positive manner. It’s what I do. I could care less about the team and winning games, raising money, holding a trophy, looking cool, or saying the right things at the right times. I do care about teaching effective techniques that can gain the individual an advantage in competition, developing athleticism within the individual, and creating an attitude that exudes confidence at all times. I truly believe that learning and understanding the game from the physical to the mental is the key to success. Also, understanding that baseball is an individual sport and your success will be defined by your individual performance in the long run. You will not be judged on what team you are on but how you perform as an individual when it is your time to perform. People spend too much time complaining about a negative than they do exploring ways to create a consistent positive. What I just said, means this: Too often we want success without putting in the work, effort, and understanding. When you see success in a game as hard as baseball, you can rest assure that it’s the result of hard work, training, learning, and understanding the technique that has made you successful. Of course this means nothing unless we do it on a consistent basis. After all, in baseball we are judged on averages, consistency, and the ability to persevere amongst all the failure that we encounter. The best baseball players fail the least, when we truly understand what that means we can develop and prosper.
“Feel it when you do it right & feel it when you do it wrong”. The movements baseball players have to put their bodies through to effectively execute success while hitting, fielding, and throwing can be very technical and very unnatural. Throwing consistent strikes on the mound as a pitcher can be related to making free throws as a basketball player. Both athletes will tell you they rely on a certain “feel” or touch to make sure their execution is successful over and over again. Any experienced hitter will tell you how good it feels to execute perfect timing while squaring up a ball on the barrel of his bat resulting in a smash of a hit. Feel is so important in success and failure to a baseball player. I like to point out to hitters when they get a great result in practice to “remember what that felt like” and that the key of becoming a good hitter is being able to produce that feeling consistently. On the other hand: when everything is off, doesn’t feel right, and we get a bad result, we need to register that feeling as well……in order to recognize that we don’t want to go back to that feeling. Inevitably we are always being drawn into that slump or negative feeling, but fortunately for baseball players there is no such thing as perfect. In our game, the best are the one’s that fail the least. Find ways to get back that feeling: “Feel it when you do it right & feel it when you do it wrong”.
In the never-ending search to uncover the BEST ways to become a better baseball player I have come up with some thoughts that I want to share. I always ask myself: When is a player getting better? What setting is the best for making improvements? Before I start I want to make this statement: The Major League level is the only level of baseball where winning at all cost is the priority over everything else. Every other stage of a players baseball career is a developmental stage. Now, some coaches may disagree because their jobs may depend on wins and losses at the high school and college levels. Well, I guess you better start developing your players. I can tell you without a doubt that player development is more important to a professional baseball organization than wins and losses in their Minor League systems. Like I mentioned before, the Major League level is the only level where winning is the priority over everything else. So, if that’s the philosophy in professional baseball, than why isn’t that the philosophy at the lower levels (little league, club baseball, high school, college)? I’ve seemed to stump myself by my own question because I don’t know why we don’t put individual player development over EVERYTHING else in the game of baseball. Until your playing everyday in the major leagues…..I don’t want to hear it. Youth baseball has to get it together along with players, parents, and coaches to put the emphasis on individual player development. I work with a lot of kids. My goal for a kid 6-11 years old is to emphasizethe fundamentals (hitting, throwing, fielding) and start to introduce some of the physical actions of the body that will help you in the game (hand-eye-foot coordination, reaction time, awareness). 12-14 years old all I care about is you making the high school baseball team. Hitting, arm strength, fielding, and athleticism is where the emphasis is. It comes down to a 2-hour tryout for most that will either get you a spot on the team or END your baseball career. Your going to be judged more on the basics rather than the intangibles. Can you HIT, RUN, THROW, & FIELD? Start to specialize your training! Get individual about it! Take it upon yourself! Players get better when you put yourself in the best situation to LEARN. When is this? I believe it to be in an individual or small group setting where you learn and apply. Learn and apply without expectation until you find technique that works for you through practice sessions. Be relentless in your pursuit to execute that technique in game situations once your ready (most players don’t because they won’t allow themselves). LEARN—–APPLY—–EXECUTE. If there is a breakdown in any of the three than your game is not going to be successful. Execution is what ultimately separates the pack. Most everyone can learn and apply, if you don’t it’s usually because of either your stubbornness or your laziness. Your high school coach is not going to care how good your little league or club baseball team was. He’s going to want to SEE how good YOU are. If your lucky enough to get recruited by colleges to play baseball….those coaches won’t care about how good your high school baseball team is. They want to SEE how good YOU are. If your good enough to get drafted, the scouts are not going to be interested in how good your high school or college team is. They want to SEE how good YOU are. However far you advance in your baseball career will be because of YOU and how your parents and coaches went out of their way to put the individual player development ahead of everything else.
I have a few things on my list today. It’s been awhile. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have the ability to learn and understand what you are being taught. Some of the most valuable learning lessons can be done without a baseball, bat, or glove in hand. Often you hear people say “Tell me what you want me to do, and I’ll do it”. It’s not that easy, is it? NO. If it was, there would be far more successful people in the world than there is today. That’s a dummies way to learn. Success is achieved through a good teacher and a good student. The student being able to understand that he will ultimately help himself more than any teacher could help him. What I mean by this is that there is a level of execution that has to take place when it matters most. This responsibility is the students. Take this for example: Your teacher cannot help you when it’s time to perform. You must execute the performance by yourself. It’s the teachers responsibility to understand why a student cannot perform to his abilities when it matters most (GAME TIME). In the meantime there is a training process. The level of concentration and ability to learn by the student during this time is of the utmost importance. It’s just not “doing it to do it”. You have to be able to understand what the teacher is teaching, how it is going to apply to your style, and how best your going to get a consistent result when it matters most. Teacher and student need to understand each other, It’s not a one-way street.
I believe baseball players and even parents of baseball players at the lower levels really waste too much time and effort worrying about OTHER players, kids, parents, and coaches. What I’m getting at is two points: This attitude causes anxiety, frustration, jealousy, and anger. Constantly trying to engage in other peoples business can drain you of a lot of energy you could be using to apply in a positive manner. Such as training, improving, setting goals, and reaching goals. My other point that goes along with this is: Don’t worry about what you can’t control. For example in youth baseball, rarely will a parent be able to control what position your kid is playing or where he’s hitting in the lineup. I assure you that your kid will be able to control what happens during his at bat or what happens when the ball is hit to them (then whose fault is it if he fails?). A lot of kids and parents want their kid to pitch. The kid complains, the parent complains, and then they get an opportunity and fail at it. I would have liked the parent and child to have spent more time seeking out pitching instruction and reviewing what they are doing to get better aside from a few silly little league practices. It’s hard not to constantly be comparing your kid to others or as a player it’s hard not to get caught up on the success and failures of others. Take the high road, concentrate on YOU as a player, and your kid as a parent. If you find yourself rooting AGAINST a child on a baseball field, because you think their failures will benefit your kid, then you have a problem. It might feel natural to feel this way because it’s your kid, but I’ll tell you with certainty that your behavior will effect you and your kid negatively in the future. When we take a step back and take a deep breath, we realize…..it’s COMMON SENSE