Thursday, January 31, 2008
RT Staff Note: There are so many talented baseball minds out there and Paul Reddick is one of them. Paul is the Director of The Yogi Berra Baseball School and has also worked camps with Bobby Valentine, Steve Balboni, Tom House and many other baseball greats. Paul is also a ghost writer form some of baseball's best known authors. You have read Paul's work...for sure. Paul has worked on The Picture Perfect Pitcher with Tom House, Mike Epstein on Hitting with Mike Epstein, and Surprise Baseball with Stu Southworth...and many others due out. Paul is currently reworking some of baseball's classic instructional books. Over the last ten years Paul has served as a coach, scout, and consultant to over a dozen major league teams. Paul has spent the last 6 seasons as a recommending scout with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Paul also served as a state delegate for USA Baseball and coached in the Montreal Expo farm system. This is Pauls 8 Habits of Serious Athletes...Enjoy!
Habit 1 – Be Proactive
Great players take responsibility for everything that happens in their career. They take responsibility for their time and for making sure that every day they are working towards their goals. When you are proactive, you take control of your time and you stay in green lights. When you start acting reactive you fall into red and yellow lights.
Habit 2 – Begin With The End In Mind
Know what you want to accomplish. Have a DETAILED daily plan to take you closer to the overall goal. Remember, yard by yard it is hard, inch by inch it is a synch. Today + Today + Today = Your Career. Get the most out of today, live in the present moment, and the end results that you wish will take care of themselves, ONE DAY AT A TIME.
Habit 3 – Put First Things First
You must put YOURSELF first. Fighters can get consumed by things outside of their control, media, fans and people looking to get a piece of your action if YOU let them. Put your training and your health above public appearances, interviews and social engagements. When you put first things first, you prioritize and can feel good about saying NO.
Habit 4 – Think Win–Win
You’re only as good as your training partners! So manage your relationships well. Don’t beat on your partners so bad that they never want to train with you again. Instead think win-win. Make sure you show that you care about their MMA game and that you will help them to get better. That way when you show up to the gym you will always have someone to train with. Likewise if your training with fighters better then you, make your situation win-win by always giving them 100%, being on time for practice, having a good attitude… etc.
Having a win-win environment with your MMA training partners makes your team more efficient, provides a more positive place to train, causes less feuds and creates partners that want to see you improve instead of secretly jealous teammates that wan to see you fail.
Habit 5 – Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood
Empty your cup young grasshopper. No one wants to train with a fighter that thinks he knows it all. Some fighters egos are so delicate that they think they’re always right. These type fighters never listen and are always the first to have the answer. In the world of MMA there are so many different styles and approaches, it seems that we all believe to have the perfect training formula or martial art style.
There is something to learn from everybody and from every style. So empty your cup first before every class so that others may pour there knowledge into your cup. Don’t make the mistake thinking you know it all or you’ll miss out on learning new things…. Seek first to listen (opening your mind to new things) and then to be heard (sharing what you have learned along the way).
Habit 6 – Synergize
2+2=5 or more. When you synergize you surround yourself with others who believe in you and help to make you better. Synergy happens when you are in green lights and are with training partners and coaches that take you to a place you can not get to by yourself. Together we are stronger than when we stand as individuals.
Habit 7 – Sharpen The Saw
Sharpening the saw means continuing to refine and rejuvenate your greatest tool… YOU. Getting adequate rest and relaxation., having an understanding of nutrition and how you can eat to win is an area that fighters need to tap into. Having consistent sleep patterns, consistent eating schedules and consistent thoughts leads to consistent performance.
Habit 8 – From Effectiveness To Greatness
Greatness is learning how to have a consistent routine that you can follow on a daily basis. It is learning from your mistakes and getting better everyday. Greatness is becoming a student of yourself and knowing what you need to do to fight your best fight. It is knowing how to get from yellow and red back to green as quickly as possible.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
RT Staff Note: Today, Friday and next Wednesday and continuing for the next month or so, Jon Doyle,owner of Baseball Training Secrets, will contribute an article on pre-season and in-season Strength and Conditioning, as well as nutrition and supplements. Part one of this series ran last Friday...Enjoy Jons contribution to Rounding Third.
By Jon Doyle
In this 3 part expose, Jon Doyle will reveal the current state of baseball weight training, strength and conditioning information, explain what the baseball player needs and tell you how to get there…
In Part 1 of "The Truth About Baseball-Specific Training" I covered a great deal about baseball-specifictraining that had never been published before. I told exactly why most baseball weight training programs aren't worth the paper they are printed on. I explained exactly why maximal strength (weight on the bar) is not as important as most make it out to be. I went on to tell about force production and how that is the real key to developing into a strong, explosive athlete and baseball player.
In this installment I will go into detail about what needs to become the center of your training program if you ever want to become a great athlete…Speed and Reactive Strength.
Speed (or Reactive) Strength is rarely developed in American athletics today, especially baseball players. The ones who have a great deal of this strength were simply blessed with it.
Speed strength is so misunderstood by most coaches it's mind-boggling. As I covered in Part 1 of this series, maximal strength is targeted by the majority of baseball players. As you know, this is a monumental mistake.
Speed strength is the ability of the neuromuscular system to produce the greatest possible impulse in the shortest possible time. Furthermore, the two aspects to speed strength are starting strength and explosive strength.
Or in other words, How fast you can react and move in game-like conditions.
Can someone please explain to me what the heck is the point of being "strong" if you move slowly and mechanically?
When is the last time a good baseball player threw with slow arm speed or slow bat quickness?
It simply doesn't happen.
These three training methods should be avoided like the plague if you want to develop a tremendous amount of speed strength:
1. Working until failure. Please do not work until failure. Not only is it counterproductive, but it will increase injury-risk dramatically due to improper postural changes and excessive force on the joints.
2. Always working above 80% of 1 RM. While there are certainly times in your baseball weight training program where higher loads need to be used, be very careful of how long you spend in this range. The sad thing is almost every program I review when taking on a new client is work above 80%.
3. Lifting slow. I'm sure you have been told to lift weights "slow and controlled" for maximum safety. What a bunch of BS. When does anything in baseball happen "slow and controlled?" The real secret is lifting "fast and controlled," just as the game is played. If you train to be slow you will be slow. It's really as simple as that. Teach your body to explode AND be in control and watch your performance skyrocket and your body become bullet-proof.
Of course these are just a few of the baseball weight training mistakes I see. But they certainly are the most common. Remove these techniques from your program and watch yourself turn into a more explosive, more productive athlete.
We spend a great deal of time using loads between 40-65% of a theoretical 1RM. At first, many scowl at this notion. However, when they see us and our athletes move at blazing speeds almost effortlessly, their skepticism quickly turns to intrigue.
In the sport of baseball your ability to move a sub-maximal object (baseball or baseball bat) under control at lightning speeds will determine just how well you perform. That and, of course, your reaction time. For those of us not born with it, this will largely come from proper training methods.
Next installment, in Part 3 of "The Truth About Baseball Weight Training," Jon will go into detail about specific training methods you can use today to immediately make you a better athlete.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
A friend of ours attended a parent meeting the other night for his sons travel team. The coach handed out a detailed 60 game schedule that will be a combination of tournaments and competitive games against some of the top travel, JUCO, and local collegiate league teams. Uniforms were sized, hats fitted and sponsorship forms and letters handed out. And he apologized to all of the parents for taking so long to give them the details...The first game is June 8th, by the way…and he was sorry for being late?
It’s dedicated guys like this coach in Texas that are the model for travel teams. All across the country, coaches, organizers and guys that just love the game are putting together teams and tournaments for players to showcase their talents. Here’s a very short list of some of the tournaments and showcases that are already published that will take place this summer. We will put together a complete list by state, similar to our NLI list later next month. We will provide dates and links to all events. So...Coaches, Organizers, please e-mail us your tournament or showcase to email@example.com. Do not send us a tournament or showcase unless there is an updated, dedicated website for that showcase or tourney. We are providing just limited info now, but will post more details in a word doc in the right hand column in a few weeks.
Tournaments and Showcases
Southeastern Baseball Showcase in Georgia for High School Class of 2009 & 2010...June 22,2008
Pre Draft Baseball Showcase is being in Georgia for High School Class of 2008, JUCO players. 4 year college Class of 2008 & 2009...May 18,2008
WWBA In East Cobb
The 2008 Smoltz-Grissom Wood Bat Classic Tournament
2008 Best of the Midwest tournament in Peoria.
Florida Cup, USF Invitational, WBF Championships, AABC Mickey Mantle World Series Qualifier ,WBF Championships
8th Annual All Star Classic. BEST Louisiana Series (LSU, etc.) Southern Miss Shootout (USM and William & Carey)
Pennsylvania State Showcase June 19th in Bellefonte Pa.
Sunshine West Showcase
West Coast Top Prospect Showcase
Rawlings Norcal World Series
Remember, send us your showcase or tournament event with web site URL.
Monday, January 28, 2008
RT Staff Note: The following is the second in a series of Monday Morning articles from Carmen Bucci, President of The Complete Athlete. Carmen teaches high school athletes how to communicate better with their current coaches, college coaches and/or professional scouts. Since our theme for the past several weeks has been about communication, we welcome Carmen as a RT contributor.
By Carmen Bucci, The Complete Athlete
Talking on the phone, or meeting face to face with a college coach is an important step in the college recruiting process. If you receive a phone call or are offered a visit by a college coach, it means that a coach likes your ability as a player, and is interested in learning more about you as a person. Believe it or not, there’s more to you than just being a baseball player. You all have things about you that are interesting…things that make you unique. You may not think certain things about you are interesting, but others (college coach or professional scout) just might.
The more coaches or scouts know about you, your character, your background, your hobbies & interests, and your personality, the better they know you. In turn, the better they know you, the more they like you. And, finally, the more they like you, the better the chance you have to get recruited or drafted. Remember, when a college coach offers a scholarship or a chance to play at their school, and a professional team considers drafting you, they are making an investment in you.
Another reason to allow others to get to know you is that you just might find you have things in common. Finding things in common makes both of you more comfortable around each other and it makes a conversation go a little smoother. You’ll always have something to talk about with that person. Finally, if you don’t let people get to know you, they’re going to draw their own conclusions. And, those conclusions may not be right.
In my workshops, at the multiple Perfect Game Showcases, I had the pleasure of working with a number of dedicated baseball players. Before the workshop, they were each just 1 of the hundreds of players in attendance. While working together for only an hour, I was able to get to know them as more than just baseball players. I found out that one of the players speaks Italian, another is interested in physiology, a few of them have traveled overseas, another lived in 6 different cities growing up, another had a great sense of humor, and another was cut from his freshman team, only to come home and begin to work on his hitting in the basement 2 hours later. Not only did he make the team his sophomore year, he started. Most of the players didn’t think that what they were telling me was interesting. However, by the end of the workshop, each player left some type of impression on me.
I had a chance to really get to know the players, and each left an impression on me. Getting to know their personalities, and getting to know each of them as people, led to me wanting to see them succeed. You can have the same effect on a coach or scout.
How do you do that? How do you show your character, your personality, or your confidence without bragging? Stay tuned for next weeks article. We’ll cover how to show vs. tell.
Friday, January 25, 2008
RT Staff Note: Today, next Wednesday and Friday and continuing for the next month or so, Jon Doyle,owner of Baseball Training Secrets, will contribute an article on pre-season and in-season Strength and Conditioning, as well as nutrition and supplements. Jons credentials are impressive... Collegiate All-American candidate with a .393 career batting average (.470 senior year)...Head Baseball Strength and Conditioning coach at perennial national power Adelphi University (6 Division 2 College World Series appearance in the 90’s.)...Collegiate Hitting and fielding coach at Adelphi University...Two exercise related degrees and numerous national strength and conditioning certifications...Author of numerous books, articles and DVD’s on increasing performance specifically for baseball...Leader and expert for Renegade Training International...The most successful and copied strength and conditioning company in the world. Enjoy Jons contribution to Rounding Third.
By Jon Doyle
In this 3 part expose, Jon Doyle will reveal the current state of baseball strength training and baseball conditioning information, explain what the baseball player needs and tell you how to get there...
Look at any "baseball strength training conditioning" program and you will find glaring mistakes that will lead to decreased performance and increase chance of injury. To those coaches who know what the heck they are doing these mistakes stick out like a sore thumb. The problem is 99% of "coaches" out there do not understand this, yet continue to damage our young ballplayers…robbing them of their athletic ability.
Baseball strength and Conditioning should enhance athleticism, not debilitate it. So why are baseball strength training and baseball conditioning programs so bad? In my opinion there are far too many self-proclaimed "experts" who do not truly understand the body or the game of baseball. Far too many bodybuilding and football workouts have simply been renamed with "baseball" on it.
This is even rampant at the NCAA and professional level, where one would never fathom that this could occur. You would surprised how easy it is to get one of these cush jobs simply because you know someone or have kissed enough butt. In truth, the real coaches out there don't want these jobs because the hours suck and the pay isn't great.
Ok now that I have cleared the air, let's get into the reason why I am writing this article in the first place.
Far too often, the term "strength" is thrown around in a very vague manner…but never with an explanation. Well, I am here to explain exactly what is wrong with your current baseball strength training program and how to fix it.
"Strength" is a very broad term. There are many aspects of strength such as speed, reactive, relative and starting. Typically, when someone says "strength" or "strong" they are referring to how much weight can be lifted. They are looking at one aspect of strength…the weight on the bar. This is referred to as maximal strength.
While maximal strength shouldn't be ignored (as with any aspect of strength) it should not be considered the Holy Grail of strength and conditioning work when looking at addressing the needs of a baseball player. In fact, maximal strength is not even in top three aspects of strength that are used on the baseball field.
With that said, it amazes me that a 95% of baseball strength training and baseball conditioning programs revolves around maximal strength. (side note: the ones not falling in that 95% do not stress maximal strength enough) There needs to be a delicate balance of all aspects of strength, not just maximal.
So you ask, "What is the Holy Grail of Baseball Strength Training?" Ladies and gentleman…with great pleasure, I introduce to you…"Force Production"
I think everyone agrees that in order to swing a baseball bat at 90 mph, throw a pearl at 95 mph or run a 6.5 sixty a great deal of force must be produced. This is fact. How you get there however, is where we run into problems.
First let me give you a simple, basic scientific fact…Force = mass x acceleration.
In order to increase force, one must increase the mass (weight on the bar), acceleration (speed at which bar is moved) or a combination of the two.
Most programs simply rely on increasing the mass, or amount of weight lifted. This is a monumental mistake.
As with most things in life, the law of diminishing returns comes into play. If you continue to increase the weight on the bar, naturally the speed at which you perform the lift will decrease. So, what exactly are you accomplishing? Not much for sure.
There is a certain percentage (typically 40-65% of a theoretical 1 rep max) that yields the highest force production. Typically, baseball players train 85% or above a large majority of the time.
This type of training will not only LOWER force production, but will significantly increase risk of injury due to postural breakdown. Talk about a double-whammy!
This is not to say heavier loads (i.e. 70% and greater) are never used. Of course they are. But they are carefully placed within a training program, not the sole basis of one.
Training to increase force production will enable the athlete to generate force from within. Look at some of the current great sluggers such as Albert Pujols or Alex Rodriguez. Watch Josh Beckett pitch. These players are very "quiet" and then BAM! They explode.
They have developed the ability to generate a great deal of force from within their bodies. As they say, the calm before the storm. These players are great examples of athletes who are dialed in to their bodies and know how to maximize force production.
THAT'S what baseball strength training is about.
Next installment, Jon will cover just how important reactive, or speed strength is to the baseball player...
Thursday, January 24, 2008
There was a bill in the state of Virginia that would have banned metal bats, but was voted down yesterday. Nevertheless, wood bats are gaining favor...but for all of the reasons unrelated to the reason the bill in Virginia was introduced. That bill was a safety oriented bill and there just wasn't enough evidence for the Virginia legislature to ban metal bats.
Whether or not there is a safety issue, we like wood because we have seen that training with wood bats can help make players much better hitters with metal bats. Wood is a true test of hitters ability because it eliminates the "mistake" hits. Unlike metal bats, using a wood bat requires the hitter to have quick bat speed and in order for the ball to jump off the bat, it must be hit on the "sweet" part of the bat...Good hitters won't see much of a difference in their batting average when using wood, but hitters with "flaws" will be a bit exposed with wood, especially when they are facing top pitching like at some of the top tournaments and showcases where wood bats are mandatory. It's no coincidence that the top events for scouts and recruiters is where they use only wood bats...the Perfect Game WWBA National Championships in East Cobb, GA and the Area Code Try-outs and Games.
How can wood help your metal bat swing? Most wood bats are top heavy and with repeated swinging, good contact hitters will build bat speed. The reason is that wood and aluminum bats are NOT swung at comparable speeds. Even for bats with the same weight, the weight distribution is generally very different for a wood and aluminum bat in that a typical wood bat has much more of its weight concentrated in the barrel and further from the hands. One way to characterize the weight distribution is the so-called moment of inertia (MOI), which is a measure of how far the weight is concentrated from the hands. A bat with a smaller MOI has the weight concentrated closer to the hands and will be easier to swing. Likewise, a bat with a larger MOI will have the weight further from the hands and will be harder to swing. Typically, aluminum bats of a given length and weight have a smaller MOI than a wood bat with the same length and weight.
Practicing with a wood bat can be frustrating for some at first, especially those players that have flaws in their swing...but with the proper training, a player will improve over time. There have been many studies that have proven that practicing with wood will improve your bat speed...and if a player consistently practices to improve their mechanics to concentrate on hitting the sweet spot, they will notice a considerable difference in their ability to drive the ball...and that can equate to better averages once the switch to metal is made. Players that are conditioning to prepare themselves for the rigors of every day practices, will benefit now by hitting the cages with wood...and as an added bonus, we just like hearing a "crack" of a bat over a "ping" anyday.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
RT Staff Note: For the past three months we have stressed the importance of off-season conditioning. The past few weeks we have written about the need to be in tip-top shape when Day One of High School Practices start for many in the upcoming weeks in the Northern States. Here's a training facility in the state of Washington that is doing its part to help top players reach their training goals...There is a great quote in the first paragraph that really sums it all up... “There’s no reason to start Day One looking like you’re starting Day One,” Enjoy!
FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALD
BELLINGHAM — Don’t let the recent chilly temperatures or winter rains fool you. This is baseball season ... or at least it’s time to start getting ready for baseball. “There’s no reason to start Day One looking like you’re starting Day One,” said Matt Tagman, baseball operations manager at Extra Innings in Bellingham.
“What I’m saying is that it’s so important on Day One of practice to be ready right away, especially for freshmen trying out for their first high school team. That’s why Tagman came up with a new idea at the two-year old Bellingham indoor training facility. Tagman and another instructor, former Washington State University player Brandon Hundt, both 26, are directing the first High School Hitters’ Boot Camp at Extra Innings. It’s a six-week program designed to get players ready for the start of the season. The camp, which meets from 7 to 9 p.m. on Fridays, conducted its first session last Friday.
“There’s still plenty of time left and 10 hours of instruction,” said Tagman said, and there is still space remaining for interested participants. The camp is similar to a pitchers’ camp that began Jan. 14. Both camps are for serious high school players who want to make a good impression when spring practices open.
“Our camp prepares both the body and mind,” Tagman said. “We stress developing a powerful and repeatable (consistent) swing, through specific drills and exercises. We’re working on proper swing mechanics and the mental and physical approaches needed to excel.
“We are really stressing the mental aspect of the game. Our theme is we want players to be hitters, not hackers.” Tagman said too many high school players take too long to get going. “High school practices and tryouts start Feb. 25 this season,” he said. “It really is a short season. In many schools, freshmen have only three days of tryouts, so it’s absolutely important to be ready right away. “Two weeks of practice before games start is definitely not enough,” he said. “And if you haven’t swung a bat or thrown a ball, you’re already well behind players who have been preparing early.”
Tagman batted .648 as a junior while leading Olympia Capital High School to a state baseball championship in 1998. However, he focused on getting a jump start on his coaching career while he attended Western Washington University.
A serious skiing injury as a high school senior — he originally wanted to become a pro skier — helped convince him his future was in coaching. Tagman assisted Sehome coach Gary Hatch in 2003-05, before Extra Innings owner Bruce Tipton hired him when the facility opened. Tagman also coached a local Junior Legion team in 2004-05. “I learned a lot with Gary Hatch,” he said. “I just happened to be lucky enough to have called him when he was having a preseason meeting because they needed an extra coach. ‘Come on down,’ he said.
“I’m really proud to have helped coach seven seniors who led Sehome to the state (Class 2A) baseball championship last season.” Hundt, a former Bellingham Bells pitcher, said that since he has extensive experience as a catcher and later a pitcher, he can provide insights for hitters from an especially useful perspective. “This boot camp for hitters is a cool thing,” said Hundt, who pitched two seasons for Washington State and one season in the minor leagues. “I think this will give high school kids a great opportunity to step up their game early. We’ll cover all aspects of hitting.”
Tipton says high school players will enjoy working with two gregarious coaches who aren’t that much older than they are. “It’s their enthusiasm we love,” he said of the two instructors. “They’ll take the time to reemphasize things and to make sure the kids get it.
“I’m excited about these camps. This is a new opportunity for serious local players. We’re keeping the player-to-coach ratio at 5-1, so we’ll bring in more help if needed.” Tagman recalls having nothing like these programs while he was growing up in Olympia. “I would have given anything to have opportunities like these,” he said.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Over the years, we have seen travel teams come and go. How many times have you seen the same players play for various travel teams throughout the same summer. In our opinion, those type of teams don't qualify as travel teams. Many are just a bunch of dads, coaches, etc., putting together a group of players with the goal of winning a $5 piece of plastic. Others may have had an initial vision to put together a more permanent team, but lack of planning, follow through and communication made the whole plan fall apart. It happens every year...new teams emerge one weekend and then suddenly dissapate the next.
Stick to the Plan
Putting together a travel team should be approached in much the same way a business is developed. A plan that replicates a business plan should be the first step. A Business Plan??? Yes...if the goal of the travel team is to enter competitive tournaments and ask parents to spend money, then that team organizer should have an accountable plan put together that shows the investors or parents of this venture what the return will be. What Return? The return that their kids will develop into better ball players, play better competition and if in high school, get exposure to the proper scouts that can see their son play. And parents should see this plan, if the this travel team is not one the more established clubs. It's not too much to ask is it? If parents are going to spend their hard earned money and vacation time on a team for their son, then a hard fast plan better be in place.
Follow Through and Communication
Having a plan is one thing and following through with the plan is the tough part for many rookies in the travel game. The more established teams have their summer schedules posted and organized ON WEB SITES , rosters secure, work-outs are year round, and lines of communication open. Logistically, team hotels are reserved, and team and parent meetings prior to the tournaments set. But more important, the coaches of the top travel teams have credentials. When confronted by a newer travel team, ask about the coaches. Did they play college or pro? Have they coached at a high level before? How many years? Do they know scouts or recruiters and can they communicate intelligently...in baseball-ese about player evaluations, skill sets and projectability to them? Parents...it's your money...you can do whatever you want with it...but if you have a son that wants to play at the next level, then experience and communication skills are paramount to not only the success of the team, but the future success of your son.
Monday, January 21, 2008
RT Staff Note:
The following article is from Carmen Bucci, President of The Complete Athlete. Carmen will be contributing an article to Rounding Third every Monday throughout the rest of January. Carmen teaches high school athletes how to communicate better with their current coaches, college coaches and/or professional scouts. Since our theme for the past several weeks has been about communication, we welcome Carmen as a RT contributor.
By Carmen Bucci, The Complete Athlete
WARNING! What you are about to read is an actual conversation between a parent and their student-athlete.
Parent – “How was your day?”
Student-Athlete – “Fine.”
P – “How was the game?”
S-A – “Good.”
P – “What’s new at school?”
S-A – “Nothing.”
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. College coaches and scouts hear the same thing, day after day, while talking to potential recruits / draft picks. As frustrated as you may feel trying to communicate with your teenager, imagine what a coach or scout thinks when he has 10 or 15 minutes to get to know your son, either over the phone or in person. These valuable minutes could have an enormous impact on whether or not you’ll be recruited, or the round in which you’ll be drafted.
We’ve all heard the saying, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” As you’re reading this, ask yourself the question “Is my son prepared to communicate with a coach or scout, and make a great first impression?” I hope so. There’s a lot riding on how they are perceived by that college coach or professional scout. You have to remember that PERCEPTION IS REALITY.
When you take into account the money involved in recruiting / scouting, the jobs that are on the line, and the reputations at stake, it’s vital for college coaches or major league baseball teams to get to know as much as possible about a student-athlete before they make any type of offer. We’re talking about the physical skills, mental make up, leadership qualities, and character. Along with the proper physical conditioning, effective communication training is imperative for success in sports and life.
Why are so many of you confident in your son’s abilities on the baseball field, and not so confident in their communication skills? Because they develop their skills through practicing and playing. How many times does your son get together with his buddies and have a pick-up game in Public Speaking? Never. But, not working on your communication skills means you’re leaving out an essential part of becoming the complete athlete.
Friday, January 18, 2008
As a follow up to our Top 5 Baseball Web Sites post yesterday, many are probably wondering why we put so much importance on a teams web site. Well, the key to success in just about anything we do in life is based on good, solid communication. On this site we stressed communication between high school coaches, travel coaches, personal instructors and college recruiters. A web site is a form of communication and is becoming more and more important in tracking a players progress.
The winners of our Top 5 have taken communication to the max by educating, engaging and entertaining it's team members, parents, relatives and fans. They are all also providing a service to recruiters by posting profiles of their players, stats, box scores and game summaries. If a travel team or high school is serious about helping its players gain access to recruiters and scouts and opportunities at the next level, then they need to get serious in the way they communicate to their players and the recruiting world.
It's also this type of organized communication that separates the great travel teams from the average ones. The best teams have their rosters set, their schedules for the summer in place and update their web site several times a week to keep their players engaged. Want proof? Look at their web sites. The Seattle Stars have a daily schedule of practices, work-outs, cage hitting and throwing drills every day till February 17th...which coincides with the first day of High School practices. Don't you think that the High School coaches appreciate their top athletes coming into the first day of practice in top condition? You bet they do. And that's the kind of added value a good travel team can provide.
These days, the best way to communicate is via e-mails and web sites. The days of phone trees and voice mails are gone. We prefer the multi-media versatility of a web site more than any other medium. There's so much a team can do and our Top 5 got our vote because they have the vision to use web sites to promote their players, keep their players in touch with practices and work-outs and make their web site the town square or community forum for communicating their programs events, goals and mission. If a team wants to upgrade its service to its players...start by upgrading the web site.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
As we were compiling our NLI list, we had the opportunity to view hundreds of high school and travel team web sites. So, we decided to rate them. Our criteria were not based on design and how great they looked, but content, updated articles and continuing education and news. It's not the sizzle, but the steak. We think web sites should look good, don't get us wrong...We live in a very visual world, but a content rich web site keeps them coming back for more and those usually equate to good baseball programs as well. Another characteristic of our Top 5 is that none of these sites have sappy baseball music or that grating, computerized version of "Centerfield". Sites that have that...delete it..it's annoying. So enjoy RT's first Top 5 Baseball Team Web Sites. The link to the sites is in the underlined name of the program.
#1.LASSITER HIGH SCHOOL
This Marietta, Ga High School thought of everything when they put this site together and it all centers around the players. We like that. First, it's not your typical eteamz web site like most travel teams and high schools have. In fact, it' very uncharacteristic of a high school site, which is why it got our top vote. It's a good looking, professional design and very easy to navigate. More importantly, it is updated. All of the information on the home page refers to future dates. Unlike most high school web sites this time of year, there are no old stories still lingering from last season. Kudos to the coaches or athletic director for keeping the information fresh. And as you navigate from page to page, the content just gets better. Our favorite was the Roster Page. One advantage of having a sunbelt location is that a coach can pick most of his team early and the coaches have done an outstanding job of designing their roster like a college or pro media guide. There is a picture and bio of each and every player and the team manager. This coaching staff didn't hesitate to list their pre-try-out picks. That's should be an incentive for the rest of the players trying out in a few weeks to want to be on that page too. The site has just about everything you want to know about stats, team history, coaches bios, pictures of the facility, booster information, an ongoing calendar and even a page that has the logos and links to their scoreboard, banner and game day sponsors. This is a model web site for all to strive for. Great Job Lassiter Trojans!
#2. Houston Banditos Baseball
Go ahead and click on this web site before you read what we have to say (link above)...Impressed? Thought so. Inside is good too! The Banditos have taken the stance of "OFF-SEASON...WHAT OFFSEASON?...So, they have created an updated web site for their youth programs. Most high school travel teams have to be dormant until the high school season is over, but the Banditos have a youth program and they are still playing and practicing. Look on their updated news page. They took pictures last week and posted them on their web site immediately. Also, notice that they are in shorts and T-shirts on January 5th. So were we, but who's bragging. Their Alumni/Player evaluation page is above and beyond what most teams put together as well. They also have a message board with actual posts and threads. And, their try-out page has a video intro from Bandito alumni Troy Patton, now playing in the Astros organization. Keep up the good work Banditos!
#3. Central Carolina Prospect/Anglers
This is another player centric site. Design wise, it's bland, but it's the content that stands out. We like their Anglers Showcase Team Page. They already have the 2008 Summer schedule posted and the team roster set. Like Lassiter, they included pictures and short bios on their players. Since most travel teams have try-outs, the posted roster has the feel of a college team with each player being announced as "committing" to the Anglers. The Scout Team page is simpler, but has a well designed profile link to the left of the players name. As we have stated on previous posts, we stress that you ask for references when choosing a travel team and this site has a testimonial page praising the team and it's founder Freddy Suggs. Keep it Up Anglers!
#4. New England Ruffnecks
This site is clean, updated and very easy to navigate. It doesn't overwhelm the player or parent with information and everything they need is easy to find. We like this site because even though this Boston based club is in the middle of a harsh winter, they are updating their site with tips, announcements and practice updates every day. They have even reprinted a few Rounding Third articles on their home page and we swear that didn't sway us one bit. Everything about this site is so well organized, from the About section, to the Teams page and so on. The individual team pages have complete 2008 rosters, slide shows of each player and updated announcements. It's no coincidence that the Ruffnecks are also one of the premier travel clubs in the New England area. Stay Focused Ruffnecks!
We feel guilty that we keep mentioning this Northern California organization, but they seem to do a lot right. Their web site design is very well done and the information and content is constantly changing. Like the previous four teams, Norcal is the type of team that keeps it's players engaged year round not only in outdoor and indoor practices, but on their web site as well. They have full rosters posted on every team, camp and lesson information as well as details on their big scout attended showcase this summer, the Bay Area World Series. They have a impressive alumni page and links to local training and conditioning programs. There's a lot of activity on this site from links to videos to articles. Good work Norcal!
There were others worth noting like Cactus Shadows High School in Arizona and the Seattle Stars. Even though we have literally viewed hundreds of sites, there are a few we haven't seen we are sure. If there is one in particular that you like, send us a comment below and we'll review it.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
We had a friend travel with his son (a Senior) to see a few schools this past weekend and they happened to visit a very small D-1 school that told him that one of their position player recruits had to have major shoulder surgery and in all likelihood, would not be able to play next year. Because this visiting player had a near perfect GPA and SAT score, and also played for a top rated travel program, the coach at this university told him timing was everything and made him an offer. That brings up a good subject for today's post. This player took a different approach and visited colleges he wanted to attend. And, if you have the time, this is a great way to get to know a school that you may be unsure of. Just because you haven't heard of a school or aren't that familiar with a school, doesn't mean it's not a good school. This player was surprised by the beauty of the schools he visited. Interestingly, many small D-II, D-III and NAIA colleges look very picturesque...more so than their big D-I counterparts. And believe it or not, school aesthetics are a big part of many decisions to go to a school.
However, most players don't have that luxury or time, but there is a lot you can still do from your home to help you get noticed by colleges that still have needs.
Timing is only everything if a players name is top of mind with that coach at the time of the need. In other words, if a player is a unsigned senior, one letter to your target colleges won't do. You need to step up your campaign...be creative and supply them with a bit more than what you previously have given them.
For instance, companies advertise to attract consumers to their stores and buy their products. You must do the same. Do you have a video of your skill? If you are a position player, provide an edited video of you fielding your position from various angles. Video yourself at the plate...preferably at a 90 degree angle (facing the batter), then from behind the plate. Time and film your throws to first if you are an infielder and to third from right field if you are an outfielder. Pitchers parents have tons of game videos usually, so edit the best performances. Do a brief intro of your name, grade, height, weight, side you throw and bat, high school, travel team and send it off to one of your target colleges with your complete profile.
But be smart who you send it to. As a senior, letters to Top 50 D-I programs are probably not realistic. Our friend's scenario at the top of this post is the exception. Barring injuries, most top D-I's have completed their recruiting and as we stated yesterday, the colleges with needs are the smaller D-I's, most D-II's, D-III's, NAIA and JUCO's. That should be your target.
If you can't visit these colleges, many have virtual tours on their web sites. Some are quite good and provide 360 degree views of the campus and it's main attractions. Look and see if the targeted school has the educational curriculum that interests you... Go to their baseball site and look at who they play, their record, who they graduated and who they have signed thus far. If everything looks good, send them the packet. It's tedious and time consuming, but so is college life, so this is a great exercise to tackle.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
It's January and baseball is starting to reach it's feverish pitch in some parts of the country. Many high schools in the sunbelt start their outdoor practices this weekend. Is this the time of year to verbal? Some schools will want you to verbal now. Should you do it? This is a question that we have wrestled with for years as we put our son's through the recruiting conundrum. There are several answers that relate to various scenarios. Let's start with age...
There are still a lot of small colleges that haven't signed players yet. That time comes April 9th. If a senior gets an offer (Seniors can get offers, underclassmen can't officially just yet) from a D-II or smaller school and it's a school he really wants to attend, then now may be a good time to give a verbal commitment. Why? Well, it will alleviate a lot of pressure first and foremost. It's a relief for many players to not have be on stage for a while...we said for a while...because once he is in college he will be back on that stage again.
However, if a senior has been getting several offers and hasn't made all of the official visits yet and thinks that a banner senior high school season could improve his chances for a better offer, then waiting for the school he really wants to go to should be the choice. The late signing period is much longer, so the only timeline is making the decision before the availability of offers goes dry. Remember, a student should always pick the school first, then baseball. Hopefully, he has already applied to those schools already and is just waiting for a baseball offer. We have made this comment several times. Don't verbal if it's not a school that interests him just to play baseball. If baseball doesn't work out, then he's stuck with a school he doesn't like. We have seen the scenario where an student/athlete turned full time student, has to start the application process all over again to attend another school that fits him and his major. That's a big pain.
There are some that would disagree, but January through spring of his junior year is still too early to verbal if a player had some type of correspondence with a college coach and he has told the player that he wants him to be a part of his team. It's flattering, but if that player is good, he will get interest from other schools as well. Don't say yes to the first college that shows interest. Play your high school season. Step it up this summer on a great travel team. Enjoy July 1st (the first official day that an incoming senior can recieve phone calls from college coaches) and the phone calls you will get and then, after a heart to heart with your coaches, parents and yourself...make the RIGHT decision. The recruiting process can be a lot of fun if you follow this timeline.
However...there's always a however...IF and only IF, a player receives a solid "offer" (it's really just solid interest at this point due to NCAA restrictions) from a school that has been on the top of his list and there will be no post decision dissonance that could ever give him regrets, then maybe it will be OK to verbal. This early verbal is usually reserved for the coveted athletes that a school wants to tie up now so that they can concentrate on other needs. It also can be a relief for the top athlete to finally concentrate on playing ball. Many elite athletes get bombarded with mountains of e-mails and regular mail everyday and it gets old after a while. Verbally announcing his decision usually stops the activity. Now, verbals are non-binding for both the player and the school at this stage...but, that doesn't mean that a player can or should change his mind. Barring any injuries to a player, a school should not back down on it's offer either. They both can legally, but it's not really acceptable, unless there has been a change in the coaching staff or other outside influences that change the ground rules a bit. Bottom line, a player must be absolutley sure that this is his number one choice. If so, then make the announcement.
First of all, the majority of sophomores will not get "offers" or solid interest yet...Yes, you will get letters and e-mails...that doesn't necessarily imply solid interest.. So, sophomores players and parents...don't even think about it! That said, we do know literally a handful of sophomores that have verballed. (Literally, less than 5 exceptionally talented players that we know of.) And, unless a player is one of those handful of super-studs that comes around every once in a while, there is absolutely no reason a sophomore should be thinking that he is missing out on something at this age. Physically, mentally, and practically, there is so much baseball ahead. A player should just use this time to play exceptional ball. This is the time to make the high school varsity team if he can. That should be priority number one. Make a top rated travel team. That is priority number two. Get seen at showcases and major tourney's. That's priority number three. Sophomore year is a time when a player should be scaling up his game to a higher level. He may have dominated at a younger age, but how does that scale to playing against other players two to three years his senior? It can be a wake-up call and all the more reason to relax and just play the game, work-out, get stronger, smarter and better.
We hope this helps. Any personal experiences that players, parents or coaches want to add? Use the comment section below. Don't worry. You can reply as anonymous.
Monday, January 14, 2008
RT Staff Note: We are working on an article on the best designed and most informative team websites for both high school and travel teams. In that search, we came across an article posted on Norcal's web site. We not only liked the article, but we liked the fact that Norcal is constantly updating their web-site with new information and educational materials to better their players year round. They aren't the only team doing this, but there certainly should be more teams staying in-touch during the off-season. We encourage all youth teams to be as pro-active in posting new articles and information on their web sites all year...not just during the season. This article is from Doug Gardner of ThinkSport and he has given us permission via e-mail to re-run this article here on RT. Enjoy!
Begin with the End in Mind:
Reflections from 2007 to Create Focus for 2008
By Dr. Doug Gardner - ThinkSport
The end of the year is a great time to take a look back and think about the many things that happened to you during 2007 both academically and in terms of baseball.
Think back to January 1st of last year...How much have you grown up since then? Did you set any goals or New Year’s Resolutions last year? Did you meet these goals and your own personal expectations?
Transport yourself to one year from now...Where do you see yourself? Where do you want to be? What have you learned from this past year that you can apply in your work in 2008? What do you want to have accomplished one year from now?
The beginning of the calendar year is the perfect time to take a step back and reflect upon where you have been and utilize this information to better the path you will take in reaching your short-term and long-term goals.
No matter how talented of a baseball player you are, you can always get better and improve. Few athletes actually take the time to assess, critique and formulate improvement strategies in an objective, honest and constructive manner.
Most athletes spend their assessment time being too harsh on themselves when mistakes are made, performance is poor and when games are lost. When things go well, athletes often do not think too much as to why they are having the success they are having. People believe that thinking too much about their successes will lead to negative outcomes in the future.
This either-or syndrome often interferes with our ability to assess our preparation and performance objectively and rationally. If I do well? Great! Keep it going and don’t ask questions. If I do poorly? Well, open the flood gates and berate yourself.
To be objective, an athlete must create a standardized and systematic way to assess themselves. I suggest that athletes categorize their preparation and performance into three distinct areas:
• Physical - Cardiovascular fitness, strength/core training, diet & nutrition, injury prevention.
• Fundamental - Aspects related to the development of the many physical skills specifically related to the sport(s) you participate in.
• Mental - Focus, intensity, purpose, trust, strategy formulation, adversity and coping skills, decision-making capabilities.
Let us try a short exercise...
When answering the following questions, be as specific and detailed as possible in relation to the physical, fundamental and mental aspects of your preparation and performance.
1. What aspects of your performance were you pleased with last year?
2. What aspects of your performance were you NOT pleased with last year?
3. Did you prepare to the best of your abilities, on a day-to-day basis?
4. How can your commitment and preparation improve?
5. How have you matured as a person and as an athlete over the past twelve months?
6. What can you do right now to start working and improving areas of weakness?
Remember, this is not a test. Nobody else will see your answers and only you will know if you are truly being honest and objective with yourself. Please e-mail me with your critique of yourself and your performance if you would like some feedback.
Friday, January 11, 2008
RT Staff Note: We found this article in a little local paper called The Acorn that serves Agoura Hills, Calabassas, Westlake Village and surrounding other towns in Southern California. Scout Teams are great resources for players wanting to get exposure and improve their game...Most play in the late summer or fall, but some teams in various parts of the country play all summer. Learn from this article.
Club teams allow area baseball players to display their skills
So Cal Cardinals' rosters featured many local high school standouts
By Steve Ames Special to The Acorn
Cardinals scout team baseball program, the 2007 campaign was a successful one. With home games against Southern California Scout League opponents at Conejo Creek Park in Thousand Oaks, the So Cal Cardinals' two local affiliates- teams Blue and Red- compete in games where scores aren't kept.
"This league is all about exposure," said Chuck Fick, manager of the Cards Red team, earlier this year as he looked toward the opposing dugout where he could see Bill Gentry of Bakersfield, manager of the Cards Blue team. "It's not about wins and losses," Fick said. "It's about getting seen. (Players) never know what happens when (they) go to the ballpark. You don't know who's going to see you."
The scout-ball season runs from September through November each year for high school age players. The Cardinals' opponents include the Astros, Devil Rays, Indians, L.A. Braves, Red Sox, the Wahoo's and the White Sox.
Additional games were held in Nevada and Arizona, where the Cards Blue and Red teams played in the Arizona Senior Fall Classic in October at the Peoria Sports Complex. Scores were kept during those contests.
In addition, players from the So Cal Cardinals faced former Dodgers hurler Hideo Nomo the same month at the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Compton. Fick is the national crosschecker scout and Gentry is an associate scout covering the Central Valley and Southern California for the St. Louis Cardinals. "This (scout team program) is totally separate from the St. Louis Cardinals," Fick said.
"The St. Louis Cardinals do not give me one baseball. This whole team is financed through the players. What I try and provide for them is the exposure and the experience I can give to them from my knowledge of the game." The cost for players is $500. "You can spend $500 for one camp at a college, or you've got me and my whole staff for 12 weeks," Fick said.
In attempting to make either Cards squad, players attended a daylong workout in front of team scouts. Forty-three players were selected for each team from the 250 to 300 who tried out, 30 of whom represent local high schools. The key to the scout program, Fick said, is to teach the players how to slow the game down in their minds. "Baseball gets a little fast for some people," Fick said. "I think that the mental part of the game is what I really try and walk them through. The mental part is so important. You can't write a manual on it."
Assisting Fick as Red team coaches were Wayne Smith, Bill Fick, Derron Speller and Mike Lara. The Red team's roster included shortstop Adam Landecker of Calabasas, catcher/first baseman Nathan Johnson and third baseman/shortstop Bryan Willson from Camarillo, and third baseman/pitcher Wes Wright of Moorpark.
Representing Newbury Park High were second baseman Christian Fick, outfielder Cameron Forbes, shortstop Jack Marder and catcher Jojo Sharrar. Outfielder Mitchell Halpert from Oak Park, pitcher Matt Nestlerode of Oaks Christian, pitchers Matt Magill and Tanner Peters from Royal, catcher Drew Sandler of Simi Valley, catcher Jett Bandy and pitcher Jeff Johnson of Thousand Oaks and pitcher Alex Gillingham from Westlake also played for the Cards Red.
Wright, a senior at Moorpark in his second year with the Cards, said in scout baseball a player can work on pretty much anything to improve his game. "I'm just building arm strength, working on getting stronger," Wright said. "I've got all my pitches down, so building arm strength is my thing."
Other coaches who worked with Gentry on the Cards Blue team were Mike Glendenning and Joe Giarraputo. Area players on the Blue team included pitcher Matt Gallinot of Agoura, as well as Calabasas third baseman Justin Fredlender, outfielder/pitcher Dalton Saberhagen and outfielder Jordan Yallen. Outfielder Danny Wilson, second baseman Michael Erb and pitcher Nick Richardson represented Camarillo. Outfielder Ben Cohen, second baseman/ shortstop Brian Pede, outfielder Derek Taylor and first baseman Troy Williams all came from Newbury Park.
Those Cards Blue players were joined by shortstop/second baseman Sean Spear of Oaks Christian, outfielder Chance Cross from Simi Valley and third baseman Mitchell Korey of Thousand Oaks.
Erb, a sophomore at Camarillo High, has always played second base and enjoys the position. He focused on improving his defense with the Cards. "I'm getting more fine-tuned on reading hops better, reading hops off the bat," Erb said. "It's an instinctual thing."
Major League Baseball's scouting community and college recruiters from across the nation attended these games. Many players are recruited annually by college programs and sign letters of intent to play college baseball, in addition to several players who are taken in the MLB First Year Player Draft held in June.
Gentry said the exposure for the student-athletes is paying off. "Just in the early signing alone, we've already signed 35 or 36 kids to fouryear college programs, and there's still more coming," Gentry said. "We're going to conceivably have 40 to 45-plus kids signed into college baseball programs, and every year we have 10 to 15 kids drafted."
The scout league games are played with only an umpire behind home plate. Pitchers throw for 1 2/3 innings, and games are 14 to 18 innings long with hitters getting three or four at-bats each. "If the pitcher has played 15 games," Fick said, "he's thrown almost 30 innings during the fall. If he throws another 60 innings during the spring, that's 90 innings for the year. That's enough. That's a lot of innings for a high school pitcher."
The So Cal Cardinals' next tryout sessions will take place in August. -
Thursday, January 10, 2008
We are a site dedicated to helping players play at the next level...period...Although we have mentioned the subject of today's post a few times over the last three months, it bears mentioning again, because now is the time to act!!! Senior players who aren't committed to a college yet...there are hundreds of D-II's, D-III's, NAIA and JUCO's ready to add to their rosters from April 9th-August 1st...the next signing period. So, get those letters written, profiles updated, send them your high school schedule (your coach should have that posted by now)and travel team coaches recommendation. More importantly, make sure all your transcripts, SAT's, SAT II's and/or ACT's are ready to send out with the school application. If you haven't applied to the college you are sending a letter to, do so now! Many schools have admissions deadlines for applications for the Fall 2008 session and that deadline is probably coming up soon. Ask the coaches of that school or an admissions administrator what their policy is. There's no cookie cutter answer to this issue. All schools have different policies.
Bottom line, these smaller colleges could be the best thing that ever happened to many young athletes...especially if they are still maturing as a baseball player, but have the talent to play at the next level. Yes, it takes talent...Collegiate baseball at any level is competitive and can lead to bigger opportunities just like the D-I's. And, many players have taken full advantage of the opportunity they recieved at the small colleges they attended. Did you know for example, that NCAA Division II schools had 63 players taken in the 2007 MLB draft and D-III schools have an average of 30 players taken each year? Our point is...There is great baseball at the small colleges and in many instances a more well rounded education as well.
While the smaller schools aren’t as loved by the national press, they are the darlings of the local media, especially in the smaller communities. Many of these small schools are the pride of the small towns they reside in and have a great fan base as well. (Not all small schools are in small towns, but many are) And many of these smaller schools have every bit as much tradition and history as the D-I’s too.
And here’s a couple of interesting facts…Did you know that while D-III doesn’t offer athletic scholarships, more athletes play in D-III than any other NCAA division? Another interesting note is that NAIA schools can actually offer more funded scholarships. (not a lot more…but more nevertheless) NAIA can give out 12 scholarships, while D-I is stuck at 11.7.
In a post we published a few months back, we mentioned that Division III and NAIA colleges and universities offer some of the best education in the country as well. Ranked D-III schools, Johns Hopkins (34-9 in 2007) and Washington University in St. Louis (30-9 in 2007) have two of the most prestigious medical schools in the country. Many NAIA, D-II and D-III schools provide greater student-teacher ratios, attractive settings, and some of the best job placement opportunities in the nation after graduation.
High school student athletes who want to play sports in college, and are not being recruited by major college programs, may still have a chance to play baseball at NCAA Division II, III or NAIA colleges. Again, get those letters and school applications out now!!! In the right hand column of this site, you will find a list that includes all D-I, D-II, D-III and NAIA schools that offer baseball. Look at their sites and see which one may fit your goals academically, while satisfying that competitive urge to play a college sport. Good Luck..till next time..
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio, Cal Ripken, Yaz, Brooks Robinson, George Brett, Ozzie Smith, and other stars that we grew up with that we could honestly say were a baseball purists dream? What has happened to integrity, truth and the American past time? What has happened to common sense?
We live in an information rich society. At the touch a button or keyboard, we can locate, or find information about anyone, anytime and anywhere. And, the by-product of all that info-wealth is that there’s little or no chance of anyone that is in the public eye to ever get away with anything. So, why even try?
Here’s why…We have been highlight reeled to think that all ball players hit homers, make diving plays, and can jump up center field walls to make catches all the time. Therefore, when we don’t see a player do that the day we decide to go to the ballpark, we get disappointed and wonder what happened to our star player. The players themselves see this too and work and practice harder, so that they too can be on the next segment of Web Gems or Touch Em All. And that’s great for baseball…as long as it’s done honestly, and legally. But it seems that the desire to be on Sports Center wasn’t always achieved with the integrity of the game in mind for some….and that’s a shame.
Ozzie Smith never needed anything but a rubber ball, a paper sack glove and concrete stairs to learn how to have quick hands. Brooks Robinson took thousands of ground balls per week to become the best third baseman ever to play the game. George Brett worked tirelessly with Charlie Lau to perfect and perfect again his already perfect swing. That’s how it done folks. There’s no need for any other enhancements to play this game…other than to mentally enhance the desire to play harder and smarter.
Short-cuts lead to short careers. The only way to play this game is to respect this game…be honest...and never let the temptation of a ‘better and easier way” lead you to think that there is a better and easier way. There isn’t…Players, learn from this. The game is fun just the way it is.
There are so many showcase services, letters from college coaches about their camps, and player rankings from a multitude of services, it's hard to put it all into perspective. What does all of this contact from these people mean? It means your son is in a bunch of datatbases. That's not such a bad thing...but beware, some of the services, to paraphrase former football coach Dennis Green.."They aren't who they say they are".
We get dozens of e-mails from services claiming to get you noticed by managing the paper flow to the coaches. Today, we received one that claims is a web based management tool that helps players manage and upload their information, videos, news clippings etc for $19.95 to send to coaches. Why can't a player do that himself? Why does he need a web based management tool to store that info?
We got e-mail blasted from another "showcase" organization three times a week to reserve our players chance to be seen by a bunch of coaches of colleges that we hardly heard of. Most were D-III and NAIA schools, yet they made it sound like an elite camp and it wasn't...Not that a showcase for players interested in attending a small college isn't a good idea...it is a great idea...it just wasn't being marketed as such.
And of course, we have all received that letter that stated that our son was a Pre-Season All-American to something...And for $375, he'll get a t-shirt to prove it. And many families spend that money so they can have something to talk about at the water cooler that next Monday morning.
When it comes to legitimacy, it's our opinion to stick with the brand names and the basics...
Do you want bang for your buck? Attend a Perfect Game showcase. They are the grand-daddy of showcases nationwide and also run the Statewide and regional BCS and WWBA national tournaments...Team One/Baseball Factory has a few good showcases in many parts of the country as well. However, there are privately run showcases by established organizations like Boys of Baseball, Impact Baseball Showcases in the mid-south, Best In Virginia, Blue Chip Prospects in the Northeast and Norcal's Bay Area World Series in Northern California that are excellent events for scouts to attend. There will be many others that claim to be The One Showcase You Must Attend and they may be...but, just be careful and do your homework.
Do you want a bigger bang to compliment the above? Have your son try-out for a major travel team that goes to all of the aforementioned top showcase tournaments and has contacts with college coaches...However, having college contacts are only useful if the coach on the other end of the phone respects the messengers opinion. As, we stated in yesterday's post...ASK FOR REFERENCES!
Is your son the best on his high school team, but money is tight? Have your son's high school coach nominate him for your states North/South or East/West games run by the state high school association...or have him nominate him for the Area Code games in your area. In many states, these are free and many local and regional scouts attend these events. Since it's the best high school players in the state or area, it's a good benchmark for the recruiters and scouts to assess talent. However, if you can get a sponsorship or scholarship, (many top travel teams have scholarship options) we stress the importance of having your son play the entire summer in a competitive environment on a travel team to compliment the free showcases. If a scout shows interest, he'll want to see him play later in the summer or fall.
Do you want a targeted approach? If your son has the tools, enroll him into his targeted colleges high school prospect camps. These are usually week long or weekend events. The week long events are more expensive, but it will give your son the closest thing to a college environment. These events require the player to stay overnight in dorms and they are there the same time as the schools other sports camps...boys and girls. So the athletes all eat and have twilight activities together throughout the week. They are also very intense. Many overnight camps have wake-up calls at 7:00...are on the field by 8:30AM and don't usually end until 8-8:30PM. About 20% of a colleges signed athletes are found at these camps.
Bottom line, if your son has attended any high profile event, he will be spammed by dozens of so-called "experts". If you doubt any of these letters, ask your travel coach or private instructor what they think. If you're still unsure, send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll do the research and we will give you our best assessment to determine whether it's legit or not.
Monday, January 7, 2008
Let's say you are in the market for a home. The present state of the real estate industry aside, do you buy a home just for the lowest price or do you research everything about a neighborhood before buying a new home, such as residents, nearby schools, environmental statistics and information about recently sold properties in your neighborhood? If you want a return on your investment, you will do your homework and research...because you will reap the benefits if you follow the age old mantra of real estate 101 and buy for location, location, location.
Finding a summer team for your athlete follows the same principals. It's all about where you locate your son in front of the right scouts that can see him play. If your son has the right tools and may project to play at the next level, then how will he be seen? Does your sons present team adequately do that? If not, then maybe it is time to sit down with the present coaches and see what their plans are. About 98% of all signed, college bound senior players in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California played on travel teams. The numbers are proof that the travel teams produce results and a BIG return for your athlete. The good teams that is. Our December 20th post recapping our NLI's, pointed out about a dozen teams that place nearly 100% of their rosters. Those teams have managers that have influential contacts and know all or most of the key recruiters. Others may have the same influence with recruiters but will place only 25-50% of their players due to lack of recruitable players but even that's still good. At least they are trying.
The teams to stay away from, if there is any cost involved, are the teams that have little or no track record of success. If you are unsure of the integrity of a travel team, ask for references. Most good organizations like the teams we highlighted in our Top 5 will provide you with dozens of references from past players and parents, to college and pro scout references. If a travel team that is recruiting your son can't provide that, then it may not provide you the return you are looking for.
And a lot of the emphasis on travel teams depends on where you live. In the big baseball states of the West, South and Mid South travel teams are imperative if your son wants to play D-I. But in the north and rural states, a player may be OK playing for his Legion or Connie Mack club if that is the traditional resource for talent by the local colleges.
And that brings up the next point...the most important point...Where do the college recruiters in your area look to seek out talent? When sending out college letters, have your son ask them where they think he should play and where they go to find players. That will determine where he should play...But remember, most teams that play in competitive leagues will want your son to play baseball at the highest level, so that they can get a realistic look at his talents and the physical and mental reactions he projects against that level of competition. Because the realities are...those same recruiters and coaches need to get a return on their investment as well. So, the more confident they are that the player they recruited can transition to the next level, the better chance that player has. And, the best places a recruiter can be to ensure that a recruit can handle the rigors of college competition, is where the competition is at its best...and it won't be at the local Babe Ruth or Legion leagues in many cases...it will be at the big national or regional showcases and tournaments...but ask college coaches anyway...you definitely don't want to pay more than you have to.
Friday, January 4, 2008
We received a pretty nasty e-mail two weeks ago from a high school coach in California about our position on travel teams, showcases, and college camps. We were shocked!!! He went on to say that he tells his kids that they are not allowed to play on travel teams, go to showcases and attend college camps. He also said he was tired of receiving phone calls from college recruiters on underclassmen that haven't proven anything to HIM yet! He believes that High School baseball was all that his players needed to play at the next level.
So, we set out to find out more about this coach. We looked up his high school and they are pretty high profile and competitive in a tough league. Here's the shocking part...Over half of his players play on travel teams and attend showcases and camps. It took us some time to research this, but we Googled past and present players and they showed up on all sorts of Perfect Game, and Team One sites, as well as local papers that covered their summer teams. From what we were able to find out, about eight players from past graduating classes are presently playing in college or junior college...not bad, but all of these players were the players we googled and played travel ball...so, was it the travel ball or the high school that was the catalyst in getting these players to the next level? We do know that in California, 98% of all of the NLI signees this year played on a competitive travel team...but our answer is...It was both!!! And that has been our stance all along. High school and travel ball are equally important.
What's shocking is that this high school coach has no idea what his players do after the high school season ends...He thinks they don't play in showcases and travel teams and we found out that they do. This coach is also a full time teacher and coach, so we don't blame him for wanting a summer break, but to discourage his kids to seek out better baseball and expose themselves to college recruiters is inexcusable. His other gripe was the cost involved in these summer programs...and we all wish it was cheaper. But, good travel ball just isn't that way anymore. It hasn't been for some time. Some are less expensive than others, but the tourney fees are all the same, so no matter if there are coaches fees or not, there will be a cost to play good competitive baseball. It's that way in basketball, volleyball, golf, s****r and even football. Baseball is no different.
This is a prime example of why it is very, very, very important for all high school coaches to be on the same page with the state of today's recruiting environment. We have been e-mailing high school coaches nationwide introducing them to our site and to this point the responses we have been getting from high school coaches has been positive. Therefore, we assume that most coaches are aware of the importance of a well rounded baseball program that includes both high school and a competitive summer team. In fact, we can name about 250 high school coaches nationwide that help coach a summer travel team. I'm sure there are more than that. But, we also know that there are still a handful of coaches that still harbor an animosity towards any top level summer team...and we will give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they have not yet been approached by their players travel coaches about the benefits of this synergistic relationship. In the instance of the high school coach that e-mailed us, we contacted a travel coach and told them to set up a meeting with him...The meeting is in two weeks...so there is hope...all for the betterment of baseball!!
Thursday, January 3, 2008
How much do you think you really know about the game of baseball? How much do you really WANT to know? If you are the type that needs to break down the game ala Billy Beane and his Jamesion style of quantifying before qualifying prospects, then we have the book for you. The Book...Playing The Percentages In Baseball...This isn't another book review...It's an opinion on why numbers can be important and maybe even timely.
You see, we live in a tweener time in baseball. That is, the time between the juiced era and a yet to be determined era...Well, maybe that future era is the "numbers" era. Instead of gaining an edge with just pure strength and brawn, how about if a player separates himself with the help from a scientific calculator and his brain? Don't stop those work-outs just yet...physical specimens are still needed and we aren't quite yet condoning all of this Geeky approach to baseball...but, it does make for interesting conversation. Just think if baseball just replaced those juiced up cartoon like bodies with sci-fi like intelligence of the game? Could that be the edge that defines the future of baseball?
Written by three esteemed sabermetricians, The Book continues where the legendary Bill James Abstracts and Palmer and Thorn's The Hidden Game of Baseball left off over twenty years ago.
They challenge the perceptions that we all think we know to be true. Is a sacrifice bunt really smart or is it sacrificing the teams chances? What does an intentional walk really prevent? Is anyone ever really fooled by the pitch out? Where should a coach put his best hitters in the lineup? Does platooning work? The information hits the reader with stats that WOW and is very useful for anyone that makes strategic decisions, or for that fan that just likes to dissect the game for what it is. From their web site, we have included some excerpts from their book...
Excerpts from The Book
Batting Order: If nothing else, we will consider this book a true success if all thirty teams were to never put a below-average hitter in the second spot. While the proper strategy will only gain you a few runs, why do something that is otherwise clearly wrong?
The Sacrifice Bunt: If you were to ask almost any manager whether he would rather advance the runner to second in exchange for an out, or have the batter attempt a sacrifice, how do you think he would respond? If you answered, “Take the guaranteed sacrifice,” we think that you would be right. What a poor decision that would be. It's not even close!
Batter/Pitcher Matchups: Luis Gonzalez, against the one guy he owned in the previous eighteen PA, the one guy that he took to the cleaners more often than any other pitcher he's faced, the one pitcher that any hitter has taken advantage of more than any other pitcher in baseball, crumbled in his sight for the next twelve
Good winter book to get those brain synapses firing in anticipation of a great baseball season ahead!!!
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
It may seem incredulous to many of our readers in the North, but the Southern States start outdoor practice the middle of this month. That means stepping up the work-outs to avoid injury. The most common complaints are shoulder and elbow soreness and if you didn't follow our suggestion to long toss and build arm strength this past fall season, it's still not too late. In addition to long toss and other arm drills, we have found that the Jaeger bands and similar band work is a sure way to strengthen that arm to limit any soreness or injury. A site that we really like and can give you a quick tutorial on what to do to strengthen your shoulders and arms between now and January 15th can be found at the aforementioned Jaeger Sports and at these links at BaseballConditioning.net or BaseballFit.com
Good baseball players don't crash course their work-outs, and the only sure way to decrease the risk of injury is to work out and strengthen your core and the rest of your body year round. But if you didn't have a year round program, starting now, while not ideal, is better than risking injury the first few weeks of practice...the most common time of arm soreness.
Good luck guys. Work Hard!