Friday, January 30, 2009

Be Proud, Not Loud

Parents of gifted athletes come in a variety of packages. The two that this article will focus on are the quiet parent vs. the outspoken one. We all have experienced a parents outrage at the plethora of sporting events throughout our child's lives. We have also seen that parent that let's his kid work it out on his own. Which one are you?

The parent you should aspire to be is the quiet, supportive type that will allow their son a chance to be his own man with no interference and zero public displays of emotion.

Parents that sit in the stands and complain that the coaches don’t know what the heck they are doing is not the type of parent your son or your friends find particularly attractive. Parents like this think that they are much more qualified to make decisions on whom to start, who to play when and what situation may warrant a better choice than the one that was executed.

OK, parents, so you think that you guys are so smart? Have you spent time with the players three or more hours a day, 6 days a week, for the past five months? Because the coaches have. That’s over 360 hours of observation and analysis of each player. They have situational practices, inter-squad scrimmages and countless hours of time in the cage to help them decide who the better players are.

Have you even seen your own kid play that much? If so, where and what was the level of competition? How much time have you spent in the cage with your own son and what credentials do you have to critique his hitting mechanics? How many ground balls or fly balls have you hit him this week? Can you teach him the proper way to field a ground ball? When do you use the back hand? Do you know the different ways to throw a double play ball to second, based on how far away from the bag the ball is hit? Have you worked with him on that for countless hours each week?

Do you work with him on how to react to the hundreds of situations that occur when runners are on base? Do you work on hitting the cut-offs everyday? How about the double cut? Do you watch him run the bases and work with him on that? At what point in the pitchers delivery should a base runner take that first step towards a steal?

How many times each week do you work on bunting with your son? When do you bunt towards third base and when should you bunt down first. Do you teach him the push bunt? When would you ever use that? Do you work with him on hit and run plays, going opposite field on off-speed, or hitting to the right side with a runner on third with one out or less?

Do you work with your son’s on covering first base if he is a pitcher? How about bunt coverage? Do you parents ever talk to your sons about the upcoming game and their hitters and what they have done in their past at bats? Are you discussing what your son should be thinking before each pitch? How about how to hit based on the count? What might the other team attempt?

Do you help him visualize situations like how to cover a steal, hit and run or bunt? Where do they need to be in each situation? Did your family dinner time conversations talk about what your MIF son should do if there is a runner on first, ball is hit back to the pitcher, and the ball is fielded and an errant throw is made to second?

Do you do any of this for three hours a day, 6 days a week? If you don't, then HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY KNOW if your son can adequately handle all of the skills well enough to earn a starting position? If you do, then you don’t have a job…because that’s exactly what coaching a team is…a full time job!

And much like in your own job, mistakes will be made, It's a crazy, unpredictable game...There will be mistakes...but not on purpose. There’s not a coach alive that wants to maliciously make it a horrible experience for your son. Oh yes, he will be tough on your son, maybe even in his him a little verbal beat down...because he wants to make him tougher...We have seen that strategy work many times...Hey, if your son can’t handle a little tough talk, how the heck is he ever going to handle a tough game situation? Heck, forget about baseball for a will he handle a game of LIFE situation? Listen, good coaches take a statement like “there’s no crying in baseball” very seriously. So stop your crying folks!

As I sit in some stands, I hear more often than not how horrible the coaches are. These are usually the parents whose sons are NOT playing. As if the kids that are playing are given some special privilege that somehow, some way their kid didn’t get. Parents, did you ever think that maybe the players that start have proven time and time again in practice that they deserve to be on the field? OK, we get it. Sometimes a starter doesn’t always deliver in a game…but maybe he impresses them so much in practice that they are pinning their hopes that he will someday break out and therefore, give him a few more chances that our armchair observations can’t see. In baseball, as it has been for the past 125 years, only 9 play on a team and if it is a close game, only 9 will play period.

Be a good your team...set an example for your own children and please, quit embarrassing yourselves in front of everyone else and have respect for the other parents that are in the stands enjoying their sons season. Sorry for the tough talk folks...High school and college ball isn’t tee ball where everyone plays and the losers get a trophy.

RT Staff

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Being Responsible

RT Staff Note: This is a rewind from an article we ran last year, but it works well with this weeks theme. It's an article from the Houston Chronicle and it talks about the pervasive injuries from pitchers that play year round baseball. It's more than that in our opinion. It's about common sense. The reason why we praise College Development Programs on this site is because the truly great CDP's have a plan. They have a rotation. They know the value of rest and conditioning and the risks involved in too many pitches in a week.

A top rated CDP will have 6 or more starting pitchers and closers...If your son is being approached by a College Development Program the first thing to ask is the number of pitchers they carry. A top rated travel team will have 6 or more starting pitchers and closers...minimum. Any less than that is irresponsible. Too many dads want their son to be the showcase pitcher..But at the ages of 12, 13 and 14, it means absolutely nothing...$5 plastic trophies are useless and won't get them into college...especially if the player is overused and gets injured. Your responsibility as a parent is to make sure your son is part of a rotation...not part of your vicarious vision of stardom. Don't agree? Then read below.

Tommy John surgery is rising among young pitchers

Nathan Eovaldi knew something was wrong. For all the pitches he had
thrown in his young life, his arm never felt like it did after this one
on March 13, 2007.

"I threw a slider, and something didn't feel right," said the Alvin High School senior righthander. "It wasn't a horrible pain, but when I threw it, I felt a tingling in my arm, and I could just tell something was wrong."

Two months later, the Texas A&M signee underwent surgery to reconstruct the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, otherwise known as Tommy John surgery.

It may sound drastic, but what was once a last-ditch procedure to save a professional player's arm is now becoming more commonplace at all levels — including high school.

Eleven months after the procedure, Eovaldi is back on the mound competing with his Yellow Jackets teammates. He is both a picture of a successful recovery and a sign of how the procedure has been mastered.

But he is also a symbol of a larger concern.

While rates on UCL surgery are not tracked nationally, some of the area's and country's top surgeons said they've seen a significant increase in the number of high-school-aged players having the procedure.

"I would say over the last five to seven years, (the rate) has doubled," said David Lintner, an orthopedic sports medicine specialist who is Eovaldi's doctor and also serves as the Astros' team medical director. "And it goes up steadily every year."

Dr. James Andrews, one of the nation's most respected orthopedic surgeons, has also seen a spike in the number of high school pitchers he has performed the procedure on.

In a three-year span from 1996-99, Andrews performed Tommy John surgery on 164 pitchers, 19 of whom were high school aged or younger. From 2004-07, that number had jumped to 588 pitchers, 146 of whom were high school or youth league players — a seven-fold increase.

"Without a doubt, it's an issue," said Glenn Fleisig, the Smith and Nephew Chair of Research at the American Sports Medicine Institute, which was founded by Andrews. "The numbers are staggering in adolescents. More and more high-school-aged kids are having the surgery."

The big question: Why is a procedure once used mostly on college and professional players becoming more prevalent in kids who can't legally vote?

There are many factors, including how much a pitcher throws, what type of pitches he throws and whether he has good mechanics. But one factor stands out as the main culprit.

"Without a doubt, the No. 1 statistical cause (of UCL injuries) is overuse," Fleisig said. "In our studies, when a pitcher regularly threw with arm fatigue, he was 36 times more likely to be in the surgery group as opposed to the non-surgery group. That's the strongest statistical correlation in any study we've ever done."

High school coaches agree pitchers are throwing too much these days — and it starts before their high school careers. With the warm weather in Houston, the high school season is just one part of an elite pitcher's year. Such pitchers often play with select or travel teams in the summer and sometimes in the fall, leaving little time for rest.

'Crazy' year-round play

"(Year-round play) has gone off the charts," Alvin coach Mike Rogers said. "Years ago, it used to be that you played Little League, and then you went to basketball and football. Now you have 8- and 9-year-olds playing winter league and summer league. It's crazy."

Fleisig said year-round play is one reason high school pitchers may eventually require the surgery.

"Kids get more specialized, playing all year round, but that's what got them here," Fleisig said. "With so many pitches thrown, their total pitch count is now what a 25-year-old man used to have."

Eovaldi said he began pitching at a young age.

"I started pitching when I was 8 or 9," he said. "It was just fastballs, though. I've been a pitcher ever since then, for about nine or 10 years."

He said he rarely experienced pain — aside from customary postgame soreness — until that March game against Brazoswood. Once the UCL tears were discovered and the decision to have the surgery was made, Eovaldi wasn't nervous. In fact, he was somewhat excited about the procedure, which was performed by Lintner.

"I was ready to get it, recover and get back into it," Eovaldi said. "I read up on it. Doctors have really mastered the surgery. All the pros recover. It's just about being patient for that full recovery before you get back out there."

Timeline for a full recovery is normally about 12 months or longer, though pitchers can often throw again before then. Eovaldi, for instance, has been competing with the Yellow Jackets for much of this season, but he has been on a strict pitch count and hasn't fully regained his original velocity.

Lighting up the gun

"Before surgery, the highest I hit on the radar gun was 96 (mph), and I was consistent with 90-94 (on my fastball)," he said. "Now, the highest I've hit is 94, and I've been pretty consistent from 88-92."

Eovaldi is one of a handful of players in the area to have recently had Tommy John surgery. Mo Wiley, a senior at Mayde Creek, underwent the procedure in late March. The 18-year-old righthander, who is a University of Houston signee, had the procedure in hopes he could return in time to play as a freshman with the Cougars in the spring of 2009. His procedure was also done by Lintner.

"Luckily, most of the players understand that it can take a year to get back to pitching," Lintner said. "But every teenager thinks they'll heal quicker than everyone else ever did."

While the number of surgeries has increased over the years, so has the rate of full recovery. It's a much more reliable procedure now, and Fleisig said a recent study he conducted shows athletes who have UCL reconstruction come back to the same or a higher level 80-85 percent of the time.

"Yes, more kids are getting hurt, but now that we have a reliable surgery, people will have it because the recovery rates are good," Lintner said. "Ten years ago, it was almost a coin flip whether a pitcher would get back. It was just a salvage operation out of desperation. Now we expect upward of 85 percent getting back to being able to pitch."

Still, athletes can take preventative measures to help them avoid the injury. It starts with monitoring how much they throw — weekly and annually.

"The older they are, the more they can throw," Lintner said. "A teenage pitcher should not be going over 100 pitches once a week, generally speaking."

Rest is another important preventative measure. Most doctors agree pitchers should take a minimum of two to three months off from throwing.

Back off on the curves

Also, doctors recommend pitchers not throw breaking pitches (curveballs or sliders) until they are ready — normally after they've reached puberty.

But parents and coaches at all levels also have to take responsibility.

"Dads thinking (their sons) have to win at all costs at 9, 10, 11 and 12 years old to win those championship games (at tournaments) — all that means nothing in the big picture," said Mark Wiley, Mo Wiley's father. "They are fun years, but they all mean nothing compared to (the high school) level. It's not worth risking your son's arm to win a tournament at all costs."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ego Driven Madness

RT Staff Note: As a follow up to yesterdays post, we want to make the point that working hard towards a goal also entails working smart towards that same goal. Overuse is a by-product of not working smart. So are over-zealous parents living their dream and not their kids dream. We ran an article last year that illustrates this point. It became one of our most read posts. Hopefully, this time around, we are reaching a whole new audience. Enjoy and feel free to comment.

We at RT cringe a bit when we here about a player that lists himself as a Pitcher/SS. OK, we get it, he's a great athlete. But, because of our exposure to travel ball teams good and bad, we can only imagine a ego driven coach or overzealous parent not exercising good judgement when it comes to the health and safety of that star athlete. Now, not every two way player is a victim of overuse...but we have all seen top athletes overused at a young age resulting in a subsequent injury to the player.

In our small world here in California, we can list at least 25 kids..all great athletes...all P/SS type of players...going down to an arm injury. Of those 25, twelve had to have major surgery... The rest are sitting out due to tendinitis or other types of strains. These are players within a 100 mile radius of our hometown. Yesterdays article from the Houston Chronicle is typical of what is happening all across the country....and it's all due to an ego driven madness that starts right at home.

The Water Cooler Braggadocio
Here's a typical conversation in the Monday morning office break-room from a over zealous parent...

Dad: "My son pitched a complete game and then made three diving catches at shortstop and got the Tournament MVP award, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH."

Co-Worker: "What High School does he play for?"

Dad: "Oh, he is only 13...but we are looking into enrolling him into a private high school in a few years. They have the best baseball program. I'm sure a ton of colleges will be after him and we want the best exposure for him BLAH, BLAH, BLAH"

Co-Worker: Does he play any other sports? I mean, if he is that good of an athlete, how do you know he'll play college baseball?"

Dad: "Oh, it's different today. He plays year round baseball...up to 100 games a year. That's the only way he'll get better, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH"

Co-Worker: "Oh, he must play on the XYZ Travel team. I heard that they are the best".

Dad: Well, no we tried them, but they wouldn't give Junior enough playing time. My son's good. After he pitches, he's ready to play shortstop...When the games on the line, I want him making that last out or on the mound shutting the other team down. He's no bench sitter, BLAH, BLAH, BLAH."

Ever talk to THAT GUY??? Do you wonder where his son is today? Part, but not all of the problem in youth sports today, are ego maniacal parents, that live vicariously through their sons. They are the main reason why there are so many sports injuries today.

The Tortoise and The Hare Approach Works
When will we ever learn? The Hare's of the world have been responsible for the Dot-Com crash, the Enron debacle, the Mortgage melt-down and so much more. Don't be them...especially with your son's and daughter for goodness sakes. If your son isn't the tournament MVP at age 11, it won't matter. If he isn't on the Junior National team at age 14, it won't matter. If he isn't a starter on his freshman team in HS, it won't matter.

The key is, to just keep playing at a pace that is right for him and his health...learn the game, get stronger, and with a good solid work ethic, it will all come together.

Here's a real life scenario of a friend of ours. He did it the right way. Names have been changed, but the situation is real...

Timmy started playing travel ball at the age of 10. Timmy was a shortstop and pitcher and was a star on his Little League team in his community. However, his parents wanted Timmy to develop with players that were as good or better than him. A local coach had the idea to start a team with over 15 players...all of who were pitchers and shortstops in Little League.

Not everyone bought into this team, but Timmy's parents thought it was a great idea. Timmy pitched once every other week and played just about every position. He would have pitched more, but there were other parents putting pressure on this coach to let their kid pitch and be the star.

In the meantime, Timmy got the opportunity to learn other positions and make himself more valuable to the team as a player. Because of the ego's of other parents, Timmy rarely got to play SS, bat in the top 5 of the line-up, or pitch, but to his parents, that was a blessing in disguise. Timmy's parents told him that if he really wanted to crack the top of the order, he would have to earn it by working harder. And, that's exactly what Timmy did.

This went on for the next several years of Timmy's travel ball life. Players came and went, and the travel ball coach was always out there recruiting the next big Phenom...the next big closer...or power hitter...and Timmy just kept on working hard, improving his game, batting sixth or seventh in the line-up, while bigger, more high profile guys...ringers for a big tournament...kept him out of the top half of the order. He eventually gave up pitching to concentrate on being a position player.

By the time Timmy hit high school however, it was clear to the coaches that he had some skills and like the travel team, he got to play several positions and ended up winning a minor post season award in his Freshman season. His Sophomore year he improved even more. As a Junior, he really broke out and by his Senior year, he was awarded the Metro Areas top MVP honor and is now playing at a top rated D-I university, hitting 3rd and leading the team in BA.

And all along, the parents never panicked, never fought the coaches over playing time, and kept telling their son that he had to earn his way in baseball and in life, by working hard, practicing, listening and always learning. Oh, by the way, their son also has a 3.7 GPA as well. So, if baseball doesn't work out, we are positive that he'll take what his parents taught him and earn his way into a very successful career too.

The other kids that played with him the past 9 years in travel ball....where are they now? There were about twenty-four players in all throughout the years...Five are still playing in college and having some success of their own...They were the phenom, tournament pick-ups...the same players that kept Timmy out of the top of the order, but influenced him to become a better player.

Eleven are out of baseball or quit and just got burnt out from all of the pressure their parents put on them. Five of his team mates had career ending injuries and three are in physical therapy nursing an injury....but good enough to be still in baseball.

Timmy's parents had the Tortoise approach to their child's development. In the earlier years of Travel ball, when he was a two-way player, Timmy never pitched and then played a position immediately...The parents were OK with him being a DH after being on the mound or just resting the arm altogether on the bench. For them, there was no rush to need for adolescent accolades. The recognition would eventually come they rationalized...or not...the main thing was to seize the moment at hand. Work hard and play hard with the opportunities that were given to him.

As a result, he played injury free. And more importantly, although a key contributor to his team, Timmy only earned one tournament MVP award...but it was at a tournament that meant something...the summer after his junior year in high school, coming right out of a 1st team All Metro high school season, in front of a bunch of college scouts at a high profile tourney. As a result of that tournament, he received invitations to other showcases and camps and by the end of the summer, had 8 college offers. He picked the one that was right for him and things are going well. In a recent interview with Timmy's head coach in college, a reporter asked why this young freshman is having so much success. The coaches answer? "He just works harder than everyone else on the team".

You see parents...sometimes, you just have to let your kids work it out on their own. Getting in front of the coaches face and complaining about playing time will not make them a better player...Starting or finding a team to give Junior more playing time will not earn him a college scholarship...earning it the hard way will...or at the very least, the effort to earn it will make him a better person in life in the long run. That's what real coaches want...That's what the real world needs more of.

RT Staff

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

True Dedication

Yesterday’s article from the Reno Gazette-Journal really had an effect on us and made us start to think about the intense, inner desire of top athletes.

Drew Simpson suffered a terrible accident and while in a coma, made pitching motions with his arm, signaling that he was emerging from an unconscious state. It was the love and passion for his favorite sport that helped him recover. It was the unprecedented competitive spirit that keeps him focused on a full recovery. It absolutely amazes us that Drew is shagging balls and throwing bullpens again. That’s dedication. That’s true passion. And…that’s what it takes to be a next level athlete.

Collegiate sports are hard and getting harder. State schools are hard pressed to recruit anything less than the sure bet. NCAA rules and the shortened season have made it tougher for a position player to make a roster. Pitchers are at a premium and according to a few scouts we have talked with, an athlete’s size is beginning to matter, because you can’t teach a big athletic body.

So, how does an athlete break through all of this clutter? Be like Drew. To play for any college team, baseball must be your passion and your love. Dedication should be your mantra. Hard work and the pursuit of perfect mechanics need to become your ultimate goal.

We don’t care what anybody says, but baseball IS the most difficult sport to play of any sport on this planet. Split second decisions, hand eye coordination, speed, strength, agility, knowledge and thousands of variations of plays that could happen on every pitch is what makes this game the greatest game in the world. It takes a special person to harness the intricacies of this game just to achieve a small victory 3 out of 10 times on offense. On defense, despite the unpredictability of the outcome, a player is expected to complete his task 100% of the time and make plays on balls that have exit speeds off the bat at over 100mph.

Put the aforementioned paragraph into perspective. Are you, as an athlete prepared for that?

Drew Simpson dreams baseball…So do many of our sports legendary athletes. In an article we wrote earlier this year, Albert Pujols often says that as a youth baseball player in Osage Missouri, he often had recurring dreams about playing pro baseball. Those dreams propelled his desire and work ethic to become the greatest player in the Major Leagues today.

We can’t reiterate enough how important it is for today’s athlete to take any step to the next level as seriously as possible. There are no shortcuts to success in life. Working to secure an athletic scholarship is just as tough and requires just as much work and effort as being rewarded an academic scholarship.

Players seeking scholarships must stand out…and have the tools to be difference makers. They must show a gritty determination, a scrappy style of play and the type of hustle that only a Pete Rose or Ricky Henderson could appreciate. Players must show a willingness to be leaders in the weight room, competitors willing to win every sprint drill, and the type of guy that realizes that working overtime on his game will only produce results over time.

So players, as you enter into spring practices (many have already started), realize that if your dream is to play baseball at the next level, your game needs to be stepped up to a level that is heads and tails above anyone around you. Good luck to all this season!

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Sky is The Limit

RT Staff Note: We were touched by this story from the Reno Gazette-Journal and staff writer JUSTIN LAWSON.

As long as Janet Simpson heard the familiar beep of the brain scan monitor, everything was OK.

But a sound out of turn — the wrong beep — could signal too much pressure on her son’s brain. Too much stimulation for a young brain that had experienced severe trauma. The wrong beep could’ve been triggered just by touching her son’s hand.

“We couldn’t talk more than a whisper,” she said.

Reno High graduate and baseball fanatic Drew Simpson was barely 18 years old when a fall down the steps at his older brother’s home almost took his life.

Unconscious and in a hospital bed at Renown Medical Center, he hardly resembled the young college baseball player who was supposed to be worrying about making it to class on time. Tubes supplied him with his daily food, air pumped straight into his lungs and the skin on the side of his head was peeled back to relieve swelling in his brain.

It was late August, and the former high school pitcher had come home from nearby Feather River College, where he was also planning to play baseball, to celebrate his girlfriend’s birthday.

He did not make it back to school.

He was not given a chance to live when he first arrived at the hospital. Hope and pray, doctors told his family.

Simpson spent 11 days in a coma, almost six weeks in the hospital and five months in occupational therapy. He has two titanium plates and 48 screws in his skull.

But he is alive. His family, his friends, his teammates — they all believe he is a miracle.

“My dream was to play baseball since forever and ever, but it’s really changed ever since this happened,” Drew said. “Now, I just want to love everybody, never hate one thing. It’s just really brightened my eyes. I don’t regret one thing because I feel like I’m a whole lot better than I ever was.”

By fall, doctors say Drew could be back on the road to achieving his dream. But baseball may be just a vehicle to spread the message he learned after what happened on Aug. 24, 2008 — Live in love.

“He’s impacted people whether they know him or not just by seeing what he has gotten through,” said Patrick O’Brien, a friend of the Simpson family. “And I believe he wants to give back, no doubt.”

Left for Dead
As a right-handed starter, Drew helped pitch the Huskies to the semifinal round of the Nevada state 4A baseball tournament last spring.

He had just finished his first week at Feather River College in Quincy, Calif., a short hour and half drive away from his family and his girlfriend, Anne Goodman, who was a year behind him at Reno High.

On Aug. 24, after celebrating Goodman’s birthday with she and her family, Drew left to spend the night at his brother’s home. Drew went inside, but had trouble falling asleep. Around 5 a.m., he stepped outside to get some air, and became ill, thinking something he ate that night didn’t sit right.

Drew fell backwards down the switchback stairs leading to the front door of the house and hit the back of his head on the corner of the concrete stairs.
“All I heard was screaming,” said Ryan Simpson, who was sleeping when his brother fell. “I went to the front, saw him laying and not moving, bleeding out of his eyes and his ears.”

Ryan said his brother went into a panic attack and stopped breathing. He tried to calm his brother down while they waited about 10 minutes for an ambulance to come. Not even the paramedics gave him a chance to live.

“We drove to the hospital with the lights off and they stopped at every single stop light,” Ryan said. “They didn’t think he was going to make it. He lost consciousness as soon as they put him in the back.”

When he arrived at Renown Medical Center, Drew Simpson was immediately taken in for a CAT scan. Doctors found severe damage to the front, back, left and right sides of his brain.

“He had an injury to the brain with bruising to the brain and what bruising does is it causes the brain to swell,” said Dr. Lali Sekhon, the neurosurgeon who saw Simpson that night. “The problem with swelling in the brain is that if things swell inside the brain the pressure goes up and the blood can’t get in there, the brain dies. If the pressure get’s bad enough, the brain dies and the more it dies, the more it swells. Once you start that vicious cycle, if we don’t get that pressure down really quickly and keep it down then a lot of our patients with head injuries can die.

“If someone told me in a year’s time that he’s playing baseball again and he’s exactly as he was before, with the way things are now, I wouldn’t be surprised. If you would have asked me that when he came in, I would have said that ain’t going to happen.”

Doctors were unable to provide even the slimmest of chances for survival. Over the next three days Simpson underwent two surgeries to remove two pieces of his skull as the team tried to reduce the swelling and pressure on his brain. If he did live, there was a significant chance that he would have permanent brain damage.

“There were two specific times the doctors were somewhat prepping the family to decide, “Do you want to take the chance of him surviving and him becoming a vegetable, and if so you have to understand what it entails, and if not you have to make the decision of whether or not you want to take the chance for him?’” said O’Brien, who served as buffer between the doctors and the Simpsons.

“It’s tough to say I remember this, but I prayed for my family,” Drew Simpson said. “I wanted to come back to see my family, I couldn’t do this to them.”

Meanwhile, the news of Simpson’s accident spread through Reno, via phone calls and text messages among friends, former teammates and even opposing baseball players. The Simpsons received hundreds of Drew’s friends and former baseball teammates at the hospital, and his father Scott provided daily updates via text message to some 300 people. The Reno baseball team honored Simpson the week after his accident by wearing their road polo shirts at school.

“It was a very difficult time to see Drew and his family go through that tough stretch,” Reno baseball coach Pete Savage said. “It was tough on them first obviously and then it was tough on the team, but I was really proud of the support the team showed. We truly are a family, a baseball family, and the support that everyone showed was truly amazing for Drew.

“Stories don’t always end like this. And his story is going to go on and on and on.”

Signs of Progress
The swelling in Simpson’s brain began to gradually reduce, though he was still in a coma. He did, however, show that he hadn’t given up.

“His first motion was he lifted up his right arm and pretended he was throwing a baseball,” Ryan Simpson said. “I knew then that he was probably coming out of the coma.”

Simpson woke up on Sept. 4, 11 days after his accident. It would be another two days before his eyes tracked movement.

During one of his twice daily visits, Savage gave Simpson a foam ball. From there, it appeared as if things were going his way.

“Drew would throw it to people,” his father said. “People would be sitting (in the room), he would track his eyes, lift his arm up and just flip the ball up in the air and they just loved it. They knew that was when he was coming back. That’s when you knew he was going to be healthy again.”

Simpson eventually was transferred to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, where he was to begin rehabilitation for the next 30 days. But he stayed for just two weeks after regaining most of his motor skills. He could walk without help, brush his teeth, take a shower and even tie his shoes.

Simpson wore a helmet to protect the exposed areas of his brain, which were left open to continue the release of pressure. The left skin flap was reattached in late October and the right side in mid-November. Both sides were repaired with a plastic shell, titanium plates and 24 screws, all of which are permanent.

“The kid is just an incredible young man to go what he has gone through,” Savage said. “I mean we always knew he was tough on the baseball field and tough on the mound, you know a real competitive kid. But when you experience something like that, sports become secondary.”

Return to the Mound
Simpson doesn’t remember much about the accident.

“I didn’t even know why I was in the hospital,” he said. He still struggles to remember some of the events during his recovery. Memory lapses are typical now, but are likely to get better.

“He’s already beaten the odds in terms of getting this good and he’s only a few months out from his head injury,” Sekhon said. “So he’s going to have a recovery from his head injury ongoing for the next year or two. So it is conceivable that he may go back to normal or have very little in the way of dysfunction. It’s sort of the sky is the limit here.”

Simpson went to Moana Stadium a few weeks ago with his brother Ryan and shagged fly balls in center field. Ryan Simpson said he looks like he’s throwing in the low 80-mph range, just off the high 80s he threw during his senior season.

“It felt so amazing,” Drew Simpson said. “Right after my last surgery, cause I had four, after my last two my head was getting really sore easily so I kind of laid down (most of the time). So it was amazing to throw a baseball again. It drives me to play again.”

Simpson hopes to throw out the first pitch for the Reno Huskies before a home game this season, and do the same for Feather River, which still has a locker with his name on it. “He’ll get back on the field and it’s going to be an incredible sight to see because from where he was to where he is today, I mean, it truly is a miracle,” Savage said.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Foul Play...Part 5

You know the issues, now it's time to address these issues with the people in charge. These names were copied from the NCAA site. At that site, there are e-mails and other contact information. Write or e-mail the NCAA staffers and then express your concerns with the Athletic Directors that help govern and pass these decisions.

Dennis L. Poppe is the baseball NCAA staffer...but the committee that made the decision to deny the scholarship increases is a rag tag group of Associate AD's, faculty representatives and even one student athlete that is a middle distance runner from the University of Kansas. For the record, track and field gets 12.6 scholarships for men. No baseball coaches, representatives or players were on this committee. Non baseball people making baseball decisions will never result in a good outcome for baseball.

If you look at the list, there are really no athletic directors involved at major baseball schools...there are a lot of Associate Athletic Directors. An associate athletic director's duties should not be confused with an athletic directors job description. Many AD's have law or MBA's and are in touch with the business of sports. Associate athletic directors are fund raisers and more sales oriented and are less in touch with the intricate facets of the individual sports at most schools. We Googled a job description of one schools criteria for an associate AD...

Supervise preparation on NCAA Squad Lists and NCAA certification of eligibility.
Supervise preparation and approve issuing National Letters of Intent for new student athletes.
Supervise operations of the following sports: Baseball, Men’s cross country, Indoor and Outdoor Track, Men’s tennis, Men’s Golf, Softball, Women’s tennis, Women’s Cross Country, Indoor and Outdoor Track.
Assist in construction of Department’s budget.
Coordinate and approve issuing all Southland Conference initial and continuing grant in aid contracts.
Coordinate the Athletic Awards Program and the Bobcat Club Academic Ring Ceremony.
Oversee and approve all requests for travel, travel expenditures, purchase orders and all other expenditures.
Establish departmental polices and procedures.
Evaluate monthly budget reports.
Evaluate performance of personnel.
Supervise and approve hiring of department personnel.
General oversight of various department athletics events.
Attend university and community functions to help promote the university and department of athletics.

Sounds more like an admin. job to us. Approving travel expenditures, attending functions, evaluating budgets....Not exactly the qualifications I would want to determine the future of collegiate baseball. Angry yet? Here's are the people responsible...

Stephen A. Mallonee, Lynn M. Holzman, Leeland Zeller, Amy Huchthausen

Joseph F. D'Antonio, Jr.

FBS- AD- Robert Spear - University of Idaho - Western Athletic Conference

FBS- AD, Director of Athletics - Derrick L. Gragg - Eastern Michigan University- Mid-American Conference-

FBS- Associate Commissioner- Gregory Sankey - Southeastern Conference- Southeastern Conference

FBS- Associate Commissioner- Joseph F. D'Antonio, Jr. - Big East Conference- Big East Conference

FBS- Associate Commissioner- Shane Lyons - Atlantic Coast Conference- Atlantic Coast Conference

FBS- Associate Commissioner for Compliance- Kathy Keene - Sun Belt Conference- Sun Belt Conference

FBS- CCD, Assistant Commissioner- Lori Ebihara - Big 12 Conference- Big 12 Conference

FBS- FAR- Bruce Jaffee - Indiana University, Bloomington- Big Ten Conference

FBS- FAR, Faculty Representative- Kelvin Koong - Oregon State University- Pacific-10 Conference-

FBS- SWA, Associate Athletic Director/SWA- Leslie Claybrook - Rice University- Conference USA

FBS- SWA, Associate Athletics Director- Janice Ruggiero - University of New Mexico-Mountain West Conference

FBS- Student-Athlete- Matt Baysinger - University of Kansas- Big 12 Conference

FCS- Associate Commissioner- Kelly Brooks - Southwestern Athletic Conf.- Southwestern Athletic Conf

FCS- CCD- Jean Gee - University of Montana- Big Sky Conference

FCS- CCD, Sr. Assoc. Commissioner- Carolyn S. Campbell-McGovern - Ivy Group- Ivy Group

FCS- Commissioner, Commissioner- Jon A. Steinbrecher - Ohio Valley Conference- Ohio Valley Conference

FCS- SWA, Associate AD/Internal Affairs- Susan Groff - University of Delaware- Colonial Athletic Association

FCS- SWA, Associate AD/SWA- Margaret Hefferan - Wagner College- Northeast Conference

FCS- SWA, Associate Athletic Director- Tracy Shoemake - Texas State University-San Marcos- Southland Conference

FCS- SWA, Associate Athletics Director- Elaine Jacobs - Youngstown State University- Horizon League

FCS- SWA, Associate Athletics Director- Meredith Eaker - Liberty University- Big South Conference

FCS- SWA, Associate Executive Director/SWA- Joanna Kreps - Patriot League- Patriot League

FCS- SWA, Executive Asst. to the Commissioner- Sonja Stills - Mid-Eastern Athletic Conf.- Mid-Eastern Athletic Conf.

FCS- SWA, Sr. Associate AD- Carrie Doyle - University of New Hampshire- America East Conference

FCS- associate commissioner- Doug King - Southern Conference- Southern Conference

DI- AD- Stan Williamson - Campbell University- Atlantic Sun Conference

DI- AD, Athletic Director- William J. Maher - Canisius College- Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference

DI- CCD, Assistant Commissioner for Compliance- Mary Mulvenna - Missouri Valley Conference- Missouri Valley Conference

DI- CCD, Associate Commissioner- Edward Pasque - Atlantic 10 Conference- Atlantic 10 Conference

DI- SWA, Associate Athletic Director- Angie Torain - Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis- The Summit League

DI- SWA, Associate Athletic Director/SWA- Karen Peters - University of Portland- West Coast Conference-

DI- SWA, Senior Associate Athletics Director- Cindy Masner - Long Beach State University- Big West Conference

Call, write or e-mail. Voice your opinion. Heck, knowing our new presidents involvement and interest in sports, write him too. Any President that wants a football play-off has to understand the inequities that baseball is experiencing too.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Foul Play...Part 4

All week, we have been talking about the incredibly awful decision that the NCAA made last week to deny an increase in scholarships for baseball players. There's so much more to complain about...we just think the scholarship issue is the most important. But in the past year or so, the NCAA and it's member institutions made some additional changes that are also head scratchers. One such move was to condense the season...squeezing the same 56 game schedule into 20 fewer playable days.

This has caused all sorts of problems for student athletes and scheduling. Many schools are forced to play up to 5 games a week to fit their games in. That produces all sorts of problems in the class room for athletes. Here's our list of changes in the collegiate game that need to happen now.

1. Expand the season two weeks...One week earlier and one week later.

2. Eliminate conference tournaments so that the season can end to accommodate the NCAA tourney and have it end on time.

3. Either de-regulate the scholarship limit or give the schools 20 scholarships.

4. Penalize any team that doesn't fully fund by deducting RPI points or making them ineligible for post-season play. Those that consistently under fund will have to give up their Division I status.

5. Spread out the top rated teams around the country like NCAA basketball does...thereby eliminating insane match-ups like the Long Beach (totally tortuous regional), Stanford and Miami regional had last season.

Remember this is supposed to be a tournament that ends up matching up the best against the best when they get to Omaha. Each team in the Long Beach Regional could have been a #1 or #2 seed anywhere else. As it stood, there were three top ten teams and the eventual National Champ in that region.

Going forward, I and others that really love collegiate sports would like to see north/south match-ups. What a great ratings booster that would be. I love bragging rights match-ups. Given a choice I think that a Miami, Texas, Georgia, Stanford or Fullerton would travel rather than be stuck in a regional full of top rated teams.

Thoughts? What do you want changed?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Foul Play...Part 2

Baseball takes a lot of time from a student’s time in the classroom, yet no relief is usually given in terms of making sure the stress of a 6 hour day of baseball and an 8 hour day of school is manageable.

Baseball players must still take 15-17 credit hours in a semester based system…yet in reality, based on the time available, they should be taking only 12-13…The problem is that if a baseball player takes 12-13 credits a semester, he will be ineligible at many institutions before the start of his junior year because of the 40-60-80% progress towards degree rule.

Therefore, players are forced to pay for summer classes out of their own pocket to make up the difference, because there are no more mid-year certifications. In addition, baseball players have to be eligible at the start of the academic year to play in the spring...which is fine except the NCAA does not require this in basketball or football.

Now, there are huge problems with all of this…The problem with summer school is that many of the players get assigned to summer leagues which start a week or two after school is out and continues through the first of August. If a coach thinks a player has a chance to start the next year or has pro aspirations, he will assign him to the Cape Cod, Northwoods, Alaskan, California Collegiate or many of the other summer leagues to get more innings in. There’s no time for summer school!!!

This is yet another point that illustrates the demands on the collegiate baseball player. They are expected to play year round...56 games in the spring and around 40-50 in the summer depending on the league. They have another 45 days of practice and scrimmages in the fall.

Do basketball players play over 100 games in a year? Do football players have a taxing schedule like this? The gridiron and court players get over 100 scholarships between them, yet are required to play half the games combined in a given year.

As America's Past's way "Past Time" that the collegiate sport get it's due. While 20 scholarships that I mentioned yesterday may seem unrealistic, it's really the only fair solution...besides...a mentor once told me, "If you don't aim high, you will never hit your target." By aiming at 14 scholarships, the NCAA will always end up back at 11.7 if that rule is followed.

Aiming at 20 scholarships will hopefully give us...the parents who foot all the bills, and the players who give up their lives to play the game they love, a bigger incentive and reward for all of the "way above the average" work load they put into the sport each and every year.

RT Staff

Monday, January 19, 2009

Foul Play at the NCAA

Last week, the NCAA denied a motion to increase the scholarships for baseball to 14. We at Rounding Third just don't understand the rationale. Many of our readers who have sons that aspire to play at the next level should be outraged and we really encourage you to speak out and write the NCAA, it's member schools and complain. This week, we will address this issue and supply you with members to contact.

Baseball is grossly underfunded based on the amount of time and effort players put into it. No other sport at the NCAA level demands so much of its athletes than baseball. Consider this...

1. 45 sanctioned fall practice days peppered with 6:30am strength and conditioning sessions throughout the entire fall semester. Many warm weather teams have extra team captain supervised practices on top of this.

2. Practices/games the entire spring semester as well as strength and conditioning and team captain supervised practices.

3. Up to 5 games a other sport in amateur or the pros with the exception of MLB has this kind of grueling schedule...and that's on top of 12-14 units of college courses. These guys are working the equivalent of two full time jobs...for what $5,000????...that's a serious violation of civil/worker rights.

4. In reality 14 scholly's are not even enough...To make things equal for a sport that IS generating a profit at many should offer at least 20. 14 is an embarrassment and 11.7 is a moral outrage.

5. The time demands of baseball and the costs many parents have to invest in College Development Programs, showcases and lessons just to get to the next level at many of the top producing programs is upside down. More money is spent to qualify a kid to get to the next level than is granted to him once he gets there.

6. The irony is...many schools ARE investing more and more money into facilities, top coaches and marketing...I guess the mantra...if you build it..."they" (scholarships in this case) will come does not apply to the NCAA and their opinion of baseball...However, they encourage schools to build new basketball palaces, and football venues and get rewarded...

7. The NCAA is dead wrong and legal action must be taken to challenge this ruling.

8. I wish an official from the NCAA would take the time to answer us in this type of forum...on this web site...their rationale for rulings that have the potential to ruin this great sport. Unfortunately, the tuition paying/hard working average Joe is not granted this type of transparency. The NCAA is a cloaked and secret organization/dictatorship that answers to no one apparently.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Listen Closely

RT Staff Note: The Following is from Carmen Bucci of the Complete Athlete.

Listening is the most important part of communicating. Communication is what the other person hears. We’re always ready to talk, but we’re not always ready to listen. Listening is a skill, and it’s not the easiest thing to do. Hitting a baseball is a skill. Throwing a change up is a skill.

To get better at our skills, we practice them. But we don’t practice listening. Even as a person is talking to us, we’re thinking of how we will respond before we hear everything they have to say. Could your poor listening skills cost you a chance at a scholarship? Possibly. Let me explain.

Think about what you go through in the recruiting process. Once a coach knows you exist, the process doesn’t end. You’re going to have to speak to them. And, the verbal communication phase of recruiting usually starts over the phone. Listening, over the phone, is much more difficult to do than if you were face to face with someone because the cues are tougher to recognize. To add even more complications to the mix, at times, you and the coach will both be on a cell phone. We all know how reliable those can be.

To show respect to the coach, and to get a sense of their interest in you, you need to employ your best listening skills. Don’t cut them off when they are talking. No one likes that, and you run the risk of misunderstanding the coach’s message. Remember that this is an interview and as much as you want to do the talking, you need to listen first. We have two ears and one mouth for a reason. You’ll get your chance to talk. The coach will offer you that opportunity.

Here are a few tips on becoming a better “phone-listener.”

1. Make sure you pay close attention to the tone of voice, how the words are being said, and the pace.
2. As the listener you need to let the talker finish their message completely. To do that, listen for the last letter in the last word of the sentence.
3. I understand nerves and excitement will be present when talking to a coach. Take a deep breath, slow and know that it’s ok to pause for a second before you answer. There’s no rush.
4. Resist the urge to jump in and cut the coach off no matter how bad you want to say something or how important it is to you.

Carmen Bucci
Founder & President

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Your Chance At The Next Level Starts With High School Baseball

It recently occurred to us as the high school season gets closer, that it may seem like we really push College Development Programs on this site and if we do, it’s is not to slight the incredible importance of High School Baseball one bit. We only stress College Development Programs because that is when most of the scouts and coaches in college have the time to actually see the players. It’s economy of scale. And in reality, the recruiters are all just doing a follow up to see first hand, the abilities of the player that had a great high school year.

High School baseball benefits baseball players in so many ways. First, there is the support of the built-in fan base and community that schools provide. If a team or certain players had a great game, it is published all over the local community newspapers and announced in the early morning school announcements. This type of publicity sets up showdowns with other schools and rivalries in their league and sections. And, it’s those games that have great meaning not only to players, but alumni as well.

Many cities have high school rankings and there are bragging rights for teams to strive for. This engages entire metropolitan areas to follow the successes of certain teams and players. In many areas of the country, message boards on the Rivals network and other local sites get as busy as talk radio when it comes to match-ups, league standings, play-offs and top players. So, the publicity for many top HS teams can stretch well beyond their local county papers to the entire region and even the whole state.

HS also gives players the ability to hone their skills each and every day in the off-season with their very own private work-out facility. Parents, we have to pay for these privileges at health clubs and franchised gyms. Players have the luxury of the schools tracks, weight rooms, fields and coaches at no cost. During the season, the everyday practice is invaluable. The one thing that summer ball can’t offer is access to the fields and coaches for three hours a day, 6 days a week. If your son loves baseball, he should love the opportunity to take advantage of this huge benefit. When you throw in 25-30 games on top of all of that practice, your son should be at the top of his game by the time recruiting season gets started in the summer.

So, hat’s off to High School Baseball. January practices and try-outs are just around the corner. As important as travel ball is to recruiting, there’s still nothing like the excitement and anticipation of a high school baseball season. Thanks to all of the high school coaches that take the time to make high school baseball special for all of our players.

Rounding Third Staff.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Stay Away From The Dark Side Of Attitude

As the High School season gets closer and closer, we want to reiterate about how having a great attitude about the game of baseball will go a long way to helping a player achieve their goals, impressing coaches and help making them a better person in life.

But, there is a different side of attitude that can have the opposite affect on a player, team and his relationship with his coach. Any player that thinks he is better than the coaches treatment of him has a bad attitude. A good coach will get in the face of any player that doesn’t live up to the expectations expected of that player during any given situation. Many coaches don’t care if a player is 3 for 4 in a game. If that player chases a bad pitch, misses a sign or makes a bonehead base running mistake, he WILL get reprimanded. And that player, if he is a great team mate and team player will take that criticism as a man and accept his coaches words as constructive criticism.

We received an e-mail from a young player down in the Southeast about the way his friend reacted to a coach after he struck out on a bad pitch in a close game. This player had already gotten a few hits in the game and when he struck out, the coach yelled at him for chasing a bad pitch above the strike zone. The player talked back and told the coach to cool down and told him that he "already had his two hits and that it was OK to strike out"…..HMMMMM. Let’s just say, that young player should be thankful that any of us here at Rounding Third weren’t coaching. That’s not tolerated in our neck of the woods. The coach ended up benching the young lad for the rest of the game. He got off easy.

Except in this case, the players stood up for the coach and told the player that he got what he deserved. Any player that scoffs or talks back to his coach has a bad attitude. A player that puts his self interests ahead of his team is not a team mate. A good, competitive coach only cares about your stats when he makes up the line-up. During a game, it’s just like another try-out. Each at bat is a whole different set of rules and circumstances…especially during close games. We don’t care if a player is 5 for 5 with 3 home runs that game, if a coach yells at a player for swinging at a bad third strike in a very close game, that player needs to nod at the coach and say, ”You are right coach, I’m sorry…I won’t do it again”.

It’s still a team sport and the coach will always know more about the game than his players. A player may not like the treatment, but the real world will treat them about a hundred times worse. So, suck it up guys and learn from your mistakes. It’s the only way to learn.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Fan Of Wood

It seems every year there is a bill in a state or local committee that wants to ban metal bats. We understand the pros and cons. Parents would like to see metal bats banned because of perceived safety concerns. But safety or not, wood bats are gaining favor...but for all of the reasons unrelated to the reason these bills are being introduced.

Most bills are a safety oriented bill and usually there just isn't enough evidence for the 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.

RT Staff

Monday, January 12, 2009

Where Do You Want to Go to School?

RT Staff Note: The following is from the Baseball Factory Blog and Ron Naddleman. Naddelman is a former two-time All Ivy League Third Baseman at the University of Pennsylvania, where he competed in a College World Series Regional. He has served as the President of Baseball Factory for the past 13 years, and also is the Executive Director of Baseball Factory's charitable arm The B.A.S.E. - H.I.T. Foundation. Naddelman and Steve Sclafani (CEO) have been featured in Business Week and CNN for their work in building Baseball Factory into the nation's leader in player development and college placement.

Rob Naddelman: Through a Parent’s Eyes

The above question is one that I, or our Exclusive Program Senior Vice President Kelly Kulina, often pose whenever we get a chance to sit down with a Baseball Factory player at one of our Player Development events. By far the most popular answer that we have received over the past 13 years is, “Anywhere I can play baseball.”

That answer sounds good on paper, but usually it is far from the truth. My response when I hear this answer from a player is usually something like this:

Me: OK, let’s say that the head coach from Minot State in South Dakota really wants you to play for him, are you ready to go to South Dakota for your college experience?

When posed with that circumstance, most of our players say something like this:

Player 1: No way, I would never want to go to a school that small. Or…
Player 2: I want to go play down South where it’s warm. Or…
Player 3: I don’t want to have to get on a plane to go to school. I want to be a car ride away from home. Or even…
Player 4: South Dakota is not far away enough for me. I want to get as far away from my parents as possible. (This one tends to sting a bit for mom and dad who are usually sitting next to their son)

I use these examples to illustrate that there are a lot of factors to consider when making a college decision and very rarely does the decision only come down to, “where I can play baseball.”

As a parent, the key is to try and get your son thinking and see what it is that he likes or doesn’t like about a particular college. I understand that when you are dealing with 16-18 year old young men, it can be difficult to muster up more than a one word answer or a grunt when asked about their future. I have had the following conversation many times as well with our players:

Me: “So, do you want to go to a school in a city?”

Player: “I don’t know.” (As player looks down at the ground and bites his nails).

Me: “Do you like a big campus, or a small campus?”

Player: “Uh, whatever.” (As player shifts in his seat and glances at his cell phone for a text message)

Me: “How far away from home do you want to be?”

Player: “Doesn’t matter.”

I have seen on-looking parents cringe when their sons give responses like the ones I outlined above. Most parents feel the urge to want to jump in and start answering the questions to prove that they are good parents and have not raised a Neanderthal.

Parents need to try and fight this urge and instead, use these examples as an opportunity to get proactive in the college search process. Sometimes the best way to find out what a player likes about a college is to first find out what he doesn’t like. The key is to see as many schools as possible and to start to form opinions. Even if your son is convinced that he wants to go as far away from home as possible (as an aside…usually, our kids talk a good game, but when it comes down to making this decision, they prefer to be closer than further to home), you should still start with the schools that are within a two to three hour radius from your house. Chances are there are many NCAA DI, DII, DIII, Junior Colleges or NAIA programs in that geographic area, so you will see a good cross-section of options. This will help him form opinions on schools with 25,000 people vs. 2,500 people; schools in an urban setting vs. a rural setting; schools with on-campus housing vs. off-campus housing, etc.

Moms and Dads should throw as many questions as possible to their sons when they are on these visits. What do you think of this campus? How do you think you would do with these classroom sizes? One parent can ask the questions, and the other can write down the answers so that nobody forgets the first impression, which is usually the strongest and most accurate. As a family, you can then apply what your son does like about a school that is close to home and compare it to schools outside your geographic area. For instance, if you live in Maryland and your son thinks University of MD, College Park is too big; he probably will feel the same way about UCLA, University of Texas, and the University of Michigan. Even though those schools have great baseball programs, they may not be the right fit for him.

And remember, players at any age are allowed to take as many unofficial visits to colleges as they like. An unofficial visit is when the college program covers no player expenses for travel. The sophomore year in high school is a very good time to start taking these unofficial visits.

So get out there, see some schools, and help your son form some real opinions on what is important to his future. It is hard for them to know what they like until they can see it with their own eyes.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Be a Winner, Not a Whiner

Has your son ever been on a team that is full of a bunch of whiners on the bench because they don’t like the style of coaching or don’t get enough playing time and do nothing but bring the rest of the team down? We know a few kids that have had that experience. Here's what we think.

If You Don’t Dream About Baseball, Then Baseball is NOT Your Dream

The players that cared and performed well on teams are what we call diamond dogs. They all eat, breathe, sleep and dream baseball. Most of the time you will find that 100% of the starters and contributors on that team, coincidently played on summer college development programs that they had to try-out for. They were used to the competition…used to the pressure…and could handle the heat of a demanding and grizzly tempered coach. In fact, most players prefer ill tempered coaches to more laid back ones…Most stars on a team like the pressure of someone being on their butts all the time. And, it should be no surprise that these same players are the stat leaders on their team. Tough guys win in tough situations.

The whiners are usually recreational ball players. We define recreational ball as any community league, such as Legion. Now, there are Legion teams that are good in some smaller communities, and not all Rec ballplayers are like the players in our scenario. But, for the most part…in large markets and sun-belt states, Legion Ball can be a false sense of security and a safe haven for mediocre players. Sorry parents if you disagree. In large markets, the better players ARE playing on college development programs…there are very few exceptions to this…the rest are playing Rec ball. If you look at any D-I signee list, 90% of the D-I players played on a college development program...Enough Said.

Therefore, the whiners for the most part, get ample playing time in the summer months on their rec teams…which is an awesome thing…That part we like. The only way to get better is to play more. That's what that league is give baseball players that don't play at a high level, a chance to play more and possibly get better.

But, we all must put these things into perspective as parents. A star on a Rec team is not the same as a star on a Travel team…just as a star on a Single-A team in the pro’s is not the same caliber as a star on the Major League Roster. There are different levels of competition and different levels of success. High school is somewhere in between the rigors of travel ball and the watered down competition level of Rec Ball. It's a step up for the rec guys and usually a heck of a lot of fun for the Travel players.

Numbers don't lie. Travel Ball players are putting up gaudy High School stats. Last season, Orange Lutherans Gerrit Cole and Aaron Gates and American Heritage’s, Joey Belviso and Eric Hosmer had insane stats. There are hundreds more like them that play at the same high level of play that had equally lofty stats.

On the other hand, as we stated earlier, the Rec ball player sees high school as a higher level of play. The stars in the Rec league…those guys that were putting up lofty numbers against lesser competition, often find it a bit tougher to put up those big stats on varsity. When they don't have that same success in High School as they did the past summer, they risk losing their confidence, cool, and passion for the game, because they had it so easy with Dad as their coach in Rec ball. They start to blame the coaches or others for their lack of success and unfortunately, so do many of their parents. If we heard it once, we heard it a million times…”My son hit .500 on his Legion team and he can’t crack the line-up on his high school team…the coach is a joke”. No parents, the league your son played on was not as competitive and did not properly prepare him for the level of play his HS league has. Although many rec players may indeed be good…and may someday develop into better players…the big fish in a small pond kid will have a tough time in the Ocean a majority of the time.

Back to the College Development Program players. They never had it easy. Hosner, Belviso, Cole and Gates DID NOT have those stats on their CDP teams. Belviso did not have 12 HR’s in 22 CDP games. Each had to earn their positions, work hard to maintain their status on the team and prove that they were worthy to play day in and day out...and did so in front of pro scouts and college recruiters. That's a lot of pressure for a 16 and 17 year old kid.

There were no dads guaranteeing them a spot on the roster. There were no city boundries limiting them to a local team. The travel teams that they played on had a dozen guys just like them from all over the state competing for their spot…so it raised their game to a higher level…and it’s no surprise that they all are considered the nations best…because they competed day in and day out in the summer against the nations best.

To the travel ball player, high school is a bit easier…and as a result a bit more fun and rewarding…But they too realize that success in high school does not mean success in college or the pros. They are smarter and savvier than that…because they have seen that higher level of play and while they may be basking in the accolades that high school brings…it’s a whole new ball game at the next level.

If only whiners could take that attitude and treat high school as their next level and grind it out rather than grind everyone around them down…that team and others like that team would be a lot more fun to play for.

Guys, it’s usually not just the coach…It’s your attitude towards the game…the commitment to yourself…and your work ethic that will make or break your high school career.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Don't Get Complacent

Ok, so your son is signed, and the pressure is off for his senior year right? Hardly. Expectations are high and the pressure to perform like a future collegian will transcend to all aspects of his game this summer. Coaches will expect him to be a team leader. Team mates will look for him to be the man in the clutch. Pitchers will alter their approach when he comes to bat.

All the more reason to not get complacent. The good news is that most of the players on our NLI list got to this point in their lives by having an incredible work ethic. But, it is human nature to relax after a big accomplishment. Just don't relax too much. Tell your son to go into this summer with the mind set that he will dominate and have a work-out plan the rest of this off-season that will give him the edge that he needs to achieve success. Just keep on working hard and make it a habit...because after this year is over it starts all over again.

College is like starting all over again. There will be 9 positions on the field at a given time, and not one of them is an automatic like it may have been at his high school. For each position, there are three players waiting in line with the same all-conference and all-metro honors waiting to take his turn. All it takes is a bad week of practice or a bad series and the depth chart is shuffled. Is it un-fair? NO! It's life! The only advice anyone can give a player in this situation is to work hard, smart and never give up. It's the perfect life lesson for what the real world will throw at him when he is handed his diploma.

RT Staff

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Pace Yourself

We had a discussion the other day with a parent of a high school senior who had just received an e-mail from his future college coach about what classes to schedule in his first semester in college in the Fall of 2009. The parents were a little upset at the less than academic classes that the coach suggested his future player should take in his first semester. There were classes like art appreciation, intro to television, dance, intro to sports nutrition, and others that were not real life career builders.

But, the coach wasn't making a mockery of the student athletes brain capacity. Most coaches know from experience that it is very hard for first semester freshman student athletes to adapt to the rigorous schedules and sudden freedom and temptations of college life. Taking a light load is a smart and good transition for most athletes, because they will be overwhelmed and most certainly will be tempted time and time again by the evil college party dudes. And, it's been that way for generations.

We have stated this many times, but college is hard for students athletes. The schedule starting in the first week of school and lasting for 45 straight NCAA sanctioned fall practices...(more if not run by coaches) is as follows.

6:30-7:30 Strength and Conditioning
7:30-8:00 Breakfast
8:00- 12:00 Classes
12:00-12:30 Lunch
1:00-5:30 Baseball Practice
5:30-6:30 Dinner
7:00-10:00 Study Hall
10:00-? crash

So, you can imagine how this type of schedule with no parental supervision could be tough on a kid his first four months away from home.

Anyway, we told our friends that they should be happy that there is a coach that actually keeps tabs of his players and is involved in their studies enough to know what works and what doesn't. One of the biggest fears that college coaches have is of a freshman blue chip player not making grades...and it happens more than you think.

As I think back at the orientation sessions I attended in my sons freshman year, many of the instructors said that the average student will have a grade point decrease of at least 1 point from his high school average his freshman year...and they were referring to non-athletes. When we attended the athletic directors seminar, he said that a light load is the best way to transition from high school to college that first semester...but after that first semester, the coaches expect those same freshman to get a bit more serious in the next several semesters.

So, have your sons talk to their future coaches about what classes to take. Ask them to talk to other freshman about their workload and work from there. Have your son talk to counselors, tutors and others when he goes through orientation this summer. But most of all, your son needs to pace himself. College electives are mandatory anyway, but can also be fun and are a great way to get acclimated to the stress that student athletes experience that first year.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Measure Of A Man

RT Staff This is another article by TeachdGames Jim Giles. Go To for more articles.

The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I love to use this quotation during difficult times on the field of competition. The game of baseball as well as the game of life is full of opportunities to show what we are really made of. It is easy to be filled with confidence and composure when we are in the middle of success and things are going well. Often athletes speak of being “In a Zone” when things are going good. Feeling as if they are playing outside themselves and just letting things happen. Not knowing how or why things are going the way they are, but just happy they are going that way. Or a team might be in the middle of a winning streak.

Someway, somehow, they seem to be getting all the breaks whether it is their own actions, or the untimely failure of their opponent. But the true test is how we handle those moments, or periods, where success seems to be running away from us. No matter what the team does, or players individually, they seem to be on the short end of opportunity after opportunity. Collectively, the team or player just seems to not be able to overcome small obstacles along the way to be victorious.

Baseball is a game of failure. A hitter will fail 6-7 times out of ten at bats and be considered successful. Teams rarely go an entire season without a loss. The test is mentally, how do we handle those failures? How do we handle those times of challenge?

The dreaded “slump”. Every athlete, regardless of their sport, will endure periods where success seems to be hiding from them. It seems like no matter what a person does, they can not get that “break” that will get them over this hump. Often times, you will see an athlete try and push harder, try and fight themselves out of this period. Sometimes the consequences are harsh; digging themselves deeper and deeper into this quagmire of
unsuccessful times. It is our ego and basic human instincts that will drive us to want to fight our way out of this.

The test is not to give up and maintain our composure at all costs. The measure is how we respond. We can control how we respond to these situations. Easy words to say, but never easy actions to find within ourselves. You have to find that “special something” deep inside you which continues to drive you during these times. During these times the answer may be to just “let go” as you do during the periods of success. The letting go though, is letting go of the negative thoughts, the self doubt, and the blame towards other forces or people. You need to have faith in your abilities. You need to find faith in those around you that they will support you and that you do not need to do everything yourself.

Focus on your actions and what you are doing to stay strong and continue to battle. Ensure that you respond with positive actions and continue to battle. Someone on the team needs to step up and be that strength for others if needed. One person, maintaining this strength, can be the driving force that will bring everyone else along and help the team endure. This faith, or confidence, must be your driving force. During this time, you need to let go of the easy road. The easy road of giving up, or placing blame on other people or things.

During these times you have to find a way to eliminate all the negatives. No matter what the issue or what the obstacle, there can be no negatives. You must find a way to look at everything as a special opportunity to improve, reflect on and continue to move forward in a positive way. Remove the focus on results. Do not judge each individual step along the way, each hit or out. But rather, judge the process by which you are taking.

Was it a good At Bat? Did I swing at good pitches? As a Pitcher, did I throw the pitch well? Did I commit to the pitch? By doing this you will be in a much stronger position to overcome anything. In the end, you will be “measured” by how you responded and handled these periods. You will be remembered for your courage, strength and endurance of challenge. Those that judge us whether they are coaches at the next level, scouts, family or friends, love to see us fail. For it is not in the enjoyment of seeing the failure, but rather the joy in seeing what lies deep inside us to help us overcome the failure or difficulty. It is our response to these “so called” failures. Quite possibly, the only person who will remember this is you.

We ALL fail or endure challenge throughout our life. But it will be the source of strength the next time you need to endure difficult times and what gives you the confidence to endure. So how do you want to be measured? Even if the only one measuring is you!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Big Things Can Happen At Small Colleges

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 8th-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 2009 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.

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..

RT Staff