Friday, July 31, 2009

It's About Time

A while back, we reported on the plight of the young player that wasn’t allowed to pitch in his youth rec league because he threw too hard. This isn’t the first instance where a rec league has held down a good player.

Little League has an odd set of rules that restricts stealing, lead offs, adult first base coaches and other rules that are contrary to what Abner Doubleday had in mind when he concocted this great game almost a century and a half ago. Those rules also hold players back.

As we stated yesterday, we like community rec leagues at the younger age groups. We are big on that type of community commitment. Good players should play with their grade school friends as much as possible until at least 12 years old and enjoy the spectacle of the Little League All-Stars…which is the closest thing Little League comes to travel ball that there is. It’s not really that close in talent level…but it is the closest Little League comes to Travel Ball. That said, the better players still need much more than what even All-Stars provides.

Then, as we said yesterday…if your son has a desire to play at the next level…after the Little League 12 years old All-Star Games… his success will be measured by the amount of time he commits to his ultimate goal...If that goal is next level baseball, then it is about time to commit to travel ball.

Here’s a timeline from the ages of 8-14 to follow for those with kids that show some athletic prowess from an early age.

Ages 8-10
There’s no need to rush your son into travel ball this early, but if your rec leagues are that bad, there are travel clubs in just about every market at these ages. Don't get us wrong...we encourage travel ball at this just don't need to go crazy with it yet. Most travel ball team’s play on the Holiday weekends that rec leagues don’t play on, like Easter weekend and Memorial weekend in the spring. After the Little League season is over, most good travel teams will play up to another 25-30 games to round out the summer. The most important reason to get involved in a travel club this early on in your son’s life is for him to learn the proper fundamentals to become a better player and perform against other better players. From age 8-10, the players should play 45% of their games with their Rec league and 55% with travel ball through September...or until their fall/winter sport ramps up. (Yes, they should be playing multiple sports at this age.)

Ages 11 and 12
After a taste of travel ball, Little League gets a bit frustrating at this stage of your sons baseball life. It did for our son. Therefore, at this age it is time to ramp up the travel team commitment a bit. If you live in a warm weather state it may even be a good time to ponder whether or not your son is open to more year round ball. Many next level players started playing well beyond the traditional summer months at this age and with the right mentoring coaches, your son will greatly benefit from the extra reps. Players at this age will play 60-80 games. Twenty five of those games are Little League and the rest - travel ball.

Ages 13-14
This is a time when your son should be rec ball free. It’s also a time period when many players in warm weather states start to pick their sport and concentrate on playing year round. Since players in the Midwest and North can’t play baseball year round, it’s hard to give up that winter sport to concentrate hitting in indoor cages. We get that. However, in the south and west coast, many baseball players decide that this will be their year round commitment…especially at 14 when they are about to enter high school. Many of the top players in Florida, Texas and California play up to 100 games or more a year on a year round schedule and they start doing so at this age.

Once they hit high school, it' a whole different ball game. Go back and read our earlier posts on Freshman through Senior time lines for more information on what to do during those years.

If any of our readers have any other ideas about travel ball and the impact it has on players that want to play next level baseball, put it in the comments section or e-mail us and we just may use it as our daily article.

RT Staff

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Right Time

Democrat or Republican, Conservative or Liberal, left or right, right or wrong and on and on and on. We live in a world separated by two poles and it seems at times they are pulling us apart, rather than pushing us together.

I received an e-mail from a father of an 11 year old and he asked me…”When is it the right time to play travel ball over rec ball”?

Ahhh…the age old question that polarizes Little Leagues from coast to coast. Little Leagues wished that Travel ball would go away and Travel Ball has no love for Little League. For the past two decades, the two have butted heads and every year, message boards get busy with pages of rants and parents get confused.

Our e-mailer went on to say that he feels the democratization of Little League holds his son back. For instance…His son can’t wait for practices to begin, yet he gets the same playing time as the dandelion picker who can’t wait for them to end. As a shortstop, he feels uneasy to let go of a throw to first, because one of the weaker athletes is there and doesn’t want him to get hurt. Even his own coach suggested that he bat lefty during practice because he hits it to hard from the right side and might hurt someone. ( Hmmm. Well there’s one advantage of rec ball I’ve never considered…honing your switch hitting skills.)

Now, we are not huge fans of Little League and their rules…That said, we are fans of kids having fun with their school friends for as long as they can and take advantage of the community pride and recognition that they get with these local rec teams. I do think that there can be a synergistic relationship between Little League and travel ball, as long as there is an understanding that the two must not interfere with each other.

The one big advantage that Little League has is that the community newspapers usually embrace their local teams. It’s fun to pick up the local coffee shop Journal and see your kids picture or name in the paper. That doesn’t happen as often with travel ball because the kids are from several communities. And as an 11 year old…there’s really no rush to make baseball all business, all the time anyway. Kids at that age should be mixing it up and playing basketball, football and other sports.

But, if your kid is one of those players that likes to hit on his free time in a cage, play catch with the neighbor kids and engage in some stick ball in the park, then after the Little League season is over in late June, it’s time to take that heart and desire to a travel team. Most of the better travel team tourneys at ages 11 and 12 are in July, August and September anyway…including that tournament every young aspiring baseball player must go to in Cooperstown.

After the age of 12 however, your big hearted son should never set his foot on a rec ball field again. That’s our take anyway. Because if he really does have Big League Dreams, he isn’t going to be satisfied playing with Dandelion Danny anymore. He will want to be challenged and learn more from experienced coaches that will make him a much better player than Danny’s dad ever could.

It’s also a perspective check for parents as well. As a parent, many of you will get to see if your son was really that good, or if the Little League competition was really that bad. For some it will be frustrating, and others, the type of challenge you were hoping your kid would get. Either way, it’s really better for the player if the coaches are the type that really want to develop and mentor.

The one thing travel ball does better than any other league is that it clearly defines where the players with heart and desire are. A good travel team will always challenge even the best players…and it’s the players that have that attitude of never wanting to quit that will separate the high school player from the future college player.

Your travel team player will always have to compete for any position he tries out for. There are no gimmies on travel ball teams. If you want to play shortstop on an exceptional travel team, you have to earn it. Other wise, you’d better give it your 110% to compete in left, right or second, because after the coaches pick their starting SS and pitching rotation, those positions will be hotly contested as well.

And it’s those players that compete hard to win a position in left, center or elsewhere that will make it to the next level. These are the kids that never give up. They may not have won the SS position, but by gosh, they aren't going to lose that third base spot. That’s character right there folks! Those kids will make it. They aren’t the type to whine about losing a spot…they are the type to pick it up and win another.

If your son is that guy…if you as parents embrace that type of life for your kid…then after the age of 12…hang up the rec stuff…Get into travel ball…and enjoy the ride.
RT Staff

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Showcase/Travel Teams...A High School Coach's Perspective

RT Staff Note: One of our favorite message boards is High School Baseball Web. One of the most honest and reasonable contributors to HSBW is Coach May. We e-mailed him a while back for permission to re-print one of his posts. As a High School Coach, he brings a very refreshing perspective to the benefits and added value of travel ball or what we like to call College Development Programs. Enjoy!

In my community there is one rec league. They have teams from 5-6, 7-8, 9-10, 11-12, 13-15 and 16-18. There are around 400 kids that play in this rec league in any given year. All of these players attend the same Middle School and High School.

The five 7-8, 9-10 and 11-12 leagues are full every year. The 13-15 and 16-18 struggle to have 5 teams each year. The league has around 400 kids playing in it each year. Each year we (our High School Team) have around 10-15 freshman come out for baseball. I do not believe these guys leave the game because of travel ball. They leave the game because they move on to other things that are just more fun to them.

When they get to HS for the first time in many of their lives they have to compete to make the team. Many have never had to compete for a jersey in anything in their life. Some have never had to compete for anything in their life. They are told that they can not miss a practice and they have to be on time. They are on the field with players that are so much better than them it is intimidating to say the least. They bring a rec ball mentality to the ball field around serious baseball guys and it just does not mix. You already know what can happen to these guys when they find themselves in this type of situation.

Players move on. Some love it , breathe it , sleep it and want to be the best they can be. Some just want to play some ball if its "FUN" and then move on to something else. And some are not going to put any work into a "game". Add in Cars , Girls and all the other things that are coming into their focus at these ages.

Travel baseball started because some peoples kids wanted more than the local rec league afforded. Some wanted to get better coaching than the local rec league afforded. Some wanted to compete at a higher level than the local league afforded them. Some kids get frustrated by not having but one practice a week for one hour and half that time is taken up in the parking lot walking up to the field and half the kids don't even show up.

I know one thing alot of people are spending a whole lot more than I ever had to spend on showcase baseball. The cost was 500.00 if you made the team. The tourneys were all in state except for East Cobb and Jupiter. Instead of going to the coast or the lake for vacations we just did baseball because that's what our kids wanted to do. We sacrificed some things to allow our kids to have some things they wanted to do. The other kids did as well. Instead of working at baseball and being good at it they decided they would rather hang out with friends , go to the lake , go to the coast , have a ATV etc etc. My kids got new bats and new gloves. Their friends got ATV's and fancy clothes.

If the local league does not provide for your son what he is looking for in the game and then a parent decides to go find it for him I don't have any problem with it. No more than I would have a problem with a kid moving from a public HS to a private HS to get a better education if that school did in fact provide a better education.

I tried the local league thing. I just got tired of kids that did not want to practice. Showed up late for practice and then the parents got mad when you said something to them. "We don't want to burn him out. After all coach its just a game. And we have other things in our life we do." Yeah I know its tough to make a practice each week. And I got tired of the better players being penalized for being better. The hard throwers strike zone was legit. The kid that couldn't get it to the plates strike zone was huge. On and on I could give examples of why some people move on.

I believe that if your son is a kid that is very competitive and really loves the game you need to get him in an environment with like minded players. If he is better its probably because when he is at home he is wanting to throw , catch and hit and someone is taking the time to do it with him. When you put these kids in a league with players that are bored by the game , don't want to practice , can not catch or throw it just doesnt mix. It does not hurt the kids that can not play and do not have the desire to get better. It hurts the ones that do.

The best thing IMO you can do as a parent if your child wants to be the best he can be and loves the game is get him around coaches that want to teach and love the game. And get him around players that feel like him about the game. If not he will not have any fun. And he will be frustrated. And I do not believe he will reach his full potential.

When people say "If he had played rec ball he would have still been the player he is today." How do you know? I believe you are wrong. Why? Because the players that I have had in HS over the years that have been my best players and my players to get scholleys have been the ones that got very good coaching before they got to HS. They were the ones that played at a high level before coming to HS. The other ones were playing catch up for four years. When you are used to hitting legit pitching and facing legit hitters all the way up to HS you are not overwhelmed by the competition.

I have guys that are out classed by 75 mph fastballs in JV games. Then I have guys that it is just plain meat to them. On and on I could go. Rec Ball is the problem not the players who seek out the best baseball. The fact is there are two types of players. Rec Ball minded players and players that want to compete , learn and be the best they can be. The fact is they do not mix. And they never will.

Are there guys that have played rec ball and moved on to being great baseball players? Of course there are. The thing is they are few and far between. And they will continue to be few and far between. The the gap will continue to widen. It does not take any money to get out in the yard and work at the game. It does not take any money to get better at baseball. It takes a desire and a work ethic. That can not be bought. The thing is the players that are giving up their weekends and sacrificing to play travel ball are the ones with the desire and work ethic.

It kills me when I hear someone say "We just can not afford to do it its just too expensive." Yeah but that Lexus sure is nice. And that ATV sure is nice. How was your vacation at the coast? And man that sure is a nice car you just bought your son. Wow those rims are killer dude. Nice stereo system Jimmy! Yeah its just too expensive when its really not that important.

My rooms are free when I travel. My meals are too. I make sure any kid that can not truly afford to play in fact plays. They stay with me. I hook them up with what they need. I find someone to give up some cash for the ones that need it. No one is going to be turned down. If you want something you can find a way to get it. The fact is parents will do what they have to do if its important enough to their kids. Could it be its just not important enough to the kid? Too many excuses for me.

My son cut grass during the summer to pay his way to every PG event he ever went to. He weed eated and put up hay for the neighbors. I have not cut the grass in years. No, you want it find a way to make it happen. I tell all my players if you want to go call me. You want to go to a showcase and Pops won't foot the bill what are you doing to pay for it? You can get those CD's right? You can take that sweety on that date right? You can pay for that prom right? No, cut the BS don't want it bad enough.

I know many here will say "Coach May is a nut." Well I am. But I keep it real. All I know is a person that really wants something will find a way to make it happen. And when people see that he is doing everything he can do to make it happen they will step in and help him make it happen.

The problem today is people want someone to give it to them. Rec ball players are doing exactly what they want to do. Other players are going to do what they have to do.

OK I'm done. Bash the hell out of me. I can take it. It will not be the first or the last time that's for sure.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Neighbors Get In the Way Of Baseball Field

RT Staff Note: When I first read this story, I could not believe what I was reading. Homeowners that live near San Jose City College actually blocked the schools construction of a new baseball field for the school. They stated that the light standards...a common part of any baseball field in every community were an eye sore.

Instead, the school voted to convert it to a multipurpose site for apparently more aesthetically appealing and neighbor-friendly sports, such as cricket or soccer. HUH? Now that is an eye sore. Watching what could have been a beautiful baseball field being used for cricket? You have got to be kidding.

There's nothing more beautiful to baseball fans than driving down the road and seeing the lights of a baseball field at night. Adding to the beauty is the sounds of the announcer, the crack of the bat and the cheers from the crowd.

I am ashamed that people in my town would do such a thing. City College and its team needs to put up a fight. Here's the story...

San Jose City College drops plans for baseball field

By Sandra Gonzales

They're towering, thick, metal poles that stand 90 feet tall and ring the outskirts of a halfway built baseball field at San Jose City College. And, to most of the surrounding neighborhood, downright ghastly. So trustees called it a game and stopped construction of the field altogether.

No matter that it was more than 60 percent complete and the San Jose/Evergreen Community College District had already sunk $2 million into the field, trustees last week unanimously voted to convert it to a multipurpose site for apparently more aesthetically appealing and neighbor-friendly sports, such as cricket or soccer.

And, so the Jaguars baseball team will continue to be a team without a home, shuffling from one rented playing field to another.

"The past nine years have been pretty tough, not having a home playing field," said Doug Robb, the college's head baseball coach for the past 15 years. Not to mention the difficulty it creates in attracting top-notch players. "I feel like I've lost players already in the recruiting season."

San Jose City College began construction in late 2007 on the long anticipated baseball field using a combination of bond funds, approved by voters in 1998 and 2004. All appeared to be going smoothly, until those huge poles intended to hold safety netting went up last summer, prompting neighbors to cry foul.

"I just cringe whenever I look out the window, it's such a day-to-day intrusion," said Randi Kinman, president of the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Association, who lives a block from the field. "The effect of those poles is the effect of being in a cage when you're sitting in your backyard. It's a visual blight."

Kinman said neighbors were left in the dark about what the field would ultimately look like, and no mention was made early on of the poles or the loudspeaker system that they feared would be far too noisy.

Vice Chancellor Jeanine Hawk insists it wasn't intentional. In fact, the original plan called for the baseball field to be in the center of the campus. "There wasn't any intention to hide anything, it was just a failure of communication," she said.

After the field struck out with neighbors, construction was stopped last summer and a supplemental environmental impact report was initiated. Though still in the draft stages, the initial findings more or less sided with the neighbors, concluding that little could be done to lessen the unappealing aspects of the field.

"This is not something where we are out to get the student-athletes, we are not anti-baseball," Kinman said. "This was a tragic mistake." Initially, the college offered to make the field more appealing to the eye and proposed painting the black poles sky blue or silver and changing the black netting to a lighter color, but soon realized that wouldn't solve the problem.

So at a cost of $250,000, down will come the poles and the wooden fence lining the field, which has been in limbo for a year.

San Jose City College President Michael Burke hedges on whether any blunders were made, conceding only, "We did not anticipate that the neighborhood would object so strenuously. Once we became aware of their objections, we stopped the project and initiated a supplemental environmental report."

Hawk maintains the money spent on the field is not a waste. "We are still going to use all the prep work. We are still putting in a playing field, it will just be a different configuration, those aren't sunken costs."

At one time, the Jaguars had their own playing field in the northeast corner of the campus. But that was cleared nearly a decade ago to make way for a parking garage and student center with the promise that the team would one day again have its own field.

Robb, meanwhile, is now scrambling for alternative off-site playing fields, which cost $10,000 to $20,000 a year to lease. He's also looking for long-term solutions because one thing's almost certain: If the team's going to have a permanent home field, it's unlikely to be on campus. Until last year, the college had a contract with the San Jose PAL Stadium, where it had been playing steadily for the past several years, Robb said. But the contract was not renewed because they figured the baseball field was going to be ready. So the team was forced to play at three different sites this past year, and it appears it'll be doing the same this coming year.

"It's unfortunate for myself and my team that we have to endure another year or two having to play on the road and look for practice fields, but the sun will come up tomorrow and the players will continue to play," he said. "It hurts, but I understand it's important for the district to do this."

One option being considered is moving the baseball program to Evergreen Valley College. However, it would cost $4 million to build a baseball park and even more to operate it. Funds for such a project would still have to be identified — a daunting challenge in the current budget climate.

Still, Burke said the college is committed to finding the team a home. "I want to have a baseball team, and I intend to have the Jaguars baseball team."

For now, Kinman and her neighbor's are elated that the huge poles will finally be coming down.

"Taking that away is going to be just a huge relief, not only a visual relief, but knowing that we actually had a conversation with the campus and they listened."

Monday, July 27, 2009

Moratorium placed on composite bats

By Aaron Fitt
Baseball America

Nestled amidst all the back-patting and reports of cheery economic and academic prospects during the "State of Baseball" news conference prior to the College World Series, NCAA officials revealed their concern over hyper-performing bats.

Specifically, bats that used composite barrels tended to demonstrate significantly enhanced "trampoline effect" toward the end of their life cycles and were susceptible to a form of tampering known as "bat rolling" (a process that puts a bat at its maximum hitting potential from the get-go without having to wear it out first).

The NCAA announced that all bats would be tested prior to the CWS, and bats that failed the tests would be discarded. It turns out, 80 percent of the composite bats exceeded the current NCAA acceptable performance level, according to a memo sent by the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee to bat manufacturers in July. That same memo recommended the only remedy to college baseball's composite bat dilemma: an immediate and indefinite moratorium on all bats that use composite barrels. The moratorium will be considered (and likely approved) by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel at an August meeting.

"Because all bat designs must pass this test before mass production, this research indicates that the performance of such bats changed thereafter, mostly likely due to repeated, normal use and/or intentional alteration," the memo said. "Offensive statistics at the Division I level also indicate a significant increase in batting averages and home runs the past two seasons."

Indeed, scoring and home runs per game have all spiked in the past two years, coinciding with the increased use of "hot" bats. Scoring and home runs in Division I baseball reached their highest levels in 2009 since bat standards were altered in 1998, the end of the "Gorilla Ball" era.

Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin, a former chair of the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee and the current president of the American Baseball Coaches Association, began lobbying other coaches and administrators to take action midway through the season after noticing greatly enhanced exit speeds off some composite bats. Typically, Corbin said, balls that are squared up by hitters with good bat speed will come off normal metal bats at 95-99 mph. But this spring, Corbin and his staff noticed a number of exit speeds in excess of 110 mph, topping out at 117. Obviously, that kind of bat performance is a threat not only to the integrity of the game, but also to the safety of the players on the field.

"I wouldn't suggest that every hot bat has been tampered with, but I would say that bat rolling is no longer a thing of the past," Corbin said. "I think people are quick to judge that it's rolling because I think the bat itself seems to get better over the course of time until its lifespan runs out. There's no question about that; if anyone denies that, they're being completely naive."

Rules Committee chairman Bob Brontsema, the coach at UC Santa Barbara, said the threat to players' welfare was "the last piece of the puzzle that made the moratorium push through." He added that the Rules Committee tried to come up with a solution that would keep the composite bats in play, acknowledging that the ban places a financial burden on some schools that use the bats, but ultimately there was no practical way to police the bats without banning the composite barrels. But this decision doesn't mean the end of composite bats.

"As the bat standard moves closer to wood bats, the composite bat will be important to have in place," Brontsema said. "We're hoping the bat companies can make the changes to get that bat back in play as soon as possible, so it doesn't get hotter as it gets older."

For more on college baseball, check out Baseball America.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Difference Between Divisions I, II and III

Division I
Division I member institutions have to sponsor at least seven sports for men and seven for women (or six for men and eight for women) with two team sports for each gender. Each playing season has to be represented by each gender as well. There are contest and participant minimums for each sport, as well as scheduling criteria.

For sports other than football and basketball, Div. I schools must play 100% of the minimum number of contests against Div. I opponents -- anything over the minimum number of games has to be 50% Div. I. Men's and women's basketball teams have to play all but two games against Div. I teams, for men, they must play 1/3 of all their contests. Schools that have football are classified as Div. I-A or I-AA. I-A football schools are usually fairly elaborate programs.

Div. I-A teams have to meet minimum attendance requirements (17,000 people in attendance per home game, OR 20,000 average of all football games in the last four years or, 30,000 permanent seats in their stadium and average 17,000 per home game or 20,000 average of all football games in the last four years OR, be in a member conference in which at least six conference members sponsor football or more than half of football schools meet attendance criterion. Div. I-AA teams do not need to meet minimum attendance requirements.

Div. I schools must meet minimum financial aid awards for their athletics program, and there are maximum financial aid awards for each sport that a Div. I school cannot exceed.

Division II
Division II institutions have to sponsor at least four sports for men and four for women, with two team sports for each gender, and each playing season represented by each gender. There are contest and participant minimums for each sport, as well as scheduling criteria -- football and men's and women's basketball teams must play at least 50% of their games against Div. II or I-A or I-AA opponents.

For sports other than football and basketball there are no scheduling requirements. There are not attendance requirements for football, or arena game requirements for basketball. There are maximum financial aid awards for each sport that a Div. II school must not exceed. Division II teams usually feature a number of local or in-state student-athletes. Many Division II student athletes pay for school through a combination of scholarship money, grants, student loans and employment earnings.

Division II athletics programs are financed in the institution's budget like other academic departments on campus. Traditional rivalries with regional institutions dominate schedules of many Division II athletics programs.

Division III
Division III institutions have to sponsor at least five sports for men and five for women, with two team sports for each gender, and each playing season represented by each gender. There are department’s spectators. The student-athlete's experience is of paramount concern. Division III athletics encourages participation by maximizing the number and variety of athletics opportunities available to students, placing primary emphasis on regional in-season and conference competition.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

What College Coaches Are Looking For.

RT Staff Note: This is Part Two of our recruiting series. Thanks to San Gabriel Valley Arsenal and TeachDGame for the content.

If you are ready to commit to the demanding schedule and stress, you should know that coaches watch your conduct off the field before and after games, your academics and athletic desire or “heart”. Sometimes intangibles will make the difference over pure athletic skills.

There are literally thousands of outstanding players in in any colleges recruiting area. College Coaches therefore have a lot to choose from. They DO NOT desire to recruit athletes who will prove to be problems to their team or institution. Therefore, they recruit as much on PERSONALITY TRAITS as they do ATHLETIC. They want quality student athletes as well as the best baseball players they can find. Your behavior and academic standards should reflect the same level of attention as your athletic abilities on the baseball field.

They notice and ASK about everything. Be prepared and aware that you are being scrutinized not only as an athlete, but as a person too.

Recruiting Basics
1) Please understand the following statistics – out of the hundreds of thousands of kids that play age group/high school sports only 3% will participate on a college varsity sports team, only 1% will receive any type of college athletic scholarship.

2) The coach’s “recruiting game” - a school may be in contact with as many as 250-350 players per year; 40-50 seriously(handwritten notes & letters, the one call per week, etc.); 6 to 12 all out; top 3-4 they will ask for early commitments. Recruiting is a serious business and most college coaches do a VERY GOOD JOB of it. They are selling their institution and experience. Like anything you are buying, always be aware and evaluate your alternatives.

3) If you don’t have stellar grades, your athletic skills are even more important, as they may help you get a spot on the team or even just into an institution!

4) Make an effort to watch a practice and games of the schools that interest you.

5) Consider what you know about the head coach and the coaching staff.

6) Ask the schools if you may contact former and current players and/or parents.

7) Do YOUR homework. Evaluate the schools you are interested in current Rosters. Where are their current players coming from? High School or JC’s? If there is a large number of JC transfers, you need to factor this into your decision to attend as a Freshman. Is the coaching staff showing a practice of bringing in transfers if they feel their current players are not going to win games for them. What is the composition of the team by graduation year (i.e. Frosh, Soph, Junior & Senior). Remember, some Juniors will be drafted and sign.

8) Ask about players in the program that are NOT on the roster (i.e. Redshirts, other players). There can be hidden individuals you may not even be aware of.

9) Evaluate the OTHER PLAYERS being recruited by the specific school. Do they play the same position you do or could they be moved into your current position. Schools will over recruit Shortstops knowing that there are many high school Shortstops that end up playing different positions at the collegiate level. Shortstops in high school are usually some of the best athletes on the team. They can move multiple places at the collegiate level.

10) Have the college coaches explain their interest in you and why they want you in their program. Even go so far as to ask them to compare / contrast you with other players you know have committed or are being recruited.

11) Determine if you would attend this school even if you had a career ending injury and could not play.

12) Remember you can have five paid visits and add and drop as you go. Enjoy the experience. What does the player need to know about the College, Coach, Team, and Scholarship options?

Know The College:
1) Does the college offer the academic program the player would ultimately hope to pursue? Are athletes given priority registration?

2) Where is the college/university located? Will the locale be good for the player in terms of weather and distance from family/friends?

3) What is the general campus like? Social aspect of school?

4) What is the expected enrollment of undergraduates and graduates? What are the class sizes?

5) What are the schools strongest degree programs offered, which are the best academic departments?

6) What are the student housing options? Do most students live on-campus or off? What transportation is available?

7) Do the members of the baseball team room together? Live in special dorm facilities?

8) What are the majors of most of the baseball team members?

9) What is the academic calendar? Quarter / Semester / Trimesters?

10) Is tutoring offered to student-athletes? Is there a fee?

Know About The Baseball Coach and Team:
1. In what division and conference does the team play? The top conferences in baseball are the SEC, PAC 10, Big West, ACC, Big 12, Conference USA, West Coast Conference, WAC, Missouri Valley, Sunbelt and Southern.

2. What was the team’s record in the past? What are the coach’s goals for the team?

3. What style of play is desired for the team? Is the player comfortable with the coach’s style?

4. How many players will be on the roster and how many will travel with the team? How
many trips are planned for the coming season?

5. What are the pre-season and post-season schedules?

6. How often is practice during the season, and post-season?

7. Where do most of the players play during the Summer? Are there expectations of playing in collegiate Summer Leagues?

8. How will the team composition change with seniors leaving and redshirt players returning? What known transfers are coming in?

9. What is the normal composition of the team? Developed from Freshman year to Senior year or high level of Junior College transfers each year?

10. What position is the player being recruited for and how many others are already playing there or are being recruited?

11. Where am I in terms of your recruits? (Really listen carefully to how this is answered, let silence work for you and don’t be too quick to move on to another question.

12. Have you seen me play? Which of my coaches have you talked to? What other scouts/individuals have you spoken to about me?

13. What are the next steps ?

Scholarship Concerns:
1) If not offered a scholarship, is the player a candidate for admission as a Walk-On player?

2) If offered a scholarship, what expenses are covered, what is the duration and how can it be terminated?

3) If offered a scholarship and the player is injured and can’t play, will the scholarship be lost?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Why are you interested in playing baseball in college?

RT Staff Note: One of our goals on this web site is to inform future prospects and teach them about the steps necessary to play baseball at the next level. So, with the help of the San Gabriel Valley Arsenal and TeachDgame, we present a series on College Prep and Recruiting. We start by asking this simple question...

Why Are You Interested In Playing Baseball In College?

• It is the next level of the sport for you to reach
• Scholarship money is available, but it is in limited supply.

But consider these other reasons as well, because at many schools:

• Your participation in baseball may make the difference in just getting in.
• Athletes can get early class registration, allowing them to get the classes they want.
• Graduating in 4-5 years vs. 5-6 years can save you tens of thousands of dollars.
• Athletic departments provide academic tutoring, helping you with your classes.
• At some schools athletes get first pick of the dorm rooms because of proximity to facilities.
• Being an athlete on a college campus is FUN. You will become known by a wider array of students than the average college student.

Getting through high school and ready for college can be an exciting, frustrating and gratifying time. Being prepared for the journey will help you connect with a college that is right for you! Your job is to determine if you want to play baseball in college and to educate yourself on the differences in colleges and universities that might help you fulfill that dream.

Today, colleges and coaches are looking for students with more than athletic abilities. Without considering athletic skills, the average admission requirement at the UC System in California is a 3.8 GPA and a 1710 SAT. Now, not all state schools are that demanding, but it's getting there.

The average cost for a four-year college education is $60,000 - $200,000. GOOD REASON to show that you are talented!! Competition can be fierce, so presenting yourself as a well-rounded studentathlete can separate you from the other player. There is a candidate waiting in the wings that has academics, athletics and more. You can be that candidate!! Start early!

To get into the college of your choice you must:
1. Excel academically
2. Excel in Baseball
3. Complete all administrative paperwork on time
4. Develop contacts among potential coaches
5. Follow-up on the contacts you make
6. Choose the correct college for you!

Emphasis on choosing the right college for you.

It is very important you choose a college that provides you the school experience you want. It doesn’t help anyone for you to get a great scholarship to a school that doesn’t have the major course of study you want, or isn’t a place where you are happy.

Also, be aware that NCAA rules change from time to time. Go to to brush up on the latest rules and download your free copy of the “Guide for the College Bound Student Athlete”. Be aware the dates found in this document are subject to change by the NCAA and it is your responsibility to keep up to date with NCAA dates and requirements.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Parents That Get It

We have a unique reader base. Our readers are the parents that get it and are constantly in search of more information and education about baseball for their son. They understand that there is only one way for their sons to achieve success and that’s through hard work, a great attitude and an undying passion for the sport. If they don’t have those three attributes, along with their talent, then their chances of success will be greatly diminished.

Most of our readers have sons that play travel ball and through that experience, they understand that there is always a better player ready to take their sons position…many parents want their son in that position…it’s an incredible life lesson…because in the real world, there are tons of obstacles, thousands of competitors, mounds of stress and grizzly, man eating bosses and executives ready to churn and burn your ego. My son loved those hard nosed coaches…still does. They motivate, exhilarate and create a desire to be better…not to mention make life very interesting.

The parents that need this the most don’t read this site. They don’t care to. They live in their overly protected world and create drama for those that dare trespass into it. They don’t want competition, they want democracy. They don’t want their son to have to put up with a grizzly coach…they want Ward Cleaver. They protect their son, but in the process leave him so vulnerable to the realities of the outside world. They only want to win, if their son is part of the victory..,otherwise, they are the type of parent that loves to see a .450 hitter strike out and then say. “See, he’s not that good, my son could do better than that.”

So send a copy of our articles to a parent that doesn’t care to read what we have to say, but has to…Who doesn’t think that what we say is of any importance, but is important for them to know that there are others who don’t agree with them…to a parent that will read this and feel real uncomfortable and hopefully find comfort in our message. Then send it to your coach and tell them that we have their backs…and so do you.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Howser remembered fondly in KC

RT Staff Note: As a huge Royals fan in the 70's and 80's, I was a big fan of two coaches...Whitey Herzog and Dick Howser. Coach Howser coached the Royals to it's only World Series victory against the Cardinals and Whitey Herzog in 1985, a series I attended for all 7 games. Two years later, Coach Howser died of brain cancer. Here's a story that any baseball fan would be touched by.

KANSAS CITY -- Videos at ballparks come and go, and so when a video appears that gives fans misty eyes and glimpses of courage and most importantly hope, then everyone takes notice.

That was the case on Saturday night at a packed Kauffman Stadium where late Royals manager Dick Howser, a victim of brain cancer, was remembered before the game.

The first 20,000 fans received a figurine of the Howser statue installed beyond center field. Many fans purchased a Head for the K! ticket package that included a $5 donation to the Head for the Cure Foundation, the Dick Howser Scholarship Program and St. Luke's College of Nursing. And, throwing out the ceremonial first pitch was one of Howser's twin daughters, Jana Howser of Dallas.

"It was incredibly moving for me and meaningful," she said as she watched the game later.

The "Hope Is in the Sky" video that gave fans goosebumps featured Howser, who led the Royals to the World Series title in 1985 and tragically passed away two years later.

"The memory of my father, the way that people remember him is deeply meaningful," Jana Howser said. "And how people talk to me about how much he meant to them and what he meant to this community. What is interesting over time to me is that he continues to have different meanings, which are all important."

One of those meanings is how his memory helps spur the ongoing battle against cancer of all kinds.

The video also featured players who had various forms of cancer and fought it, many successfully and some not but all with inspirational stories. Former Royals reliever Dan Quisenberry, also a victim of brain cancer, in his final days still cracked witticisms and wrote marvelous poetry.

As Broadway star Idina Menzel sings "Hope," there are glimpses of such baseball cancer victims as Commissioner Bud Selig, John Kruk, Mike Lowell, Tug McGraw, Doug Davis, Brett Butler and Dave Dravecky. The song is available via iTunes, with proceeds going to Stand Up To Cancer.

The video, produced by MLB Advanced Media, was unveiled in Lubbock, Texas, at the College Baseball Awards Show which included the Dick Howser Trophy, considered the Heisman Trophy of collegiate baseball. The video has become part of Major League Baseball's Stand Up to Cancer campaign.

It struck Jana Howser appropriate that on this special evening, there was a Dick Howser Award winner on each club in KC's Alex Gordon and Tampa Bay's David Price.

It was also appropriate that on the weekend when the Royals Hall of Fame opened and Dick Howser figurines were distributed, her father's memory was helping raise funds for cancer research.

Jana Howser noted that this year's All-Star Game at St. Louis marked the anniversary of the 1986 classic at Houston where Dick Howser's problems first were noticed. As manager of the American League champion Royals, he skippered the AL All-Stars to a 3-2 victory in '86 and, after returning to KC, was examined and received the daunting news about brain cancer.

"He had been very, very healthy literally all of his life. And he just thought he had caught a little bit of something, a little flu, he was fatigued maybe," Jana Howser recalled. "I spent some time here that summer prior to us finding out the news, and it really was more of a subtle thing and an occasional headache before he actually had that diagnosis."

Her father carried on as manager through part of the 1986 season and valiantly tried to come back in Spring Training 1987.

"A lot of those [memories] surfaced for me, too, but mainly appreciation for how much people in Kansas City and around the country have recognized the importance of committing themselves and also their resources to helping with cancer research," she said.

Jana and her sister, Jill, were 22 then their father died in '87. His spirit, though, lives on in the fight against cancer.

"The highest honor in anybody's life is the memory held by people that they've done good things and that they cared about people," she said. "That would mean a lot to my dad."

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Friday, July 17, 2009

It's Not The Time To Cut...It's the Time To Spend

RT Staff Note: I am posting two articles today. This one is a re-print of one I wrote on June 1, 2009. I am getting a lot of pings from the NCAA and I got tremendous response from my readers on this article. I want the NCAA to take note.

Colleges all over the country are considering cutting their athletic budgets. Many are even cutting sports programs all together. Washington is dropping men's and women's swimming programs...Pepperdine is dropping women's swimming and diving and men's track and field. Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio State will no longer print media guides and Indiana State is dropping men's and women's tennis programs.

While some of these cuts are due to lack of participation and may make sense...there are proposals out there to cut baseball budgets too. One such proposal is the reduction of competitions in a sports off-season (baseball games and practice in the fall.) This, it is thought, will lead to other in-season cuts to college baseball as well.

That's a huge mistake. I have over 20 years of marketing experience and it's a widely held fact that in down times, top of mind products need to maintain or even increase their marketing and promotion activities and expenditures to increase market share. The reasoning is that lesser known brands and competing products will do the obvious and cut back...leaving the door wide open for the stronger brands to get even stronger.

The marketing 101 case study we learned in college still stands today...In the late nineteen-twenties, two companies-Kellogg and Post-dominated the market for packaged cereal. It was still a relatively new market: ready-to-eat cereal had been around for decades, but Americans didn’t see it as a real alternative to oatmeal or cream of wheat until the twenties. So, when the Depression hit, no one knew what would happen to consumer demand. Post did the predictable thing: it reined in expenses and cut back on advertising. But Kellogg doubled its ad budget, moved aggressively into radio advertising, and heavily pushed its new cereal, Rice Krispies. (Snap, Crackle, and Pop first appeared in the thirties.) By 1933, even as the economy cratered, Kellogg’s profits had risen almost thirty per cent and it had become what it remains today: the industry’s dominant player.

Baseball is the type of top of mind product that case study after case study alludes to. The executives, Athletic Directors and coaches that run college baseball can't be complacent like Post. There's no doubt that we live in a new live within your means society and back to basics approach to spending habits. The victims are resorts, big cars, McMansions, designer wear and jewelry.

But sports is the one back to basic activity that will survive this downturn...that's the way it has always been. The Yankees, Seabiscut, James J Braddock all were depression era heroes who's legend has flourished over 80 years. These sports figures gave hope to a nation on the brink of despair.

Baseball and the college game in particular, is the type of accessible sport that can unite a country once again. One has to look no further than the movie Field of Dreams to understand my point...

"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time."

In these tough times, America will look to baseball for entertainment. However it won't be Steinbrenner's version of will be the Knothole Gangs version. Like the Hummer and other obnoxious, over the top credit maxing purchases middle class Americans got duped into making over the past decade, baseball fans will realize that they don't need that "gotta be seen" concierge seat behind home plate.

The upper deck will be fine...left and right field bleachers will be a blast again and the sack lunch will replace $20 a serving ballpark sushi. Just like the old days.

I remember my dad and I stopping by Arthur Bryants world famous BBQ joint in my youth prior to a Kansas City A's baseball game back in the early and mid 60's. We would get the piled high brisket sandwiches to go, and arrive in left field bleachers about two hours before the start of a game. Between bites, I would chase home run balls while the home team took batting practice. The three things my dad loved more than anything were baseball, BBQ and his kids...On many humid, midwestern Sunday afternoons, he got to enjoy all three.

Buying a ballpark frank is nice now and then, but at $6+ a piece, it just doesn't make economical sense or conjure up the same memories as standing in line at a local landmark and ordering big, messy BBQ sandwiches...I can still smell the whiff of smoked meats and the tangy BBQ sauce overtaking my senses. That memory will always stick with me.

Now, back to how all of this relates to college baseball.

College baseball can play a huge part in bringing back the memories of how simple and beautiful baseball really can be. Baseball fans don't need $250 seats, or $100,000 a year luxury boxes to enjoy the game. They don't care about $90 million dollar players either. They care about performance, players that play their hearts out and an afternoon in the sun or sultry night under the a cost that won't break the bank.

This is a time when college baseball should increase it exposure, spend more money and position itself as a viable alternative to a pro game that is beginning to spin itself out of control. A family of 4 can enjoy a college game for under $20. If a family brings their own sack lunch or favorite sandwich, the cost of a college game could end up being a fifth of the total price of the pro game. Isn't that what America wants?

But above all, the college player is what baseball purists want to see. A college player is the anthesis of today's pro player, innocent, full of promise and hope. He represents the soul of the it's simplest form. His youthful exuberance and wide eyed excitement as he studies and reacts to every pitch...that's the esence of baseball the fan can embrace...especially in these times. I have been watching college baseball players for decades and I can see it in their eyes...their love for the game is much like what Moonlight Graham was describing in Field of Dreams...

"I would have liked to have had that chance. Just once. To stare down a pitcher. To stare him down, and just as he goes into his windup, wink. Make him think you know something he doesn't. That's what I wish for. Chance to squint at a sky so blue that it hurts your eyes just to look at it. To feel the tingling in your arm as you connect with the ball. To run the bases - stretch a double into a triple, and flop face-first into third, wrap your arms around the bag. That's my wish, Ray Kinsella. That's my wish. And is there enough magic out there in the moonlight to make this dream come true?"

This summer, if you are fortunate enough to live near a town that hosts the dozens of collegiate summer leagues, go watch them. You will see what I mean. My words will make even more sense. As a will seem as if you discovered the game all over again.

"And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces."

The NCAA and Scholarships...Part Two

There are several ways that the issue of baseball scholarships can be resolved...We have a radical, but sensible solution.

De-regulate the entire scholarship limits!

The NCAA for the most part is a voluntary organization and is run by its members. The actual group that made this decision to deny the baseball scholarship increase according to Boyd Nation is actually called the Presidents' Council, which is a group of university presidents wielding power on behalf of their universities and theoretically representing the best interests of all member schools.

Well, if a unilateral decision can't be made to appease everyone, then let each school determine on their own how many scholarships they want to give out. De-regulate the entire scholarship limits.

As it stands right now, many schools don't even grant 11.7 scholarships and those are the schools that are going through the motions with the sport and will never make a difference. Let the opposite happen and have the schools that want to grant more give more.

If a school wants to grant 20 scholarships...let them. If another school in the northeast cries foul..then they need to get serious and step it up and compete.

For example, MLB doesn't have a salary cap and yes, it's unfair that the Yankees top four players make more per year than 60% of MLB teams entire salaries. But when was the last time the Yankees won the World Series?

More and more teams like the Rays, and Brewers always find a way to compete. If you can't outspend them...outsmart them. That's what these smaller market teams do with great scouts and strong minor league systems.

Likewise, more scholarships for schools such as Miami, NC, UCLA or Arizona State that would be one of the many schools to take advantage of de-regulation, would not necessarily guarantee success...although it should in theory help.

But, it would weed out the teams that seemingly are just going through the motions and we at Rounding Third would like to challenge those underfunded teams to step up or step down. If mid majors or northern climate schools don't want to compete, then they must opt down to Division I-A.

I know this is a crazy idea that needs some's just a point of discussion and I would like to hear others point of view. I'm sure the responses will get interesting.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Baseball Needs More Scholarships

The NCAA's rules on baseball scholarships and academic progress are not fair, plain and simple.

First, let's tackle the academic inequities.

Collegiate 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 8 hours of school and studying along with 6 hours of baseball year round 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. Unfortunately, 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, because baseball scholarships don't extend to the summer months, players have to find a way to schedule and pay for summer classes out of their own pocket to make up the difference. New NCAA rules now prohibit more mid-year certifications.

In addition, baseball players have to be eligible at the start of the academic year to play in the spring...I have no problem with a prior term eligibility rule, except the NCAA does not require this in basketball or football.

To make matters a bit more complicated, every summer, incoming sophomore and junior players get assigned to collegiate summer leagues. The Summer Leagues 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 unless they are allowed to take them on-line...and that depends on the school!!!

This is just one example that illustrates the demands on the collegiate baseball player. They are expected to play year round...56 games in the spring and 50 or more 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. Dividing up 11.7 scholarships amongst 30 rostered players is the equivalent of a below minimum wage job, given the excessive time demands that baseball players are expected to accept.

I have mentioned in many posts that the NCAA needs to clear the way for 24 scholarships. 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." Many schools are not aiming high enough. It has been suggested by many AD's and coaches that the NCAA increase the scholarships to 14. Are you kidding me? What good will that do? It's not a high enough number because the NCAA and it's "just Say No" negotiators will always end up back at 11.7.

Aiming at 24 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.

More tomorrow.

RT Staff

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

This CDP Lays It On The Line

The rap against what many call travel teams and what we more appropriately call College Development Programs(CDP's) is that any parent can buy his son on any team.

Honestly, we have known programs like that and it's sad that a program coordinator would put their own financial greed ahead of what is really good for the young player...and that is the truth. These shady travel programs are no different than Ponzi Scheme cons or greedy mortgage brokers that have brought down our economy...they would do anything and say anything for money.

If a player is not a prospect at any level, then he should be told that...In the end, it hurts everyone involved to lead them on and give them false hope. It hurts the families wallet, the players self esteem and WILL ruin the reputation of Elite baseball as a whole.

One such CDP that tells it like it is and publishes those words on their web site is NORCAL. Here's a paragraph that we pasted from the front page of their site....

"Many players and families approach our club for the wrong reasons. They are looking for an easy way to succeed. We are looking for players that are willing to work hard on and off the field and will be as committed to us as we are to them. The greatest compliment you can give a player is that he is a great teammate. Does that fit you? If so, you might be a good fit for our program."

Folks, there is no easy way to succeed. There are no shortcuts, guarantees, or favors. A player/prospect has to earn every ounce of success he expects to get out of this game.

Playing baseball at the next level is not an entitlement. Colleges are looking for players that have a passion for the game. They demand an unbridled work ethic. It's not just about playing everyday...although that's about being a student of the game and learning something new every time a player straps on those cleats.

Playing at the next level is about being a teammate, a leader either by example or by actual managing skills a young player may have. It's about being committed to a players own stated goals and the goals of the team.

But above all, it's about a player being honest with himself. Before any player embarks on a baseball journey, make sure that it really is their dream and not the parents. Too many times, a player goes through the motions and exerts false energy towards a goal that is not his.

The NORCAL club has the guts to explain all of this up front. And they have the resume of players to back it up. Not everyone makes it in their program, but a larger percentage of their players do and it's all because they can identify who has the passion and who does not.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols is batting cleanup for baseball

RT Staff Note: I am extremely busy today and don't have time to write my own piece. After over 300 entries, I am entitled to a day off. Since I am such a huge fan of Albert "El Hombre" Pujols, here's a great article we found courtesy of USA Today. By the way, they call him "El Hombre", because he is the most popular and productive baseball player since Stan "The Man" Musial. For those of you that are language challenged, "El Hombre" means "The Man" in Spanish.

By Bob Nightengale, USA TODAY

ST. LOUIS — Major League Baseball's 80th All-Star Game is Tuesday, but this year it is Albert Pujols' personal party.

The St. Louis Cardinals first baseman is having one of the greatest seasons in history, putting up numbers last approached by Babe Ruth, Hack Wilson and Jimmie Foxx more than 70 years ago. Yet, it is his 32 home runs, 85 RBI and .338 batting average that have drawn suspicion, leaving Pujols hurt and angry.

"I can understand people being disappointed with A-Rod and Manny," Pujols says of the New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez and the Los Angeles Dodgers' Manny Ramirez, who have been ensnared in performance-enhancing drug controversies this year. "But just because Manny made a mistake, now I have to pay? Just because A-Rod made a mistake, now I have to pay? Oh, guilt by association? That's wrong.

"For people to be suspicious of me because of the year I'm having and for people to say I just haven't been caught, that makes me angry and disappointed.

"I would never do any of that crap. You think I'm going to ruin my relationship with God just because I want to get better in this game? You think I'm going to ruin everything because of steroids?"

Pujols, who fell .012 points short in batting average of becoming the first player since Hank Aaron in 1957 to hold the Triple Crown at the All-Star break, has spent most of his 8½-year career putting up MVP numbers and building an impeccable reputation. But he has become more outspoken, talking about baseball's drug problem, players who don't respect the game and his future in St. Louis.

Pujols, 29, says he was tested six times last year as part of MLB's drug policy. But if that's not good enough, Pujols vows to take a test every day and, if he is caught using performance-enhancing drugs, he says, he will pay back the Cardinals every penny he has earned.

"Come test me every day if you want," says Pujols, who has the most home runs at the All-Star break since Barry Bonds hit 39 and Luis Gonzalez hit 35 in 2001.

"Everything I ever made in this game I would give back to the Cardinals if I got caught."

Pujols realizes America is looking for a hero. He is volunteering, only if America will let him.

"I can understand why people don't know who they can trust or their hero was caught," says Pujols, who has finished first or second in the National League MVP balloting in five of his eight seasons, with numbers remaining consistent before and since steroid testing began in 2003. "I want to be the guy people look up to. But I want to be the person who represents God, represents my family and represents the Cardinals the right way.

"So many people can't wait until I do something negative. I can't understand it. That's sad, because I want to be that poster boy in baseball. Just give me the chance."

Well-respected man

Pujols, who has three children with his wife, Deidre, and another baby on the way, goes to great lengths to maintain his untarnished image and uphold his deep religious beliefs. He doesn't drink or smoke. He doesn't have a tattoo or wear earrings. He doesn't go to bars, nightclubs or any place where his character could be assaulted.

"If we're in a hotel and a woman gets on the elevator by herself, I'll wait for the next one," Pujols says. "People have their agenda. You have to be careful who you can trust.

"It's the same thing with pictures. I'll have my picture taken on the field, but not off the field. Nowadays with photo technology, you can do so many things."

Pujols' on-field skills are admired by nearly every major leaguer, but he is also among the game's most respected players.

"He's my man," San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval says. "He's one I look up to. I think we all do."

Says Giant Randy Johnson, a five-time Cy Young Award winner, "I think Albert is the one guy in our game who could go to the opposition, say something, and they'd listen. That's how highly people regard him."

And the 6-3, 230-pounder is saying things more often, especially when it comes to showing respect for the game. The baseball cap should be worn properly. The jersey tucked. The back pockets in.

"I see teams take their jerseys out when the game is over," he says. "To me, that's not professional. I don't care what you do when you get off the field, but don't do it on the field. You don't want kids to see negative things."

Pujols, drafted in the 13th round in 1999, lives by his creed. He is in constant motion from the moment he enters the clubhouse five hours before game time until he departs late at night after lifting weights. Never is he clowning around, playing cards or watching TV.

"You've got to stay hungry," says Pujols, whose four grand slams this season are one shy of the NL record. "I see talent that is wasted after guys have one big year. I see players in the draft getting all of this money, thinking that guarantees them a trip to the big leagues.

"Just because you make $100 million, just because people say you're one of the best, doesn't mean you don't work hard."

Pujols' hard work has him on pace to go where only Ruth, Wilson and Foxx have been — a season with at least 50 home runs, 150 RBI and a .330 average. Then again, he already surpassed those Hall of Famers and every other player in history with at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI in his first eight seasons.

"It's as if he wants to not only be the best player today," Cardinals outfielder Chris Duncan says, "but the greatest player who ever played."

Free agency looms

Pujols received a record 5.3 million votes in All-Star Game fan voting and is eager to be the unofficial host of the festivities in his hometown, where he is scheduled to catch President Obama's first pitch Tuesday. He purchased a 24-person suite and tickets for 42 other friends and family members. It's a chance for everyone to celebrate his career and recognize he is the best player.

It also could be the prelude to his farewell.

Pujols, who signed a seven-year, $100 million contract in February 2004, is a free agent in two years. There are 16 players this year earning more than his $16 million salary, which includes four players who will be at the game. The question that haunts Cardinal Nation is whether the team will pay to keep him.

"I'm happy where I am and would love to be a Cardinal for the rest of my career," Pujols says. "If it's time for me to move on, I'll let God show me."

Pujols and the Cardinals have yet to open negotiations about a contract extension, but team owner Bill DeWitt says he hopes to begin talks this winter. For the Cardinals, time is running out.

"He knows we want him to be here, and we're going to make every effort to see that happen," DeWitt says.

Pujols is watching closely, trying to determine the Cardinals' plans. Will manager Tony La Russa, whom he adores, return? Will they be a big-time player in the free agent market? Or will they be content to keep their payroll below $100 million, leaving Pujols without adequate protection in the lineup?

"When you already made the money Albert has, you don't need to compromise," says Pujols' agent, Dan Lozano. "He is not going to chase the money. He wants to chase the rings."

The Cardinals, who haven't reached the playoffs since winning the World Series in 2006, enter the break in first. Yet there are fears of what will transpire in the second half. Pujols has been walked 71 times, including 32 intentionally, the most by any hitter outside Bonds since the stat became official in 1955.

It's this fear for Pujols, and the fact the cleanup hitters are batting .225 behind him, that could derail the season. It also could halt Pujols' bid to surpass Roger Maris' mark of 61 home runs, set in 1961. It since has been surpassed six times — all within a four-year period — and all by players linked to steroids. Pujols could become baseball's clean single-season home run king.

"I know I'm on the pace, but don't want to think about that," Pujols says. "To me, 62 isn't the record. You've got to hit 74. The king is still Barry."

But Pujols doesn't need the record to help his legacy. "History will be the litmus test," Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak says. "If he continues like this and there are no blemishes, he will go down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, in an era that has been questioned."


Monday, July 13, 2009

If You Play It Safe, You May Be Out

These are tough economic times no doubt. Families all over the country are watching their expenses and scrimping on the very things we used to take for granted.

One of the budget cuts in many families are the cost of going to showcases and playing on elite College Development Programs. Many families have to make sacrifices. But be careful. Don't play it too safe or your son may be looked over. I know several families that have cut out showcases altogether and are relying on their son's success in high school, a local rec team and the local Junior College as a steppingstone to the next level. That could work out if the proper steps are taken to continue to expose the player to 4 year college coaches.

If your son goes to a JC, then make sure you make the targeted 4 year coaches know that. Send them updates, videos and encourage your son to talk to his JC coach and tell him what 4 year colleges he is interested in. Many JC coaches are great at placing kids in 4 year colleges...some aren't. Make sure your son is at a JC that has a track record of success.

But never assume that they 4 year coaches will just come to your son. Unless he is the second coming of Bryce Harper, that won't happen...That said...the Las Vegas JC Bryce is going to next year is inundated with player requests to play there. That's a great strategy for a great high school player that got drafted in the late rounds and wants to improve his draft status for 2010. There will be dozens of scouts practically camping at the stadium gate waiting for Harper to take the field.

Bottom line...stay aggressive. E-mails, letters, and DVD's don't cost money. Keep your target coaches informed. You don't have to outspend to get your shot...just outsmart them.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Right Field Is For Winners Too

Yesterdays post, "Be Who You Are Supposed To Be" is a very important message not only for players but for parents as well. Let the path of your sons natural ability take its course. So many parents want their sons to become that top pitcher, starting shortstop, lead-off or number three hitter...when in fact he may be none of those things.

We have witnessed coaching Dad's trying to develop their sons into shortstops, when their body type screams first base. Have you ever wondered why a certain pitcher that had a hard time finding the plate was on the mound? Yup, Dad's doing.

One thing I've never understood is why right field is the dreaded spot for young players and their parents. I have actually seen fights breakout at games between parents and coaches because their son was in right field. Never mind that the player had a great arm, good tracking ability and a little power...the hallmark tools of a right fielder. Perception in this case trumped reality. Why do coaches and parents feel that the worst youth players must play there? Let's just say, good coaches don't. Tell Reggie Jackson that right field is for losers. There are Hall of Famers at every position, including some of the best in right field. They all didn't start off at shortstop.

The reason why we see these things is because parents don't let their sons "Be Who They Are Supposed To Be"...Parents have this preconceived image of their son and try to mold them into their image. I don't have stats to back this up, but I would bet that a lot of the attrition in baseball is due to a son being cast into his dad's image, failing at this experiment and then just giving up due to frustration.

The fact is, many parents don't know as much about the game that they think they do. In fact, many know very little or they would be able to analyze their sons skill set and place him into those positions that suit his ability. Or...they could just let the experts make that call, but that has it's perceived downside, because most parents don't want to hear that their son is not good enough for the position that they think is the premier position.

Last October, we ran a post called Showcase Realistic Outcomes" There's a quote in that article that rings true in this case...

The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.”

In other words, listen to what your coaches, instructors and showcase scouts tell you what your sons position should be. Be realistic and react accordingly to the assessments that the evaluators share with you and your son. There’s no need to be defensive or mad if the evaluation differs from your own assessment of your son. Just be grateful that you know and understand where your child stands in the grand scheme of the baseball world order.

Many of the top Showcase and Player evaluation organizations know exactly what colleges and pro scouts want. They are going to be honest… brutally honest in some cases. The bottom line…Your son isn’t a part of those 5 year old recreational soccer teams that gives out a trophy to everyone in the league anymore. He’s in the real world now, on his way to being a man.

But bottom line...Let his ability take its course and don't try to be the player you want him to be...let his ability dictate that.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Be Who You Are Supposed To Be

RT Staff Note: One of the more gracious guys in the game of baseball is a man named Jim Giles of There used to be pretty decent band in the 70's called the JGiles to us oldsters, his name stands out. We have used his articles before in our blog, and this next piece really hits home for us and others in our circle of baseball goons. Enjoy!

Athletics and Life are simply making the most of the moments between the beginning and the end. In your life, these are very easy points to determine, your birth and your death; in the Athletes life it can be more difficult to determine. Sure, you could say it is merely the beginning of your career (little league, jr league) and the ultimate end whether it be high school, college or the professional ranks. How we live this athletic life can be a wonderfully rewarding experience or it can be a very traumatic one.

How do you go about making the most of these moments? I believe the easiest way to have success in your Life or your Athletic Life is simply to BE WHO YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE.

At the beginning of this journey, all players have potential. Your goal at the end of the journey is to NOT be one of those players that HAD potential and never quite lived up to it or used it to its’ greatest ability. You have to find the way to perform each and every day to be the player you are supposed to be. To do this you have to challenge yourself continually every day. You can never live in the present on performances in the past. Conversely, you have to quit thinking of what you could be and just BE IT – Be the player you are supposed to be. For everyone this is different. You have to find a way to perform to YOUR greatest ability and thus fulfill your potential.

A difficult aspect of this is to not judge yourself based on the barometer of others. You can not base your life on pleasing the expectations of others. This is a sure fire way to fail. Sure your coaches, parents, teachers, etc. will have expectations. These expectations are an important part of your development and can be a component of the basis for your expectations of yourself. Ultimately though, YOU have to make the decision of what YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE.

You have to find who you are and commit to it. Determine what your goals should be and then go about striving to reach them every day. A key aspect is also to COMMIT TO THE PROCESS, NOT THE PATH. The path you take quite often will change based on circumstances and achievement. The only way you can fail in this endeavor is not by failing to achieve a goal, but failing to commit to the process. If you reach a goal, you need to immediately raise the bar and push the next goal higher. If your current path to achieve a goal is not producing the expected results, you need to determine if the path must be adjusted.

In determining who you are supposed to be, you must BE TRUE TO WHO YOU ARE! You can not fake this in life. You have to find who you are at the very core of your being and determine a path to use this as a strength. You have to truly believe and find commitment in the YOU that this represents. As an athlete, if you are not a RAH RAH type of player, you can not force yourself to be that. Any attempt will come off to those you are trying to pump up, as fake, because it will not be who you can commit to being. If you are quiet and lead by example, then DO IT.

That is the essence of who you are and you need to use this to your advantage.
What does this all mean for an athlete? If you are a Pitcher and you don’t have a 90+ mph fastball, then it makes no sense trying to blow the ball by everyone. Use what you have, hit spots, change speeds, force ground balls and GET OUTS. If you are a line drive type hitter with average power, stepping up to the plate and trying to jack home runs is not going to produce positive results.

If you have been blessed with plus running speed, put the ball in play and make the defense throw you out. Pressure them and see what happens. As a Leader on the team, if you’re not a RAH RAH guy, then lead by example. Be the first one out to practice, last one to leave, run on and off the field hustling everywhere you go regardless of the score or situation, etc. If you are the RAH RAH guy, use it in the right situations and pick up those players around you.

Coaches often make a huge mistake in not understanding who their players really are and try to make them into something they are not. They can make their star player a Captain and then expect him to stand up and lead as a RAH RAH type player. If he is not this at his very core, he will never be successful as the leader they want him to be. He will also not be successful as the Leader that the team needs him to be. As Coaches we have to find the strength of each of our players and develop their roles along these strengths.

Communicating this with the Player is extremely important as well. Pete Carroll was quoted as saying “I just live out what I truly believe and everything takes care of itself from there”. The commitment and identification of what you truly believe is the key ingredient in your ability to BE WHO YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE. And being who you are supposed to be will help you be a success in Life both inside and outside of athletics.