Friday, October 30, 2009

Improving Collegiate and Pro Baseball Relations


For the past several weeks, we have been suggesting that it would be in College Baseballs best interest to have a synergistic relationship with Major League Baseball. More and more top college players are spending less time in the minors and are often on a fast track to the Bigs. We have stated many times that college provides a controlled, disciplined environment that is governed by professors, teachers assistants, tutors, strength and conditioning coaches, baseball coaches and involves incredible time management skills. Combined with the excellent brand of coaching available in colleges today, you can start to see why many pro scouts are beginning to put their emphasis on college stars.

The one obvious change should be for all baseball players to be introduced as products of their college alma mater like they do in football and basketball. Every college, student, fan and alumni likes to hear their alma mater mentioned in a national or regional broadcast. Everyone knows that Tom Brady went to Michigan or Shaq went to LSU. Imagine the smooth Jon Miller announcing on an ESPN broadcast..."Now pitching, from the University of Arkansas, Cliff Lee." How exciting is it for the students and alumni of this Fayetteville, Arkansas university to hear that on a national broadcast?

Another change is limiting the players drafted out of high school to hardship cases...but only if the NCAA increases the scholarship limits to 20. High school players need to experience college. They also need to be able to afford college...and that means more scholarships...And, College Baseball will benefit greatly from those top blue chippers attending their schools. Networks will benefit as well, because colleges have a broader base of customers (present student body, plus decades of alumni) that will grow as more and more blue chip athletes infiltrate the college ranks.

Major League Baseball also benefits from the blue chips going to college by making the MLB draft the type of spectacle that football and basketball enjoy. There's school pride at stake when you involve College players to be a part of a pro sport's future.

The only downside is that more high school players going to college will decrease the need for the plethora of minor league teams. Do we really need an instructional league, rookie league, High A, Low A, AA, AAA. Can't that be pared in half? A college player that has had three years of grueling everyday practices, 56+ games a year, combined with a 40-60 game wood bat summer league experience, will be a bit ahead of the curve and might be a bit over qualified for an instructional league assignment.

We love the College game. We want to see it grow for today's fans and tomorrows future stars.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Creighton to Play In New Downtown Stadium


RT Staff Note: If you are a huge college baseball fan like me, the news that Creighton is playing in the new home of the College World Series is great news. The baseball fans in Omaha will embrace this move and pack this place. College baseball needs more community support like this. There's no excuse for teams like in college towns that don't have a pro team to follow not to embrace and follow their college teams. Folks, the college game is phenomenal entertainment. Omaha will not only have a decent NCAA D-I team to follow, they get to watch that team in one of the best venues the college game will have.

Reporter: Brian Mastre, LeAnne Morman
Email Address: sixonline@wowt.com

Creighton University and the Metropolitan Entertainment & Convention Authority have announced an agreement for Creighton to play baseball at the new downtown baseball stadium.

The 10-year agreement begins in the year 2011, which is when TD Ameritrade Park Omaha is scheduled to open. In 2011, Creighton will play some of its home games at the stadium. All of the home games will be played beginning the year 2012. There's an option for a 5-year extension.

Creighton's President Reverend John Schlegel says playing home games at the downtown stadium "will be potent in the recruiting and retaining of Creighton baseball players."

Along with the huge benefit to Creighton athletics, Schlegel says it's a win for downtown Omaha, the economy and college baseball in general. But is it a win for taxpayers?

Creighton will pay a $10,000 flat fee per game at the new stadium, and with 25 home games slated for 2012, that adds up to a quarter of a million dollars.

"Just the College World Series alone, the facility pays for itself. This is an added plus that we have Creighton now as another anchor tenant," says MECA President and CEO Roger Dixon.

And more tenants may follow Creighton's lead. Dixon says the possibility of national teams playing exhibition games and an independent league are both still on the table.

MECA also plans to bid to host the Missouri Valley Conference tournament as well as College World Series regional and super-regional games.

So the idea that the stadium will only get used 2 weeks out of the year can be dismissed...almost.

"It is a baseball stadium. It’s going to be active during the summer months, but there are going to be times of the year where there’s not a lot we can do when it’s cold outside," Dixon says.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Myth Busters


RT Staff Note: In our past few posts, more than a few people refuted our assertion that the “Dumb Jock” is a bygone stereotype. So, we set out to see what experts feel about the subject. There were many studies done that supports our statement, but we felt that the following article said it best. It is written by Greta Munger, a Professor of Psychology at Davidson College whose works include The History of Psychology: Fundamental Questions and Dave Munger, co-founder and president of ResearchBlogging.org and a writer whose works include Researching Online. And yes, he is married to Greta.

Is "Dumb Jock" an accurate stereotype?
Posted on: August 15, 2006 10:54 AM, by Dave Munger

When Jim and Nora talk about the social groups in their school, they matter-of-factly categorize almost every fellow student into stereotyped pigeonholes. There are the nerds, the rockers, the cools, the goths, and of course, the jocks.
The assumption, naturally, is that none of these groups intersect. Jocks are dumb, nerds are smart, and cools could be smart if they cared about grades. But what of this "dumb jock" stereotype? Does it actually pan out in real life?

Herbert Marsh and Sabina Kleitman have conducted an exhaustive study of the records of over 12,000 American students, following each student for seven years, from eighth grade to the second year after graduation. Previous studies had shown trends that contradicted the dumb jock stereotype, but they suffered from methodological flaws. They tended to study only a cross-section of data, or a limited geographical region. It's possible that good students tend to participate in sports, rather than the sports themselves leading to academic success.

Marsh and Kleitman claim that their study resolves some, but not all of these methodological problems. Though a longitudinal design -- following the same students for many years -- can show if a student's academic success is associated with athletic participation, it still can't demonstrate that some other factor isn't responsible for both athletic participation and academic success. It can, however, control for many other factors, such as race, socio-economic status, parents' educational level, and even earlier academic success. Marsh and Kleitman controlled for dozens of such factors, and still found a significant -- though small -- positive correlation between athletic participation and academic achievement.

Achievement can be measured in many ways -- grades, homework, attendance, standardized test scores, and enrollment in college. In all of these areas except standardized test scores, even after controlling for economic status, race, and other background variables, athletic participation was significantly correlated to academic achievement. Even after controlling for academic success in 8th and 10th grade, athletic participation was still associated with positive academic outcomes in 13 out of 21 measures in 12th grade and 2 years out of high school. This suggests that athletic participation itself may be responsible for some academic achievement -- the later achievement isn't completely explained by earlier academic success.

But what if a student is overcommitted -- if he or she participates too heavily in sports, won't grades suffer? Not according to Marsh and Kleitman's data: only one measure, number of college applications submitted, was negatively associated with extremely high athletic participation.

One important point to realize is that all of these correlations are extremely small, with beta values typically less than 0.1. This means that less than 3 percent of variance in academic performance can be explained by athletic participation. So simply encouraging athletic participation is not likely to lead to a very large increase in academic performance.

Even with these small effects, however, Marsh and Kleitman were able to make some more specific statements about the relationship between athletics and academics. Competing with other schools had a larger impact than intramural sports. Team sports had stronger associations with academics than individual sports.

Marsh and Kleitman had hoped to find some other connections between sports and academics. For example, some schools claim that athletics can help lower-performing students increase their self esteem and connect school with a source of pride, eventually leading to better academics. But the data did not support this claim: lower-performing students showed the same academic gains due to sports participation as everyone else.

But back to the "dumb jock" stereotype: with more and more studies demonstrating that athletic participation is associated with higher academic performance, why does the stereotype persist?
__________________________________________________________________
OK, RT readers...There you have it...So...Why do you think the dumb jock stereotype exists...comment below.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The $5 Piece of Plastic


We had interesting responses from a couple of readers on yesterdays post. We like interaction and we are going to break the comments down...It can be read below the posting...just click on comments.

The basic ideas for our anonymous responders, was that high school and college baseball is straying away from it's priorities on education. It's more about the trophy...or as we like to call it..the $5 piece of plastic. Generally, we would say we agree, but after some research, we have a different take...and there are some surprises as well. In bold are their comments and our response is below that.

" After over 50 years in sports what has changed tremendously is that youth sports and HS sports are now run by non-teachers. There are two components to high school - the first is education, classwork. Look at how many select teams have people who make a living from baseball academies and so forth. Historically, youth sports has become a big business."

We don't disagree with this statement as it pertains to education. Education should be first. In high school, many but not all coaches are also teachers. And with the travel teams we know, they all preach that good grades and talent is the only way to get a college scholarship. Many of the top travel teams that we have talked about for the past three months will not take a player if their grade point isn't at the very least, a 2.8...many won't take below a 3.0. Yes, youth sports may be a big business, but it wouldn't be a big business if their wasn't some success associated with it.

Now as it pertains to college, it's becomes a bit more complicated. A player should play college ball to go to college, but sometimes, if a player is very good, the pro scouts can get in the way of graduation. Good players get drafted after their junior season...and there are literally hundreds more opportunities to play professionally in baseball than in any other sport period. Look at the draft board...Look how many eligible juniors are in the top rounds. Hundreds...

This year and beyond, there are a whole new set of problems...time. Since the NCAA has shortened the season without cutting the number of games that need to be played, teams have less time in the classroom and less hours to take during the season. That has a direct affect with on-time graduation. And, unlike football and basketball which give 100% scholarships which includes an opportunity to make up their classess and required hours in the summer, baseball players are lucky to get 50% scholarships. And, because baseball get assigned to summer leagues too, there's not an oportunity to make up for lost hours in the summer like football and many basketball players can. We would like to see more players graduate on time, but the NCAA is making it harder and harder. Many do graduate unless they have a long career in the professional ranks. They just don't always graduate in the NCAA allotted time frame.

"Look at the players who go on to play at some level in college and do not graduate. Why does baseball have the lowest APR of all sports in the NCAA. How many baseball players are working in the real world in a job that does not involve baseball?"

That statement is unfair and false. First, baseball does not have the lowest APR of all the sports. According to the NCAA web site he directs us to, the average APR's by sport for men's teams has baseball ahead of basketball and football. Baseball has an average APR of 934, football is 931 and basketball is 927. They are all below the other men's sports like golf, tennis, track and wrestling...mainly because there are very few opportunities to play professionally in those other sports. The big three have many opportunities, both here in America and abroad. And how many baseball players are working in the real world that does not involve baseball? Who cares? How many non-athletes are working in the field that they majored in? Scott Boras, the super agent has two post graduate degrees...law and medical...He also played baseball in college and the passion was so intense, he couldn't stay away from it. It worked out quite well for him. The thing about baseball is that it is a real passion for many, many people...so what is wrong with working in baseball after college...especially if baseball was the real passion?

"One critical question that coaches should ask is when a player is done (they all reach the end sooner or later) will they be able to go out and work for a living outside of baseball. Will they be successful and will their experience in HS be a positive one or one where the player looks back and wonders what did I learn?"

We don't know where he is going with this. Of course, high school experiences are all about graduating and getting good grades if one wants to play in college. And, if this is achieved, the high school experience should be great and the lesson learned is that if they have a passion for the game and are good enough, they join the elite club of student athlete.

"There is always another game. It is not about the program with the most trophies. It is about the learning. Find quality people not quality baseball people to help your child learn and grow. They are not mutually exculsive"

Amen. That we totally agree with. It's not about the $5 trophy. It's about learning, discipline, leadership, responsibility and mental maturity. But we do know many quality baseball people that are not only quality people, but incredibly passionate human beings that will bend over backwards to help their players learn the life lessons necessary to succeed at any level and any career.

"Is baseball, basketball or even football not just another honors class?Thank God I no longer have kids in High School."

Thank goodness we still do have kids in high school. While there are problems with some sports in some areas of many cities, for the most part, high school sports is more focused, and in todays world, we don't see the stereotypical "dumb jock" type that we may have seen in the 60's and 70's....we are a generation that is way too hands on to let that happen to our kid...especially in baseball.

RT Staff

Monday, October 26, 2009

Show Me


We often hear complaints from parents that their son is being "shafted"(a euphamism for what what really said) by their high school coach and is not getting enough playing time. Of course, the player hears mom and dad complaining and it starts to reflect on his attitude towards the coach, his support for his team and eventually his production in practice. Before long, he game is mired in quicksand. NOW...Unless the coach has sexteplets on the team and is showing gross nepotism, then we find it hard to believe that there are coaches out there that are that blind to talent if the player in question is really that good.

Somewhere along the line, the favorite son had a breakdown of sorts...Maybe it wasn't related to talent at all. Maybe it was attitude, lack of hustle, a listening issue or the failure to grasp the intricacies of the game. Parents...it's not always related to to whether or not you think he is good or not.

Baseball is a multi-dimensional game. It's not just about hitting and catching. It's about leadership, desire, enthusiasm, and above all the ability to UNDERSTAND and continue to be a student of the game... We have seen players with incredible amounts of talent that couldn't put it together for a string of consecutive innings. High School baseball players must play for seven innings not just one or two and maybe that's what the coaches see in those players in question. Maybe they see that players role as a pinch hitter or a role player. Whatever the case, it may be a good idea for the player to find out and then work on the missing pieces to his game, rather than mope and feel sorry for himself. Coaches don't want to see that in a player and WILL bench anyone that acts like that.

The best way to play is to Play Hard...Play Smart...Play with Enthusiasm...Play to Win. You have to SHOW the coach that you are a player by example, not with words. Let the coach decide if a player is good enough by giving it his all in practice everyday and hopefully that will lead to game day success.

Friday, October 23, 2009

College is a Good Thing


When a student opts for the pro's instead of high scool, it saddens me a bit. When a basketball player takes his mandatory one year to college and bolts to the NBA, it hurts the college game and the recruiting effort.

Many of us have teens in college or high school, and we are closer to this issue than we may have been a few years ago, and therefore, it doesn't seem like the right thing to do.

What happened to loyalty and school pride? What's the point of recruiting a Blue Chip athlete if a team is only going to have them for one year? Ohio State is in the championship game one year and doesn't make the tourney the next? How would you like to be that coach? So much for Buckeye Spirit.

Baseball, curiously has a hybrid rule that allows high school graduates to enter the draft. However, if they go to a four year university, they must wait until after their junior year to be draft eligible. We like that rule. Education should be the number one priority.

However, there are ways around this rule if a players goes to a Junior College. A player is eligible after each completed JC season. A player may use this strategy to move up the draft board. Let's say a player gets drafted in the 30th round after his senior year in High School. They don't offer much money at those rounds, so the player goes to a JC. The year after his JC freshman season, he moves up to the 18th round. Still not good enough money to make a living, but he did move up and is being followed. After his sophomore year, he moves up to the 6th round where the money is decent enough to sign and does so.

The JC route is not a bad strategy. At least the player gets an education, but in our opinion, that player may have had a more memorable experience, a better education and more applicable post baseball opportunities at a four year college. If that same player had gone to a four year and then decided to leave after his junior year and baseball didn't pan out, he would only have one year of college to complete...which is much more manageable.

Plus, nothing beats the college experience...the football games on Saturday afternoons, the college basketball season and the built in fan base of 25,000 plus faithful students, thousands of alumni and locals can provide at those sporting events. One year away from the real world of the baseball business will not make or break a players chances to succeed. MLB is full of college players that played at LEAST 3 years at a 4 year university. Even for those that didn't make it to the Bigs, most pro contracts will pay for the player to go back to college and finish his degree. Wouldn't it be easier for that player to only have a few semesters to get that degree? We think so.

Unless a player is the LeBron of baseball, it's just so hard for a player to succeed out of High School. There are so many intangibles at that young age. College gives the player a chance to grow up in a more controlled and disciplined environment to help him ease into the sometimes harsh realities of today's world. It's hard enough even for college players to make it...For instance, according to the NCAA, 9.4% of all players go on to play professionally if they go to college, versus .45% of players going professional from High School.

So, if any of you players are good enough to make that decision to go pro or college...pick college...College will not only help you mature and grow mentally, but every D-I program has top notch strength and conditioning programs and facilities that are often not readily available at the rookie and Single A level. You will emerge out of college smarter, more conditioned and disciplined than that kid that decided to make a leap into the big time out of high school...Plus, that degree will be far more valuable than any pro contract in the long run. If you are that good and have a desire to play pro...the scouts will be there waiting...and salivating at that mature, physical specimen that college helped you become.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Playing For The Love Of The Game


RT Staff Note: Not everyone is talented or lucky enough to play college baseball. Yet, for many, the desire to play never ends. At Sacramento State and at many colleges around the country, club baseball is growing in popularity. We think this is great...because the more people that continue their passion to play baseball, the better it is for the game that we love.

By Dustin Nosler

Dominic and Donte Morris tried out for the Sacramento State baseball team as freshmen. They did not make the team.

However, that rejection was the first step to something potentially groundbreaking: an alternative to Division I college baseball - a competitive league run by two Sac State business majors.

Dominic and Donte Morris, senior marketing and general management majors respectively, created the Morris League, a baseball league composed mostly of Sac State students, but also anyone in the local community who wants to partake in the national pastime.

The number of teams in the league has doubled in size every year since its inception: From two teams in 2007, to four in 2008, to eight in 2009 - from 23 players to 130 players. The eight teams are divided into two divisions: East and West, including a team from UC Davis' baseball club.

This type of growth gives the Morris brothers hope for their league - perhaps expansion to the Bay Area.

"Our next step is, actually, next spring, is to move maybe like a six-team league down to the Bay Area," Donte Morris said. "Eventually, we want to grow all up and down California and have a Morris base in every major city."

The league is designed to provide a place for those who are not able to play college ball, including junior college players, fifth-year seniors and redshirt players.

"The majority of our players are players that go to Sac State played in high school and don't really have a spot to play anywhere else; those guys who still have the 'baseball feeling,'" Donte Morris said. "In certain cases, we do have fifth-year (players) out of Sac State or Sac City who also want to continue to play ball."

The Morris brothers decided to create the league after playing catch outside their residence hall.

"One day we saw a lot of people playing catch and we were like, 'Why are we just playing catch when we could actually play a game?'" Dominic Morris said. "So we decided then to start up a two-team league and from there, we thought of it even further and thought of more ideas for this baseball league."

The league gets help from its fans, including one fan who Donte Morris specifically mentioned - Angelina Boykin.

Boykin said she brings snacks, drinks and does whatever she can to help out the Morris brothers.

She also said she comes to the games not only because her husband Oliver plays for the Dragons, but because the Morris brothers are dedicated to putting together a quality product with quality people.

"We try to do what we can to help them," Boykin said. "They're doing such a great job and it's a great league to be around. They give a lot of these players a good opportunity to get out there if they're trying to play just to play."

Boykin said she could tell there was something different about this league from the first time she attended a game.

"When my husband and I came out here, we saw them and said, 'We're going to give them a try,'" she said. "We're kind of picky, so we came out here, saw them and said 'We're going to stick with them.'"

Dominic Morris said his favorite thing about playing in the league is the fan turnout.

"Seeing a lot of people and their families coming out and just seeing a mass number of people coming out just to have a picture day - that type of thing - just seeing us grow brings me excitement," Dominic Morris said.

Adam Wilson, a 21-year-old Sac State mass communication major, has played in the league for a couple years.

"It's cool to have a team that you can create on your own," Wilson said. "Also, it's awesome to meet other guys as well."

A first-time player, J.P. LaCroix, said he enjoys playing night games, as well as just playing the game.

"I look for any opportunity to get out and play ball," LaCroix said. "I've played ball all my life, up until college. It's really convenient being right behind Sac State."

LaCroix is a player-coach for the Dirtbags and a double major in communication studies and physical education at Sac State.

The league has giveaways and raffles where the fans can win Morris League memorabilia - hats, T-shirts and wristbands included. The Morris brothers also hope to set a good example for everyone.

"We try to be as interactive as we can with our fans," Donte Morris said. "Most of our fans are parents, wives, girlfriends - there's a lot of kids at our games, so we always want to keep it clean, in terms of conduct."

The Morris brothers said another driving force behind the league is that they want the league to pay homage to the Negro Leagues.

"Me and Donte were fascinated with the Negro Leagues," Dominic Morris said. "We felt like if we were in a position where we had anything to do to contribute to the Negro Leagues, we would do it. We can honor them by playing in the game, representing their uniforms (and) representing the heritage that they once had."

In February, the league honored former Negro League player Elmer Carter, who was a catcher and outfielder for the Kansas City Monarchs in the 1930s.

Donte Morris also said the Negro League tribute is also to drum up interest among African American players.

"There's been a lot of talk about the lack of African Americans playing baseball," Donte Morris said. "We're trying (show) a mirror image to honor the Negro Leagues of the past while also showing that African Americans still play baseball today."

Dominic Morris said in the end, the league's character is vital to its continued success.

"We really want to strive on our reputation of a quality, family atmosphere of baseball," Dominic Morris said. "It's important … to conduct ourselves in a good manner and to keep our reputation."

Morris League games are played at 7 p.m. Monday through Friday at McAullife Baseball Field located behind Sac State.


Dustin Nosler can be reached at dnosler@statehornet.com

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Keep Up The Conditioning


Fall work-outs are winding down, but that doesn't mean that baseball players stop working out. It's time to step up the work-outs to avoid injury. The most common complaints when spring comes around are shoulder and elbow soreness and if you don't follow our suggestion to long toss and build arm strength this winter season, you increase the risk of injury.

In addition to long toss and other arm drills, we have found that the Jaeger bands and similar band work is a sure way to strengthen that arm to limit any soreness or injury. A site that we really like and can give you a quick tutorial on what to do to strengthen your shoulders and arms between now and January 15th can be found at the aforementioned Jaeger Sports and at these links at BaseballConditioning.net or BaseballFit.com

Good baseball players don't crash course their work-outs, and the only sure way to decrease the risk of injury is to work out and strengthen your core and the rest of your body year round. But if you didn't have a year round program, starting now, while not ideal, is better than risking injury the first few weeks of practice...the most common time of arm soreness.

Good luck guys. Work Hard!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Numbers Game


RT Staff Note: The following is from an e-mail we received from a reader a while back who has a son that went through the recruitment process in California. His perspective provides some good advice for players in warm weather states that may not be getting the offers that they desired.

As a California parent of a son that was a pretty good high school baseball player, I had to broaden my horizons to help him find a college where he could play baseball. It wasn’t till I had been through the process that I really learned what the obstacles were and how to overcome them.

One thing that never dawned on me was as a California kid, the numbers are stacked against you. By this I mean that there are more kids playing baseball with far fewer college opportunities than exist in other states. I didn’t know how significant it was until a sat down, ran some number using public data.

By my estimate there are about 45 kids playing high school ball in California for every one roster spot at a 4-year college. I then did the same analysis for 5 other states to see how California stacked up versus; Texas (34 kids), Oregon (27 kids), North Carolina (16 kids), Ohio (16 kids) and Pennsylvania (12 kids). I suspect if I took it out and did all fifty states the variance would continue to grow.

The message for ball players in warm weather states is if you are not finding an opportunity in your back yard, expand your horizons.

The Analysis

I took the number of high schools from the Department of Education files and assumed that 80% of them play baseball. This accounts for small schools, single sex schools and those without athletic programs. I did not test the validity of the assumption but it should not materially change the relationship that exists.

I then assumed that each high school graduates 10 baseball players a year (some will do more some less). The number of schools times players graduated each year creates a population of college eligible players each year.

From Collegeboard.org I identified the number of 4-year schools that have baseball teams in each state.

I specifically eliminated junior colleges for the analysis because it represents the same group of kid’s only 2-years later; they will ultimately be replaced by the same number of high school graduates. Once I identified the number of schools, I assumed a 35 man roster with one-quarter being incoming freshman or alternatively transferring juniors. This defines the number of roster spots available each year.

When you compare the number of high school players to the number of roster spots available, you can see that California produces nearly three times the number of high school players per college roster spots for its state as compared to some eastern states.

My Point

My point is there is opportunity for kids to play ball. You need to understand how and where you fit into the maze of college baseball. A big part of that is “understanding the numbers” so that you can help your son find a place where they will get the opportunity. For my son, out of northern California he ended up in Texas where he has had the opportunity to get a great education and play on a team that has made it to the NCAA tournament.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Baseball Exercises


RT Staff Note: We are busier than ever and sometimes we rely on others to do our work for us. Todays article is from Jon Doyle of Baseball Training Secrets. Enjoy.

By Jon Doyle, MA, CSCS

While you search around the Internet for baseball exercises, you no doubt come across some odd and strange looking exercises. The problem is a great deal of these "exercises" is not only worthless, but potentially dangerous. So I figured I'd write up a quick article so you can determine if an exercise you come across is worthy of you adding to your program.

1. Ground-based Exercises - Not all baseball drills need to be "ground-based" or standing up with your feet in contact with the ground, but 99% of the good ones are. Baseball is played standing up. So you should workout that way. Nuff said.

2. No Machines - If an exercise is done on a machine you can kiss it goodbye like an Adam Dunn bomb. You should focus on free weights, body weight and medicine ball -related exercises. Cables are ok, but if it's a machine it won't help your baseball performance and may even hinder it due to lack of stabilizer muscle working and improper execution of range of motion.

3. Explode - Baseball happens at lightning speeds and so should your training. Now, this does not mean exercising out of control, what it means it learning how to properly execute each exercise in a very explosive and controlled manner, just like you do with a bat and ball.

4. Posture - As soon as you lose posture, whether it's in your swing, your throw or when you run, you lose the majority of your strength and power. Same goes in the weight room. Make sure all of your baseball exercises not only maintain proper posture, but they should help build it as well.

5. Similar Joint Movements, Not Exact - This may be the biggest rule broken when it comes to baseball exercises. Don't try and replicate a throwing motion or swinging motion with an object a lot heavier than your game-used equipment. For example, if you use a 30 ounce bat, don't swing a 45-60 ounce bat thinking it will make you a better hitter.

In fact, it will make you worse. Studies prove that any implement over 15% heavier or lighter than your normal piece of equipment will alter your mechanics significantly. If you swing a heavy bat you're practicing a different swing! Same goes with throwing a ball. Drop the weighted balls. It's too much of an injury risk and virtually impossible to maintain your mechanics when you use them.

Same goes in the weight room. Don't use a baseball exercise that tries to mimic a specific movement on the field. This is NOT baseball-specific and stems from the brains (or lack there of) of idiot strength coaches who have no clue what they're doing and, most likely, have never worked with a real athlete in their life. Or in other words they are an Internet Hero. Be wary, they are everywhere trying to steal your money.

Stick to these five basic rules and you will eliminate most, if not all of the terrible exercises floating around the Internet. And you will have a program comprising of many very good baseball exercises to help you become the best possible player you can be!


Friday, October 16, 2009

College baseball still needs major changes


RT Staff Note: There is no doubt in our mind that the greatest college baseball web site is Rivals College Baseball managed by Yahoo and Kendall Rogers. Kendall, like us here at Rounding Third is a huge proponent of the continued growth of college baseball. We both feel that the College Game is still in it's infancy in terms of growth potential. The following is his latest article from Rivals College Baseball.

College baseball still needs major changes
By Kendall Rogers

Changes always are needed in a growing sport like college baseball.

In some ways, the NCAA and conferences have done a nice job of promoting the sport the past few seasons. In other ways such as television contracts and scheduling, both entities haven’t done a good job of putting the sport in a great situation.

It’s my turn to play commissioner in sparking college baseball’s utopia.

The scholarship total is 11.7 and there are proposals to raise it by a few scholarships. In a perfect world, the sport would become a full-scholarship sport. But for now, it’s important that the NCAA increases it at least to 14.

It’s also important to increase exposure and access to fans.

The NCAA would be smart to work with conferences to improve television contracts with regional and national networks. It also makes sense to make a huge change like moving from aluminum to wooden bats to attract the fans that shudder at the sound of the ping. Sure, some of us may love the ping. But some fans believe it’s sacrilegious.

What does my perfect world for the sport entail?

Increase scholarship totals.
The debate about scholarship totals has heated up the past few seasons. Most coaches aim to increase the scholarship total from 11.7 sooner rather than later. The optimum solution calls for an increase to 14 scholarships, but many coaches dream of a day when baseball is a full scholarship sport. For now, even getting 14 scholarships seems like a tough chore. There still are several smaller programs that have just three or four scholarships. The scholarship total likely won’t increase until that changes. However, the sport would receive a huge boost by attracting more talent.

Find a stable schedule.
We’re in the middle of the great scheduling debate. In the past, there were teams on the West Coast that began the season in January. Others in the eastern part of the country, though, didn’t start the season until mid-February because of inclement weather. The NCAA decided to condense the season and start in late February two seasons ago. However, the condensed schedule caused more issues. Now the NCAA has decided to add a week to the beginning of the season, while still keeping the uniform start date. The way the schedule looks for 2010 is the way it should be. The uniform start date is needed and last season’s starting date was too late. Let’s hope this is the start of some stability when it comes to the spring schedule.

Allow a fall season.
Here’s something we can’t seem to figure out. If you look at women’s softball, the NCAA allows teams to play several games in the fall. It also appears those games don’t count against their schedule. So, it strikes us as interesting that college baseball programs are allowed to play fall games, but that each games counts against their 56-game spring schedule. Even without softball in the equation, baseball programs should be allowed to play fall contests without them counting against the 56-game schedule. Not only does this enhance the sport in the fall. It also gives programs a measuring stick of what needs to improve before the spring.

Bring back an amended transfer rule.
It wasn’t too long ago we had a one-time transfer rule. But the NCAA felt it was important to force players to sit out a year if they transfer from one Division I school to another. There’s a problem with that, though. Unlike football and basketball, baseball isn’t a full-scholarship sport. So, how is hindering a student-athlete’s financial well-being good for the sport? It’s time for the NCAA to bring back the one-time transfer rule with some strings attached. Let’s put the rule back in place and say that a player may not transfer unless the financial package the other institution has put together is better than the current institution. This may sound unfair to some, but is the current rule fair? Not at all. It doesn’t make sense.

Better early-season tournaments.
We’ve made it a habit the past few seasons to cover the Houston College Classic, which is one of the best early-season tournaments and is played at Minute Maid Park in Houston. The Big Ten and Big East also have been proactive in scheduling the challenge between the two conferences down in the state of Florida. Other big-time tournaments are needed. As with college basketball, we’d love to see some conference challenges involving the ACC against the SEC and Big 12 against the Pac-10. Sure, having events like these was virtually impossible with last year’s schedule. But the newest schedule changes open the door to tournaments such as these being a possibility in the future. It’d be great for the sport.

Amend roster size, scholarship rules.
It’s time for the NCAA to head back to the drawing board on roster sizes and scholarship rules. Currently, the NCAA says that a team must cap its roster at 35 players with no more than 30 players receiving scholarship money. The rule is slated to change in the spring. The NCAA will then say teams may have no more than 27 players on scholarship. Both this year and in ’10, each player on scholarship must have at least 25 percent of a scholarship. In a sport such as college baseball, there aren’t too many teams with a wealth of depth. Therefore, limiting how many players can be on scholarship only will make this issue more prevalent. The NCAA should cap roster sizes at 35 and allow all 35 players to be on a scholarship. Requiring each player to have 25 percent of a scholarship makes zero sense. The NCAA does, however, need to make sure coaches can’t cut year-to-year scholarship totals.

More regular season television exposure.
The SEC has made huge strides in a agreement with ESPN to get more college baseball games on television. The conference also televises every game of their conference tournament on Comcast Sports and Fox Sports South. That’s pretty impressive. But outside of the SEC, most conferences have done a horrendous job of promoting the sport on television sets. The ACC gets some credit for at least putting a league game of the week on a Fox Sports national telecast. Florida State and Miami also are frequently on television in the Sunshine State. But when it comes to other conferences such as the Big 12 and Pac-10, they may as well not even try. The Big 12’s television contract, if you even want to call it that, is embarrassing. And the Pac-10 isn’t far behind. Perhaps it’s time ESPN televises a national game of the week, while individual conferences push for more airtime. There’s no question television exposure can be increased.

Switch to wooden bats.
We’re not sure this will happen anytime soon, but it someday will happen if baseball purists have their way. There are plenty fans we speak to that would become much more interested in college baseball if the sport moved from aluminum to wooden bats. MLB has attracted a large audience over the years with wooden bats, and it only makes sense for the same to apply at the collegiate level. Critics of moving to wooden bats say the cost would be too heavy, but it’s time for the NCAA and MLB to put together a program to subsidize the costs associated with wooden bats. Not only would this change improve the development of players. It also would increase the number of fans willing to watch college baseball. The sport would be better off.

Move the MLB draft after the College World Series.
There’s a chance the Collective Bargaining Agreement will bring major changes to the schedule surrounding the MLB draft in the near future. We’ll see if it actually happens. For now, though, it’s our belief the MLB draft should be moved after the College World Series. The draft currently occurs before the eight teams descend on Omaha, and it often can be a distraction to some of the highest drafted players. It’s true that professional organizations need to fill their summer rosters sooner rather than later. However, moving the draft back a few weeks is better for the players and coaches alike. It’s a needed change.

Faster paced games.
There’s now a major movement by many coaches to decrease the amount of time for college baseball games. That means a faster pace. Wichita State coach Gene Stephenson has proposed a pitch clock, where pitchers have a limited amount of time to step on the mound and deliver a pitch. If they don’t abide by the rule, the team is then warned. Perhaps implementing this rule will be needed at some point, but coaches need to realize that the pace of the game must be faster. Many programs on the West Coast are notorious for wasting time between pitches to essentially keep their opponents out of sync. The ploy often may work, but it’s bad for the sport. It’s time for the coaches to get on board with improved game pace.

Put together an All-Star Game.
This could be done at the end of the season or the few days before the College World Series. Either way, it is a fantastic idea to join MLB in putting together some sort of All-Star Game. Having the contest in the middle of the season like the big leagues is out of the question. But imagine having an All-Star Game the day before the CWS begins or immediately following the CWS championship series. Putting college baseball’s greatest players on display for a national audience would be a huge boost to the sport. It needs to happen someday.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Arizona Fall League's 18th season is underway


RT Staff Note: With the Arizona Fall Classic for High School prospects is on the horizon, another league for Minor League prospects is under way in the Phoenix Area. For those of you lucky enough to hook up with a team for the Arizona Junior and Senior Classic, make sure you check out of the Arizona Fall League games as well.

PHOENIX -- Opening day of the Arizona Fall League's 18th season, which kicks off on Tuesday, will feature the professional debut of college baseball's premier player at his position.

No, it's not pitcher Stephen Strasburg, the first overall pick in the 2009 draft, who will get his first start later in the week. Dustin Ackley, taken by the Seattle Mariners as the second pick, is also kicking off his career with his first official appearance since playing for North Carolina at the College World Series in June.

"It's an awesome opportunity for me to come out here and show what I can do," said Ackley. "There's a bunch of great competition here... the best players that have played in the minor leagues and proven themselves. I'm really glad to have the opportunity to come out here and compete with them, and hopefully put up some great numbers."

The 21-year-old Ackley was regarded as the best pure hitter in college baseball during his Tar Heels career and was a clear favorite to be the first position player selected in last June's draft. Like Strasburg, he was undrafted out of high school, in part because he played at a smaller high school just north of Winston-Salem, N.C., primarily against 1-A competition.

At 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, he doesn't have the size of a prototypical slugger. The left-handed-hitting Ackley thrives with exceptional hand-eye coordination and athletic ability, and set North Carolina records for career batting average (.412), hits (346), runs (227) and total bases (544) in just three seasons. He also led the Atlantic Coast Conference with 22 home runs in 2009, after hitting 17 in his first two seasons combined.

"I don't consider myself a home run hitter," said Ackley. "I just try to do all the little things -- try to hit gaps. I'll occasionally hit some balls out. I'm not going to be a guy that tries to hit a bunch of home runs. That's really not what I'm here to do. Mainly [I'm here] just get my feet wet in the pro ball, just take it a step at a time and work on every aspect of my game."

Ackley is expected to use his AFL time to showcase his ability to play the outfield. He was restricted to playing mostly at first base due to an elbow injury suffered during his senior year of high school. He had Tommy John surgery in late summer 2008 and played a handful of games in the outfield as a junior, but that doesn't keep scouts from projecting him as an above-average future defender in center field thanks to his plus speed.

"They've had me working in center field and left field," he said. "I think my speed will play in the outfield. There's a lot of room to cover and you've got to run down balls. I think I'll be a good player and fit the outfield role pretty well."

Ackley is chomping at the bit to get his professional career underway. He spent a few days in Seattle observing the big league club just after signing in August before reporting to the Mariners' complex in Peoria, Ariz. He played in a few instructional league games but mostly has been working out in preparation for the AFL season.

At least he has had some familiar faces to keep him company since the instructional league season started late last month. Former UNC teammates Kyle Seager (Mariners), Brian Moran (Mariners), Alex White (Indians) and Mark Fleury (Reds) were all taking part in instructs with teams based in the west side of the Valley of the Sun.

"I was out here for a month with nobody here except myself," Ackley said. "It was great to see some of the guys here and just see how they're doing and how they're making adjustments."

While he's got the Fall League season ahead of him, Ackley is also looking forward to going to spring training next year with the big league club.

"I've heard about spring training but never really been there, " said Ackley, whose father John reached Triple-A in the Red Sox organization as a catcher in the 1980s.. "I heard it's a great opportunity and hopefully I'll set myself up to have a great season."

Fall Guys
• Ackley won't be the only 2009 first-round draft pick to play in the Arizona Fall League. Five of the first 10 overall picks will be in the AFL, including No. 1 pick Strasburg (Nationals), No. 7 selection Mike Minor (Braves), No. 8 Mike Leake (Reds) and No. 10 Drew Storen (Nationals).

• Major League Baseball often has used the AFL as a proving ground for proposed new rules and regulations. This season's rule change to debut in the AFL is the introduction of new protective helmets that will be mandatory for all minor league players in 2010.

The "S100" helmets, manufactured by Rawlings, have been tested to withstand a 100-mph pitch, while current headgear in use throughout baseball can sustain only a 70-mph impact. A few big leaguers, most notably the Mets' David Wright, tried the new helmets during the 2009 season. AFL players were still getting used to the new helmets after the first four days of preseason workouts, but generally believe this will be a positive change.

"The padding's a little too thick," Diamondbacks first baseman Brandon Allen said. "It kind of gets your head claustrophobic a little bit, but it's a great thing they're trying to do, trying to protect us a little more. I think it will be good."

"We've only used them a couple days so far," added Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford. "They're a little bigger and a little heavier, but I'm sure the protection is much better."

Scottsdale Scorpion players around the batting cage joked about the appearance of the new helmets.

"How do they look?" said Phillies outfielder Dominic Brown, repeating the question asked to him. "Not great."

Allen confirmed Brown's assessment of the new helmets by saying, "They look a little big on some guys."

Check out complete Arizona Fall League rosters at Baseball America.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Life After The Pro's


RT Staff Note: We ran an article a month ago about the pros and cons of going pro after high school. Today's article is from Lori Gilbert and deals with issues of finding a career after sports are over. Our take on this subject is that if a high school star decided to go to college, get a degree, or at least completes 3 years of his college studies before he goes pro, he will have a better transition into the real world to find a job after the pro career is over. (MLB can only draft college baseball players after they finish their junior year in college.)

We aren't talking about A-Rods post career plans. He is an exception and represents only a small fraction of the pro baseball universe. He is set. We are talking about the 95% of the other athletes that infiltrate the minors that have their careers cut short due to on the field or off the field struggles, injury and the myriad of other reasons why the attrition in baseball is so high. Despite all of the economic benefits of going pro after high school, we could make a MasterCard commercial about all of the reasons why a college education is Priceless!

Now, as we have stated the oast two days... if only the NCAA would make baseball a higher priority and rule that college baseball can fund as many as 20 or more scholarships, then going to college to play ball, get an education and mature as a person in a more controlled environment would be the first choice of most high school stars. Every athlete should experience college period, get a degree, and acquire the building blocks necessary to seek a career as if sports were not part of the scenario. The problem with a player that signs out of high school is that he is forced to grow up in a hurry at 17 or 18 years old. Many players still need that transitional period as a buffer to the real world that college offers.

The following article is a glimpse of post professional life and the struggles and issues that athletes face after sports.


LORI GILBERT
Record Staff Writer

When the spotlight goes off, it's not easy finding a comfort role in society

Ed Sprague went to spring training with the Texas Rangers in 2002, and when a reporter asked him what he brought to the team, Sprague was stumped.

"I couldn't think of one thing," Sprague said.

After 11 years in the major leagues, he knew it was time to leave.

He returned to Stockton, to his home, to his wife and three kids, and moved on.

"I always knew I'd be a coach, but I didn't know at what level. Little League, high school, college," he said.

Sprague, who is finishing his (fifth) season as the head coach at University of the Pacific, is one of the lucky ones. Or at the very least, a rare exception.

If throwing a touchdown in the Super Bowl, sinking a free throw with the game on the line or hitting a 95 mph fastball is tough, athletes who have excelled at such feats will tell you that not being asked to do those things anymore is even tougher.

Living your life after a career in sports is one of the hardest professions out there.

"You put everything you have into it, all you have, and when it's gone, most guys at the end of their careers are being told, 'You're no longer useful,' " said Guy McIntyre, who played guard in the NFL for 13 years, 10 of them for the 49ers.

It goes beyond being told that, though.

"The hardest thing was that my whole identity was tied up in being a volleyball player," said Pacific graduate Elaina Oden, a two-time Olympian. "When volleyball wasn't there, it was hard to make the adjustment."

She's not alone.

"My identity was always as Adrian the football player, Adrian the baseball player, Adrian the athlete," said Adrian McBride, a University of Missouri graduate who spent three years in the NFL "Since I was 10 years old, I was pushed to be the best. All of a sudden the (NFL) didn't need me. I was working in a meat factory and didn't like that. I thought it was beneath me. I was a bellman at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Columbus. That was beneath me. It was devastating to me. They were paying me to carry other people's bags."

Life in the NFL, NBA or Major League Baseball means someone carrying your bags. Elite athletes are accustomed to their every need being addressed.

"The hardest part was making the transition from a really controlled environment, all the time knowing what you're going to do next," champion Olympic swimmer Brad Schumacher said. "We planned two or three years out. It was easy to focus on a goal and a result. When I no longer had that obvious goal, the difficult part was figuring out what my new goal was going to be."

He swam his last competitive race at the 2004 Olympic trials. He played professional water polo in Australia and Greece. He also completed his master's degree in business administration at Pacific and teamed up with former teammate Wolf Wigo to form Kap7 Water Polo, a company that creates and sells water polo products and consults on new pool construction.

Oden eventually earned a master's degree, too, and works for New York Life as a financial consultant. Getting there from the disappointed 29-year-old who'd endured knee surgeries and cortisone injections only to see her team finish seventh in Atlanta after winning bronze in Barcelona was a long journey.

"The Olympics were on, and I couldn't watch,'' she said. "There was too much angst watching them try to do what I tried and failed to do. It was hard to watch them lose."

A weekend at a Landmark Forum, a motivational program, inspired her to put her frustration with the past behind her and focus on her future.

It's led her to financial planning, where 90 percent of her clients are athletes and former athletes.

"Eventually, I'd like to have nothing but athletes, to help them," Oden said.
Helping athletes is a path many former players have taken.

McIntyre works for the 49ers as the director of player development, implementing an NFL program begun in the '90s whose purpose is to prepare rookies for their careers and life after football.

McIntyre is in his third year with the program, so he doesn't know if the information provided on continuing education, financial education, offseason internships and personal assistance has helped.

"Very few guys have come back and said it's helped," McIntyre said.

One person who doesn't expect it to help is agent Bob Lamonte. "The NFL program is a Band-Aid solution," Lamonte said. A history teacher for 25 years, Lamonte used his education background to develop a program of his own to prepare athletes for their post-career lives.

It began with a personality test to determine interests and included a step-by-step program to prepare an athlete to move into that job upon retirement. The Toronto Blue Jays were one of the few professional teams to pay for the program for its players. It's how Lamonte met Sprague.

"Ed Sprague's a model for what to do when you retire," Lamonte said.

Sprague's model was his dad, Ed Sprague Sr., who played in the days when athletes worked in the offseason.

Those players were better prepared to move on to life after sports.

"You would try to become a spokesperson, or a (public relations) person for a brewery or soft drink firm," said R.C. "Alley Oop" Owens, who played pro football from 1957-64. "You'd beat the bushes looking for one of those jobs."

Owens worked as a recreation leader in Menlo Park in the offseason, then through his college football coach he landed a job with J.C. Penney giving motivational speeches across the country to youngsters. He earned more in the offseason than he earned playing football.

Athletes have always moved into roles as broadcasters, but those jobs are precious.

Some spend their retirement years giving back. Some enter politics.

Others serve as cautionary tales. From former Astros pitcher J.R. Richard, who was found homeless and sleeping under a bridge, to Dwight Gooden's recent return to prison for drug abuse, there are plenty of bad examples.

"Studies show 70 to 80 percent are bankrupt and/or divorced within five years of the end of their career," McBride said.

He never fell to those depths, but it took several years of meat-cutting, bag-carrying and employment recruiting before McBride found his niche.

"I was watching the NCAA basketball tournament in 2002, and they kept showing this NCAA commercial about 360,000 athletes all going pro in something other than sports," McBride said. "It was a great commercial, but extremely misleading to former athletes. The perception is they'll ride off into the sunset like any average student."

He and his wife, a former All-American gymnast, knew better.

They began a nonprofit program called Life After Sports and set up shop in the athletic department at Missouri.

Like Lamonte, they begin with assessment tests to determine athletes' interests. From there, they prepare them to be non-athletes.

McBride has run golf and tennis events, as well as dinners, to train them in proper decorum. He provides lessons on business etiquette and résumé writing. He's worked to get them internships, geared around their sports schedules.

"Slowly but surely, we're making a difference," McBride said.

He hopes eventually to spread his program across the country.

Women may have an easier time making the transition than men.

"For women, there aren't a lot of opportunities (in pro sports)," said former Pacific point guard Selena Ho, who dreamed of playing professionally but knew it was a long shot. She has stayed in the game as a coach, currently as an assistant at Oregon.

"They generally have the desire, but they are more honest with themselves, have a more honest assessment of what their capabilities are and can be."

Not so much with men, McBride said.

"Especially in the big sports - basketball, football, baseball - guys are here for one reason, to get to the NFL, NBA or major leagues. When I was playing 20 years ago, I don't remember talking about going to the NFL. That was something you kept to yourself."

Now, it's more of an expectation than a dream, which can make the disappointment of not making it even more devastating.

Helping athletes make the transition is now the work of McBride and McIntyre, among others, who understand that the toughest job an athlete will ever have is not being one anymore.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Letters to RT


RT Staff Note: We had a very well written comment to our last Friday post on writing the NCAA. While we agree with him in principal, we disagree when it comes to the issue of Title IX. Title IX was intended to even out the scholarships for men and women in their respective sports. However, football throws the whole formula out of whack and many potentially revenue generating sports like baseball suffer as a result. Baseball and women's softball both get around 11.7 scholarships. That number may seem like a fair distribution, but it is definitely not. Softball carries rosters of around 18 players, so their percentage of scholarships to players is 65%. A baseball team, at the present time has to offer scholarships to 30 rostered players, or a percentage of 39%. I know that this is not how the formula is factored in collegiate sports, but if baseball were to be equal...percentage wise to softball, the men should at least have 19.5 scholarships or 65% of their rosters.

Another point that must be addressed is how serious colleges are about funding college baseball programs. The reader is right...there are programs out there that don't even fully fund with 11.7 scholarships. Those programs must be disciplined and put on probation to fully fund or lose D-I eligibility status. This needs ot happen soon. Once all schools become fully compliant, then the member schools can talk about an increase. Here is the readers comments below.


Dear Rounding Third,
I appreciate your zeal to get scholarships increased. But you are directing your efforts in the wrong direction. Yes, the NCAA is part of the problem. But if change is going to come it will have to be initiated by the member institutions. They ARE the NCAA. Until you create a groundswell of support among the member colleges and universities the NCAA is not going to change anything.

As of right now the colleges and universities DO NOT support increasing scholarships. Yes, the coaches do. But, for all intents and purposes, they don't count. Most college presidents and adminstrations do not support increasing scholarships.

Why? Money. Don't forget that MANY colleges don't fund 11.7 scholarships now. If they don't have the money to fund 11.7 where will they get the money to fund 25 or 35? I'm sure there are also a number of schools that struggle to fund 11.7, let alone 20 or 25 or 35.

Increased scholarships would be a windfall to the top 20 or 30 programs that have plenty of money. It might help the next 20-30 schools a little. But it would have be of little or no benefit to the remaining 150 DI schools.

And don't forget Title IX. Increasing baseball scholarships might requite increasing scholarships in women's sports. And where would that money come from?

As the father of a DI player I would love to see scholarships increased. But the issue is far more complicated than most people realize. Casting the NCAA as the SOLE villain glosses a major part of the problem.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Advisers in college baseball necessary to help players


The NCAA’s effort to crack down on advisers in college baseball is intriguing, yet enigmatic.

Advisers are agents who often times walk a tightrope to follow the bylaws while at the same time represent players taken in the annual baseball draft. From what I’ve gathered during interviews, Major League teams often prefer negotiating with advisers than family.

At the heart of the matter is the NCAA’s frustration that Oklahoma State pitcher Andy Oliver sued the NCAA and won after being declared ineligible for having an adviser in the room when offered a contract.

It is part of the reason the NCAA Eligibility Center circulated a questionnaire draft choices who did not sign, proposing firmer supervision of advisers.

At UNC-Wilmington, pitchers Daniel Cropper and freshman Blaze Tart turned down offers. Neither has received the questionnaire, but if they do, they should decline to participate.

Baseball America ran a sample form, with questions such as, did your adviser have any direct communication with any MLB clubs on your behalf, and, did your adviser discuss your signability with any clubs?

To answer is intrusive, and possibly incriminating.

Cropper told me was unaware of a questionnaire, and besides, his father is a lawyer in Maryland and looked over an offer made by the Washington Nationals.

“You really have to know sports contracts and what you are getting into,’’ Cropper said. “It is nice to have someone to lay it out in layman’s terms.’’

Allan Simpson of Perfect Game Cross Checker was stunned it took nearly 15 years for the NCAA to clarify between agent and adviser. He also questioned the timing and thinks baseball is being singled out because of excessive signing bonuses.

He quickly points out – and I concur – that players, like any citizens, are entitled to legal counsel. Simpson, and Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus, mentioned that big league teams retain attorneys, giving the appearance of a double standard, and players deserve the same fair representation. And Seahawks coach Mark Scalf thinks it is virtually impossible to enforce non-contact between teams and advisers.

Roy Clark, scouting director for the Atlanta Braves, told me he received emails from Stephen Webb, the NCAA associate director of amateurism certification, and told him his scouts only dealt with families and the two players in question, with no advisers present.

Fred Wray, a former UNCW pitcher, is an agent who insists the NCAA is putting in safeguards to protect players from sanctions.

“There are underhanded guys out there trying to make a quick buck off players and do things the wrong way and compromise the players future,’’ Wray said. “To put a player in jeopardy with the NCAA of being ineligible would not only be a disservice to their family, but the player’s career as well.’’

This is a hot button topic, so stay tuned.

Staff writer Chuck Carree can be reached at 343-2262 or Chuck.Carree@StarNewsOnline.com


Friday, October 9, 2009

Write The NCAA


We received over one hundred e-mails from readers that have given us their viewpoint on the future of college baseball. Some suggestions were great, some absurd, but all of the e-mails had one theme.

College baseball needs more scholarships.

We remember when our sons first started the process years ago. We were at at tournament and a speaker at one of parent meetings stated that baseball only gives 11.7 scholarships. We were shocked at the amount of scholarship money available. I even remember a bunch of dads trying to rationalize this bit of information and thinking that surely he meant 11.7 scholarships were given to new freshman and transfer recruits.

Of course, we later found out that it was the number of scholarships for the entire team. It was disheartening to say the least and a poor assumption on our part and partially why we decided to start this web site. We felt compelled to make sure everyone was made aware of all nuances of collegiate ball and never be as naive as we were when we started our sons along the path.

With permission from our readers that sent e-mails, here are some of their comments and suggestions:

John from Germantown, TN:
Baseball is one of the hardest sports to master and it takes a special mindset to come to the realization that failing at something 7 times out of 10 makes you a huge success and one hit either way is the difference between a short career and the Hall of Fame. It takes a special person, a freakish dedication and long, long hours of work to realize how great this sport is. The kids that reach that realization are the players on those college teams. They are the ones giving it more effort, more passion and more heart than any sport on this planet. And they are getting the least amount of love from the NCAA and the colleges.

Baseball is a major sport in this country. It has more tradition than basketball and football. It has more passionate fans. Why can't the NCAA see this? Why aren't ALL colleges on board? I see a huge divide between the northern schools and the southern schools. The schools in C-USA like Rice, Houston, East Carolina, UTEP etc., get it. They have invested money into their facilities and promote their programs. Some of the northern schools that Memphis plays treat baseball as an afterthought. You can see it in their facilities, their players attitudes, their low turnouts at ball games. They don't seem to care. Yet, from what I am hearing, it's these northern schools that are crying foul and holding college baseball back.

Here's a bit of advice. If there are any colleges out there that complain that they can't compete, spend the money and make it happen. Many schools like East Carolina didn't always compete, but they made it happen. My son will be attending one of those C-USA schools to play ball soon. College baseball needs more scholarships. It would be nice if he could get rewarded for all of the passion, dedication and heart he put into this game.


Ed from Chandler, AZ
I have always wondered why baseball players in the majors were not ever identified with their college that they attended. Maybe it's because there are still a lot of players that didn't go to college and they didn't want them to feel bad. But, if colleges would increase their scholarships, making baseball a fully funded sport like football, more high school baseball players would opt for college rather than the pros. You'd even have a few International players, like you do in basketball and track applying to universities in the U.S too. I think that would be great for the game. It strengthens the core of the college fan base and the major league fan base.

I went to U of A and although I live in the Phoenix area, I follow all of the Wildcats sports religiously, including baseball. I am proud that Trevor Hoffman, Gilbert Arenas and Tedy Bruschi went to U of A. I watch college sports to see who the next pro star will be. As much as I like baseball, I haven't seen that passion in the college game as much. It's getting better, but it has a long way to go.

I would like nothing more than to see all future pros in baseball get their education in life and in baseball from college. But to do that the NCAA will have to award the colleges that care and give them the opportunity to give out more money to recruits. The colleges that can't afford to fully fund need to make a decision. Get in or get out. But those northern schools can't continue to hold back the rest of college baseball because they can't hack it.


Mark from Columbia, SC
I am writing the NCAA thanks! Baseball is big here in South Carolina, but football is bigger. However, I think baseball would be a lot bigger if the scholarship money was the same as football. I can tell you that our baseball players here are more dedicated to their sport than football players. The play more and they work harder. I don't understand why the colleges don't complain.

Clemson and South Carolina draw near sell-outs to their games. The Gamecocks new stadium will be unbelievable and is really stirring up excitement in this town. Somebody is going to make money off of that new stadium. It should all go to the players that made it happen!!!


Don from Nashville
A comment on your web site mentioned David Price. He has done a lot for this Vanderbilt baseball program no doubt. Vanderbilt is taking advantage of that and building upon their successes in baseball. The program here is growing because it has to. The rest of the SEC is nuts about their college baseball. And yes, it is VERY DISTURBING why college baseball won't raise its scholarship limits now! This is a prime time to give this sport a boost. NCAA baseball is on the rise. I see it here, in the newspapers, on TV. Like you said, it is Americas past time.


Jon from Buena Park, CA
I think the NCAA feels that families of baseball players have the money and don't need scholarships. That couldn't be farther from the truth. I know a group of guys that has tried to organize a national tournament down in Southern California, but they just couldn't get anyone from the East to attend. The cost of travel an hotels is too much to handle for a lot of teams and their families. So, if a West Coast team wants to play a Florida, Texas or Georgia team, we have to go there.

Believe me, it's a stretch for a lot of families to come up with that kind of money. It doesn't seem right that in order to get a baseball scholarship, a family has to dig deep into their pocket to go to showcases, tournaments and camps. They have to play on a elite team and pay money that they sometimes don't have. When their sons get an offer, the families find out that they have to pay even more for college than the stretched out budget they had to endure in the summer teams they were on. It's a convoluted system. While some have planned well enough and have a college fund, there are many that don't. Many sports families seem to fall into this category for whatever reason.

Maybe the lesson learned here is for all families to save for college no matter what. Or, maybe the powers that be in College baseball should realize that it's always been the rule that athletes get rewarded for their efforts. You are right in that college baseball is on the rise. If that is the case, scholarships should rise with it.


There were many more e-mails that basically said the same thing. These were the best of the bunch. Do you agree with these readers? Then write the NCAA. All of their information is to the right of this column under NCAA contact information.

RT Staff

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rise & Shine…and Eat


RT Staff Note: We have always thought that breakfast is a terrible word. It's neither a break or should it be fast. It's an integral part of a young athletes eating routine. The following article is from Julie Nicoletti of Kinetic Fuel. KN provides personalized nutritional education and counseling for serious individuals seeking improved performance, health and well being. Their unique advantage is their interactive, multi-level nutritional program targeted towards an athletes goals.

Some people wake up starving and can’t wait to have breakfast while others can’t even stand the thought of food in the morning. Then there are those who would rather sleep than take the time to eat. Consider this: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and is an essential part of an athlete’s diet.

Eating breakfast fuels your metabolism, feeds your brain, improves concentration, lengthens attention span, decreases irritability and mid morning fatigue and helps accomplish weight goals. Convinced?

Eating breakfast is nonnegotiable. No excuses accepted.

Strategies for Eating Breakfast:
*Not your favorite? Eat healthy foods that appeal to you. You’ve heard of breakfast for dinner, you can also have dinner for breakfast.

*Rather sleep? Free up time for breakfast by doing some morning chores the night before. Plan, prepare and lay out whatever you can ahead of time. Take it to-go: make a smoothie or egg sandwich that is portable and can be eaten on the go.

*No appetite? Wake up a few minutes earlier to give your body time to feel hungry. Consider starting small~ a few bites and a few sips the first day and increase daily. Split it up: eat half at home and half on the road.

Ideas for breakfast:
*Egg whites, one whole egg veggie omelet on whole grain toast or bagel or as a wrap in a Joseph’s Oat Bran, Whole Wheat and Flax lavash, pita or tortilla, plus fruit, milk or yogurt. For variety, top omelet w/ salsa and add black beans OR fry egg whites using spray like Pam, OR eat hardboiled egg whites to go. Plan ahead. Make enough for a few days, place eggs in pita/tortilla, wrap in paper towel and then in a sandwich baggie. Microwave one each morning.

*Smoothie: blend ice, low fat yogurt, fruit or peanut butter with protein powder or cottage or ricotta cheese. Can take this to-go.

*Whole grain (Kashi) waffles or protein pancakes topped with nut butter and banana OR cottage cheese or yogurt with fruit like mixed berries or apple slices and cinnamon OR natural applesauce. Make into a sandwich if it’s to-go.

*Make the night before: mix ½ c. Old Fashioned Oats w/ 1 c skim or 1% milk and 1/8 c. unsalted sunflower seeds plus raisins or craisins. Add cinnamon to taste.

*Make the night before: mix together and chill~ 1 scoop whey protein powder with 6 oz. 1% milk and 1 tsp. sugar free jello pudding mix. (239 cal, 33g protein, 17g carb, 4g fat)

*Vanilla Chobani yogurt w/ oats, raisins or craisins, sunflower seeds, cinnamon mixed in. OR Hood fat free cottage cheese with diced apples and cinnamon or pineapple and walnuts or Friendship whipped cottage cheese or part skim ricotta on top of Ezekiel or whole grain bread plus fruit.

*Whole grain cereal w/ fiber and low sugar (Total, Kashi, Special K, Smart Start, organic choices – read labels) w/ skim or 1% milk, fruit, yogurt.

*Leftover dinner.

*Tuna melt or turkey, chicken breast on whole grain English muffin plus fruit and milk or yogurt.

*Peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole grain bread and milk.

Whatever you decide, however creative you may be, decide to eat a healthy breakfast. It’s the best way to fuel your day.

Eat well. Play like a champion!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Minding Your Business


RT Staff Note: There's a book called Mind Gym, by Gary Mack that is a must read for every athlete that is interested in playing baseball at the next level. There's a lot of baseball references in this book, because baseball is one of the most mentally challenging sports on this planet. The foreword of this book is written by Alex Rodriguez. In addition to his phenomenal work habits and constant physical training, he is a big believer in mind training. This is what Alex has to say...

When I was nine years old growing up in Miami, I dreamed of being a major league baseball player someday. The dream was a little blurry back then, and it disappeared when I quit baseball and took up basketball. I wanted to become the next Magic Johnson or the next Larry Bird. Then one day I was talking with my mother and my older brother, and I realized that there aren't too many Dominicans playing in the NBA. So after a two-year layoff, I started playing baseball again, and that picture in my head, that dream, came back to me. That blurry image started taking focus.

I can tell you I wouldn't be where I am now, if I hadn't seen myself wearing a big league uniform long before it happened. I believe in the power of dreams.

I also believe mental preparation goes hand-in-hand with setting goals and hard work. The way I use my mind is the biggest reason I've been able to enjoy success and play at a high level in a game where you have to prove yourself everyday. In sports, as in life, talent will take you just so far. I try to attain goals mentally first. Let me give you an example. I don't want to sound cocky, but early in the 1996 season, I visualized winning the American League Most Valuable Player award and holding it above my head. I visioned winning the batting title and holding up that trophy too. I visioned a .380 batting average. In my mind I could see the number, flashing and blinking on exit signs....380....380....380.

That year I missed winning the MVP by three votes and won the batting title. Playing the game was the easy part. The real work was in the preparation. What I did in May paid off with rewards in November.

Just as I believe in dreams, I believe in the power of positive reinforcement and visualization. Some nights when I go to bed I will tell myself, maybe 150 times, "I hit the ball solid. I hit the ball solid. What do I do for a living? I hit the ball solid." I see the results from my minds eye out. I see myself from the fans perspective. From the managers view in the dugout. I picture myself on the field from different angles. I believe a champion wins in his mind first, then they play the game, not the other way around. It's powerful stuff.

My season is long, extending from spring training through 162 games and the playoffs. Every athlete in every sport experiences peaks and valleys. During tough times I don't worry. I don't judge my performance by results. Most important is my physical and mental preparation. The question I ask when I look in the mirror is "Am I ready to play?" If the answer is yes, I feel confident. Once the ball is thrown, or it's hit, the outcome is out of your control.