Developing a Next Level Baseball Player
Developing a Next Level Baseball Player
On Friday night the Little Fella and a teammate combined to throw a no-hitter, the first of the Little Fella’s brief career. He struck out eight of the nine outs he recorded and made an athletic diving stab and throw for the other. Only a leadoff, four-pitch walk that came around to score marred his effort.
On Saturday morning the Orioles were right back at it, this time in a hotly contested battle that came down to the last at bat. With two outs and a runner on third in a tie game, the Little Fella stepped to the plate…and promptly socked the first pitch he saw into left field for the game winner! It was the first walk-off hit of his career.
And then, this week, he turned 12. He’s less than two years away from trying out for the high school team. While most of the kids who will attend that tryout have been playing competitive travel baseball for years, the Little Fella’s highlights are still coming at the recreational level. Is that the best way to prepare him to play at the next level?
The Most Desirable Trait of a Next Level Player
If you have read many of my baseball-themed posts (like this oft-quoted one) or listened to the Baseball 101 segment that I do for the Lewisburg High School baseball broadcast, you know that I’m a big proponent of age appropriate coaching and parenting on the baseball field. Baseball is a game and should be coached (and parented) as such. However, when it comes to preparing for whatever next level a player desires to play–no matter the player’s age–one trait transcends all others:
I have spent many years around the high school baseball diamond as a player, coach, parent, and broadcaster. I have talked to my share of college coaches about what they are looking for in a next level player. Their thoughts are true for any new level of the game.
- They don’t care what a hitter’s batting average is in high school. How does his swing project to their level of play?
- They don’t care how many home runs a batter has in high school. How does his power project to the next level?
- They don’t care how many errors a player has in high school. How much ground does he cover? How many other players have that kind of range? To what college position does he project?
- They don’t care how many wins a high school pitcher has or what his high school earned run average is. Does he project the ability to get college hitters out?
Projectability is a transferable trait at any level of baseball…or any other sport for that matter. As a matter of fact, it is true in many other areas of life, too:
- Dads, if someone wants to date your daughter, do you consider that young man’s projectability? What kind of “next level” relationship does he desire with her?
- You might be in a hiring position at your job. When it comes time to fill a position and you’re considering promoting from within, do you look simply at a current employee’s performance (certainly important) or do you consider how well he or she projects to the next level position?
- Or maybe you are considering a new job or career. How would making that change project into next year, the next five years, the rest of your life?
Taking the Little Fella to the Next Level
The Little Fella has had several advantages over other baseball players his age when it comes to projectability. He grew up with a former baseball coach as a dad and a high school baseball player as an older brother. He has sat in the broadcast booth with my partner (a collegiate All-American) and me and heard us discuss baseball at a pretty deep level. He has watched games from the high school dugout and won’t be surprised by much of what he finds there as a player. And apparently, he received more than a few fast twitch muscle fibers from my wife’s side of the family, to the envy of Older Brother and me.
As an experienced baseball guy, I think I have identified the biggest gap between the Little Fella’s skill set as it exists and as it needs to be to succeed at the next level. It is an aspect of the game that no coach at any level would want from him. It is an essential part of player development that parents would rarely choose. Without it, though, few players at higher levels of baseball, or life, succeed on a regular basis.
What is this trait? Well, it deserves a blog post all of its own. And a blog post of its own it shall have. I’ll see you back here on Monday to cover this essential ingredient to success.
About Al Ainsworth
Al Ainsworth is a values storyteller. He works with individuals, businesses, churches, and other organizations to pass along their values through the stories they tell…and re-tell. Al is the author of Lines in the Gravel (and 52 Other Re-Told Childhood Tales), Stories from the Roller Coaster (of a Faith Life), and Coach Dave: Season One. Subscribe to his email list for more values storying.