Thursday, March 31, 2016

Getting Cut Stinks! But it just might be the best thing that ever happened to you...

  In Southeast Michigan high school baseball evaluations took place over the last week or so. While plenty of young athletes are brimming with confidence having earned a spot on the team there are more kids that didn’t make the cut.

This is a tough spot to be in particularly for those that have never experienced the disappointment of being cut from a team.  Most of the boys I have queried in recent days want to blame the coaches for not giving them a “fair look,” and that they are a much better player than Jimmy Ballgame who did make the team because he knew the coach from middle school…

I sympathize with these young athletes because when something is taken away you tend to react emotionally and want to lash out at those whom you deem responsible.

These athletes need to look at being cut as an opportunity. You have to use the disappointing result of being cut to learn what you could have done better. If you dwell on the disappointment and allow the negative result to fester it will eat you up and you will bury yourself.

Even in the unlikely circumstance that the coach doesn’t like you, is playing favorites or is just a “dummy” that’s out of your control. Don’t waste time and energy blaming other people; this negative response will not help you. In life and sport you will have bosses, coaches, teammates and co-workers whom you don’t get along with at a personal level.

You have to choose you!

Pick you, by committing to developing an approach that will get you where you want to be. Get help to develop an approach or game plan that is appropriate for you taking into account your athletic ability and skill set. Once your game plan is in place you have to execute that consistently.  

As a young athlete I was fortunate to learn a mental strategy that was vital for helping me navigate the up and down nature of baseball. The late Dr. Harvey Dorfman was a renowned baseball mental skills coach and he taught me the following formula:


You can control the two on the outside. You can’t control the one in the middle.

As an example...

If I know as a hitter that I can’t handle the high fastball on the inner half of the plate, my approach to each at-bat is "I am only going to swing at pitches middle away." If I follow my plan and hit a line drive that’s caught by the right fielder, I made an out. However, to me I should consider it a successful at-bat because I stuck with my approach in spite of the negative result. In this situation I could not control the result, which was an out, but I can control my response to that result. And if my response is a positive one then I was successful.

However, if I get frustrated because it was caught and abandon my approach then the at-bat was not successful because I did not control my response. I allowed the result to dictate my success, likely leading me down the road of a long and painful slump.

If you want to excel at sports and baseball specifically you MUST learn how to deal with failure, it is ESSENTIAL to maximizing your abilities.

Consider the following Major League Baseball players that experienced a negative result and used it to fuel them on their path to success.

Paul Goldschmidt is fast becoming a household name in MLB. In fact, he has finished second in the NL MVP voting twice.  Paul was never the best player on his little league team, travel team (he batted 9th and played second base on his 8th grade travel team), high school team nor was he the best player on his college team. The one quality that sustained Goldschmidt throughout his journey was his work ethic and his refusal to give up.

Paul Goldscmidt's story is also a cautionary tale that too often players are prejudged at a young age without acknowledging just how much they can improve over time.

At each step along the developmental path Goldschmidt realized he was not as good as his teammates or the best players on the opposition. But he did believe he could get better if he focused each and every day on doing so.
Goldschmidt said...

In college, I didn't get to go to one of the top schools in the state or the country, but I got to compete against those guys and just figured if I could just keep getting better, who knows what could happen.

Paul Goldschmidt made himself into a Major League star and his best tool wasn’t his speed, power, or arm. It was his work ethic. Goldschmidt’s hard work and dedication gave him a chance. Far too often young athletes have unrealistic expectations and in my opinion the limiting factor isn’t their size or lack of baseball tools…

Kevin Kiermaier is the starting center-fielder for the Tampa Bay Rays. According to the statistic Wins Above Replacement (WAR) he was the 7th most valuable position player in MLB in 2015, despite hitting .263 with a mere 10 home runs. What made Kiermaier so valuable in light of his relatively pedestrian offensive production?

He used his elite speed and athleticism to save 42 defensive runs the highest number since that stat was created in 2003. Kiermaier is a human highlight film on defense not only with wall climbing and gap diving catches but with a rocket arm that accounted for 15 assists, the most by a center-fielder in 2015.

Talent evaluators and scouts overlooked Kiermaier every step of the way.  As a freshman in high school he stood at 5’6" and while one of the best players on the team in high school, he was “unspectacular overall.” Only junior colleges and NAIA schools were interested. He ended up at a Division II Junior College. Kiermaier ultimately lead that team to a Junior College World Series title his freshman year and was named MVP of the tournament.

Tampa Bay Rays scout Tom Couston started showing up at Kiermaier’s college practices to watch one of his teammates.  The scout knew right way, that Kiermaier was a prospect, and that “he’s still bewildered no one else saw what he did." Couston had many scouts come up to him and say, ‘Good job. I just missed him’.”

When his former high school coach heard Kiermaier had a chance to be drafted, he joked, “Into what? The Army?”

Kieramier was undrafted but did sign with the Rays and the rest is history. Kiermaier, like Goldschmidt, had to prove himself every step of the way. He believed when no one else did. Kiermaier picked himself! *

When you are trying out for a team it comes down to getting attention.

Not everyone is going to understand you as a player. Everyone will not see your potential.

This means you have to make a choice…

Don't worry about those that don't see your potential. Show up and play your heart out for those that might!

- 5 Teams rejected Derek Jeter before the
Yankees picked him.

- There were 1329 players selected before Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza

- All 30 teams said NO to Albert Pujols 12 TIMES!!! The Cardinals picked him in the 13th round.

Pujols got 401 Nos and only 1 yes.

That's all it takes.

It's all about getting a look then it’s up to you. Have you done everything you can to prepare for that opportunity? Have you put the work in and have you developed a game plan that will allow you to succeed?

In any of the multiple roles we play (student, athlete, friend), we’re inevitably going to face trials and periods in life when we simply don’t know how everything is going to work out.

But we must realize that just because we’re going through a difficulty doesn’t mean we’ve failed in some way or we should shrink back from doing what we love to do.

Perseverance is the key to overcoming.

The testing of your self-belief produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Make the choice today to proactively develop and maintain the mental muscle of endurance.

In doing so, you will be able to fulfill your potential.

Closing thought

 I wanted to highlight one of the young men that committed to our off-season program this past Winter. DG realized a tremendous return on the investment of his time and effort. We started our program back in November and we just wrapped up the first week of March. DG attended well over 95% of the available sessions, by far the strongest commitment of the boys that attended. We learned last week that DG made the Varsity baseball team after being cut as a freshman and sophomore.  That rarely happens! First of all most kids give up on the sport. If they don't give up they still haven't been in the program the previous two years so they really have to stand out to get noticed.

DG's baseball tools don't jump out at you but he has the essential skill that is vital to maximizing your ability. He never gave up, he invested in himself and he sought help to achieve his goal. Determination and passion are just as important as running speed, hitting power, or pitching velocity. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard!

If you need proven program that will get you on the right track to playing your best click here


*Apstein, Stephanie. "Glove and War." Sports Illustrated 21 Mar. 2016: 81-83. Web.

 Additional Reading

This was a great book that I read near the end of my playing career. I wish I would have known about it in high school! Easy read for young athletes with plenty of proven mental skill strategies for baseball.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Spring Training: Secrets to success revealed

   I love Spring Training! There are many reasons for this not the least of which is that it's a sign that the long winter is behind us.

I also love Spring Training because (especially the early stages before games are played) there is a laid back atmosphere and players have more time to muse about what they did to prepare for the upcoming season. We also get a glimpse from team leadership on the philosophical direction their organizations are heading.

Have you followed the first few weeks of Spring Training?  I have and it is amazing how many interesting stories that have been discussed for baseball players, parents, and coaches.

Let’s take a little tour of Major League Baseball Spring training….

Teams are investing heavily in science and analytics. Specifically, they want to better understand how training, nutrition and fatigue can play a role in player performance.

The St. Louis Cardinals understand that their athletes need a little push to address this aspect of strength and conditioning.  This portion of the training rarely garners much attention but is essential for maximizing performance and reducing the risk of injury – more specifically, core and flexibility training.

Cardinal infielder Greg Garcia states….

From a physical preparation standpoint, young men love to squat, bench, dead lift and do curls – get big, look good.   This is why we can't expect our athletes to do the non-sexy stuff (stretching & conditioning) on their own. We have to implement it into our practice and team workout routines.  It's that important!

Tim Notke was a high school basketball coach who said …
Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. 

The Arizona Diamondbacks 27 year old rookie outfielder from Venezuela David Peralta epitomizes that statement!  ( 

Rick Riccobonno of USA Baseball told me that good things always seem to happen for guys that are humble and put the essential work in.  Peralta's journey to success in the Major Leagues speaks to the power of perseverance and never giving up. 

 Bryan Holaday is in a precarious position as the Tigers third catcher but he's not accepting that label without a fight.  Victor Martinez said…

Tiger starting catcher James McCann is also one of the early risers. McCann is often mentioned as being the future "leader" of the Tigers.  Successful teams normally have players that demand high standards of each other. But players can lead only when they demand more of themselves than anybody else.  McCann is doing all he can to set the tone for his teammates to follow including paying attention to the details like the food he put's in his body.

McCann studied the habits of athletes that have sustained peak performance for well over a decade.  McCann  said ….

What do they do differently from other guys?  They take care of their bodies.

Nutrition is low-hanging fruit when it comes to performance enhancement.  It is one of the few variables that lie within an athletes control and the vast majority (particularly young athletes) grossly neglects it.  As coaches and parents we need to make this easier for kids by providing better options. It won't be easy but achieving your peak performance is going to entail a little bit of sacrifice in the early stages of habit formation.

 The only time your body can get strong is when you allow it to recover. If you're always "in the fire" training, throwing, sprinting you will eventually melt from the cumulative heat/stress imposed upon your body.  St. Louis Cardinal ace Adam Wainwright learned this the hard way:

Wainwright is an extreme example in that his team always makes the play-offs and usually makes a deep run. But the cumulative wear and tear from those extended seasons gradually weakened his body until it finally "blew up" on him.

With the forced time off Wainwright had time to build the strength back in his body and arm to get back to doing the things he is capable of doing on the mound.

A fatigued body is an injury prone one as well!

When it comes to physical preparation for baseball Anibal Sanchez was another guy that had to learn the hard way after losing time to an injury. Sanchez always focused on shoulder/arm strengthening exercises to prepare for pitching. But he neglected the foundation that is essential for maximizing pitching performance and durability. That foundation is the hips, core and legs. Sanchez credits his new workouts for his renewed vigor for the upcoming season.

 Major League teams are leaving no stone unturned when it comes to finding a way to gain a competitive edge. The Chicago Cubs lead by their innovative leadership team of Theo Epstein and Joe Maddon have implemented a mental skill development element to their organization. The organization has shared their mantra – “C.U.B."

The Courage to do things the right way.
The Urgency to do it right now.
The Belief that we're going to get it done.

Under the leadership of new General Manager Al Avila the Tigers have taken steps to implement the "Tiger Way." Avila said this approach is more of an "internal process" and not one meant for media consumption. In other words, we will let you know on a need to know basis and the media doesn't need to know this. Avila generally summarized this new organizational approach by stating that it's an attempt to get all levels of the organization speaking the same language. As an example the strength and conditioning staff will implement fundamentals of training and evaluation that will be prioritized throughout the system from rookie ball all the way up the Major League team.

I will wrap up with a great quote I ran across from former Boston Red Sox and current Chicago Cub GM Theo Epstein describing how the 2004 Red Sox overcame a 3-0 deficit in a best of 7 to overtake the Yankees and win their first World Series title in over 86 years.

The biggest thing, I thought, in '04 was we came back because the guys in our clubhouse cared more about the other 24 guys than their own interest.

In the end all of our young athletes want to excel personally. But being part of something bigger than yourself is so powerful and the bonds and friendships you develop will outlast any trophies or statistics.

Along with “my team” of coaches and instructors, we are very excited about the Select Baseball Prep Program.  It will provide us an avenue to give back to the game we love and in a way we could never accomplish by ourselves. And it encompasses many of the things I observed from Major League Spring Training:

1. A shared message and philosophy that permeates the program from the pitching coach to   the strength and conditioning professional.

2. Nutrition as an essential element of performance, health and recovery.

3. Mental skills training and team building.

4. Smarter training that prioritizes safe and effective performance enhancement.

5. Opportunities to learn from the best and brightest in the sport of baseball

This program is much more than just developing champions on the field of play. It's just as important, and even more for us to develop the next generation of champions in the game of life as well.