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.

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