The Mean Season…

(BostonDirtDogs.com / James MacLeod Cartoons)

Congratulations to the Tampa Bay Rays who played hard and deserve every success! No Excuses, Nuf Ced.

(artwork from http://www.macleodcartoons.blogspot.com/)

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Timeline and Checklist for Baseball and Softball Scholarships

The journey for baseball and softball players wishing to continue their careers at the college level begins on the first day of High School freshman year (9th Grade). Here is a timeline and checklist for players from The Baseball Resource for players to follow on the road to NCAA eligibility.

BASIC PRINCIPLES

  • Concentrate on academic performance.
  • Develop good study habits.
  • Budget time between academics, baseball & social life.
  • Take classes from your school’s list of NCAA-approved core courses.
  • Play multiple sports to develop the athleticism required for college baseball and softball.
  • Avoid drugs, alcohol & choose friends wisely.
  • Avoid problems with police, coaches, teachers, umpires & teammates.
  • Stay involved in volunteer & extracurricular activities.
  • Save & organize all awards and media articles to create an academic & athletic resume for college coaches.
  • Video all games to create a skill & highlight video for college coaches.
  • Save & organize all materials received from college coaches.
  • Contact baseball coaches at multiple programs to determine playing opportunities.

9TH GRADE (Freshman Year)

FALL

  • College baseball scholarship planning begins on 1st day of freshmen year.
  • Student-athlete & family should meet with high school coach & guidance counselor to assess academic progress towards NCAA eligibility.
  • Take classes that match school’s approved core courses & continue working in classroom.
  • Write attainable athletic & academic goals for season & year.
  • Play fall baseball.

WINTER  

  • Take classes that match school’s approved core courses & continue working in classroom.
  • Attend winter work-outs to prepare for high school team tryouts.
  • Locate indoor baseball facility if not living in warm weather state.
  • Attend holiday baseball camp at preferred college. 
  • Send initial contact letter to preferred college baseball programs.
  •  Student-athlete & family allowed to visit preferred colleges at own expense.

 SPRING

  • Take classes that match school’s approved core courses & continue working hard in classroom.
  • Play high school baseball.
  •  Continue practicing baseball skills until summer league if cut from high school team.
  • Video games and edit skill & highlight video for college coaches.
  • Asses athletic & academic goal progress following school year.

SUMMER

  • Schedule evaluations with training coaches and scouts to identify mechanical problems & help determine appropriate college baseball division level.
  • Play in most competitive baseball summer league available.
  • Video games & edit skill / highlight video for college coaches.
  • Attend college baseball camp at preferred college.
  •  Send contact letters to college baseball coaches.
  • Include fall baseball schedule & reference letter from summer league or high school coach.

10TH GRADE (Sophmore Year)

FALL

  •  Student-athlete & family should meet with high school coach & guidance counselor to assess academic progress towards NCAA eligibility.
  • Take classes that match school’s approved core courses & continue working in classroom.
  • Write attainable athletic & academic goals for season & year.
  • Play fall baseball.
  • Meet with high school guidance counselor to maintain academic progress for NCAA eligibility.

WINTER

  • Take classes that match school’s approved core courses & continue working in classroom.
  • Attend winter workouts to prepare for high school team tryouts.
  • Locate indoor baseball facility if not living in warm weather state.
  • Attend holiday baseball camp at preferred college.
  •  Student-athlete & family allowed to visit preferred colleges at own expense.
  • Send follow up letters & spring schedule to college coaches.

SPRING

  • Take classes that match school’s approved core courses & continue working hard in classroom.
  • Play high school baseball.
  •  Continue practicing baseball skills until summer league if cut from high school team.
  • Video games & edit skill & highlight video for college coaches.
  • Asses athletic & academic goal progress following school year.

SUMMER

  • Schedule evaluations with training coaches and scouts to identify mechanical problems & help determine appropriate college baseball division level.
  • Graduate on schedule.
  • Attend summer school sessions to catch up if behind schedule.
  • Play in most competitive, baseball summer league available.
  • Video games & edit skill / highlight video for college coaches.
  • Attend college baseball camp at preferred college.
  •  Attend local professional baseball try-out camp.
  •  Attend national showcase event.
  •  Send contact letter & fall schedule to college baseball coaches.

11th GRADE (Junior Year)

FALL

  •  Student-athlete & family should meet with high school coach & guidance counselor to assess academic progress towards NCAA eligibility.
  • Take classes that match school’s approved core courses & continue working in classroom.
  • Register for ACT & SAT standardized tests.
  • Select fall test date to avoid conflicting dates during high school season.
  • Register with NCAA Eligibility Center.
  • Write measurable, attainable athletic & academic goals for season & year.
  • Play fall baseball.
  • Send contact letter & updated fall schedule to college baseball coaches.

WINTER

  • Take classes that match school’s approved core courses & continue working in classroom.
  • Attend winter workouts to prepare for high school team tryouts.
  • Locate indoor baseball facility if not living in warm weather state.
  • Attend holiday baseball camp at preferred college.
  •  Student-athlete & family allowed to schedule unofficial visits to preferred colleges at own expense.
  • Research NCAA admission & eligibility requirements.
  • Send follow-up letter & spring schedule to college coaches.
  • Take un-official visits to preferred colleges.

SPRING

  •  Student-athlete & family should meet with high school coach & guidance counselor to assess academic progress towards NCAA eligibility.
  • Take classes that match school’s approved core courses & continue working in classroom.
  • Play high school baseball.
  • Video games & edit skill / highlight video for college coaches.
  • At completion of 11th grade, guidance counselor should mail official transcript to NCAA Eligibility Center.
  • Assess athletic & academic goal progress following school year.
  • Make un-official visits to preferred colleges, paid by family.
  • Contact summer showcase directors.

SUMMER (Summer between junior & senior year is CRITICAL)

  • Schedule evaluations with training coaches and scouts to identify mechanical problems & help determine appropriate college baseball division level.
  •  Register with NCAA Eligibilty Center by July 1st after junior year to be eligible for official recruiting visits & qualify for Division I or II baseball scholarship. 
  •  Graduate on schedule.
  • Attend summer school sessions to catch up if behind schedule.
  • Play in most competitive summer league available.
  • Video games & edit skill / highlight-video for college coaches .
  • Attend college baseball camp at preferred college.
  • Attend local professional baseball try-out camp.   
  •  Attend national showcase event.   
  • Send additional contact letter & updated fall schedule to college baseball coaches.
  •  Prepare list of questions for college coaches, who are permitted to call after July 1 of junior year.

12th GRADE (Senior Year)

  •  Take college prep courses.
  • Narrow down preferred school list.
  • Plan to take official visits (5 allowed) when offered by college coaches.
  • Official visits permitted after 1st day of class of senior year.
  •  Student-athlete & family should assess financial costs for college.
  •  Apply for Financial Aid.
  •  Request official transcript, GPA, & class rank from guidance counselor.
  • Complete applications & write essays early to allow time for editing & mailing before deadlines

 FALL

  •  Student-athlete & family should meet with high school coach & guidance counselor to assess academic progress towards graduation & NCAA Eligibility.
  • Write attainable, athletic & academic goals for season & year.
  • Re-take SAT / ACT tests if necessary. NCAA uses best score from each section to determine cumulative score.
  • Complete Amateurism Questionnaire at NCAA Eligibility Center.
  • Take classes that match school’s approved core courses & continue working in classroom.
  • Play fall baseball with team or friends.
  • Send additional contact letters to preferred college coaches.
  • Include updated fall schedule & reference letter from summer league or high school coach.
  • Make unofficial visits to preferred colleges, paid by family.
  • Early Signing Period during November of senior year.
  • Begin unofficial visits to preferred colleges, paid by family.

WINTER

  • Take classes that match school’s approved core courses & continue working in classroom.
  • Attend winter workouts to prepare for high school team tryouts.
  • Locate indoor baseball facility if not living in warm weather state.
  • Attend holiday baseball camp at preferred college.
  • Send follow-up letters to college coaches. (Include spring schedule).
  • Make un-official visits to preferred colleges, paid by family.

SPRING

  • Play high school baseball.
  • Send mid-season follow-up letters to college coaches.
  • Send post-season follow-up letters to college coaches
  • Video games & edit skill / highlight video for college coaches.
  • After graduation, ask guidance counselor to send final transcript & proof of graduation to selected college coaches & NCAA Eligibility Center.

SUMMER  (No Contact from College Coaches)

  • Do not become frustrated. Most high school baseball players are in same boat.
  • Remember that only elite players are receiving offers from top D1 programs.
  • Schedule evaluations with training coaches and scouts to identify mechanical problems & help determine appropriate college baseball division level.
  • Play in most competitive summer league available.
  • After MLB June draft, college coaches fill roster spots created by juniors & recruits that sign professional contracts.
  • Create new college list & be pro-active & contact schools via letter & phone call.
  • Ask high school coach, summer coach, or professional scout to recommend college programs that would be good fit.
  • Focus search on lower division colleges & JUCO programs close to home.
  • Contact coaches on list to gauge interest level.
  • If no interest, ask coach to recommend schools.

The 10 Commandments of Baseball

Here is some classic wisdom from Coach Paul Reddick of the 90 MPH Club. Print this out and post it where you or your players can see them.

The 10 Commandments of Baseball

1. Nobody ever became a ballplayer by walking after a ball

2. You will never become a .300 hitter unless you take the bat off your shoulder and swing.

3. An outfielder who throws behind a base runner is locking the barn door after the horse is already gone.

4. Keep your head up and you may not have to hold it down.

5. When you start to slide, S-L-I-D-E. The runner who changes their mind may have to change a good leg for a bad one.

6. Do not alibi on bad hops. Anybody can field the good ones.

7. Always run them out. You can never tell.

8. Do not quit.

9. Do not find too much fault with the umpires. You cannot expect them to be as perfect as you are.

10. A pitcher who hasn’t got control, hasn’t got anything.

Inside Baseball

I’ve just finished reading The Baseball Codes: Beanballs, Sign Stealing, & Bench-clearing Brawls, a fascinating look inside the unwritten rules of America’s pastime by Jason Turbow and Michael Duca. Originally I started this book in the hopes of gleaning some fresh insights to pass on my 14 year-old DirtDog son, who is now on the threshold of his highly competitive High School years which require more serious mental and physical preparation than he has ever experienced up to this point in his amateur career.

What I learned is that professional baseball is an altogether different creature than all of its amateur expressions in the Little League/Babe Ruth, AAU, High School, Legion and College venues. While they may look familiar from the outside, the professional game has a completely different essence from what we grow up and fall in love with as “The Greatest Game on Earth.”

In my personal view as a combination baseball dad, youth coach and trainer, many of the unwritten rules of baseball (also known as “The Code”) do not properly apply to the amateur game. Such examples include the moral imperative to join bench-clearing brawls, deliberately hitting batters with pitches, and covering for the marital infidelities of teammates. However, there are other principles embodied in “The Code” that definitely do have a place in baseball at all levels, particularly in competitive AAU, High School and College programs. Following are a few gems that I am passing on to my son and maybe also to yours:

  1. Respect: Respect your teammates, respect your opponents, and respect the game. The entire purpose of “The Code” is to embody the principles of respect and playing the game the “right way.” Only those inside the game who understand it, “get it.” Therefore, for those inside the game, no explanation should be necessary.
  2. Loyalty: Be loyal to your teammates, even if you dislike them personally. What goes on inside the locker room stays there. Don’t talk negatively about your teammates to those on the outside. If someone is doing something wrong or has a problem, fix it inside the “family.”
  3. Don’t Run Up The Score: While open to circumstantial interpretation based on the level of competition and what could be considered a reasonable margin of insurance runs, this applies to respecting your opponent. Essentially it means don’t play aggressively with a big lead late in the game, continuing to score runs at all costs including stealing extra bases, swinging at 3-0 pitches, etc. You don’t stop trying to score runs and win the game, but you also don’t hit & run and manufacture runs small-ball style.
  4. Don’t Swing on 3-0 Pitches: I’m ambivalent about this one. Refer to my previous post on The Hit Chart. Generally, I tell players to swing at the good pitch when they see it regardless of pitch-count because youth players are still learning to become good hitters. If the count is 3-0, the chances are the next pitch is going to be a fastball right over the plate. It may be the best pitch you see, so take advantage of it. On the other hand, if the pitcher has control issues, the batter is wise to hold off on a 3-0 count because the odds of getting on base with a walk are already in their favor. Ultimately, getting on base is the objective. Overall, my advice is to swing on a 3-0 pitch if it is in the hitter’s best zone. Otherwise, leave it alone.
  5. Don’t Run Into The Catcher: At the youth level, collisions on the base paths are highly discouraged. Overall, collisions should be avoided whenever possible to prevent injury to oneself. However, an infielder blocking the baseline without the ball in their possession is interfering with the runner who is entitled to that space and is inviting some pain. This is particularly true with catchers trying to block the plate before they have the ball. The baserunner’s mission is to advance, period. If you have to go through a player to get there, so be it.
  6. Intimidation: Intimidation is a pitcher’s best friend. This is accomplished vs. batters by a combination of high velocity and sick movement. One effective way to assert who is boss in the pitcher-hitter relationship is for the pitcher to reclaim the inside part of the plate. Many youth pitchers lack the control to reliably pitch inside without hitting batters. However, with the mandate of deadened BBCOR non-wood bat construction that applies to High School as well as NCAA play as of 2012, it is a significant advantage for pitchers who can move batters off the plate and master the full use of the strike zone. Early brushback pitches also make the batter think about avoiding being hit, rather than hitting the ball. Anticipating being hit is worse than actually being hit, and the batter is far more likely to strike out as a result. As Nolan Ryan once said, “show me a guy who dosen’t want to pitch inside, and I’ll show you a loser.” On the flip side, as a batter you can never allow yourself to be intimidated by a pitcher. Showing a flinch means he owns you and will continue to exploit your weakness. Respect the fact that the pitcher claims the strike zone, and protect it accordingly. If you get hit, wear it and take the base. You have accomplished your objective.
  7. Don’t Rub It In: The best way batters can show they are not intimidated by pitchers is to not flinch and concede the strike zone to the pitcher. Likewise, when they do get hit by a pitch, batters should never rub the spot. Don’t give the pitcher the satisfaction, and don’t show any weakness. Show the pitcher that you are tougher than his best shot. Pete Rose would sprint to first base immediately after being hit, doing everything to show that the pitcher couldn’t hurt him.
  8. Don’t Pimp Home Runs: One of the most irritating practices that has migrated from professional baseball down to Little League is the homerun pimp, whether standing and admiring the trajectory of the ball, flipping the bat, slowly trotting the bases, fist-pumping, etc. If you want to indulge yourself in conceited scoring celebrations that publicly disrespect your opponent, play football instead. Anyone who does this is simply inviting a drilling from the pitcher during their next plate appearance. While all hitters love basking in the magical moment of a home run, let the hit itself be simple reward. Run the bases smartly and no differently than at any other time, be humble and enjoy the attention of your teammates back in the dugout.
  9. Gamesmanship: There is the baseball saying, “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” There is certain truth to this, and the higher the level of play, the more true it is. For our purposes, acceptable gamesmanship can include creative sleight of hand with the ball such as the decoy (“the deke”), selling catches, framing pitches, etc. It does not extend to corked bats, altering the surface of the baseball, altering the playing surface of the field, adjusting distance between the bases, etc. Deking involves players attempting to fake out the opposition. It can take the form of fielders deceiving baserunners by pretending to have the ball when they don’t, outfielders pretending to field the ball from a different place than it actually is, the hidden ball trick, etc. It can also take the form of baserunners cutting corners when rounding bases, attempting to grab an extra base by deception, or stealing when the pitcher has the ball but is not on the mound. Selling catches involves the fielder trying to earn an umpire’s call by pretending a trapped ball was actually caught on the fly. This is best done with ranging catches in the outfield. At the plate, skillful catchers should regularly “frame” pitches, bringing pitched balls back into the zone with dexterity so that the umpire calls them as a strike. Batters can also employ gamesmanship, trying to take first base by selling an inside pitch as having grazed them.
  10. Stealing Signs: Stealing the signs of an opponent is as old as baseball itself, and any truly competitive player will try to figure them out. This also extends to hitters carefully studying pitchers for both how/when they throw various pitches and whether they have any body language “tells” that consistently indicate what they are going to throw. When at the plate, a hitter can also determine if the pitch will be outside by whether he can see the catcher set up in his peripheral vision.
  11. Don’t Talk About No-Nos: Never speak of a no-hitter while it is in progress, especially after the 5th inning. This is a hard, fast superstition throughout baseball at all levels. Leave the pitcher alone, don’t do anything to distract him from the zone. Don’t sit near him, don’t talk to him. Anyone who interferes with the mojo will be branded as the jinx.
  12. Don’t Pack Your Bags: Never pack your gear before the end of the game, regardless of how lopsided the score may be against you. It is the ultimate sign of having mentally “checked out” of the game, and is a fundamental disrespect of your teammates and the game itself. Regardless of the score, you must believe in hope. Anything is possible in baseball, just ask the 2004 Boston Red Sox.

Play Ball!