If you’re in the San Diego area this weekend, drop by the ABCA (American Baseball Coaches Association) convention. It’s going on from Friday the 2nd till Monday the 5th at the Marriott convention center downtown. I’ve never been to one, but I guess it’s the biggest baseball convention of the year. Lots of equipment, lots of speaking, lots of baseball people making connections and learning. I’ll be in booth 919 selling and signing my book “The Art of Catching” and I’ll also be speaking on Monday at 9 – 10AM. Hope to see you there…be safe tonight!
What is the “right” way to play the game? Is it hard nosed and grindy (Pedroia or Youkilis). Is it goofy (Manny)? Is it militaryish (Varitek)? Is it borderline psycho (F. Rodriguez)? Is it loosey goosey but hard (J Werth)? Or is it smooth and showey (A-Rod)? I suppose it has to do with each individual’s personality more than anything. And to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. All of these individual styles meshed together make baseball what it is. I certainly don’t have any interest in going to a game and watching 18 robots run around. I love the different ways people compete and I think there is room for everybody.
That being said, I’d like to share an interesting perspective on the subject as viewed through the eyes of international scout and coach Peter Gahan. I met Peter when I was in Italy doing the MLB Euro Academy. He was one of the instructors there, and if you remember, he was the guy who gave me the information for the blog titled “Catcher Communication” on 8/22/08. Anyway, in one of the classroom sessions at the academy, they had Peter talk to the kids about what a scout looked for in a player. Something he said has been rattling around in my head for a while and I’d like to share it in hopes that some young player is reading.
Peter’s whole viewpoint was that as a player, you need to realize that there are always people in the stands evaluating and making judgments on you. Oftentimes the scouts only get to see a player one or two times and in that time they need to make a decision on your future based largely on your skills, how you play the game, and your attitude. The main point Peter made that is stuck in my mind is this. To be a good, complete scout, you need to evaluate and include the players character (intangibles) into his overall score. The only problem is, as a scout, oftentimes you only get to see a kid a couple times. How are you going to make an accurate call on a kid’s character if you only get to see him a couple times? And that was his point. It’s impossible for someone to see you and make a good judgement on you as a person unless they’re around you all the time. And since the scout is not, he must form an opinion based on what he sees. It all boils down to this. The scout is watching the player and making judgments on his character by HOW HE PLAYS THE GAME. The kid doesn’t run ground balls out hard…must be lazy. The kid argues with umpires….maybe doesn’t get along with others. He wears his uniform sloppy….maybe he doesn’t care. They all may be completely wrong assumptions…you may be a caring, hustling, great teammate, but the scout needs to make a character judgement somehow and oftentimes it comes from something goofy like how you wear your uniform or whether or not you ran hard to first.
I know, it doesn’t make a lot of sense…but it’s a fact and it happens. I’m not saying that as a player, you need to be scared and be out there trying to be someone you’re not. I’m just saying that there is a proper way to play the game and that it can be accomplished without sacrificing your individuality. If you have any aspirations of going on as a player, you need to understand the evaluation game that’s going on and the rules that it’s being played by. Then you just need to adapt and do it. It’s kind of like going in for a job interview in front of Donald Trump…you’re not going to wear shorts if you want to get hired no matter how much of an individual you are. Same thing with baseball, you need to realize that you are selling a product, and that product is YOU. That’s all I got for ya…hope it makes sense.
Today I had the pleasure of interviewing one of the winningest coaches in the history of California high school baseball. Dave Demarest was the coach at La Quinta High School for 34 years. He had a record of 753-213, won 22 league championships, advanced to 7 CIF Finals and won 3 CIF Titles. During his tenure the school produced 33 Division I players and 20 drafted players. This man has a ton of baseball knowledge. Once I get done with the ABCA conference, I’ll edit the talk and get it up as a podcast. Speaking of the ABCA conference, Dave is talking on Saturday. If you’re going to be there, don’t miss him.
In the interview, he talked a lot about reacting vs. reading a play then reacting. Specifically in first and third situations (both offensively and defensively), second and third baserunning situations, and bunting. He talked about the importance of giving his players the tools to just react and what that meant to him and how it led to success. Instead of writing out his philosopy on all of that, I’ll just leave it and let him explain on the podcast. He also talked about how he picked apart and exploited opposing defenses. It was awesome and I learned a lot.
The thing that kept coming up in my mind was how LITTLE I know about the game. Put it this way, if I were a high school coach and my team had to play Dave’s team, he would’ve crushed us. He would’ve run circles around our guys and as a coach, I would’nt even have know what hit me. As I do more of these interviews, this seems to be a common feeling for me. Yeah, I played 15 years in the major leagues and I think I’m still 75th on the list of all time games caught, but honestly, I don’t know one tenth of what these guys know about the game. I’m not joking. By getting quality baseball people to do these interviews and share their knowledge I thought that I would be providing a service to the baseball community. I honestly thought it would be a lot of stuff that I already knew or had heard somewhere. Wrong. I definitely didn’t anticipate how much learning I would be doing along the way. I love the fact that with baseball, if you are so inclined, you can continue to learn as long as you live. It seems like a bottomless pit. What an amazing game.
Happy Holidays from the Art of Catching!
As we run around completing the Christmas gifting, I thought this passage from the Bhagavad Gita was a good one to keep in mind….
“A gift is pure when it is given from the heart to the right person at the right time and at the right place, and when we expect nothing in return.”
And, just in case you were wondering what I was asking Santa Claus for….
You gotta shoot big right? If nothing else, it’s an amazing photograph.