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.