Category Archives: Baseball

On Quitting Baseball

Quitting baseball is tough. Or, maybe I should say trying to quit baseball is tough. I’m not sure that those who have played the game and loved it can ever really quit. It just won’t leave you. It’s part of who you are. Maybe that’s why it’s so tough to walk away. Someone once said – I can’t recall who – that you don’t hold a baseball; it holds you.

There is much about the game of baseball that forms and changes the soul. The smells, the sounds, the cliches, the uniforms, the brotherhood – all come together to create an album of memories. These stay with us for a lifetime, and when teammates rejoin years later, the game of baseball is there to take them back to the days when a ball, a bat, and a mitt were the tools of friendship and pledge of loyalty.

When my boys were nearing the end of their high school baseball days, I told them that, eventually, they will quit playing baseball. It may be on their terms, or someone else’s, but baseball will stop. And, when it does – when you quit playing a game that has been part of you for so many years – it’s like a friend has died.

Walking Away from the Game

In the movie Bull Durham (which I still contend is the greatest movie about baseball), Crash Davis, a career minor-leaguer, has to call it quits. It was tough. He was tired. And all of us who ever quit the game at whatever level we played could relate.

And, who can forget the famed speech by Lou Gehrig in the cathedral known as Yankee Stadium. Though he was terminally ill, Gehrig still considered himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”

Yesterday, two baseball stories emerged from the news that involved quitting baseball. The stories are polar opposites regarding the reasons for quitting, yet they still give us an intimate view of what it means to leave the game behind.

Rafael_Palmeiro_portrait_041216_PI.vresize.1200.675.high.22Rafael Palmiero, who has Hall of Fame stats after spending years in baseball, was involved in the congressional investigation of rampant steroid use in professional baseball years ago. He vehemently denied using steroids, but later failed a drug test. His exit from baseball was, and still is, painful. You can read it here.

Adam LaRoche is another who quit baseball recently. He walked away from $13 million untitled-article-1458325153
because he was told not to bring his son to work again. Initially, it was one of those stories that seemed odd, like there was more to the story than was being told. As it turns out, there is. Read the article and watch the interview here.

Walking away from baseball is tough. For those who have played the game, and played it long, it is a constant companion that follows us wherever we go. And, a memory from years ago can appear out of nowhere and be as fresh as yesterday. Maybe that says more about the game than us. As the movie Bull Durham closes, Annie says of the game,

“I see great things in baseball. It’s our game, the American game. It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.”

 

 

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Dad is the Best Coach

Daddy-ball.

If you’ve been involved in baseball at all, you’ve heard the term thrown around quite a bit in- and outside the stands.  And, not in a good way.  A dad coaches a team, and his less-than-able son is a starter.  Or, a parent isn’t happy about their son’s playing time, so a new team is started over the winter and dad takes the helm, assuring that his son will be on the field come tournament time.

I’m not talking about that kind of daddy-ball.  What I want to see more of is dads who spend the time with their son one-on-one, in the back yard or at the field, throwing the baseball around, hitting some grounders and fly balls, and being part of the process.  While you’re at it, talk to your son.  Tell stories. Have fun, because it’s a game. Too many Dads abdicate their God-given responsibility to share a boy’s game with their son.  It’s sad.

Why Dads Don’t Coach

In this age of elite baseball and showcases, the pressure is high to keep up.  If a kid is going to be a successful pitcher, or hitter, or fielder, baseball has to be played almost year-round and lessons are involved.  Competition is taking place at a furious pace, and your player isn’t keeping up, it’s because you haven’t shelled out the bucks to make him better.  It’s a vicious cycle – to get better, you need more lessons.

Before I continue, let me be clear.  Lessons are not a bad thing.  At some point, your son will benefit from advanced teaching from someone who knows what they’re doing.  A guy who spent 4 years in college baseball, or who played professional baseball, sees the game from a different perspective, and they know how to hit or pitch better than most of us.  Time spent with guys like that can be valuable to a player’s game.  But, don’t let that be the only time your son is learning the game.  In the movie Bull Durham, the coach storms into the showers to, as Crash Davis advised him, scare the team out of their losing streak.  He sums up his tirade by stating, “This is a simple game,  You throw the ball.  You hit the ball.  You catch the ball.”  I agree.  Playing catch is simple.  Playing catch with your son, even more so.

Age (and Skill) Matters

If your player is a teenager with significant potential, sending him to hitting or pitching lessons can be the start of a great journey.  Some players flourish with quality instruction.  But, as a parent, you have to be objective about your son’s abilities and determine if lessons would be worth the cost.

What you don’t want to do, though, is take your 7 or 8 year-old to someone and pay him to play with your son.  The occasional lesson is fine, but don’t think for one second that a weekly lesson is going to make your son the next Ted Williams.  It just doesn’t work that way.  There are too many variables in play – a lasting interest as well as physical ability can change from one year to the next, and these changes will affect your player significantly.

The Best Coach is You

Dads are the best coaches for their sons.  There is absolutely no substitute for a Dad to spend this time with his son.  Playing catch, t-work in the back yard, or sitting on a 5 gallon bucket catching fastball after fastball will reap more rewards for both you and your son than anything else you can do.  Even more, going to games together, or just watching on TV, will teach your son as much about the game as doing it himself.

The rewards you reap aren’t limited to the game.  The best part are the times shared with each other.  As you work with your son on the skills of baseball, there will surely be times when the game isn’t easy.  You need to teach your player how to deal with it, and then apply it to life, in general.  And, there will times when the work you do together will pay off.  The joy of success in the game will be a sweet thing to share between father and son.  And, the stories you can tell of your playing days, or the greats who played the game, will be cherished by your boy.

The Reward

Don’t abdicate the responsibility of coaching your son.  Don’t back out of a back yard catch because you didn’t play, or you think you don’t know how to swing a bat or throw a baseball.  If you do, you’re missing the point.  Be part of the joy of something that means much to both of you, and teach your son the lessons of the game and of life.

One day, baseball will end.  There will be a void.  If you’ve been a Dad from the very beginning, spending time with your son through a game you both love, your lives will be richer for it, and your influence will be felt for generations.

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Coaches Who Win: 10 Ways to be the Best Coach

I‘ve been around baseball all my life.  I started playing the game when I was 8 years-old and continued on into college.  I have two sons, both of whom have played baseball all their lives, as well.  It’s a great game – a cerebral game – and is best enjoyed with friends.  It was Leo Durocher who once said, “Baseball is like church.  Many attend, but few understand.”  I agree.

I Want to Be a Coach

Not long after I’d finished playing baseball, I decided to become a coach.  A college buddy and I had a void in our lives that playing the game had left us, so as spring rolled around, our minds turned to the one thing that had occupied our lives for so many years.  So, we made the decision to coach a team of 13-14 year-old ball players in our small town in Mississippi.  I’d been a pretty decent player, so it just made sense to parlay that expertise into some kids who wanted to play the game.

It didn’t take long for me to figure out that this coaching thing was more difficult than it appeared to me as a player.  In one particular game, early in our season, I was in the first base coach’s box.  Our team was batting, and we had a runner on second base.  Our batter hit a deep fly ball to the recesses of right field, and though it would result in an out, our runner at second base would have the opportunity to tag up and advance to third.

The fly ball was indeed caught, and as I looked to our runner at second base, fully anticipating his advance to third, he was standing on the bag, hands on hips.  There was no intention, on his part, of advancing to the next base. He just stood there.  Needless to say, I was furious.  I began yelling at him to tag up, flailing my arms around and jumping like a mad man. There, in front of God, parents, and players, I “blew a gasket.”  Sarcastically, I yelled across the diamond that he could have tagged up, hopefully diverting all the blame on him and away from my ability as a coach.  When the furor died down, the runner looked at me, with his palms facing upward and asked, “What’s tag up mean?”

Like a ton of bricks, it hit me that I – the coach – had never taught this kid how or why to tag up on a fly ball.  I assumed these players knew the rules of the game, but it was now apparent that I had some coaching to do.  And, I needed to start over.  After apologizing to that player, and the team, we began methodically practicing every part of the game.  I focused more on teaching the game I loved and less on winning in the moment.


What’s a Coach?

The word coach  is defined as “a person who trains an athlete or a team of athletes.”  Coaching is not limited to athletes, though.  Anyone who performs a specialized, learned task can benefit from a coach.  Musicians have coaches, as do dancers and actors.  In our culture now, you can even have a life coach.

In a much broader sense, a mentor is a coach.  Advising and guiding someone who has less experience and less knowledge in any discipline could fall under the umbrella of coaching.  In either case, a person with credentials is imparting knowledge and giving direction to a person or a team.

In my playing days, I was lucky to have some really good coaches.  As my sons have played the game in their time, they have had the benefit of many coaches.  I was their coach early on, but as they grew older and more advanced in the game, they played for other coaches, and this gave me the opportunity to step aside and watch men with much more experience, knowledge and ability work with my boys.

Throughout their baseball experiences, I was able to observe those whose calling it was to coach the game of baseball with its varied individuals and teams.  And, I’ve also witnessed opposing coaches work with their players and teams.  At every level, I witnessed different approaches, abilities, levels of knowledge, and success.  One thing is certain…coaching will reveal character, and I’ve witnessed much there, as well.

10 P’s to Remember as You Coach

As one who has experienced baseball at almost every level, either myself or through my sons, I offer these 10 “P’s” to remember as you (and I) coach.

1.  Coach with passion.  Have a passion for the game and for the players.  Go at it with everything you’ve got, always learning, always trying something different or new, and always getting better.  If you don’t have a passion for the game or for the player, then you’ll have a team that plays without a love for the game and each other.

2.  Coach the person.  As a coach, I learned to leave my ego in the car.  What I desired – a win, or titles, or accolades – had to be secondary to the individual player.  Since each player was chosen to be on the team by me, each one had value and the ability to contribute to the team.  Since individual players had different levels of ability, I had to recognize that, plan for that, and work on that.  My goal as a coach was to make the individual player better, and thus, the team.  Never give up on the person.

3.  Coach the psyche.  Some players excel in pressure situations, some don’t.  I remember, years ago, playing in a USSSA State Tournament and our pitcher was facing a really good team.  He was getting knocked around a bit, so I made a mound visit to help boost his confidence and adjust our approach.  As I approached the mound, he held out the baseball, and told me I needed to put someone else in…not what you want to hear from your guy on the bump.  I told him to keep the baseball, that he wasn’t coming out, and that he had the stuff to get these guys out.

Even though we lost the game, I reminded him afterwards that we had faith in him and that he had the stuff to get it done.  His psyche needed to change if he was going to continue to be a pitcher.  He needed to develop that “I want the ball” attitude…not give up at the first hint of struggle.

4.  Coach with patience.  Baseball is a game of failure.  Hitters are applauded, even when they get out more than they get a hit.  Pitchers, too, will allow hits or walks but keep the scoring to a minimum.  A coach needs to understand that players will fail.  They’ll make mistakes.  They’ll make errors.  They’ll strike out.  But, coaching involves knowing this and encouraging players to put the failure in the past and focus on the future.

A coach who is critical of a player for failing, and pulls them out of the game, or yells at them in the game, is not coaching.  They’re tearing down the psyche and the person.

5.  Coach the potential.  Coaches have the innate ability, it seems, to look at a kid, or watch a player, and project a player’s potential.  Size, speed, soft hands, bat speed, power – these are all terms coaches will use as they look at a player and try their best to envision this kid 2 or 3 or 4 years down the road.

Potential has to be coached, though.  Young players won’t develop on their own, and a good coach can magnify a player’s gifts.

6.  Coach the possibilities.  Players come to your team with a role and an objective.  Sometimes, these roles may change, especially if a player develops differently over time.  A good coach can adjust and create possibilities for that player.

7.  Coach with positivity.  There’s nothing worse than a coach that’s always negative, always complaining.  While there is a time for intensity or correction or reality, a negative attitude will never reap the results a coach will desire in a player or team.  Players get frustrated quickly with negative coaches, resulting in poor performance and bad attitudes.  Too, they’ll get away from you as soon as they can.

How many times do former players come back to visit or take part in your team activities?  That’s a good indicator of what kind of coach you’ve been.

8.  Coach the personality. Players are different.  Some are quiet, some like to cut up.  Some are serious and work hard, and some players, well, not so serious.  Levity in the dugout can be a good thing and help players deal with some of the pressure of performing.

And, while we’re discussing it, be a coach who lets out your own personality.  It’s ok to show the team you’re frustrated with a loss, or happy with a win.  Don’t feel like you’re personality has to be suppressed in front of your players.  Sometimes, showing a bit of your personality can inspire.

9.  Coach with peace.  As a coach, know that you’ve done everything you can to get a player ready to play, or even put him in a position to succeed.  Know, too, that your team is prepared.  After all of this, realize that wins and losses will come, sometimes based on preparation, and sometimes because baseball is a funny game.  Be at peace with that.

10.  Coach with principle.  Coaches can toss around principles like they don’t matter.  Things like honesty, character, morality, and language are the most important ways to influence the lives of the players on your team.  A player respects an honest evaluation, they recognize character quickly, they see the morals that you live by, and out of the mouth comes what’s in the heart.  If you’re a coach that doesn’t have principles, players will not play for you.

Another word for principle is integrity.  Losing a game on purpose is disrespectful of the game, those who’ve played it before, the fans, the officials, and families.  If you lose a game purposefully, you’ve taught your players a lesson that will never be unlearned.


 

These are things I’ve observed from successful coaches.  I’ve seen examples of these 10 ways to coach at all levels – from Dixie Youth to travel teams to high school to the collegiate level.  And, I’ve admired the ones who coached with these guidelines and influenced their players to be better persons and athletes.

There is a reason that a coach will continuously win, and there is a reason that players want to play for a coach.  Those are the guys whose influence lasts much longer than the game or the season.  And, those are the ones who truly coach.

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The Art of Throwing BP

bpGuys who throw BP – or batting practice – are artists.

I’m talking good BP.  The kind where the hitter can get in the groove and just focus on sweet swing after sweet swing.  Balls fly off the bat like missiles and you swear you can see a comet-like blue tail following the ball.  And, when BP is over, hitters revel in the balls they’ve hit and walk around with a bit of swagger.  It’s a great feeling.

It’s all due to the guy throwing BP.  The MVP.  As BP goes, so goes the game.  If our team hits missiles all game and scores runs, and we win…well, give credit to the guy who threw pre-game BP.

There is no overstatement here.  Ask any hitter, and he’ll either speak well – or harshly – of the guy throwing BP.  There is, without question, an art to throwing BP.

Be a machine

Guys who throw good BP are machines.  Same arm slot, same speed, same location (generally).  In BP, hitters can’t worry about making adjustments.  There’s too much of that in the actual game, when pitchers are bringing the heat and changing speeds and mixing in nasty sliders.  BP is the time to focus on the swing, and guys who throw it well are indispensable.

If you’ve ever seen a guy who throws bad BP…well, it’s not pretty.  It goes without saying that they’re not the most popular guys around the field.

Maybe you’re a dad, or an aspiring coach, and you want to learn how to throw good BP.  Where do you start?

Learn to throw good BP

Coach PitchThe best place to hone your BP skills is in the 7-8 year-old coach pitch league.  To be the guy who steps out onto the field with the weight-of-the-world expectations of throwing to your kids – you’ve got to have some moxie about you.  And, serious BP skills.

You see, 7 & 8 year-olds don’t make an adjustment when they’re batting.  They swing the bat the same way, the same place, every time.  And, the same speed.  If you’re throwing to 7 & 8 year-olds, you have to, well, hit their bat.  You have to determine where their bat will be at a given time and what speed it will be, and then, time the speed of your throw, along with perfect placement so that the kids will put it into play.  If you do that, and do it enough, you’ll win most coach-pitch games.  You’ll be the favorite among parents, too.

I’ve seen some dads throw to their coach-pitch teams.  Awful.  High…low…fast…slow.  The kids didn’t have a chance.  We’d laugh after the game that the other team’s coach was the best player on our team.  And, he led the league in strike outs, too.  Not what you want when you’re pitching to your coach-pitch kids.

So, if you want to throw great BP, and be the real MVP, go throw some BP to some 7 & 8 year-old coach-pitch team.  If you can do that, you’ll be a true artist.

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Coaches, Athletes, and the Unnecessary Use of Four-Letter Words

My sons were young chaps.  Maybe 5 and 2 years-old.  We were wrestling in their room one Saturday, when Penn, the youngest, had his fill of being pushed around.  Without us knowing it, he had reached into the closet and pulled out a wiffle ball bat, and proceeded to swing it as hard as he could at his older brother.  His aim was true, and the wiffle ball bat caught Griffin on the back of the head, where upon Griffin let fly one of the gravest of curse words.

scared-child-2At that moment in time, it was as if all time stood still.  The laughter stopped, the tussling ceased, and we sat there, stunned.  Based on the look of shock on my face, Penn, who still held the bat in his hand, thought he was done for.  He had wopped his big brother in the back of the head – also known as assault and battery – and figured he was headed to the time out ‘pokey.’

Griffin, who was busy rubbing the sting off the back of his head, looked at me, knowing, as if by divine knowledge, that the word he’d just incorporated into his 5 year-old vocabulary, was wrong.  Big wrong.

In this, a teachable moment, I explained to my son that the word he used was not acceptable.  It was wrong to use curse words and, even more, it displeased God to hear that.  Our words should honor God and others.

Curious, I asked him where he’d heard such a word used that he felt could be used as part of his vocabulary.  He looked at me and responded, “At church.”  Confused, I asked for details.  He continued, “When we’re at church, we go out on the playground…and that’s where I heard it.”

Yep.  Another 5 year-old had heard the word at home and felt the need to make it part of his playground conversation.  It had spread among the kids like a snotty-nosed virus.

Tame the Tongue

The psalmist describes the language of the wicked this way:

His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue are mischief and iniquity. (Psalm 10:7 ESV)

And James, the brother of Jesus, warns us about our language when he writes,

…no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. (James 3:7-12 ESV)

As Christians who view the world through the lens of God’s commands, and who are to be “salt and light” in our culture, we must learn to tame our mind and tongue so that the words we use do not dishonor God or his created ones.

The Christian Athlete (and Coach)

Many, though, think this rule is suspended when the referee blows his whistle or the umpire shouts, “Play ball!” mlb_bulldurham_08 Coaches think that the only way to impart instruction and correction is to string together a tirade of four-letter obscenities that, I suppose, get the attention of the athlete.  And, athletes, too, think the only way to respond to adversity in the game is to lob verbal insults or descriptors across the playing field.

The unwritten code among athletes and coaches, though, allows this sort of behavior as part of the game. It’s understood as a response to adversity.  It’s almost as if cursing is not, well, cursing.  It’s just part of the game.

Can Christian athletes and coaches participate in or allow the use of cursing during practice and in a game?

Can a fig tree bear olives?

taped-mouthChristian athletes and coaches cannot – and must not – use cursing as a tool for expressing their feelings about performance and demeaning their players.  As a Christian, your faith and your witness doesn’t stop when the ball is put into play.  I would say, more than ever, as you coach on the sidelines or step onto the field, you have the opportunity to bear witness to the gospel as a ‘new creation’.

Coaches, especially, who have the opportunity to influence and mold the lives of young players, bear a responsibility to provide an example of what the characteristics of a godly man are.  This is a lesson that will make an imprint on the lives of your players for years to come.  They’ll remember you more for the kind of man you are than for your coaching style and intensity.

I have played for coaches who were able to communicate their disappointment with grace.  They were chapped, and I knew it well, yet I saw an example of expressing their disappointment and resulting instruction under fire.  I know coaches, now, who have been more of an influence on the lives of players by their conduct and language than by an in-bounds play or bunt defense.  These are the men who collect “wins” every time a player comes through their program.

To produce character you must be an example of character.

I’ve heard it said that “cursing is for conversational cripples.”  I agree.  We can and should find other words that express disappointment or displeasure.

Remember – and give thanks to God – that you have the God-given opportunity to play or coach a game that you love.

 

 

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5 Ways to Know if You’re Playing Sports through Your Child

youth-sportsYouth sports is a good thing.

As a parent, I place much value in the lessons learned while playing sports.  Discipline, team work, effort, setting goals…all of these things and more can be easily taught and developed while playing sports.  If you’re wise, you’ll take every opportunity to translate what happens while playing sports into lessons for life.  After all, when it comes to things your job, or your marriage, or your finances – the lessons learned and worked through while an adolescent can translate into valuable resources when you’re an adult.

I’ve witnessed, though, a side effect in youth sports that is both pathetic and sad that affects every single person involved in youth sports – parents who feel the need to “play the game” through their child.

I’ve witnessed it in youth baseball.  I’ve seen it, too, in other youth team & individual sports.  It’s the mom or dadyelling who is so intense and whose behavior is so unpleasant – actually, obnoxious – that every one else’s experience is ruined, sometimes to extremes.

Here are 5 ways to know if you’re playing the game through your child.  There may be more, but these are things I’ve experienced both in my behavior and in the behavior of others.

1.  You’re too competitive.  This is a win-at-all-costs mentality.  You’ll do anything to make sure your player is successful and performs better than those around him.  This means more practice, more games, more gadgets and lessons at the expense of time and money, just so your player can get better – no, be the best – than any other player out there.

2.  You brag way too much on your player.  It’s one thing to be a proud parent, yet it’s another to extol the merits of your player so much so that people find it tiresome and offensive.  If your player is good, people know it.  You don’t have to tell them.  Besides, it embarrasses your child.

3.  You’ve been angry.  This is shown in a couple of ways.  First, you’ve shown anger at your player for not performing well, or practicing hard enough, or not doing it right.  Second, you’ve expressed anger toward your child’s teammates or opponents because they performed better, or had more success over the course of the season.  The anger you feel is the result of a feeling of failure on your part, and on the part of your player.

4.  You have unrealistic expectations.  Your child is in the process of developing physically over the course of being a child and teenager.  Some things are just not possible until they mature.  Incessant practice and repetition won’t make it better.  It’ll just make your child dread the sport they’re playing.

Too, your player may not be the kind of player you think he is.  His ability to make a certain team, or be chosen for an all star team could be because, well, your player isn’t that good.  So, when your player doesn’t get chosen, you get angry…see #3.

5.  You’re a bully.  When your player doesn’t perform, or doesn’t want to practice, you become a bully.  Your anger and disappointment manifests itself in ugly words and actions, and guilt.  This is almost a sure-fire way to make your child hate the game, and resent you.

Encouraging your child to participate in sports is a good thing.  And, providing every opportunity for them to be their best is a noble thing as well.  As a parent, though, you have to discern whether the desire to play a sport is your child’s or yours.  And, if your child is passionate about the game, enjoy it with him.

Otherwise, leave your own desires and memories of what you were locked away in the recesses of your mind.  In the long run, you’ll be glad you did.

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Travel Baseball vs. Grades: the best scholarship option

bigstockphoto_Baseball_572322In yesterday’s post, I revealed my feelings regarding the corruption of travel baseball.  What was, years ago, meant for recreation and fun has turned into a multi-million dollar business, preying on the hopes of players and parents alike, all while taking in money hand-over-fist.

The promise made by the travel baseball coaches, as well as the culture promoted by recruiting organizations, is that their program, their team, and their tournament, will  ensure exposure in front of college coaches and professional scouts.  As they promote this, the innuendo is that exposure will equate to college scholarships.  Innuendo has, at times, been pushed as a guarantee.

Yet, before I continue, let me stop and extol the benefits of baseball, and, in general, team sports.  I can’t say enough about what team sports provide for a child and teenager.  The lessons learned from playing a team sport like baseball translate easily into life-lessons, and these can be applied at any point in life.  Mike Lee lists 7 ways that team sports were a benefit to him in Lessons I Learned from Sports.  I encourage you to read this and work to make these lessons part of your child’s baseball experience.

Exposure = Scholarships

The attraction to travel baseball is the possibility of earning an athletic scholarship.  No doubt, some may be attracted to travel baseball because it involves playing the game against better competition – and, therefore, improves the abilities of your player – but, I would venture to state that the ultimate goal for most parents and players is an athletic scholarship.

Seeking financial aid to pay for college is a valid concern. The cost of tuition at a public university is high and Dollarscontinues to rise.  Private universities and colleges are even more.  So, any financial help that can be acquired from athletics is a plus.

What are the chances, though, of receiving athletic aid?  In his article, “No Athletic Scholarship for You, Next!”, Tom Swyers spells out exactly what the odds are.  He states,

…there were about 451,701 young men playing high school baseball. Around the same time, there were 12,272 receiving some kind D1 or D2  scholarship money for baseball. So the chance of getting any D1 or D2 scholarship money is 2.7% of all players playing high school baseball in the  United States.

College Sports Scholarships, a website dedicated to information regarding athletic scholarships, gives numerical data for all sports.  In baseball, just 6.1% of high school athletes will even play in an NCAA sponsored program.  Of those, less than half will earn scholarships.

Here’s the Catch

In Division 1 baseball, there are 11.7 scholarships that can be divided among 27 players on a 35 man roster.  If you do the math, that’s a lot of scholarships divided up to be spread out among those players.  There are rarely (I’ve only heard of two) full scholarships given for baseball.  Coaches must be creative in providing money to athletes, and they often work to acquire other forms of aid – such as merit or memorial scholarships – to attract players to their program.

Here’s the catch: once you get the scholarship, the work isn’t over.  One player at Villanova, who received $3000 a year in baseball aid, stated,

Kids who have worked their whole life trying to get a scholarship think the hard part is over when they get the college money. They don’t know that it’s a whole new monster when you get here. Yes, all the hard work paid off. And now you have to work harder.

Scholarships are renewed on a year-to-year basis.  Poor work ethic, poor performance, a coaching change, or misbehavior can all be reasons a program can terminate a scholarship.

Merit Money

The well for merit scholarships is deep.  Good grades and, especially, a good ACT score will go a lot farther in putting a dent in the cost of college.  And, once a merit scholarship is awarded, it renews yearly as long as basic criteria are met.

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student-studyingPlayers will know if they have a chance to receive athletic money.  Size, skill, coach-ability, strength, speed, and so on will be good indicators of whether a player has a chance to play at the next level.  If those tools exist with your player, there are ways to get him exposed to college coaches.  Plus, word gets around.  If your player is on the high school team and he throws 90+, or hits gobs of home runs, coaches will find him.

There’s a happy medium.  Playing inexpensive, local baseball and hitting the books hard are the best chances to get athletic money.  Coaches are attracted to good players who are academically gifted – and, that translates into getting a good player with little athletic money involved.

So study.  Hard.  Don’t just make good grades…make great grades.  Save the money you’d spend on travel baseball and put it toward an ACT prep course.

While you’re at it, go on a vacation with your family.

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