Player Interview with Cubs Outfield Prospect: John Andreoli

Today’s player interview features Cubs outfield prospect, John Andreoli. John is a native of Massachusetts and attended college at the University of Connecticut. He was drafted in the 17th round by the Cubs and has spent two seasons playing in their system. John was selected as a Florida State League Post-Season All-Star in just his second year while playing for the Daytona Cubs.

John comes from a family full of athletes and coaches. His intellect as a player has allowed him to be successful in baseball. In working at Cressey Performance, I have had the opportunity to meet John and discuss baseball on a daily basis. These conversations culminated to this; an official interview where John has answered questions about hitting and making the transition from college to professional baseball. Regardless of the level of baseball, this insight from John is beneficial for all of those whom play the game.

Q: Mechanically speaking, do you have a linear, rotational, or extension based approach to hitting?

John: When looking at my swing mechanics, I believe that I have a linear, rotational, and extensional approach to hitting. As hitters we learn from a very young age that you have to stay on top of the ball. From a mental standpoint this is a necessity. What I have come to learn over the past year is that in the high intensity of a game, our body naturally over emphasizes our actions. If a hitter does not concentrate on staying on top, the high pressure of the moment will cause a long and upper cutting bat path.

Alongside linear, a good swing from any hitter involves both rotation and extension. When a hitter drives the baseball, he gets into his front side with his lower half. This process of weight transfer from the backside through the front side is where the swing is rotational. Once contact is made, the swing becomes an extensional approach. The longer a hitter can stay on the plane of the ball with a top hand/ bottom hand position, the more success he is going to have. Once a hitter loses this top hand/ bottom hand feel, his chances of creating backspin on the baseball greatly decrease.

Q: What changes did you make mechanically when transitioning between college and professional baseball?

John: As I transitioned from the college to professional level, there were two main adjustments that I have had to make.  The first is to change my mental approach in the batter’s box. In facing better competition in every level one progresses, the mental approach to an at-bat becomes that much more important. I had to realize the type of hitter I am (middle of the field), and what type of pitches bring me the most success.

Drill: Whether it is in front toss of BP, cut the plate in half (Middle in/Middle Out). Take turns of strictly looking for a pitch in one of the two zones – taking the pitch if it is in the zone you are not looking for. This works on developing an approach and hitting pitches we have prepared ourselves to hit.

Secondly I had to slow the process (from start to finish) of my swing down. In my high school and college years, the metal bat helped me get away with a lot. I was a very herky-jerky, tight, full effort hitter who found myself going to get a lot of pitches instead of letting it come to me. The process of slowing down a hitter’s swing is one in which 99% of big leaguers have mastered. Every swing has its different timing (leg kick, no stride, toe tap), but all good hitters get their foot down and are in the hitting position at the same point. One of the keys that have worked for me is to concentrate on getting my foot down when the pitcher gets his foot down. Obviously if a hitter gets his foot down too late, he is going to get beat, but if he gets his foot down too early he creates a start-stop motion which results in no rhythm and less bat speed.

Drill: Swing with a heavy bat for a good portion of your off season training. These bats are usually around 35-38 oz and will force a hitter to slow down his swing, taking away the ability to “muscle” the bat.

Q: Do pitchers attack hitters differently in professional baseball versus college baseball? 

John: I believe that pitchers from professional and college baseball attack hitters the same. Depending on the type of pitcher, some pitchers will try to establish the inside part of the plate. Others will work to build the zone off of the outside corner. In both of these situations a hitter just has to lock in on the pitcher’s command for each pitch on that given day, and adjust his approach according to what we will see.  For example, if we are facing a sinkerball pitcher who is trying to throw fastballs on the inner half, we have to adjust. In this scenario we want to see the ball up in the zone (lower strikes will drive into the dirt) and take Zones 1 and 2 out of our hitters zone (These pitches will naturally run off the plate)

By Zones 1 and 2, imagine the plate being broken down into 6 Zones of hitting

Inside Black –  Zone 1  – Zone 2 – Zone 3 Line down the Middle – Zone 4 – Zone 5 – Zone 6 – Outside Black

*Note* This would be the opposite for a lefty

Q: Speaking in terms of approach at the plate, when does your preparation for the at-bat start?

John: I believe that the preparation for an at-bat starts as soon as you get to the ballpark. In most situations you have scouting reports on what type of pitcher is throwing that given day. In knowing how he pitches right/left hitters, we can start to go through our routine in preparation for what we will be seeing that day.

In a scenario where you have no scouting report on the pitcher throwing, I like to get out on the field early and see what kind of stuff he has. I believe you can tell what kind of mentality a pitcher has from how he approaches his warm up. If the bullpen is visible, a hitter can see what type of pitches he throws, where his arm slot is, and how quick/long his motion is out of the stretch. In addition, a hitter should use his teammates at-bats as a personal scouting report. What does he like throwing to right handed hitters (I’m right-handed)? What is his out pitch? Does he fall into a similar pattern in certain counts? Does he lead at-bats with the same pitch? Is he missing spots? Is he working inside/outside?

Q: Describe your thought process in a hitter’s count (3-1, 2-0) compared to a two-strike count.

John: When I am in a hitter’s count, I am looking for one pitch in one spot. The main thing here is to not be over anxious in these counts. Especially when it is 3-1, you see many hitters become too aggressive and go out of their zone.  Hitters need to take their walks. When they don’t hitters end up miss hitting a lot of pitches and get themselves out. The key here is to know what pitch you want to hit, to put a good swing on it when you get it, and not be afraid to take a pitch. In both scenarios, a hitter can take a strike and still be in a hitters count (2-1 hitters count, 3-2 hitters count – pitcher needs to throw a strike). In knowing this, a hitter needs to let a pitcher come to him and make sure the pitcher pays when we get what we want.

The two-strike approach is completely different than the 3-1, 2-0 approach. When a hitter has two-strikes, he has to go into battle mode. First thing is that he MUST look fastball. If a hitter falls into the assumption that he may see a 1-2 curveball, that is all he is going to be able to hit. When we look fastball and adjust off-speed, we as hitters have the ability to hit any pitch.  Also we have to look fastball middle away. Our fastest reaction as hitters will be to a fastball inside, and therefore we must use this as protection. Most pitchers are going to throw sliders/curves that work as chase pitches away from hitters. In looking middle away, our eyes will recognize these pitches easier and will increase our chances of fighting them off or putting them into play.

Drill: Front toss or BP two strike round. Take this same battle approach (looking middle away) and learn to recognize and fight off pitches. If it is a debatable strike, we should fight it off and not leave it up to the umpire.

Q: When working in the off-season, what does a typical cage session look like for Jon Andreoli?

Tee Work

2 Rounds of 10-15 Warm-up off tee – 60%

2 Rounds of 5-5-5 Outside/Inside/Middle

1 Round of 6-8 Low tee

Add. Drills: Two Tee Drill, Top/Bottom Hand w/Short Bat, Step Back Drill, High Tee Drill, Hitting off a tee w Fungo (Extension)

Work in these drills after Low Tee – Usually 1-2 a Day

Front Toss

Rounds of 8-10

2 Rounds of Top Hand Drill w/Short Bat

1 Round of Bottom Hand Drill w/Short bat

Add. 1 Round of Top Hand Drill w/Short ball

2 Rounds of 5-5-5 Outside/Inside/Middle w/Reg bat

Add. Drills: Heavy Bat, Step Back Drill, Swing with Fungo, Offset Drill

Batting Practice

6 Rounds of 5

1 –  2 Bunt for Hits, 2 Sac, Squeeze

2 – Middle Round

3 – Hit-Run, 2 Get the Runner over, 1 Get the Runner in (Infield In), 1 Get the Running in (Infield back)

4  – Two Strike or Middle-Opposite Field Round

5 – Zone Round (3-1, 2-0 Approach)

6 – Middle Round

Q: Finally, how has your off-season at Cressey Performance helped to enhance your successes as a hitter?

John: If you are serious about baseball and want to reach your potential and more, Cressey Performance is where you want to be during the off-season. In going through my first full season of 140 games plus spring training, I felt that CP prepared my body for the grind. It helped me become more explosive both when hitting and running, it gave me flexibility that kept me healthy throughout the long haul of a season, it helped me develop a quicker first step towards fly balls and when stealing bases, and it built up muscle mass for me to rely on when the hot days of July and August came.

I credit a great deal of my success as a professional baseball player to the staff at Cressey Performance, and wish I had done it early in my baseball career. No matter what age you are, CP creates programs structured for the individual athlete, and works to develop one’s weaknesses into strengths.

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Presidential Fitness Challenge: Are Kids Really Benefiting?

We can all recall our times during middle school and being put through the Presidential Fitness Challenge. This took place over a week’s time and included; sit-ups, sit and reach, pull-ups, pushups, and the DREADED mile run. I say dreaded because I was the fat kid that coasted in at about 13 minutes.

To give you a better idea, check this link for today’s current President’s Challenge.

https://www.presidentschallenge.org/

Current State of Our Youth

It is clear that the obesity epidemic is on the rise, as the CDC released their most recent statistics that revealed obesity rates having tripled since 1980. TRIPLED! The government has responded in evolving the past President’s Challenge to better aid in fighting youth obesity. Here is the mission statement of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition:

The President’s Challenge is a program of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition. The Council seeks to expand the availability of quality information regarding physical activity, sports, and good nutrition and to empower Americans of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities to adopt a healthy lifestyle through:

  • Regular physical activity
  • Participation in sports
  • Healthy eating

This is all well and good, but where does physical fitness testing fall into the mission statement? Is there truly a need for physical educators to perform fitness tests? I say no, and for good reason.

Kids Mature at Different Rates

The President’s Physical Fitness Test is an indicator of who and who has not gone puberty. Biologically, kids mature at different rates. Some kids start at age 9 and can range to age 13. Kids who have hormonal changes earlier will develop physically before those who have not yet matured. Of course the kid in the 8th grade that is already shaving his beard can bang out 30 pushups! As an 8th grader, I was considered a “man-child” with a height of almost 6’0” and weighing in at around 285lbs. I was known for crushing quarterbacks and I could throw a discus over 150 ft. Looking back, who cares! I had matured at such early age, this should have been an expectation, not me exceeding expectations. I guess you could say I was an “early bloomer”.

Me at age 15, a year after 8th grade.

The Fitness Test Serves as a Filter

Consider this scenario:

Student A is an 8th grade who has the biological age of a 6th grade student. During the physical fitness test, he/she is put on a spot light and performs poorly (perceived as poor) compared to his/her classmates. Student A is embarrassed and now dreads going to physical education class, because of the feedback of his/her classmates. Student A goes to high school, takes his/her ½ credit of required P.E. and never enrolls in a that class again.

The fitness test served as a filter for this student. Rather than emphasizing quantitative measures and teaching the student to be an advocate for exercise, we simply filtered that student and gave them a negative experience. The government combats these scenarios by offering a participation award which physical educators can print off of the website. THAT way, everyone feels like a winner.

The Fitness Test Doesn’t Teach Students How to Move

Curl-ups, pull-ups, endurance runs, sit and reach, and shuttle runs are all well and good, but are we actually teaching students how to be better movers? I would much rather students perform a written explanation on how to perform a pull-up versus being able to perform quantitatively. The bottom line, kids need to learn how to move better, before we (as physical educators) implement quantitative tests.

Advice for Physical Educators

As you can tell, I am passionate in reaching for change in our youths’ development. As a former physical educator, now turned strength and conditioning coach, here are a few things physical educators should change.

1) Get rid of fitness testing.

You could predict the top athletes by lining students up and looking at their physical development.

2) Teach students how to move efficiently and warm-up.

Teach students how to balance correctly, engage their core and glutes when performing pushups and prone bridges, and educate on how to warm-up properly!

3) Use writing as a way for all kids to meet expectations.

You have a kid that is weak and underdeveloped? Alter your assessment and have them explain in detail how to position their body and perform an exercise. Not only will it make your principal love you, but the student is prepared to move efficiently when he/she is developmentally ready!

4) Teach nutrition every day.

We cannot rely on parents to have kids eat healthy at home. Middle school students eat what their parents put in front of them. Rather than fighting to educate parents, why don’t we educate students on how to INFLUENCE their parents to eat healthy. If we want to change the obesity epidemic, nutrition must be a cross-curricular subject!

Closing Thoughts

Physical education should be put forth filters as the scope should be broad! We have to make every kid successful in some sort of way in class. You have a kid that can’t walk a chew bubble gum; Make them the best flag football official in the world! Not all kids will be varsity, collegiate, or professional athletes, but we can definitely teach them to be advocates of sport and exercise.

Troubleshooting Baseball Hitting: Timing is Not Always the Problem

Great hitters are not born; they simply do things to put themselves in great positions to be successful. Hitting a baseball is one of the most difficult tasks to perform in sports, and with that in mind, experts have long-debated the biomechanics of hitting in baseball. Timing is agreed upon as being a crucial piece in being a successful hitter, but while it is crucial, it is not imperative!

Great hitters will be late on the fastball and out in front of sliders; they are human, too. With correct timing hitters are able to get themselves in the strongest position at the point of contact. The pitcher throwing off-speed is trying to pull the hitter out of position! A hitter is in thestrongest position when the back elbow is tucked at a 90 degree angle into the back hip at contact.

Ideally, every hitter wants to be in Pujols’ position. However, even the great hitters have trouble getting to this position consistently. Further illustrating the difficulties of being on time, let’s consider the physics of baseball. A study performed by Yale professor, Dr. Robert Adair, detailed the amount of time from release point to the plate. A 90 mph pitch will arrive at the plate in 400 milliseconds. During that time a hitter must recognize the pitch type and location and get to astrong contact position.

According to Professor Adair’s illustration, it takes a hitter 150 milliseconds to complete a swing at 80 mph. This leaves the hitter roughly 250 milliseconds to locate the ball, process, decide, and start the swing. Professor Adair’s study helps piece together the physics and how difficult being on time is for a hitter. However, there are other variables that were not included in the study that can disrupt timing for the hitter. Let’s review some of these variables:

• Pitch velocity
• Pitch type (2-seam, 4-seam, change-up, slider, curveball, cutter, splitter, etc)
• Arm speed variability
• Arm angle and release point
• Pitcher’s method of delivery (windup, stretch, slide step, left hand pitcher hang and read, etc)
• Variability of the hitter’s bat velocity
• Situational hitting (hit and run, hitting behind runner at second, sac fly)

Professor Adair’s study does not include human variability. At any time, the pitcher can change his delivery and pitch velocity, which affects the timing aspect of the hitter. Professor Adair’s statistics are of one pitch! Each pitch thrown by a pitcher in a game is unique! It almost seems humanly impossible to be on time consistently. I can guarantee that the best hitters in the game aren’t always on time, yet they still manage to eclipse the .300 average mark. Hitting a baseball now becomes an equation of probability. After all, pitch recognition is a guess! It has been said that hitters lose track of the baseball within 5 feet of the plate….. so now what? Hitting a baseball now becomes an educated guess! You are starting your swing where you THINK the ball will be.

“Great hitters get the barrel on plane earlier and keep the barrel on plane longer than average hitters.”

Keeping the barrel in the bat plane is just as important as having great timing. I have already established that timing isn’t the be-all, end-all for becoming a great hitter. It’s the positions hitters put themselves in when their timing is off that allows for eclipsing the .300 average mark. Touching on a quick side note, I believe that contact percentage is a mark of a great hitter, not just overall batting average. In 1941, Joe DiMaggio set the hit streak record at 56 games, a record that may never be broken. Do you think that a contact percentage of 97% had anything to do with setting the record? I think so, as Joe only struck out 13 times!

Using Video Analysis to Determine Bat Plane 

Cressey Performance pitching instructor, Matt Blake, utilizes the Right View Pro system when evaluating mechanics. For the purpose of discussing bat plane I have taken images from RVP to help illustrate the importance of the bat plane and how it relates to timing. The first image we will look at is MLB’s Triple Crown winner, Miguel Cabrera.

*Note: Red = pitch line/bat plane, Blue = distance knee traveled from start to contact, Green = Barrel from start to contact.

In this image, Cabrera is not in a great point of contact position, but he did great things during his swing to allow himself to stay on the plane. His contact position is out front and he is slightly early, which is why his back elbow is extended. Result? Line drive single to left field. Cabrera was able to maintain a good position to hit because of his ability to keep the barrel in the bat plane past his strongest point of contact. Cabrera’s success is not based off of having perfect timing, but instead putting himself in a position to be successful. So, how does he get the barrel to the plane early and stay through, even past the optimal point of contact? I think this is a question hitting coaches have been trying to figure out for decades. For the sake of keeping this short, let’s examine a few key components.

Early to the Bat Plane

Getting the barrel to the beginning of the bat plane is driven by the back elbow. Upon toe touch and heel plant, Cabrera’s first move is with the hips, which allows for the elbow to get clearance to move directly to the back hip. In being direct with the elbow, Cabrera avoids having an elongated swing.

Optimal Contact Position

A contact position with the back elbow flexed and tucked tightly to the body will allow for optimal power.

Consider the sport of boxing. Great knockout punches are not performed with full extension; rather, the punches land with flexion in the elbow because it is a stronger point of contact. This idea is evident in baseball, too!

Keeping the Barrel in the Bat Plane

Consider Cabrera’s lower body as the key ingredient in keeping the barrel in the bat plane. The distance his back knee travels allows him to keep his barrel in the bat plane, and in this case, past his ideal point of contact. If Cabrera “squishes the bug”, he either rolls over or his barrel is out of the bat plane by the time the ball reaches him. There are other factors that help Cabrera stay in plane, such as elbow extension. However, if we want optimal power, we do not want to have elbow extension to occur before contact. Cabrera’s ability to keep the barrel in the bat plane past the point of contact is what makes him a cut above most major leaguers and the reason he won a Triple Crown. On the flip side, if Cabrera were to be late with his timing, his barrel in this particular swing is in plane starting at the back of the plate; giving him an opportunity to be successful.

Timing is Only a Piece of the Puzzle

Timing is an important component of hitting, but raw hitting mechanics should take precedence over addressing uncontrollable variables against which players compete. In low levels of baseball, players can get away with not being in the bat plane like Cabrera is. Why? A majority of lower level pitchers have one or two pitches they can control, and a majority of strikes are thrown over the heart of the plate. The debate over linear, extension-based, and rotational hitting approaches can be saved for future discussions. Regardless of the hitting philosophy, keeping the barrel in the bat plane before and after optimal contact position increases the probability of making contact with the ball.

References: www.Baseball-Reference.com

Long Distance Running for Pitchers is No Longer

Head coaches wear many hats. They have to manage fundraisers, lineups, discipline, practice schedules, bus schedules, communication (parents, players, administrators), and not to mention managing the actual games. Conditioning is put on the back-burner at times, especially for pitchers. It’s really easy for a coach to draw a number out of a hat and send pitchers to run poles. Why? It’s easy and has been the means of conditioning for years in baseball. In fact, professional baseball teams still have pitchers do long distance running. If you are a coach that continues to follow this ancient model of running poles, please refer to the links below and consider implementing sprint training between pitchers’ starts.

Eric Cressey on Long Distance Running

http://www.ericcressey.com/a-new-model-for-training-between-starts-part-1

Joe Meglio’s Take on Distance Running

http://articles.elitefts.com/training-articles/sports-training/should-pitchers-run-long-distance/

There is still much to be debated in regards to a proper model for pitchers between starts. Below is a basic model for pitchers that I used during my days at Lexington High School.

Closing

I am a firm believer that you have to be able to justify what you implement into a conditioning program. If you are a coach that implements long distance running because that was how you conditioned 20 years ago during your collegiate days, consider that times have changed.

The Art of Becoming a Dirtbag

Over the course of five years as a high school baseball coach, I had the opportunity to coach guys who set an example of how the game is supposed to be played. Dirtbag is a term that is thrown loosely around the baseball world. A Dirtbag is a special player that exceeds the expectations set forth by a program. A Dirtbag does not look a certain part, grow facial hair (think Yankees), or come home with grass stains every night. A player is a Dirtbag due to his actions. This list is a compilation of players’ characteristics and actions that exemplify a Dirtbag.

Dirtbags play the game how it is supposed to be played.

They play the game hard and unselfishly. A Dirtbag competes under any situation and knows how to execute when the pressure is at its greatest. A Dirtbag does not play dirty, they simply play with an edge. They are not pricks, but instead they are a classy prick (Coach Carel of Jefferson College).

Dirtbags go to work when no one is watching.

A Dirtbag’s work is not complete during the three hours of practice. Their work ethic spills over into a lifestyle. They take care of their bodies, they care about nutrition, and they train in the gym as if they are preparing for recording the last out of a world series game. Dirtbags are in a never ending phase of preparation.

Dirtbags hate to lose more than they love to win.

I stole this from the University of Missouri’s head coach, Tim Jamieson. Dirtbag’s do not like to lose. Just ask George Brett….

Dirtbags sacrifice.

Dirtbags sacrifice, meaning to give something up in order to grow. They give up chasing girls, cars, and partying to stay on course when they are not at the yard. Dirtbags do not go smash beers and play Xbox for the majority of the day.

Dirtbags have a vision.

“Anything you vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe and enthusiastically act upon, MUST absolutely come to pass.”

 Dirtbags see something and they flat-out go and get it. Not only do they have a vision for themselves, but they have a vision for their team. Their vision is contagious.

Dirtbags want to be in the pressure situation.

One of my former Dirtbags, Bryce Harrison, always wanted to be in the pressure situation. Bryce had prepared everyday as if he were to be in a big spot, and in the postseason he got his opportunity.

Bryce hit the biggest homerun in program history to win a playoff game against our arch rival (overcame a two-deficit with two outs). I can credit his success to his work ethic and the way he prepared himself, day in and day out.

Dirtbags are leaders.

Last, but not least, Dirtbags are leaders. Leaders do not have to be outspoken, but they have a knack for doing the right things at the right time. Dirtbags are self-starters and their actions and words are contagious to their teammates. Imagine a car that is misaligned. If the driver keeps the wheel straight, the car runs off the road. A leader keeps the car (team) on the road and often times do so without the initiation from the coaching staff.

3 Reasons Why Batting Average is Overrated in Youth and High School Baseball

The success of hitters is based on how well they hit. Obvious statement to say the least, but when we review offensive statistics as critics and coaches, batting average tends to edge out other statistics. However, in youth and high school baseball, batting average should not be the most important statistic. As coaches of youth and high school baseball, the goal is to develop players in order for them to be successful as they progress to higher levels. This means teaching situational baseball and rewarding good at-bats and not just hits. I am not trying to reinvent the wheel in how we develop and evaluate youth or high school players, but as coaches and critics, we need to consider why batting average is not the only way to evaluate players.

1) We don’t account for physical development in youth players

Youth athletes develop at different rates. The onset of puberty occurs anywhere from 5th to 8th grade (ages 10-14). With this being said, kids who mature physically early have a drastic strength advantage over those who have not yet finished puberty. For example, let’s recall this year’s Little League World Series phenom, Kotaro Kiyomiya.

Kiyomiya put on a laser show at Williamsport this year and dominated on the mound. I credit this to the fact that he is 6’0” and weighs 206lbs, equivalent to some juniors and seniors in high school. If we placed him in an older league and on a larger field, he would become less dominant. Inversely, if we consider a player that hasn’t reached the end of puberty; he may have not had the successes that Kotaro Kiyomiya had at the same age. This doesn’t equate to the less physically developed player not having a good skill set, it simply means that time is needed to develop physically compared to those around him. For this less physically developed player, batting average would not be a good reflection of his swing as opposed to keeping a contact percentage statistic (At-bats minus strikeouts, divided by at-bats).

2) Batting average doesn’t teach good at-bats.

To paint a better pitcher, let’s consider a scenario. Player A goes 0-4 with two of four outs recorded being line drive outs. Player B goes 2-4 with two jam-job singles to the opposite field. Who had the better day at the plate? As a former high school coach, I would vouch that player A had a better day. How many coaches would ignore the fact that player B needs to work on timing or shortening the swing [insert any mechanical issue here]. I think you get the point. We know that hitting is largely depended upon confidence. If the coach does not reinforce what a good at-bat is, then player A may go home thinking he had a bad day. Consider using a hitter’s rating chart. This can be done in numerous ways; let’s take a look at an example of a rating system.

Minus 1- strikeout, missed sign, failure to bunt, weak fly ball

Zero- ground ball out

Plus 1– 7 pitch at-bat, advance runner with zero outs, sharply hit ground ball, sac fly, etc

Plus 2-Extra base hit

Again, the above is just an example of how a coach can structure a system for rating quality at-bats. This can be used to teach situational baseball and reward players for doing jobs at the plate. How many 12 year old kids think a 7 pitch at-bat is a good thing? Not many, but from a coaches’ perspective if you string several 7 pitch at-bats together the likelihood of the starter being knocked out of the game comes sooner.

3) More teams use advanced scouting.

As players move on to higher levels of competition, teams will utilize scouting more frequently. While I was at Lexington, I would credit numerous wins I had because we knew the opponent. We tracked how we attacked each hitter and their results of the pitch type and location. For some opponents, I had three or four years of spray charts. Needless to say, having the charts not only allowed us to understand how to pitch to the player, but the charts also allowed us to position guys accordingly. It wouldn’t be farfetched to say that hitters would have a lower average if they played in a league where scouting was a priority for coaches.

Closing

I think as coaches, parents, critics, and fans of the game we need to understand that baseball development takes time. Players are driven by extrinsic motivation more often than intrinsic; this can be seen at all levels of baseball. Rather than fighting the extrinsic motivation of reaching a statistical goal, we should embrace it and become more creative in helping players to understand numerous ways to be successful in the game.

Is Junior College Baseball For You?

Making a college commitment for high school baseball players can be stressful and dictate their future in the game of baseball. There are several routes that a player can take, including; NCAA (DI, DII, DIII), NAIA, and the NJCAA. I will be the first to tell you that I am a firm believer in junior college baseball being a way to develop baseball players physically, mentally, and socially.

Reason 1: Playing Time  and Development

Junior college rosters are full of 18 to 20 year olds, and a player may get twice as many at bats or innings versus choosing a D-I school. This gives the player an opportunity to develop by playing the game more frequently. Consider a player that is physically not as developed as those around him, yet he is still a great athlete and player. Going to a junior college allows for the player to develop physically through training and maturational processes. Being a late bloomer is not always a downfall.

Reason 2: Ease of Recruiting

The number of rules and regulations for junior college recruiting is far less than that of a NCAA school. Coaches of junior colleges can contact players more frequently, building relationships early in the recruiting process. The rules allow for players to openly workout with junior college teams. In my experiences, I had the opportunity to take batting practice and play intersquad games with several junior colleges. You don’t have to rely on showcases to be seen!

Reason 3: Caliber of Competition

Although there aren’t as many bells and whistles that come with playing at a junior college, the competition is high enough to prepare players to advance to the next level (4-year or even draft). In fact, an average of 25% of players drafted every year come from junior colleges. Don’t let anyone fool you into believing junior college competition is not up to par.

Reason 4: Cheap Tuition

In Missouri, tuition can be as little as $75 a credit hour. Getting rewarded with a scholarship is nice, but it should not always be the driving factor in choosing a program.

Reason 5: Academics

I’m probably not the first to make this statement, but you won’t find many junior college academics that will rival Harvard or Yale. For some athletes, this is a positive and it allows them to adapt to college academics a little easier. Some athletes prioritize education as number one, so junior college may not be an option. Some players’ high school grades are not up to par for NCAA schools and may be seen as an academic liability. Junior college allows players to establish a solid academic transcript to put them in a position to transfer to a four-year school.

Reason 6: Fewer Distractions

Junior colleges are not always placed in cities and areas that would be considered a desirable location to live. I played at Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Missouri. Hillsboro is a town of 2,000 people, in the middle of nowhere. The distractions were lessened and I was able to focus on baseball. Furthermore, consider the population of students. Most students commute to junior colleges, making campus life less distracting. Imagine the difficulties of an 18 year old attending a huge university in the SEC. I’d be willing to bet that there would be a few distractions for that player.

Reason 7: Availability of Junior Colleges

In Missouri and Kansas alone, there are dozens of junior colleges with baseball programs. Players have the option to stay local, which could contribute to their comfort level and adjusting to the college climate.

Reason 8: Life After Junior College

Players have several options after junior college. Maybe the draft and NCAA Division I schools were not an option out of high school, but in a two year span that player may be able to reach his goal. Recall Bryce Harper, who graduated high school early to enter a junior college in order to be draft eligible at age 17. If you hit 500 foot homeruns as a teenager, this may be an option. Otherwise, enjoy high school.

Closing

Having played at Jefferson College and experienced the junior college scene, I may be a little biased in being a proponent this route. However, I can say that the two-year span was the best two years of my life, and I had the opportunity to play with and against several professional players and All-Americans. If you’re a high school player, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call a junior college coach. I’d be willing to bet they would not turn down a prospective player from working out with the team and visiting the campus.