Baseball Prospect Guide
So you want to be a prospect...now what?
What can a parent do?
Baseball has an infinite number of stories about the players, personnel, coaches and fans whom are associated with the game. One thing that is common among all the unique stories is having parents during the path of participating with the game. I realize the common thread is obvious, but the job of parenthood is key to success as a citizen first and athlete second. There are multiple positions affiliated with the game of baseball throughout the many steps of participation on the field. Surely there are some instances of tragedy where a child loses a parent, or maybe both, but the relative or friend that steps up to facilitate the child assume a very important role in their life. So what can a parent do to help their son play baseball? Try to take a walk with your kids in the game of baseball.
I will never claim to have all the answers but being the father of a current professional baseball player in the Kansas City Royals organization and also a scout for the Florida Marlins I do have a small clue about the game of baseball. Routinely I’m asked questions about things associated around the great game of baseball. Some ask about youth ball, some ask about the high school challenges, some ask about playing college baseball, some want advice about improving their son’s skills and many more want to know about the path of their son playing in professional baseball. What is the most important thing a parent can do for their son around the game of baseball? What should a parent do about extra instruction? When should a parent leave the dugout and let someone else control their son’s participation on the field? The examples of questions go on and on covering a huge variety of topics. There all good questions but I’m reminded by a comment my grandfather made to me when I was very young… the only stupid question is the one never asked. It’s very obvious that many parents have no clue about the game and steps to play for a long time and that is fine. Sound advice for the baseball parent can be discussed in a wide variety of ways, but for the purpose of this article I will address the key ingredients to help any parent with their challenges around the game. I have made mistakes during my walk of being a parent but hopefully some of these experiences can be beneficial during your journey. Take a walk with your kids in the game of baseball and you just might be pleasantly surprised.
Wait for your son to ask you about playing the game. Take them to games and hope they catch the bug and desire to play. It will happen sooner or later if your son wants to learn how to throw, catch or hit. Don’t rush this step of the baseball career. If you already missed this important step, or ignored the obvious, it will eventually be exposed and unlikely they will be a fan of the game. Not the end of the world by any means but I see players on a regular basis in the high school level, and even college, that illustrate major resentments. The further I dig or observe it becomes extremely obvious the player does not play for the right reasons. Way too much work is necessary for baseball success and the desire simply must be from within the individual not someone else. The best approach to baseball starts early through desires from the player not the parent. Parents cannot do the work needed for the player’s opportunity to play the game at the highest level, nor can they write a check for their son’s chance to be in the show. Don’t force the game on kids!
Allow them to be kids. Let them enjoy playing the game of baseball. This directly ties into the previous point I know but if parents don’t have a sound grip on the foundation of the game of baseball there will be some serious challenges around the dinner table. Even if the only time you use the table is during the holidays. Kids need to be kids as long as possible and cannot be expected to be perfect on the baseball field. The game of baseball is failure based during half of the game. The offensive side is the glaring example of failure associated with baseball and must be accepted during the early years of playing. Parents that expect more hits, less strike-outs, more wins or higher expectations than the statistics of an average big leaguer are setting their kids up for some serious challenges in baseball and in life. I can say that in retrospect I too was a victim of high expectations during my son’s playing youth baseball. I realize it is difficult to allow our kids to fail with dignity but if we, as parents, push too hard… our young men will likely have years of therapy in their future due to our high unrealistic expectations during their youth. The games your son plays during the ages of 5 to 17 will not impact their careers of playing for a long time, but the negative reaction to possible failure during those games could keep them from wearing a uniform quicker than necessary. If you allow them to fail with integrity, I guarantee you will see them succeed around the game. It is imperative that the kids are allowed to be kids during the early years of playing baseball. The longer they can play with fun in their hearts the higher the likelihood they will be in love with the game enough to survive the challenges ahead. Don’t forget their kids while they play!
Let them experience other sports during their youth. Don’t be in a hurry to have your son play 100+ games a year. Way too many kids are simply playing too much baseball during their youth. This approach to playing baseball is an epidemic now in some areas of the United States where the weather permits games and tournaments to be scheduled practically year round. The ideas of missing out on baseball development are driven by good marketing from a bunch of ill advised individuals and corporations. Some players in the professional level are falling victim to a growing statistic of arm problems before their careers are complete and in certain circumstances a player’s career comes to an abrupt halt due to injury. Recently, I have struggled with this situation via hindsight of my own son’s amateur baseball career. John went down earlier this year in a Double-A level game with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals in the first inning against the third batter. Maybe he played too much during his youth, and maybe he didn’t, but this Dad will always wonder if the amount of youth games really contributed to the Tommy John surgery before his 21st birthday. Parents should force their boys to rest or simply play another sport to help occupy their minds away from baseball during the typical off-season periods of baseball. If you live in California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas or Florida try to pretend there is snow on the ground during the winter months and you might not need to endure the agony of watching your son‘s career stop against a huge brick wall. My son played youth basketball and even flag-football in an attempt to rest from the game, but his desires to play baseball usually won the household battles especially the closer he got to graduating from high school. The hundred plus game schedules should be a goal for the parent of a baseball player not part of the process for obtaining the professional opportunity of the game. Plenty of other things can provide their much needed rest.
Keep being involved with your son playing the game of baseball. Having been a coach for many years now throughout all levels of youth baseball following my son’s desire to play the game, I am still mind blown by the number of parents that treat their son’s practice, games or training as nothing more than a form of childcare. It’s not necessary to be at every practice or game but the more the merrier, at least until they become high school players. Pushing your son’s out of the car at their practice and running errands prevent the chance of assuring he really is learning how to play the game, or more importantly, having fun. If he’s not having fun he should be doing something else to find his passion and genius in life. I played for a few real crappy coaches during my youth but my love and desire to play the game was my personal driving force to work hard and compete for a line-up spot. You’ll never know about your son’s desires if you’re busy getting your nails done or working your brains out to help your boss pay his mortgage. By watching your kids practice or play you’re giving yourself a chance to ensure their desires to participate. Popping into a practice without announcement will give you a clear perspective of their experience and it will have enormous benefit when your son finds you there taking part of their enjoyment, or lack thereof. Your son’s may lose their desires to improve if you’re not part of the experience needed for them to improve and develop during their amateur days of playing the game. I realize the huge challenges parents have to mange time in our fast paced economy and lifestyles but you really should make an effort to be actively involved with the baseball stuff. If you’re too involved your son will let you know that you need to back off. Over involvement is really very common during the wrong stages of a boy’s baseball career, but that is another article for another day. Keep staying involved during their baseball until they make the high school team, at least.
What can a parent do? Try to take a walk with your kid in the game of baseball. The experiences from walking side by side around the game will be life changing for everyone involved. Although a potential love affair with the game may create other obstacles down the road of life all of which depend on the level of involvement with baseball, one thing can be said for sure and that is a true respect for the game will be created. If a relationship is fully allowed to blossom the benefits are unlimited by the amount of jobs associated in and around the game. Parents can have a profound impact on their kids both in and out of the ballpark. Being a good human being only adds to the true value of any ballplayer at any level. Talent, hard work, a dash of luck and tremendous humility can open many doors and reciprocal affair with baseball. I’m always looking forward to yet another unparalleled baseball story engrained by the individuality of the greatest game on earth.
© James Lamb. All rights reserved.
This article above was written for a new associate and friend at MLB Reports for him to share with his readers. Please visit his site and enjoy the hard work from another man that loves the game of baseball!
Involvement with respect to your son playing baseball...
Laguna Hills, CA – There are plenty of theories that circulate in and around the game of baseball throughout all levels of participation. The ideas shared here on this platform were used during my son’s play and driven by providing every opportunity available during his development. The shear hope for his sincere enjoyment during his path of playing baseball was not left for chance, but rather constantly monitored through a parental involvement. The idea of taking a walk with your son during a baseball career was described in the previous article. When is it time to stop the parental involvement? Should a parent meet with the high school coach about playing time? Does changing schools help a player get into the college or professional levels? How does playing club, or travel, baseball impact an amateur career? These are just a few of the ideas to be addressed about involvement with respect to your son playing baseball beyond recreational levels.
The concept of stopping a parental involvement with your son playing baseball is near and dear to my heart. The answer is quite simple but also very difficult to follow. Never stop being a parent to your kids… ever. Support and involvement can cause a cloudy area about athletics and more specifically baseball during the wrong stages of a young man’s career. Continue to support their participation with your involvement from a distance. There is no value in coaching your son from the backstop or the stands. Let the coach try to aid your son’s development as a man, a teammate and a player. Surely some coaches are better than others as with players on the field. If you can help your son’s ability to play the game by catching, throwing and hitting the baseball that is great but there are more important things to do as a parent. A very dear friend of mine that continues his professional baseball career as a scout once told me that my son did not need another coach to play he simply needed a supportive Dad from the stands and nothing else. Truly the best advice I could have received when my son entered Laguna Hills High School at the age of 13 years old. Parental involvement never ends from the citizen perspective, but clearly has limits during baseball.
When should a parent face a high school coach about playing time? Never is clearly the best answer here unless you want to start issues that will never be resolved. I always enforced the belief in my son to talk with his arm, glove, bat, legs and intellect to play the game. Work harder than everyone else at throwing, catching and hitting the baseball and any competent coach should place the best players in his line-up to win some games. If the coach does not place your son in the game have your son ask the questions about areas he needs to improve for a better chance to play after the hard work. Feel free to stand behind him during his conversation with the coach for support but let him do the talking and ask the questions. If the coach does not give him the respect to ask the questions then you might just have to step in and help buffer the situation to allow your son to talk. Respect is a two-way street between the coach and player but keep in mind the egos that are tested by all entangled in this equation. The distant approach is typically implemented during the wrong stages of their son’s amateur career. More parents seem to become obsessed during the high school, college and even the professional levels of baseball. The ideas of confrontation during the later years of playing the game can be devastating to a baseball career. Support is the key without engagement for the player to compete for the spot on the roster or line-up card. Actively participating with a coach about your son’s playing time will get him nowhere within the game real fast.
Many families change schools based on coaches, roster spots availability or reputations associated with certain programs. This is really a family choice and the merits come from a variety of positions on this concept. The same can be said about the wide diversity of opinions for signing a professional contracts out of high school versus college. Some players are ready to move on while others are not. There are pros and cons associated with changing schools for the benefit of baseball development due mostly to education and athletic ability. Some coaches teach the game better than others, just as some players have raw tools to play the game and some need help to improve. If your son can play he should be on the field no matter where he goes to school. College and professional scouts will more than likely find him playing and if not there are plenty of simple suggestions to increase your chances of finding the right college or university to further a career. There is a plethora of advice and practical approaches to keep the uniform on until the player is ready to take the cleats off. Changing schools does not always work as intended but sometimes it will serve a true value for the player’s growth and opportunity to play baseball beyond the recreational levels.
The last area of this article will focus on the popular decisions during an amateur career to play travel, or club, baseball and the potential result of involvement. From a development standpoint, playing on a club team can greatly aid a player and baseball opportunity. The research and time needed to insure your son’s improvement should not be underestimated otherwise you are merely allowing someone to take your money without results. Simply writing a check to play in tournaments or on the weekends will not guarantee improvement if your son does not put in the necessary effort to work on his own. Keep in mind that a few talented instructors throughout the country, and world for that matter, really can help your son improve but there is no magic wand waved over their head walking in and out of the dugout. Your high school team should always have first priority to take part and be very careful trying to add travel baseball during school activities set by the coach. Within the Southern California area there is a growing tendency to play for a club organization over high school and college. Tremendous debate has been triggered over this propensity to ignore the challenges associated with playing in high school and college. There seems to be family logic involved with some of these choices but others are being held to rattling rumors of handling the rigors of college and, or, professional competition based on these growing trends. Only time will tell if this path has merit for being a successful college or professional baseball player with any true substance and value. Now if your high school does not have an off-season program and there is no interest of playing the other sports in season than by all means play baseball during the fall and winter. The paramount suggestion about travel baseball is buyers beware. I am a firm believer that the best programs are the least expensive, or even free to take part. Prime example is the reigning 2011 Connie Mack Champions the Midland Redskins for Amelia, Ohio. My opinion comes from personal experience of my son’s development while associated with the Midland program during the two summers he spent away from home learning how to compete and play without Dad making out the line-up card. Don’t forget the importance to take some time off while conditioning the body and mind for another full season of baseball in school.
There are a heap of concepts related to amateur baseball and a yet a very limited number of stories that can successfully account for playing Major League Baseball as a career. The story has not fully been written within the Lamb household during our experiences associated with the professional phase of John Lamb playing the great game of baseball. There are two things most certain as a foundation for a player’s development. Support and involvement seem to be the common denominators for many if not all the paths to the big leagues. Knowing when to back off and just be a supportive parent is critical for the player’s success on the diamond.
© James Lamb. All rights reserved.
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