Player Speed

Below is a very candid - great article written by Ron Benham.  Ron is the president of the AZ Connie Mack league and author of the AZ Diamond Report.  He has been helping AZ players get college exposure for a long time.

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A Candid Look at Summer Baseball

Posted on May 12, 2014 by rbinaz

With only one week until the state champions are crowned in Arizona high school baseball, summer time is here and along with it comes summer baseball.

This is a time of year that I really used to look forward to. It was an opportunity to see most of the state’s top players strapping it on against each other in competitive games that meant something. Teams would play multiple games during the week in a league format that had some accountability to it. There were a few tournaments held during the summer, and they were usually high caliber events.

Unfortunately that ship has sailed and has been replaced with the high school equivalent of 12 year old travel ball. We play a tournament every weekend. We show up on Thursday or Friday for pool play games. If we are lucky we make it into the championship bracket. If not, what the hell, we will be back next week to do the same tired act again.

I’d like to pass a law forbidding the use of the term “Elite Team”. Everyone has an “Elite Team” nowadays….that doesn’t make them very elite does it?

Think about it. How many of your high school teammates are NOT playing on a club/travel/scout team this summer?

Take a look at the summer’s first event, the Perfect Game Memorial Day tournament. As of this morning, 32 Arizona teams are registered in the 18U division. 29 of these teams are from the Phoenix Metro area.

Are you kidding me? If we use an estimate of 18 players per team that means that over 500 Phoenix area players are competing in the 18U division in this event. This is coming from an area that produces somewhere in the vicinity of 30-40 legitimate D1 prospects per year.

This also means that if both parents attend, that is 1000 of you Phoenix area parents paying a total of $25,000 + in gate fees for this one weekend…..simply staggering.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about the boys playing baseball. The question is, what are your expectations when playing summer baseball?

Are you looking for exposure?

This industry has you convinced that the reason Johnny isn’t getting recruited to Dream School University is because he hasn’t been seen enough. I’m here to tell you that this is rarely the case.

The reality is that for 99% of you out there:

A LACK OF EXPOSURE IS NOT YOUR PROBLEM

The reason that you are not being actively recruited to that Division 1 program you covet so much is that you simply do not have the skill set that those programs are looking for.

You are not fast enough.

You are not physical enough.

You do not throw hard enough.

You are simply not athletic enough.

I don’t think that players and their parents understand how incredibly ordinary that almost all of you are as players.

That doesn’t mean you are bad players. That means that in that sea of 500 players, you blend into the landscape and simply do not stand out in your peer group.

Does that mean you are not good enough to play college baseball? Of course not.

I’ve said it a million times, and I think I’ve proven it hundreds of times over the years, but there is a home for virtually every high school player who contributes to his high school program, if he is realistic and flexible geographically.

Of course, that rarely means that top 40 D1 schools are a fit.

A large number of you will stay close to home and play at an Arizona junior college.

The incredibly vast majority of you have a baseball skill set that is much more suited to the D2/D3/NAIA level, which in most cases is one hell of a lot more competitive than you think it is.
Here’s the irony: While Billy is out there playing in these multitude of tournaments, and you are dropping a couple of grand per summer, very rarely does a coach at a school that he profiles to attend these events.

Why? It’s very simple. Most D2, D3 and NAIA programs do not have the budgets to allow them to send coaches to Phoenix Arizona to a baseball tournament. Most of their recruiting is done at the local or regional level, and if you want to catch their eye, you have to be more proactive in communicating with them and oftentimes that also means going to them to be seen.

If you are expecting a boatload of college coaches at these tournaments during the summer, you will probably be disappointed. If history is any indication, you can expect a handful of out of state schools to be around at a couple of the late May and early June events.

The one week that you can expect a healthy crowd of college coaches will be June 20-29. This is the week of the USA Baseball 15U and 17U Championships in Glendale/ Peoria/Goodyear and the Arizona National Connie Mack World Series Qualifier June 24-29 in Surprise. Both of these events feature many quality out of state teams and therefore draw colleges, mostly from the west.

 Are you trying to improve as a player?

I hate to tell you this, but merely playing a ton of games in the summer will not make you a better player.

We have produced an entire generation of little baseball bots. Most of these high school players have played tournament baseball since they were 9 or 10 years old.

They have the ability, from repetition, to field a ground ball and wing it across the diamond.

They have a batting cage swing honed from countless hours at the local hitting emporium that to the laymen’s eye looks really good.

However, the reality is that we are doing a poor job in developing athletes, and make no mistake about it:

At the end of the day, the main separator between baseball players is athleticism.

Give me the athlete every time. We can teach him baseball skills.

All of you would be well served to take an honest inventory of where you stand as an athlete and player.

What do you need to do to improve?

For virtually all of you, position players especially, improving your running speed should be a top priority. There is a reason that scouts and college coaches carry a stopwatch at all times at baseball games, and I’m here to tell you that as a group, we do not run well enough in Arizona.

Almost all of you need to get physically stronger. I don’t mean you need to get larger necessarily, but adding core strength and improving overall strength and flexibility helps in numerous ways on the baseball field.

Physical strength definitely shows up in bat speed and is visible in how a ball comes off your bat.

For pitchers, core strength is imperative to create the kind of explosive movement that the throwing delivery is by nature. In addition, core strength improves balance, which is a key component to a repeatable pitching delivery.

All of you can improve your arm strength. Arm strength is always a potential separator, and merely playing in a ton of games doesn’t create improvement.

Cross training is an essential part of the athletic development process. Athletes who play multiple sports get this cross training naturally. Those of you who have been baseball only for years do not.

There are a multitude of trainers and facilities that can make a big impact on your game through improving your speed, strength and athleticism. Your high school may even be a source.

If you are serious about your game, you will not ignore this.

If you are a baseball player, of course you are going to play baseball games.that’s the whole point isn’t it?

However, if you are truly serious about continuing your playing days at a higher level, you simply must improve yourself as a player.

At the next level the game speeds up considerably. The 81 MPH fastball you are used to seeing in high school becomes an 81 MPH sharp breaking slider.

The ground ball you could beat out in high school is now a routine play for a college shortstop.

Your routine throw across the diamond is no longer adequate with considerably faster runners on the base paths.

For most of you, rather than spending so much time IN the game, you should spend more time ON the game.

See you at the yard.

RB