The 5 Things You Can't Teach

If you asked a high school player if getting recruited was important, they’d quickly say yes. That’s not surprising. But, what may be surprising is that if you asked the same players what it takes to get recruited, they’d most likely give you the wrong answer. That’s because most players (and parents) think getting recruited is all about athletic skill and being able to throw 90mph. If you can just elevate your game to a high enough level, your mailbox will be full of letters and advisors will be begging to meet with you. Right?

Radar Gun


The truth is recruiting coordinators see some of the most talented players across the country when watching a game and never even write their name down. They are so accustom to seeing talent, they look for something more. Something that will compel them to invest in a player, not just be interested in them. I’m talking about a player’s intangibles. The things you can’t teach.

Here are 5 ways to stand out and get noticed by recruiting coordinators. (Please note: none of these require you to throw 90mph.)

1. You take your pre-game work seriously. Recruiting coordinators tend to arrive early to games in order to see how players prepare. They know that quality players commit to their pre-game routine just as much as their performance during the game. If they see you goofing off instead of getting ready, chances are they’ll just head to someone else’s game.

2. You hustle everywhere you go. Recruiting coordinators love effort. They want to see you sprint on the field, sprint off the field and hustle no matter where you are headed. Hustle is a form of toughness and recruiting coordinators love tough players. Always sprint through your spot, not just to it.


How to Know When To Replace a Pitcher

“The number of pitches thrown has the strongest correlation to youth pitching injuries.” – Dr. James Andrews, Renowned Orthopedic Surgeon

(Source: Andrews, Dr. James R., Any Given Monday – Sports Injuries and How to Prevent Them, For Athletes, Parents, and Coaches – Based On My Life In Sports Medicine), p. 55).

While I whole-heartedly agree with Dr. James Andrews, I think there is more to the story. In professional baseball, the number of pitches thrown is tracked in every game, for every pitcher.  If a starting pitcher is hovering around 90 pitches after the 6th inning, he is probably having a great game and is positioned to go back out for the 7th. The math on that works out to be 15 pitches per inning – which is generally considered to be the average number of pitches thrown per inning. Depending on where at in the season, that pitcher may go beyond a 100-110 pitch count. But, as realistic as this total pitch count example may be in professional baseball, it should not be used in the context of youth baseball.

Total Pitches Per Inning


In youth baseball, the dynamics of multiple games per day each weekend makes managing pitch counts crucial for the coach. A coach should focus on long-term development for the pitcher, rather than short-term successes. Meaning, coaches must make the hard decision to replace a pitcher in order to protect that pitcher’s long-term development. I’m often told by youth baseball coaches that I don’t understand when I discuss this with them. Their argument is that they only have a few “arms” that can throw strikes so those “arms” are the ones that pitch. My response is typically, “Looks like you need to develop more “arms.” I do get it.

There is pressure to win the tournament and many coaches believe that they just need to manage total pitch count or total innings pitched over a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That could not be more wrong.

Coaches need to pay attention to total pitches per inning more closely than total pitch count or total innings pitched. Total pitches per inning is a better indication of the stress or workload a pitcher is facing in a given game. Think of it this way, if I asked you to do 30, 30 yard sprints in 30 minutes, do you think you could do it? That’s sprinting around the bases 7.5 times. You could probably do it, but you’d be feeling it. Now, what if I asked you to do the same 30, 30 yard sprints, but instead of 30 minutes I gave you 60 minutes. How would you feel the next day? Better than when you ran it in 30 minutes!

My point is this – pitching is an explosive movement and the duration over which a total number of pitches is thrown is important when the question is regarding the stress/workload on a pitcher.

The tough decisions coaches have to make will never go away. But hopefully the below chart will help. This chart highlights the importance of total pitches per inning and when a pitcher should be replaced. Share this with your players, with parents, and most importantly with other coaches  so everyone is one the same page about protecting the arms of youth pitchers.



5 Reasons You Need To Establish Your Fastball Early

One of the biggest myths about pitching is that you have to be able to throw 3-4 pitches to compete. Players often approach me right before the season with a good fastball, change, and curve, but also with a desire to get command of a slider or cutter. Pitching is not about how many pitches you throw – it’s about how well you throw the pitches you have. As I work with pitchers early in the season, I remind them that early in the season isn’t the ideal time to learn a new pitch. A pitcher’s primary goal early in the season (and early in a game!) should be to establish the command of your fastball. Regardless of how many pitches you have, each “secondary” pitch (e.g., change-up, curve, slider) works off of your fastball.

Ricky Vaughn

If you establish the command of your fastball early, you’re going to set yourself up for success. Here’s why:

1. Your focus is on establishing rhythm. Not on making sure you throw all six of your pitches in the first inning. Let’s face it, as pitchers, we are amp’d up when we first take the mound – which can result in emotional thinking. By focusing on establishing your fastball early, you allow your mind and body time to slow down and get into a rhythm so you can think rationally.

2. You’re not showing hitters all of your pitches. Even if a hitter knows you’re throwing a fastball, that doesn’t mean he is going to hit it. As pitchers we need to remind ourselves that great hitters get out more often than they get a hit. If you can get hitters out early in a game with a fastball, you will set yourself up better for late in the game when you show them your nasty curve they haven’t seen yet.

3. You’re setting the tone. There is nothing better than an inside fastball to let a hitter know that you are ready to compete. By working to establish your fastball early, you are also working to set the tone for the game. Your telling the hitter – if you’re going to beat me, you’re going to have to beat me with my best stuff.

4. You’re setting up your other pitches. When you have established your fastball early in a game, all of your other pitches are set up. The key to pitching is keeping hitters off-balanced and the best way to do that is by getting command of your fastball early and then working in your secondary pitches.

5. You’re giving yourself a chance to go deep into the game. For most pitchers, throwing a fastball for a strike is easier than throwing a secondary pitch for a strike. By establishing your fastball in the zone early, you’ll have the best chance to go deep in the game.

So, as you kick-off your season or get ready for your next appearance, remember to establish your fastball early and often.


One of the first questions parents, players and coaches ask me before sending in their video for analysis is, “How should I shoot the video?” It’s true that sending in quality video goes a long way when asking someone to review it. So, if you are going to take advantage of my free video analysis offer, check out the 7 tips for shooting video below:

TOB Video Analysis - Phone Pic

1. Shoot the video with your phone or tablet.
2. Shoot the video facing the side of the pitcher or directly in front of the pitcher (or both!).
3. Make sure the pitcher’s entire body is in the shot (from head to toe).
4. Make sure the video captures the entire delivery and don’t stop the video until the pitcher has completely followed through.
5. Make sure the lighting is adequate.
6. Clearly say the pitchers name at the beginning (or the end) of the video.
7. Send full-speed video (not slo-mo).


5 Ways to Win Over Your New Teammates

You open the locker room door and hear everyone talking and laughing amongst themselves. Then you walk in. Conversations stop and heads turn. The proverbial pin drops and you hear it. Joining a new team can be uncomfortable. But it doesn’t have to be.


Over the years, I have been on many different teams and experienced meeting new teammates many times over. I’ve also experienced being on a team and having a new teammate join the team. In fact, one time, I experienced a new teammate walk into the locker room only to greet his new teammates by saying, “Your new captain is here!” That experience and many others helped me realize what players should not do when joining a team. More importantly, though, it helped me realize what they should do.

Here are five ways to win over your new teammates:

1. Be around the team. When you join a new team make it a priority to spend time with your new teammates. Focus on getting to know each of them first. Connect with each of them on a personal level. Great teams are filled with players that have great relationships with each other.

2. Learn from them. You have just joined a team that has a certain team dynamic. Work to learn what the dynamic is and how you can fit into it. New teammates will appreciate your desire to learn about the team and will take the time to explain the culture and the expectations.

3. Be humble. At first I wanted to write shut your mouth, but be humble has the same meaning. Let your new teammates ask you questions about yourself and your experiences. Don’t offer them up first. And, when you do answer their questions, make sure you mention the others that contributed to your success. It’s never just about you.

4. Be the hardest worker there. Show up early and stay late. You don’t want to give the impression that you think you’ve already solidified your place on the team. Let your hard work show that you desire a place on the team and that you know you must earn it.

5. Care deeply about the results. Teams win and lose together. Focus on the team’s results rather than your individual accomplishments. If the team is winning, your personal success will happen.

If you’re joining a new team, it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. In fact, it can be a great experience. Follow these five ways and win your new teammates over.

One Pitch At a Time – Introduction

Defining Toughness in Baseball

I love watching tough players. I loved competing against tough players. The toughest players make you raise your game; they make others around them better. If you were to visit locker rooms across the country you would hear coaches telling their players they need to be tough. They need to show toughness, both mentally and physically. But what do they really mean? What makes a player tough?

eBook Cover - One Pitch At A Time copy

If you watch games on television or in person today, it is hard to cut through all of the flash to recognize a tough player. Crazy hair, 2-foot-long beards, and oversize jerseys present players as more concerned with their appearance than their play. Throw in the ridiculous bat flips, players jawing at each other, and other forms of “big leaguing” and it becomes even harder to understand if players truly know what it means to be tough.

I often wonder if these players realize how they come across – not only to other players and coaches, but to recruiting coordinators. Over and over, I hear how important it is for a player to get recruited – by a college, a university, or a professional team. Everyone is focused on getting recruited. It seems that if being recruited is a top priority, being a tough player should be a top priority, as well.

I was fortunate to learn what it means to be a tough player at a young age. My parents were incredibly supportive of my desire to play professional baseball. My father spent hours upon hours working with me and talking through the various aspects of baseball so I could better understand the game. And it paid off. At an early age, I was playing against players four to five years older than me and doing well. My father never let that go to my head, though. He always said to me, “Remember, there is always going to be someone out there better than you. Just focus on getting better each day.” He wanted me to be a tough player.

This desire continued through my high school years when I transferred high schools to Omaha Westside to play baseball for Coach Bob Greco. That transition was one of the hardest transitions I have made in my life. I lived away from home, knew only a handful of people when I started, and went back to my hometown of Fremont, Nebraska, on the weekends. It wasn’t ideal, but I knew I had to be tough. Luckily, my family, close friends from Fremont, new friends from Westside, and all the families that let me crash on their couches supported me. Looking back, if I hadn’t stuck with it, I would have missed out on some of the best years of my life and might not have met my wife (you’re welcome, honey.)

Coach Greco is the best high school baseball coach in the country. And that’s not just my opinion. Last year, he deservedly was named the top high school baseball coach in the country by the American Baseball Coaches Association. Year after year, Coach Greco produces winning teams and championships for Omaha Westside. His intense focus on creating tough players and building tough teams causes that to happen. Coach Greco has no time for soft players, and he made that clear to me one day during my junior year. I remember him pulling me into the dugout during practice and saying to me matter-of-factly, “Tom, you’re pitching like a scared little boy. If we are going to win the state championship, we need you pitch like you can. You need to pitch like a man.” And that was it. He told me to get back to practice. His words were to the point and incredibly impactful.


The 3 Reasons Tough Players Don't Need Them

There is a big difference between a camp and a showcase. Camps focus on skill and player development. Showcases focus on evaluation. I want to be clear that I am not talking about camps. I believe that camps add value if the coaches running the camp have three things: 1) Integrity, 2) Experience, and 3) Passion. All three of those qualities must be present on camp day. Take away one of the three and you have yourself a bad camp. Showcases are different than camps. I’m not convinced showcases provide any value for tough players.

Let's Be Honest About Showcases

Yes, there have been tough players that have been seen at showcases who end up with an opportunity to play at the next level. Those players, though, would have been offered an opportunity regardless. Tough players get to the next level because of who they are and how they play. Not because of a number they got in exchange for hundreds (or thousands) of dollars.

Here are 3 reasons tough players don’t need showcases to achieve their dreams:

1. Value isn’t measured in one performance. Anyone who has ever played sports understands that you are going to have off days. College coaches especially understand this and build their recruiting processes accordingly. They focus on understanding what type of a person is behind the talent. That work is not completed in a day, though, just like your value isn’t measured in one performance.

2. Everyone is doing it. The toughest players don’t follow the crowd. They work hard every day on the practice field, in the weight room and in the classroom. They know that if they do, good things will happen. Stand out by focusing on the little things everyday, rather than trying to stand out by doing a big thing one day.

3. They don’t build relationships. Tough players understand that playing at the college level is an investment. Not only for the player, but for the coach. When a college coach recruits you, trust that he will work hard to get to know who you are and how you act in order to understand how you will fit in. Getting an opportunity to play at the next level requires earning trust and building a strong relationship. Relationships don’t happen in a day.

If you have the dream of playing at the next level, understand there are no shortcuts that will help you get there. Just like anything worth pursuing it’s going to take hard work and you’ll experience failure and success along the way. Tough players are not born, they are built. Keep going after your dream.

To learn more about how to become a tough player, click here.