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.

LET’S BE HONEST ABOUT SHOWCASES

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.

GETTING RECRUITED SHOULDN’T FEEL LIKE CLIMBING A MOUNTAIN

5 Ways To Do It Right

I remember there being exactly zero “Let’s Get You Recruited” companies when I was in high school. And, while there were showcase camps, they definitely weren’t every weekend, in every major city. The recruiting game has definitely changed and for the worse. Not only for the players and parents, but also for the coaches.

Getting recruited shouldn't feel like climbing a mountain.

Let me explain. At the heart of the recruiting process is the desire for the right type of athlete to land at the right type of college or university. By right I mean that the talent and character of the player matches the level and values of the college or university. Too often, I speak with players that have given up on the opportunity to play sports after high school because they aren’t hearing from any D1 schools. Or, players end up at D1 schools, but without a scholarship or any chance of making it onto the field.

Even more troubling is when players tell me their number, which is nothing more than a score given to them by a recruiting company they just paid hundreds of dollars to. I’m sorry, but those numbers don’t mean anything, especially not to a college coach.

You need to get back to the fundamentals of being recruited. Where it is a win-win, for both you and the college or university. Getting recruited is like developing a relationship with someone. There are no short-cuts and it takes time.

Here are five ways to do it right:

1. Be honest with yourself. Successful collegiate athletes have an incredible passion for their sport. The time and effort student-athletes put in the classroom, study hall, practice field, and the weight room requires it. If you aren’t passionate about your sport, you won’t make it in college. Successful collegiate athletes are tough, but also honest with themselves. Your desire to play in college needs to be real. Saying you want to play sports in college to please your parents or impress others will only end up making you miserable. If you have the passion, keep reading. If you have a passion for something else, put your heart into that.

WHAT RECRUITING COORDINATORS LOOK FOR, BUT WON’T TELL YOU

5 Ways To Stand Out And Get Noticed

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

Wrong.

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.

I’M JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH

10 Limiting Beliefs That Hold You Back

Fear and doubt are two things even the best athletes in the world wrestle with. If not managed properly, fear and doubt can negatively impact performance. Sometimes they can be so limiting that they even hold you back from performing at all. You don’t take that first step. You don’t put yourself out there. You become your worst enemy. That is when your fear and doubt become your limiting beliefs.

Limiting Beliefs (2)

In my next post, I will cover how to overcome limiting beliefs, but first I want you to understand what a limiting belief is. A limiting belief is a thought you tell yourself which directly impacts the choices you make and the actions you take. These are the conversations you have with yourself that hold you back. You need to stop them, but first, you need to understand them.

Here are 10 limiting beliefs that could be holding you back from performing at your best or even at all.

1. I’m just too young. This is a limiting belief related to your age and it affects adults just the same (“I’m just too old”). By telling yourself your too young, you are convincing yourself that age matters when it doesn’t. This limiting belief holds you back from challenging yourself against older players even when you have the ability to hang with them.

2. I’m just too small. Similar to the limiting belief related to age, being “too small” is a limiting belief many players use often. You may have a passion or drive to play basketball or be a quarterback, but you convince yourself that because of your size putting yourself out there is not even worth the effort. What if Russell Wilson would have told himself this?