EDUCATIONAL CLINIC

Developing Pitchers in the Off-season

On Sunday, September 25th at 7pm I’ll be hosting an Educational Clinic for player, parents, and coaches. The clinic will be focused on how to develop pitchers in the off-season. The clinic will be held at Athletes Training Center (13809 Industrial Road, Omaha, NE) and there is no cost to attend.  To register for the free clinic visit my Facebook event page by clicking here.

GIVE ‘EM THE HEATER, RICKY.

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.

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.

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU JOIN A NEW TEAM

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?

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.

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.

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.