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This article was written by a parent who had two sons play D1 baseball for top 10 programs. Both sons were also drafted by MLB teams out of high school.
I have had two boys who both loved the game of baseball. With the oldest boy, I was completely naive about the game of baseball. I had no real aspirations that he would excel in baseball. I played through high school and always loved the game and so when he started playing, I enjoyed coaching him and helping him learn. As he started to get older, his skill level really started to improve. He started to make the local All-Star teams, and then he started to make higher level travel teams, and so on. Ultimately, he received a scholarship to a Division 1 school and was drafted by Major League Baseball.
My younger son had the same love for the game that his older brother did. Being around the sport at a younger age, he was a little more advanced but I figured that he would have the potential to take the same progression and achieve the same results as his older brother. The difference was that I was a lot more knowledgeable about what needed to be done.
What I realized as I looked back on my older son was that some of the reason he achieved what he did was circumstantial. We were lucky to be around people who were more experienced and helped us get there. With the second son, I was able to map out a plan on where we needed to go and how to get there. What I want to show here are the kinds of goals I set up and the progression that I tried to follow to get my son where he wanted to go.
The first thing I did was to set some very clear long term goals. These goals were very personal and specific. There were three components: Tools, playing experiences, and final results.
One thing that I realized early on was that your tools get you noticed. The main tools are arm strength (velocity), running speed, defense, hitting for average, and hitting for power. If you can show the ability to do any one of these things at the highest level, you will get noticed. Having exceptional tools is the most direct way to have doors opened for you. Many people don’t know if their child will be a pitcher, position player, or both. I figured that I would try to set goals that allowed flexibility. So the first goals I set were:
Throw 90 MPH
Run 6.5 60yd dash
Be a great hitter
Be a great defender
Based on my older son’s progression and where he ended up, I thought that all these goals were obtainable. The first two goals are easy to measure and tend to get the most attention from scouts. The best goals are those that can be measured because they provide motivation and constant feedback. The second two goals are more skill related and more difficult for a scout to put definitive numbers on. They are somewhat subjective. A kid can hit .400 in his local league and not have the ability to handle high level pitching. Within each of these high level goals you have to break them down further into short term goal and medium term goals. I would sit down after each season and assess strengths and weaknesses and develop plans to help improvement.
Here is an example of some mid-term goals for my son’s 15-16 year old season:
Areas for improvement:
Arm Strength – 80 To 85
Weighted Ball Routine
Medicine Ball Routine
Radar Gun readings
Speed and Quickness – 6.8 to 6.6
Wrist and Hand strength
Bat speed workout
Get Eye Exam
Jumps on balls
Pop ups directly over head (drop step and go)
Pop ups (general)
Balls up the middle
Work on other positions: 2nd and 3rd
Now, within many of these items are other activities, drills, instruction, etc. that defines the what’s, how’s, and where’s. These items will be the short term goals. So for the long toss program, the goal would be to complete a specific program 2 times per week for 8 weeks. After that, you might try to get another velocity reading to see if you have improved on your goal. But the bottom line is you have to assess the developmental needs and have action plans for improvement.
Going back to the main four goals, because of that subjectivity for the last two items, I felt like getting the best possible playing experiences was extremely important. Playing at the highest level the player can handle is important in development. This is a very tricky area for the parent. It is critical that you have a clear picture of your child’s current capabilities and know what you are trying to get out of these experiences. I always felt like playing at a level that is not challenging gives the player an inaccurate picture of his capabilities and does not provide the motivation needed to drive improvement. On the other hand, playing on a team that is over the player’s capability can hurt getting the appropriate playing time and cause frustration and demotivation. Here was my action plan:
Play in local youth league
Make All-Star team
30-50 games per year
Play on local travel team. Team is competitive and plays in tournaments with higher level teams.
50-80 games per year
Age 14 and 15:
Try out for a higher level team comprised of players statewide. Determine the best fit for current capabilities. Look for a competitive fall baseball team to continue to get playing time versus good competition.
50-80 games per year
Try to make higher level team. These two years are critical for college scholarships. The high-level teams have the ability to get players seen by college recruiters and have good relationships based on their organizational history. They tend to go to high-level tournaments where recruiters look for the best players, and they have other high-level players that make it worth the recruiter’s time to watch. Play high level fall baseball. Many state-level organizations put together fall teams. Also, some local scouts will put together fall teams. The fall is a more laid back style of baseball, but allows the player to work on new skill and is also a very good time to get recruited. Many of the games are on college fields and draw local colleges.
50-80 games per year
So what are you getting out of all this? You have to know what you want. For me, it was easy. Don’t be afraid to dream big. If you can’t see it happening, it won’t.
Sign a Division 1 scholarship
Be drafted by Major League Baseball