Monthly Archives: February, 2011

Freshman/Sophomore High School Baseball

This posting is primarily directed to 15u and 16u Gamers (2013, 2014 players).

We have now had hundreds of players go through high school baseball as freshmen and sophomores. Some have had great experiences. Others had bad experiences. It is important to have your expectations set properly and go into the high school baseball experience with the right mindset.
First a little grounding in reality. Of the 2010 Gamers playing college baseball right now, here is what they did during their freshman and sophomore years in high school:
During their freshmen year, 50% played freshman ball, 35% played JV and 15% played varsity.
During their sophomore years, 60% played JV and 40% played varsity.
Every situation is different. Some of our players go to huge high schools, some to small high schools. Some high school coaches push younger players to play “up”, while other coaches have firm policies to play juniors and seniors.
So, don’t get too caught up on whether you play freshman, JV or varsity baseball. Obviously, we would like you to play at the varsity level and hope that you get that opportunity.
But, we have had a number of players go on to play D1 college baseball that never played “up” in high school and did not even start as juniors. High school baseball is not necessarily a good indicator of college baseball potential or opportunities.
The opportunity to play “up” depends on a lot of factors, many of which are entirely outside of your control. My observation is that the process of selecting players to play “up” is not necessarily based on a players’ baseball talent, skill or attitude. Other factors clearly come into play, making the process seem almost random
This randomness can be quite frustrating for high school athletes and parents. But, it is outside of your control.
So, if you are selected to play “up”, congratulations. You need to work hard, continue to improve, earn playing time, be a leader and play like a Gamer.
Your challenge is to get pick up good habits from older teammates, and not pick up bad habits. I have seen too many freshmen play at the varsity level for all four years, and never get significantly better. By the time they are juniors, they start getting passed by. It happens all the time…don’t let it happen to you.
If you are not lucky enough to be selected to play “up”, just relax and focus on the things that can control. You need to do the same things as the players that are playing “up” — work hard, continue to improve, earn playing time, be a leader and play like a Gamer.
Your challenge is to overcome lower quality competition, fields and umpires to use the high school experience to improve your game, develop your skills and prepare you for the summer. With the right mindset, you can have a very successful and productive high school season without playing “up”.
This is what “pursuing excellence” is all about. You compete against yourself to get better, day by day, regardless of the level of competition you are facing. This is how you can take control of your high school baseball experience.
Remember John Wooden’s definition of success — “Success is the peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best that you are capable of becoming“.
Learning and mastering this mental approach is 10x more important than whether or not you play “up” as a freshman or sophomore in high school baseball. This is the mental approach that will ultimately help you succeed at higher levels of baseball and other aspects of your life.

High School Baseball Thoughts

We hear a lot of talk, both positive and negative, about high school baseball in the St. Louis/Midwest region. For the Gamers, our perspective on high school baseball is simple:

  • Our players play high school baseball from March-May
  • Most high school baseball coaches and programs are trying to do a good job
  • We have a responsibility to support our players and do whatever we can to support their high school programs & coaches.

In short, we want our players to succeed in high school baseball. And, we want to have positive relationships with high school coaches.

Ideally, there is a great fit between a player’s summer program and his high school program. We should share the common goals of developing the player, providing him a positive experience, and, as appropriate, helping him move into college baseball.
There can be some important positives from the high school baseball experience.
First, there is nothing like playing for “your school“. Baseball is not quite the same as football or basketball, but it is still meaningful to wear your school colors and play with and for classmates.
Second, many high school programs/coaches do a very good job of developing players, running practices and teaching the game. This can provide an important bridge between the Gamers winter program and our summer program that kicks off Memorial Day. These coaches take the game seriously, focus on teaching and put in hours of preparation for practices and games. They make the Gamers players better (and we appreciate and recognize this).
Finally, high school baseball provides a great leadership opportunity for our players. As Gamers, they can show their classmates the right way to play the game, and quickly step into a leadership role on their high school teams — even as an underclassman. That is a wonderful opportunity for a 16/17 year old young man.
Those are all positives that are possible through high school baseball.
But, unfortunately, there are also a lot of potential negatives from the high school baseball experience. Most people know the list of negatives and will have to deal with some or all of them — school politics, bad weather, bad coaching, bad fields, wasted practice time, inconsistent competition, low expectations, bad fundamentals, large rosters, lack of hustle, disrespectful player behavior, pitcher abuse, etc…

The reality is that, in many high schools in the region, baseball is secondary sport (to football, basketball and in St. Louis even soccer). Every high school program is different and has both negatives and positives. That is true in all sports.

So, we give our Gamers players the following guidance regarding high school baseball:
  • High school baseball is a complement to summer baseball, not a substitute. Summer/Fall baseball is the biggest exposure opportunity and most challenging competition for college bound players.
  • You need to work hard during the Winter to be ready to succeed in high school baseball beginning March 1st.
  • Offseason high school workouts are a complement to your Gamers winter workouts, not a substitute. We have clear evidence and experience that players get significantly better during the Gamers Winter program. The same is not true for many offseason workouts at high school programs.
  • You need to take advantage of the practice and rep time available during high school baseball. It is your choice on whether or not to use that time to get better. Make the right choice.
  • Similarly, each player has the choice of being a leader or a follower in their high school program. We encourage our players to play and practice like Gamers, even in their high school program. This style of play requires courage and leadership if it is not the “culture” of your high school program.
  • You need to take responsibility for staying healthy during the high school baseball season — especially pitchers. Do not pitch past your pitch count limit. Make sure that you are properly warmed up and ready to pitch before taking the mound. If you are not throwing enough during team practices, take care of it during your own time. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOU OWN ARM HEALTH.

In short, we advise our Gamers players to take personal accountability and responsibility for their time in high school baseball — for all aspects of their game.

The next piece of advice is usually the hardest to deliver and understand.

In our experience, for most players, their high school baseball results (batting average, Wins/losses, etc…) has little bearing on how they perform in 15-17u summer baseball. And, frankly high school baseball has minimal bearing on college baseball opportunities. High school baseball is not a target of college baseball recruiting in the Midwest.

We have had both extremes in our program:
  • Players that dominated during high school baseball, but struggled during summer baseball and failed to win the attention of college recruiters.
  • Players that were not even in the starting lineup in high school as juniors, but then went on to have great summers and land D1 college roster spots before the senior year.
Ultimately, what matters most during high school baseball is that you work hard, play the game right, and take responsibility for making yourself a better player and staying healthy from March-May. If you do those things, you will have positive high school experience and will show up ready for a successful summer season.