Monthly Archives: July, 2011

Providing information

It seems only fair to me that HS age baseball programs provide early and timely information to players and parents including:

– Total program fees
– Which team they will be on
– Who will coach them
– What the offseason practice schedule will be
– What the season tournament/travel schedule will be (at least by January)
– What the in-season practice schedule will be
Most of the top programs in the country provide this information early, a lot of it BEFORE tryouts and filling rosters. If I was a parent, I would want to know this information in advance.
It takes a lot of blind trust to commit to a team or program without this information in hand.

Selling the Easy Way To …

Since the days of snake oil salesmen, people have been trying to sell the “easy way out” potions and formulas to a willing audience. It is human nature to look for the easy way out, the easy weight loss diet, the easy way to get in shape, the easy way to make money, the easy way to find a mate, the easy way to do about anything ….

This now includes the easy way to play baseball at the next level.
The Gamers program is built around Hard Work and Passion. These are the cornerstones of our pyramid of success. We practice a lot, work hard and have high expectations on and off the field. In our opinion it is the right way to do things, regardless of how talented players may be. Even the most talented players need to work hard — because being talented in St. Louis does not translate into being talented and successful at the next level.
There is “no easy way out” in the Gamers program. This is our image and reputation in the youth baseball market, and it is true.
But, snake oil salesmen have ridden into town (actually, they have been here a while). They target talented baseball players and sell them a magic potion that looks like this:
“Come to our program. We don’t practice as much, have friendlier coaches, don’t work as hard and have lower expectations. Don’t believe the Gamers BS about Hard Work and Passion. Plus, because we reduce un-needed coaching and instruction, our program may cost less. Easier, plus less money. A deal you can’t refuse.”
This is almost comical. Get better, by working less. Snake oil potions, combined with some multi-level Amway marketing.
Some parents and players fall for this pitch. Like the magic weight loss, hair growth and smart pills from frontier days. Sounds great for parents — a lot less driving around and fewer practices.
Don’t believe the snake oil salesmen. You cannot lose weight unless you eat less and/or burn more calories. Sorry Dorothy, but the Wizard is just a man hiding behind a curtain.
There is no easy way out if you want to be an elite baseball player. Especially, here in the Midwest, where the baseball season is too short and you do not get nearly enough reps by just playing. If you are extremely talented, you may get to the next level on raw talent alone. But, you will not succeed at the next level unless you understand Hard Work and Passion.
There is no easy way out if you are pursuing excellence and competing against yourself to be the best you can be. It takes hard work, a lot of practice, challenging coaches, high expectations and a lot of dedication. That is the magic formula. There is no easy way out.
Or, I have great deal where you can work from home 3 hours a day and earn $100k …

Being a Dad Coach

The hardest thing I have ever done is coach my son in baseball.

Harder than playing football, harder than engineering school, harder than working in the oil fields, harder than Harvard Business School and harder than climbing the corporate ladder for 20 years.
It was a constant personal battle between emotion and logic. I was not good at it. In all my years of coaching, I have only met a couple of people who are.
So, I read every book and watched every DVD on coaching baseball, looking for the answer. I poured a lot of time and personal capital into the quest. The answer was not there.

I got a lot smarter about coaching and about baseball. And, my contribution and leadership in the Gamers program was a direct result from this failed quest to coach my own son.
This worked great at 12u, OK at 13u, not well at 14u and terribly at 15u and 16u. As a young man gets older, it is harder and harder for them to learn from their dads. It is also harder and harder for players to learn from their teammate’s dad. Just too much baggage. And, it is harder and harder for dads to be teachers. This is especially true from 15-17. We just care too much. Emotion versus logic, for both the dad and the son.
Objectively, there is no winner in this battle.
So, I brought in outside instructors to work with the teams and sent my son to private lessons. But, the games and team practices were still coached by me. I was a very good coach for 13 out of 14 players. As time went, I became a better and better coach for 13/14th’s of the team and a worse and worse coach for 1/14th of the team.
I like math. I like fractions. Those fractions suck.
This creates a lot of personal anguish for dads and sons. Being inherently stubborn, I refused to take the easy way out, and coddle my son, batting him third, playing him 95% of innings and sacrificing the pursuit of excellence for 13/14th’s of the team. Almost exclusively, this is how dad coaches cope with this situation. They come down on the side of emotion and take the easy way out, sacrificing the 13/14th’s.
I do not wish this fate on anyone. Dads and sons deserve more. Fortunately, there is a better answer.
99% of players should not be coached by their dads once they reach high school age. I know that dads always want to coach “one more year” and hold on to the triumphs of youth baseball. I was in the same boat. I also know that some baseball programs play on this emotion, using it to attract talent while avoiding the cost of paid coaches. 5 years ago, I received the same phone call and almost got sucked in.
But, this is a mistake for all involved. For the dad coaches, for the sons and for the other 13/14th’s of the team. Maybe there is someone out there that can pull this off. It is a super-human request to ask a coach to take care of his son, while effectively coaching a select-level high school age team.
This is especially true in summer baseball, where ultimately college recruiting becomes the focus. If you were a college coach, would you listen to the opinion of a dad? I know a lot of college coaches. They actively avoid conversations with dad coaches. This negatively impacts every player on the dad-coached team, even the coaches own son. This is a one-sided proposition, but does not make sense for dads, for sons and for the rest of the team.
Ultimately, there is a point where parenting and coaching do not go together. It is rarely past 15u. Once young men go to high school, start excercising independence, it becomes unsustainable and a lose-lose situation.
For the Gamers program, this means professional paid coaches at 15u and above. This raises the cost of our program, and creates separation anxiety for players moving from 14u to 15u. Dad coaches move to the stands, sons become just players and other teammates need to adjust to a new coach. Everyone gets nervous about this — but it is the right transition.
It is the right answer for all involved — dad, son and the 13/14ths.

Truth Prevails

Back in 2007, our first year of the Gamers program, our oldest teams were 16u. One of the teams was very talented. Another local program called every player on our 16u roster and told them:

“The Gamers can never get you into college baseball. They don’t have the connections that I have. If you want to play college or professional baseball, you need to play with me. I promise that you will play D1 baseball or be drafted if you play with me. And, you won’t have to pay a dime. I’ll just add you to our existing 18 player rosters and let the other players pay for you to play”
That is pretty much verbatim the sales pitch.
One dad/player fell for the sales pitch. They promised that he would be a high round draft pick if he changed programs. He made the change the first weekend of the summer without any advance notice to us. He was never close to being drafted and is currently on the roster of a D1 program at a state school where he probably would have received a 100% academic scholarship with or without baseball.
Since then, 55 Gamers players from the classes of 2010 and 2011 have NOT fallen for the false promises. They have worked hard, become good players, and made it into college baseball through their efforts in the Gamers program. 55 players in the past 2 years.
But, the sales pitch and false promises continue from other programs. Ad nauseum.
No administrator or baseball program can promise your son a college baseball scholarship or a high round draft pick. This kind of talk belongs on the used car lot.
These opportunities are totally within control of the player. If you are talented, athletic, play the game right, work hard in the weight room and get good grades, you create your own opportunity to play college or professional baseball. No one does it for you. You do it yourself.
55 players in 2 years playing college baseball. And they did it themselves, as part of the Gamers program. We are proud of them.
No promises, no free passes. Just old fashioned sweat and effort.

A lot of thoughts …

After a weekend of baseball at Notre Dame, the following four blog posts (from 4 years ago!!) keep running through my mind:

Gamers 15u Perfect Game Reports

Gamers 15u teams competed hard in their first trip to East Cobb. Below are the scouting blogs from the tournament.

East Cobb Rawlings Defeats St. Louis Gamers
6/30/2011 3:43:41 PM

The East Cobb Rawlings 15U squad defeated the St. Louis Gamers 15U Blue team 9-6 on Wednesday. Rhett Harper threw 77-80 mph for Rawlings, displaying that he knows how to pitch and has mound presence. He is aggressive with his fastball. Lew Stephens showed a balanced swing at teh plate for the Rawlings squad. Weston McArthur also pitched in offensively, showing good bat speed and a power approach at the plate. Matt Westrich had a good day at the plate for the Gamers, showing good plate coverage, a quiet hitting approach, and power potential.

St. Louis Gamers 15u Blue puts up big numbers
6/30/2011 2:14:51 PM

the St. Louis Gamers 15u Blue defeated the 6-4-3 DP Cougars 15-6 today when the Gamers racked up 15 total hits. Cougars, Matt Westrich was 3-4 with 2 runs scored, and 2 RBI’s. He is a spray hitter who can hit where the pitch is thrown, medium framed build with a powerful approach at the plate. Levi Whitmire also had a satisfying game, he was 2-2 with 1 run scored and 1 RBI. He has a good eye, linedrive hitter with power and has a quiet approach.

St. Louis Gamers 8-run Action Baseball Club Green
6/30/2011 2:04:22 PM

In the consolation bracket this morning the St. Louis Gamers beat Action Baseball Club 15u Green in 5 innings putting the 8-run rule in effect. The final score was 11-3. Joseph Tanner of the Gamers had a strong day going 3-3 with 3 RBI’s and 2 runs scored. He stays inside the ball well, has a quick bat, balanced swing, and a compact swing. Paul Iseman of the Gamers also had a good day at the plate; he was 2-3 with 1 run scored and 1 RBI.

St. Louis Gamer top the long Island Rays
6/29/2011 11:14:40 AM

The bats came alive for the St. Louis Gamers today when the racked up 12 hits in 4 innings of play. Aaron Kopelman showed up to play for the Long Island Rays strung together the only 2 hits for the Rays today, breaking up Joseph Tanners no-no. Kopelman has a good eye, is a patient hitter, and a slightly crouched stance. Tanner throws with a high 3/4 arm angle, has limited arm speed, with a good follow through, and a projectable frame.

Sandy Plains Wildcats Defeat St. Louis Gamers
6/28/2011 3:18:50 PM

The Sandy Plains Wildcats won an 8-2 game against the St. Louis Gamers 15U Gray. Jack Pomerantz started for the Wildcats and threw 77-80 mph with his fastball. He comes at hitters from a high ¾ arm angle and has short arm action. Chase Solomon shone at the plate, staying inside the ball well with his quick bat. Cody Hardage helped out on offense and showed a balanced swing.

East Cobb Angels/St. Louis Gamers Tie
6/28/2011 1:31:22 PM

The East Cobb Angels and St. Louis Gamers 15U Blue played to a 3-3 tie today. Ryan Young averaged 74-77 mph with his fastball for the Angels, using a quick arm and changing speeds to fool hitters. Young also displayed armside run with his fastball while throwing easy. Jack Rouse had a solid day at the plate for the Gamers, showing an aggressive approach at the plate to go along with a quick bat and raw power.

St. Louis Gamers 15U Blue Beats Spartans
6/27/2011 5:25:41 PM

The St. Louis Gamers 15U Blue defeated the Sports A Rama Sparts 9-1 today. Daniel Schnicker pitched well for the Gamers. He throws strikes with a 75-78 mph fastball. Schnicker has long arm action, competes on the mound, and works fast. Matt Westrich excelled at the plate, hitting to all fields with a short, compact swing. He makes very hard contact.

Boyd Pitches Shoetiques to Victory
6/26/2011 2:42:45 PM

The Shoetiques defeated the St. Louis Gamers 15U Gray 11-3 today. Conner Boyd started for the Shoetiques and pitched at 74-77 mph. Trevor Sutton led the way offensively, going 2 for 3 with 2 RBIs. Caleb Hicks went 2 for 2 for the Gamers.

Florida Stars Squeak Out a Win
6/25/2011 7:09:33 PM

The Florida Stars won 6-5 against the St. Louis Gamers 15U Gray team. Florida Stars’ starter River Horning pitched at 74-78 mph with his fastball. He pitches from a high ¾ arm angle and has a short arm circle in the back. Kyle Hintz went 2 for 2 with 2 RBIs and a run scored. Hintz has good bat speed and power to all fields. Opposing Horning was Joseph Tanner, whose fastball was 71-73 mph. He has long arm action and good follow through with an online delivery.