Monthly Archives: February, 2015

Deja Vu All Over Again

Blog post from 4 years ago. Yogi Berra >> Stephen Hawking. Literally 4 years ago.

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. Along with Commitment and Loyalty.  We practice a lot, work hard and have high expectations on and off the field. We depend on each other to succeed.  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, and no  high expectations.  Fun all around”

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. It takes commitment, it takes two way relationships. 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 …

How to Hack a Stalker Radar Gun

I remember being fascinated by wave theory and propagation calculations back in my engineering days.  It is the technology that we used at British Petroleum to drill for oil and develop the North Slope oil fields.  Shoot sound or pressure waves, measure reflection and time at the surface and you can map what is 20,000 feet underground.  Really cool technology.

Now, 30 years later, all those smarts are now on built into a $1200 radar gun with the Stalker Pro II, an incredible piece of technology.  You can make adjustments and option settings to automatically compensate for lots of conditions.  All menu driven and easy to do. We literally used a Cray mainframe computer for these calculations in the 1980’s.

So, here’s a easy hack to pick up 3mph on your fastball.

1 – Turn on the gun

2 – hold down Menu button for 1 second

3 – select Option 10 called “Cosine Angle” (evidently just called angle with some software)

4 – input 15

exit out of Menu, then voila, the gun will read 3.4% higher. So, an 82 mph fastball will read 85 on the gun display.  If you input 30 with Option 10, the gun will display 94mph for your 82 mph pitch.  At some point is gets out of control.  If you input 45 on Option 10, the gun will read 115 mph.  That might be a little much, but it makes you feel like Aroldis Chapman.

So, a key part of this Stalker hack is to be realistic setting Option 10 and then take a picture of the gun reading to reflect the higher reading. Because, if it is on the gun, it will generally be considered true.

Great news  … Stalker has now made this hack feature available on ALL models, including the $499 Sport II model.  The options are a little different so you’ll to read the manuals online.

The problem with caring

Hakuna-Matata

Last night, on the way home from practice at 11:30pm, I was reflecting on how very, very easy it would be to coach and do the college prep baseball thing if I did not care.  If a player is not working hard, just let it go.  If a player is doing something incorrectly, just let it go.  If he is not meeting expectations in the weight room or in fitness levels, just let it go.  Missing assignments, let it go.

Just let it go and focus on having fun, telling players and parents whatever they want to hear and ignoring issues. Let players show up whenever they want, no schedule, just nice and friendly and comfortable.  Convenience and fun are the priorities.  Fun and easy.  Happy.

Bad grades, let it go.  Showing up late, let it go.  Not showing up, let it go.  Crazy college lists, let it go.  No college lists, let it go.  Throwing 50% strikes, let it go.  Rolling over in the cage, let it go.  Being lazy in long toss, let it go.

Gosh, things would be swell.  And easy.  And fun.

Throwing extra BP, let it go.  Writing letters for players, let it go.   Creating recruiting websites/videos, let it go. Editing poorly written profiles, let it go.  Hitting hours of extra fungos, let it go.  Extra practices, let it go.  Pregame work, let it go.  Poor style of play, let it go.  Kid gets hurt, let it go.  Kids doing drugs, let it go. Bus trips, let it go.  Team Rooms, let it go.  Hotel blocks, , let it go. Spending weekends away from family all summer, let it go.  Giving up my downstairs to out of town players for 10 weeks, just let it go. 

Golly, it would be a swell life if you could let it go and not care.

No attachment, no loyalty, no commitments, no problems.  Just cut kids that are struggling,  Just focus time on the easily recruitable players, while ignoring others.   Have 24 players rosters.  Let coaches do whatever they want. Don’t help out people in financial trouble  Just let it go.  Cash shortfalls, let it go,  Investments in new facilities and equipment, let it go.  1am letters to college coaches, let it go.  20 phones calls from college coaches, let it go.  Honesty, let it go … way too hard!!

How is this player? Definite D1, throws 5mph harder that the gun reads.

How’s that player? Definite D1, you can teach him to throw strikes when he gets on campus.

How’s the other player? Has an offer from AR, 30 lbs overweight is very attractive to the SEC, so better offer fast.

It would be just swell to stand on the sidelines, doing the easy stuff, cashing checks living off the efforts of others.  Let other people do the hard work of forming teams, selecting players, scheduling games, developing players, coaching games, traveling with teenagers, being responsible for teenagers, making lineups, helping them compete, dealing with emotions.  That stuff is too hard and not fun.

That’s a nice gig!  Everyone has fun, everyone likes you, no hard feelings, all cheerleading and everyone gets a prize at the end.  Gosh, that sounds great!  No worries.

Dr. Tom Hanson says the three most important words in baseball are “let it go”.  Not what he meant, but golly-gee who cares. Hukuna matata.

Exit Velocity – Seriously?

f2d1d1 Sometimes it is not easy to be an engineer and a baseball coach.  You see and hear things that don’t makes sense — like the talk about “exit velocity” for hit balls.   Just because you CAN measure something DOES NOT mean that it is meaningful or that you should measure it.   Exit velocity is one of those things.   The velocity at which a ball comes off a bat is controlled by Newton’s laws, a function of: 1. The speed of the bat at impact 2. The mass of the bat 3. The material properties of the bat – ash, maple, metal, sweet spot, etc… 4. The speed of the ball, its rotation, its mass and material properties 5. The angle of impact and angle of ball trajectory 6, Other factors too … All of these things matter — a lot.  Click here for the discussion by Stalker Radar which talks about the angle of measurement impact on radar gun velocity.  A 30 degrees angle difference, which would still be considered a line drive, would measure 13.9% different than a line drive at 0 degrees angle from the radar gun.  That’s the difference between 80 mph exit speed and 70 mph exit speed. A fly ball or groundball at a 45 degree angle would have a 39.3% error. So, all the showcases that report exit velocity are primarily reporting whether or not a kid squared a ball up in at a 0% angle with the radar gun.  Angle has that big of an impact.  It is probably just as big of a difference as the players’ actual bat speed. Then, for consistency the exit speed measurement HAS to been done off a tee, not a moving ball, to eliminate the variability of the ball.  Exit velocity off front toss or pitched balls is not measuring anything meaningful about the player.  Too many variables unless the ball is always at the exact location, with the exact spin, trajectory and velocity. And, by the way, the balls need to be exactly the same.  Not a bucket of cage balls with worn balls.  Only brand new baseballs.  And to truly measure apples to apples, all the players needs to swing the same bat. Just because you can measure something does not mean that it is meaningful. Radar guns are great for measuring objects moving at a 0 angle to the gun.  But, using them to measure impact with all the variables listed above has no meaning. Showcase scouting reports make a big deal out of a 5 mph exit velocity difference within players.  ALL OF THIS DIFFERENCE IS WITHIN THE RANGE OF ERROR OF THE MEASUREMENT.  Showcase reports are simply reporting the players that hit the ball close to a 0 degree angle with the gun.  This is luck unless you let players take about 20 swings with the same bat and same ball and only record the balls with 0 degree angles off the tee.  Not the way it’s done though,  10 swings and out with random data reported.

Reminds me of the scene from Moneyball about the ugly girlfriend .. ugly girlfriend

Mom was right … again

So, my mom always told me (and still does) that if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything.  Proven right again.  A couple days ago I made a unkind joke about a baseball facility in an email that went out internally to just 60 Gamers players/families.  Like they say — never put anything in an email that you wouldn’t want printed in the Wall St. Journal.  Sure enough, the email got forwarded outside the Gamer group — resulting in an embarrassing situation.  Not my intent.  But. Mom was right.. again.

Chalk that one up to my growing list of mistakes.  But, if you are not making mistakes, you are not trying hard enough.

And sometimes, you really do need to say things that are not nice.  Not in an email like my recent stupid mistake.  But, as a coach, a business person, a friend, negative things sometimes need to be said especially if there is a chance that it will have a positive impact.  This is a real dilemma for coaches and teachers.  We need to say a lot of things that are not nice.   Players need you to coach them.  You cannot help them unless you say things to make them better.  If you stay silent and overlook things, you are simply cheating the player that wants to be coached.  That is my opinion.

If a player wants to be coached, I (we) are going to coach him.  That means being honest, demanding and holding him to high standards.  If he wants to be coddled and told only what he wants to hear, then I am not the right coach and the Gamers is not going to be the right program.  This is the topic for a whole other blog post.  But, in this narrow case — of coaching — Mom is not entirely right.  Sometimes, “not nice” things need to be said.  Sometimes, you need to actually care.