You Wanna Play College Ball?
Everybody playing the game of baseball wants to play the game as long as they possibly can. Some of us will get to play the game until we are 40 or older while some of us only get to play the game until we are 12. But the thing we all have in common is we wish we could play the game forever, but that simply is not the case. Father time takes over and ends our career at some point, no matter how good we may be. Taking a look at Alex Rodriguez over the course of the last two season has been heart breaking for me, seeing Jeter retire, Griffey, Smoltz, Pudge Rodriguez, Javy Lopez, the list goes on forever. My favorite childhood players are all leaving the game and there is a new wave of young talent coming in behind them. Guys I haven't even heard of are now filling the rosters in the big leagues. That is how it works though. The same goes for college. Guys come in for 3-5 years and they are out, on to the next thing, whether it be a pro career or a "normal" career in the "real" world. Nonetheless, we all face that same fate. So, how can we go about playing this game we all love as long as possible? I am going to give you a few tips below to set you on the right path in order to make the transition to the next stage in your life/career a little bit easier.
1. Set Goals
2. Be Realistic
3. Work Towards Your Goals
4. Never Give Up
1. Set Goals-
Goal setting is probably the most important part of your journey to getting where you want to go. Without a goal in mind, you have no idea where you are going. I talk to kids every day about where they would like to take their baseball careers. I get the same answer, "really far, as far as I can." That is a really vague goal. So what I encourage guys to do is to make their goals a little bit more specific. For example, I ask guys if they want to play at the college level, they say yes, then I ask them if they want to be at a major D1, mid major D1, D2, D3, or JUCO. These things matter. If you don't know where you are striving to go, then you cannot set your smaller goals accordingly.
So tip number one is to set a tangible "big" goal. What do I mean by "big" goal? Your big goal is where you ultimately want to go. I will use myself as an example. When I was in high school I wanted to be a big league, but I knew I would probably be going to college before professional baseball so I set out to go to a big D1 program like Miami or South Carolina. I ended up going to UNC and making two runs at the CWS Championship in 06 and 07. Because I had set my sites so high with my "big" goal, I knew what it was going to take to get me to one of those places like Miami or USC. I was a catcher, so I knew I needed to have a pop time around a 1.9 to even have a shot. We will talk more about that in the next portion. Because I knew what I needed to get to one of those big schools, I knew what small steps I needed to take in order to achieve the big school interest. At 14 years old I was 5-11 and 126 pounds. Goal number one was to put on some mass. By the time I was 16 I was 195 pounds. Goal number two was a sub 2.0 pop time. My pop time at 14 was around a 2.1-2.3. By the time I was 16 I had shaved it down to a 1.8. Goal number 3 was to hit the ball with more authority. At 14 I was hitting balls about 350 feet. By the time I was 16 I was hitting baseballs well over 400 feet and reaching around 500 feet with the aluminum bats we had. Goal number 4 was to run faster. My 60 time at 14 was about a 7.8. By the time I was 16 I was running a 7.1 and eventually a 6.6 by the time I was in college. Goal number 5 was to make at least A/B Honor Roll every year. I graduated high school with nearly a 4.0 gap making only a couple of B's in high school and a SAT of nearly 1200. I did my part. The rest was in the hands of the college coaches.
I knew all the things I needed to do in order to reach that level. I knew I had to put in the work to get my pop time down under a 2.0. I did it. I knew I needed to put in the work to hit the ball harder. I did it. I knew I needed to get in the weight room to get stronger. I did it. I knew I had to run a 60 closer to a 7 flat. I did it. I lifted, I ran, I ate, I hit, I threw, I skipped parties, I studied big league catchers, but most of all I loved the game I was playing and I loved the work and the grind. Without the love of the work and the grind it would not have been nearly as fun.
2. Be Realistic
When a lot of people say to be realistic it is a negative thing. I in no way mean this to be negative, rather, I want you to set realistic goals in a healthy, positive way in order to reach your full potential. For example, if you are running a 12 second 60 and you are in the best shape you can be in, it is probably not realistic to have a goal of running a 6.4 60. Or if you are 5'-6" tall and 115 pounds you probably are not going to hit baseballs 500 feet so you shouldn't make a goal of being a pure power hitter. By the way, there are only like 2 big leaguers that are even pure power hitters. Not many of those guys exist anyway. And there are not a plethora of 6.4 runners either.
So when I say be realistic about your goals I am telling you to take a look at where you currently are with your skill set and age and determine the best possible fit for you moving forward. If you are 14 years old throwing a 2.7 pop time to second base you know that if you want to go to a big D1 school you need to get down to that 2.0 or below range. Set your goals towards achieving that sub 2.0 but know that if you do not get there then that is fine. You will still be improving a ton and will get a shot to play somewhere. You may not get to that big D1 but you may put yourself in a position to be at a mid major D1 or a great D2. And that is great. You should be proud of all your accomplishments. It is extremely rewarding to set goals and work towards them even if you come up just a tad short.
So be realistic when you set your goals. Pick what level you think you can get to then give it a little stretch to push yourself that little extra. For example, lets say you want to go to a mid major D1 for baseball. Set your sets one step up to a major school. If you don't reach the major level you put yourself in a great position to reach your original goal of a mid major D1 school.
3. Work Towards Your Goals
Once you have set your big goals it is time to start setting your smaller goals. Small goals can be daily, weekly, monthly, and annually. These are your baby steps on your journey towards your ultimate goal. Set small goals in order to achieve something on a weekly or daily basis so you can be on the right track physically, mentally, and emotionally. Achieving goals feels really good. So by setting shorter goals you will be boosting your confidence on your way to your ultimate goal and we all know that confidence is a huge factor in success. I ask this question a lot, what comes first, confidence or success? Many people answer that success comes first. But if you wait for success to be confident then you may never be confident. Rather you need to be confident before ever being successful. Confidence breeds success. And if you can maintain your confidence through failure then you will be way ahead of the game and on the road to consistent and future success.
4. Never Give Up
When I say never give up I am referring to those guys who give up based of the opinions of their local self proclaimed "gurus". I can't tell you how many times I have had people in my life ridicule me, tear me down, point fingers at me, bully me, make fun of me, tell me I suck, tell me I will never make it. I am here to tell you that all of those people were wrong. I came from a town of about 2,000 people and cannot tell you how many times these locals told me I would not amount to anything and I was wasting my time. At 15 years old I fractured my back, not once, but twice. I spent 9 months total in a back brace from the end of my sophomore year until the beginning of the baseball season the next year. That didn't stop me. I had my best year in high school my Junior season coming off the injury. That fall while unable to swing a bat, throw a ball, or sprint, I was able to get in the weight room and put on 40 pounds over 7 months. I went from 150 pounds to 190 pounds and stronger than I had ever been in my life. I was on a strict regiment of working out 5-6 times a week and consuming over 3000 calories a day, even waking up at 3am to get calories in then going back to bed. Doctors told me I would never play again. I can vividly remember walking our of the hospital that day with tears running down my face at 15 years old with my dad, walking into the elevator, looking my dad in the eye and telling him I was not done and I was going to play again. I went on to play 12 more years.
I went on to be a starter at The University of North Carolina and almost became a national champion twice, was awarded with the most improved player award while at UNC, tied for 5th in the ACC for homers my Sophomore year, battled through countless injuries and still got drafted at the end of my junior year. I played 7 years professionally battling more injuries and even made an all-star team one of my years as a professional in 2010. I have been knocked down time and time again but each time I am knocked down I have gotten back up. That is exactly what I want for you! Do not give up because a "friend" says you can't make it. Do not give up because the kids at school make fun of you for actually pursuing something great. Do not give up because your little league coach, your high school coach, your travel coach, or you high school coach tells you that you won't make it. Back story, my middle school coaches used to ridicule and make fun of me at practice when I was 12 years old. That was pretty hurtful as a 12 year old to be made fun of by my coaches in front of all my teammates but it didn't stop me. As a 7th grader I started every game for my middle school team as the catcher and I hit 6 homers and led my team in batting average by hitting over .700. Do not let people and their words hold you back. If you want to go after something, then do it. Work hard. Stay positive. Believe in yourself. Nobody knows their own potential or their own limits. Against a lot of odds I was able to play at the AAA level and I am damn proud of that accomplishment.