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Sparks Journey from Little League to College

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  • Coaches will sometimes want to see the athleticsm of younger players to see where they might fit into the program in the future. Getting a look might help the coach decide what position he wants the kid to play on the freshman and JV team. It's nothing but a plus to be on the coach's radar screen.

    The big difference between younger high school players and upperclassmen is upper body strength. When my son was a freshman he was one of the last two cut from varsity. The reason was upper body strength. He was a good hitter but couldn't drive the ball like the upperclassmen.
    Last edited by tg643; 06-22-2010, 12:52 PM.

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    • tg643

      Originally posted by tg643 View Post
      Coaches will sometimes want to see the athleticsm of younger players to see where they might fit into the program in the future. Getting a look might help the coach decide what position he wants the kid to play on the freshman and JV team. It's nothing but a plus to be on the coach's radar screen.

      The big difference between younger high school players and upperclassmen is upper body strength. When my son was a freshman he was one of the last two cut from varsity. The reason was upper body strength. He was a good hitter but couldn't drive the ball like the upperclassmen.
      I must agree with you. I just don't see any way my boy makes the varsity team. He's a fine player but he's just not grown enough at this point. He has a fine arm but he has never gone against boys the size and strength of HS players. So hopefully he will look at this as an "honor" just to be asked to be looked at and hopefully the HS coach will have positive things to say to my boy that will increase his confidence and give him some goals to work for in the future. BTW: the first HS practice is tonight so we are looking forward to it!!

      Last night my boy had two great games (we played a double header). He went 6 for 7 batting with a double and an inside the park homerun that went all the way to the fence on the deepest part of the field. He also pitched two innings and didn't give up a hit (the coach only let him pitch two innings so he could save him for a game Thursday).
      On the dark side he made two errors at SS and the last error cost us the game. It was a bang bang play and he threw the ball in the dirt and the runner scored and we ended up with a tie on that game. He took it pretty well though. I think he's learned to look at the good things he does and be proud of himself and he doesn't get so down on himself now when he makes a mistake. Man oh man that is a huge lesson that he has needed to learn for many years. It seems as if he is learning the game and learning how to make a mistake, learn from it and move on. For those who have read my post down through the years you know how big of a leap this is for my boy in his growth.....its huge huge! Yeah it's great that he went 6 for 7 batting but it may be even better that he made an error and took it like a man and didn't get down on himself.

      Also he had his best fastball last night. He hit 76mph on the gun twice and 75mph numerous times. His slow fastball was 73mph. I've gotten him at 77mph before but that was between innings and not facing a batter. Last night I was able to get him facing batters and he was throwing fire. I've clocked about every fast pitcher in our area that is 14 and under. Most throw in the mid to high 60's. I've clocked one or two that touch 70. I haven't clocked anyone 14 years old around here that is even close to my boys speed at 76+ and touches 77mph. It's amazing because he's still only 5'5" and 125 pounds. To see someone his size throw so hard just amazes people around here. I think it also amazes batters as they just can't believe he throws so hard until they get in the box and try to hit.

      Baseball is the greatest game in the world and I'm convinced that many lessons in life are learned through this great game.

      Sparks

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      • With the numbers your son is putting up you might want to find more challenging competition for him next summer. When my son played 14U travel , pitchers in the upper 70's to low 80's was the norm on the better teams. Also, since the game was very challenging at this level he found out he had to learn to deal with failure. Hitting .400 was huge. At age fifteen he played for a 16U team. I felt it got him ready for high school and beyond to face high end competition all the time.

        Also being surrounded with top level talent keeps pushing a kid to be better rather than get full of himself over his successes. With the fish in a big pond approach, a kid maintains a sense the game can get along without him so he better keep pushing hard to excel.

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        • Originally posted by tg643 View Post
          With the numbers your son is putting up you might want to find more challenging competition for him next summer. When my son played 14U travel , pitchers in the upper 70's to low 80's was the norm on the better teams.
          Wow. Low 80s is fast for 14U. I remember gunning the East Cobb Astros in the low 80s. Can't remember but 2-3 teams hitting low 80s over the years when I gunned every game. Many teams had one pitcher that threw 74-77. Most were low 70s.
          efastball.com - hitting and pitching fact checker

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          • tg

            Originally posted by tg643 View Post
            With the numbers your son is putting up you might want to find more challenging competition for him next summer. When my son played 14U travel , pitchers in the upper 70's to low 80's was the norm on the better teams. Also, since the game was very challenging at this level he found out he had to learn to deal with failure. Hitting .400 was huge. At age fifteen he played for a 16U team. I felt it got him ready for high school and beyond to face high end competition all the time.

            Also being surrounded with top level talent keeps pushing a kid to be better rather than get full of himself over his successes. With the fish in a big pond approach, a kid maintains a sense the game can get along without him so he better keep pushing hard to excel.
            Thanks....I was wondering about that.... I felt sure other kids were hitting that mark but there aren't any around here. We'd love to get him on better teams but it's just impossible around here. He had the choice this year of playing on a travel team or with his school team....of course he wanted to play with his school. Good thing because the travel team never played a game for lack of players. I think tonight he will get an eye opening when he practices with the high school kids. He has gotten a little complacent and has told me on more than one occasion that he doesn't have to do this or that because he's already doing well. Of course I know better but sometimes...correction! ALL THE TIME it's impossible to get through to a 14 year old.

            Our goal was for him to have fun this summer and he's had a blast. Tonight I hope he does well in practice but I also hope that it inspires him to work harder. He used to be the hardest working kid I've ever seen...he always wanted to be the best. But darn....when he started doing better than most of the other kids he's slacked off. I can't get through to him, at least not yet, that the better he gets the harder he needs to work to get better.

            There is talk of taking our school team into a travel tournament as a reward for a good summer season. We've dominated all the school teams around here but I'm sure our boys will get a shot of reality if they go play in a travel tournament. It might just be the eye opener that they need.

            Thanks for the conversation...I enjoy it and love hearing about other kids.

            Sparks

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            • The tournament will be humbling. Sometimes one dominant pitcher can handle a travel team. What typically happens when local teams attempt to play in a travel tournament is they get overwhelmed by depth of lineup in the game and depth of pitching in the tournament.

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              • The Varsity practice went very well.

                Come to find out there were several of our 8th grade players at the practice, along with the varsity team.
                It was a well structured practice, especially considering all the kids that were their.

                The coach put my boy at SS along with the starting varsity SS. My boy held his own and did very well.

                Then the coach called for all the pitchers (my boy included). He had a jugs radar gun and gunned every pitcher. He let each boy throw 12 pitches, changups, fastballs and curvalls. My boy topped out at 75mph on his fastball and his changup was at 63mph (not sure what his curve was). Of course they did all this at the far end of the field so us parents couldn't tell much of what was going on. I was anxious to see what the seniors were throwing but the coach only told the boy who was pitching and even then he asked the kid if he wanted to know how fast he threw. So, I don't know what the other kids were throwing.

                He also timed the catchers throws to second. They have a senior catcher that has a cannon for an arm and I think he had the best time at 1.90 seconds. My boys best time was 2.03 seconds.

                Anyway at the end of practice the coach met all the kids in the dugout. He thanked all the 8th grade players for their time and wished them well. He had some postive words but told them they wouldn't be needed at any more practices.
                As everyone was walking away he called my boy over and said he wanted to talk to him. He told my boy to be at the next practice because HE MADE THE SUMMER VARSITY TEAM! He made a point to tell him that he had no interest in just letting him dress out. He said if he was on the team he was going to play. He said he would probably have him pitch some and maybe play some at the infield. We are a 6A school with some talented players so this is a big honor for my boy. I might also add that another 8th grader was told (in private) to be at the next practice as well. This of course doesn't surprise me because this other kid is a good player as well. Although he isn't fair....lol....he grew quick and is 6'1" at 14 years old. A very good solid player.

                I'm so proud of my boy I could spit.

                I will say this....I saw baseball at a higher level tonight. Many of the kids had very good arms. So my boy throwing in the mid 70's will be rather slow at that level. I figure if he does pitch he'll probably get lit up but it will be an incredible exprience for him. I hope he gets to bat a few times...man it will be interesting to see how he stands in the box with HS pitchers that will probably throw in the mid to high 80's.

                Our first game is this Monday. Doubt my boy will play but I'll be sure to update his first HS "VARSITY" game.

                Sparks

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                • Sparks:

                  Thanks for the update, and congrats to young Master L for his advancement. Sounds like he's earned it. Don't get too focused on the great arms that other kids have - it all doesn't mean squat if you don't throw the ball accurately and to the right base.

                  If our experience is any guide, here's what your boy will likely notice about the step up.

                  1. HS players are suprisingly prone to making infielding and throwing errors. Just try not to be one of them.

                  2. Focus is much more important on defense. They've played a few more years and should know instinctively where they should be on any given play, so your boy should study up, as there are few set places for the SS to be on hits to the outfield.

                  3. He may have to play some outfield, and balls hit at that level go farther and slice or hook far more than he's used to -- so get lots of practice.

                  4. Even though HS players are teenagers, the game is much more about the team and less about "me" than it was before. Sniping at teammates is toxic and picking up teammates who screw up is the norm, as well as the rule. If you do something less than perfectly and a bad result ensues, take responsibility, even if a teammate could have bailed you out with a better effort.

                  5. Find ways to help the team -- catching in the bullpen, warming up outfielders between innings, picking up the bases after the game -- no one is too good to do that.

                  6. Tell him to trust his skills. Even if he starts out 0 for 10, he's got enough 'game' to belong there, and owes no apology to anyone. Sure, the pitching is better, but that just means (a) load earlier to be able to catch up to the fast ball, and (b) learn to recognize off speed pitches (they aren't thrown that often and rarely with great accuracy) -- but don't compromise on basic swings mechanics to try to get to the ball earlier - that's a fool's solution.

                  7. Be ready when the opportunity to play presents itself. Part of that means to not screw around when warming up -- even pre-game throwing should have a purpose, such as getting the footwork and release points down.

                  8. Neither boast nor make excuses. Sure, talk with teammates after plays and figure out what was done right or wrong, and try to come up with a solution to do that play better next time. But otherwise, let your gameplay speak for itself. Ballplayers are pretty shrewd at judging other ballplayers, and if you haven't got game, all the BS'ing in the world isn't going to convince them otherwise.

                  9. When pitching, don't be intimidated by the size and apparent skill level of hitters. Even at this level, if you can keep the ball at the knees and mix up your pitches a little (and not walk batters), you'll do okay. Few HS hitters can hit a ball that is at the knees on the outer half of the plate over the fence, so -- even if he gives up a few singles -- with some decent defense the opponent will have to link together three hits to score, which doesn't occur that often.
                  Last edited by Ursa Major; 06-25-2010, 12:35 AM.
                  sigpicIt's not whether you fall -- everyone does -- but how you come out of the fall that counts.

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                  • Ursa,

                    Always great to hear from you and I've read and "absorbed" your advice. Believe me I will remember everything you said and take it to heart. I doubt my boy will play much but it's going to be a blast when and if he gets in a game. I honestly think he'll do "ok" pitching....after all pitching is his best thing. I just wonder how he's going to do when and if he bats.....I simply can't wait! I know he'll probably strike out but I'm anxious to see how he stands in the box...it will be a blast to watch.

                    Thanks again,
                    Sparks

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                    • Summer ball update

                      8th grade summer ball is nearing an end. We are playing in a summer ending tournament to see who the best team in our area is. All of the schools who played summer ball have entered and the winner gets a trophy for the school.

                      Last night was the final game to set up the championship game. So far in the tournament my boy has pitched both games. In the first game he pitched 2 innings didn't give up a hit and we were winning 8 to nothing when the coach took him out. Of course soon after our next pitcher walked 5 straight batters and we won the game 9 to 8....close call.

                      Last night was the final game to set up who plays for the championship. My boy got the call again and he pitched the first two innings. He didn't give up a hit and struck out 4 batters. One runner reached on an infield error. The coach took him out after 2 innings because we were winning 10 to 0. They called the game after 3 innings at 14 to 0.

                      We play for the championship on Saturday and it will be the final game of the summer.

                      Thankfully my boy is going to be able to play on the Varsity now so baseball will not be over for him. I'm told the Varsity is only allowed to play like 7 games. I don't know if that is 7 games or 7 play days...we'll find out next week. He is excited about being able to play varsity but already he's told me he knows he isn't going to play much and he wants to play somewhere this summer. I can't find a travel team around here so I don't know what we're going to do. He loves baseball so much and I hate for him to not have a sport for the rest of the summer. You guys know how it will be.....he'll play the Xbox for hours on end. I hope we can find some team that needs a solid player.

                      I'm just learning about American Legion ball. I know little if anything about it. I do know the AL team in our city had tryouts weeks ago and they've already played a bunch of games. It's my understanding that their team is full to capacity. I wish I had known about AL ball because from what I gather the "better" players play in that league. That would have been good for my boy to face better pitching and better hitters.

                      I'll update Saturday on the final of the championship.

                      Sparks

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                      • Look for a JR Legion team. That sounds much more like where your boy should be anyway. Legion teams are typically made up of the best Jrs and Srs, with only very best underclassmen. Jr Legion is geared more to get the new comers up to speed.
                        The pitcher who’s afraid to throw strikes, will soon be standing in the shower with the hitter who's afraid to swing.

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                        • Originally posted by scorekeeper View Post
                          Look for a JR Legion team. That sounds much more like where your boy should be anyway. Legion teams are typically made up of the best Jrs and Srs, with only very best underclassmen. Jr Legion is geared more to get the new comers up to speed.
                          I found the Jr. Legion team in our area but I was too late. They had tryouts weeks ago and I think they've already played like 30 games. I didn't know anything about Legion ball and no one told us of tryouts or anything so my boy missed out on it.

                          Thanks for the tip though.....

                          Sparks

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                          • Originally posted by Sparksdale View Post
                            * * * * I doubt my boy will play much but it's going to be a blast when and if he gets in a game. I honestly think he'll do "ok" pitching....after all pitching is his best thing. I just wonder how he's going to do when and if he bats.....I simply can't wait! I know he'll probably strike out but I'm anxious to see how he stands in the box...it will be a blast to watch.
                            Sparks, I think both you and he should not go into the varsity games worrying about how much playing time he'll get. First, it's presumably just a development program, so the coach almost certainly will give him a little playing time. And, since it's pretty intense an experience, an inning or two in a game may well be enough to satiate him for the day. Second, he'll be with pretty astute kids, so he should just enjoy the experience in the dugout. (Just watch out for the language and the stories about girls.) And he can profitably spend his time standing on the dugout steps watching what the players on both teams are doing and the pitch selection strategizing going on. There's plenty of 'fun' stuff going on during games at that level even if he's not playing, as long as he's not sitting in the corner of the dugout moping.

                            I'm guessing he'll do okay against the pitchers. Given his size, he's likely to see 90% fastballs - especially early in the count. So he should just remember to load and stride on every pitch so he can get there in time. And watch out for any tendency for 'happy feet'. There's nothing like a kid throwing major gas to cause a breakdown in hitting mechanics -- especially stepping in the bucket. If a kid's a little nervous, I suggest just making sure that you get a good swing on the first hittable strike... the worst that can happen is that you'll hit into an out. And, once you get that swing behind you -- even if you miss -- you'll feel more comfortable.

                            As for your summer, it's tough to take July and August off, but it might not be a horrible thing given the amount of pitching he's been doing. This may be a good time to go out and work on defense. If he's still catching, get Catching Coach's DVD and work on footwork and pitch blocking. Take a zillion grounders and work on footwork. Get some time in the cage against the fastest machines you can find and work on getting slop slop out of his swing and hitting heretofore 'unhittable' pitches (like low outsidish strikes) to the opposite field.

                            And, most importantly, let him get on his bike and go explore the world (well, as much of it as can be found in your town) with his friends. There aren't many worry-free summers left to him.
                            sigpicIt's not whether you fall -- everyone does -- but how you come out of the fall that counts.

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                            • Don't worry about playing time with the summer varsity team. Your son may be there mostly to absorb the experience and observe what the next level is like. My son's high school team called up five JV players for the district tournament. They had no chance in hell of playing. They were there to see the intensity level and build the desire to play at that level. I call it seeing, "This is where you want to be."

                              As far as other summer alternatives, check into them to see what they're about. A good program in one area is a bad program in another area. Legion ball is a joke in our area. All the good players play travel.

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                              • Last week, the HSV coach says "you guys cant hit", then 3 9th graders showed up at the next summer game. So, just enjoy the games.
                                efastball.com - hitting and pitching fact checker

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