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Sparks Journey from Little League to College

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  • SK, I agree with your assessment, at least as it relates to anything below high school varsity, and probably HSV as well. Ursa Minor's HS JV team has 16 or 17 players, and the coaches have been playing their original regulars a ton, even though because of the rain (and you know how much we've had) there really hasn't been an opportunity to see what kids can do on a real field. So, we've got a lot of good players sitting. With that in mind -- while UM would love to hit and is doing pretty well so far -- he'd rather not do it while pitching and certainly not at the expense of his teammates who rarely get an at-bat. In the situation I mentioned, the problem wasn't so much that he had to bat in the middle of a high-stress relief appearance, but that no one told him he was going to be batting until the umpire called 'play ball'.

    So, it's not necessarily a matter of 'throwing a kid a bone', but rather, why add stress to your pitcher if he's not an overwhelmingly better hitter than the best of the 7 or 8 guys you have sitting on the bench? And, certainly, your job as JV coach is to try to develop all your players into potential varsity players, which they can't do sitting on the bench. And, of course, team camaraderie can only be maximized if everyone is participating with some regularity.
    sigpicIt's not whether you fall -- everyone does -- but how you come out of the fall that counts.

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    • Originally posted by Sparksdale View Post
      Tough tough tough:
      They called my boy up to play with the JV again last Saturday.....tough tough tough game.
      He made 4 errors at SS (3 in one inning) and went 0 - 6 batting. He didn't pitch.
      It was just one of those days that you just want to forget.
      I think everyone's had one of those days. A couple years ago, UM was thrown in to play second base (where he hadn't played for years) and everyone started hitting rockets at him. He snared two, but the other three ricocheted off him. The pitcher was a buddy of his and to that point had a reputation of being something of a whiner, but I will forever remember that he didn't even give so much as a discouraged glance at UM's way after each error.
      The odd thing about it is......He probably hit the ball better than he's ever hit it in his life. He was knocking the crazy out of it but in the end they were all fly balls to the OF.
      This is why it's important to keep things on an even keel and avoid getting caught up in results. As long as his mechanics were good and he was making solid contact, he was pretty much doing his job and should be praised for that. You might also look at this article about the "process versus results" focus to get a better-expressed idea of what's important in hitter training.

      I felt like some kind of fortune-teller last week in an analogous circumstance. We had a successful game where our starters were hitting dribblers that were finding there way between infielders for hits. Then, one of our backup outfielders (who I knew well because I'd coached him for two years awhile back) game up and hit a shot, but it bounced right up for an easy waist high grab to the third baseman, who through him out. I was giving him and others a ride to practice a few days later and mentioned the unfairness of it, but assured him that things would even out and the balls would start falling in. The next day, sure enough, he had two big hits, including the game winning 2-RBI single to left center. I resisted the urge to say "I told you so" to him .... but, oh heck, I did say it to his dad.
      sigpicIt's not whether you fall -- everyone does -- but how you come out of the fall that counts.

      Comment


      • Originally posted by Ursa Major View Post
        …With that in mind -- while UM would love to hit and is doing pretty well so far -- he'd rather not do it while pitching and certainly not at the expense of his teammates who rarely get an at-bat. …
        I don’t think many people understand that MOST players feel like that. These kids for the most part like each other, and want everyone to have a chance to succeed. Of course there are always exceptions, but for the most part, a HS team is certainly a “Band of Brothers”.

        So, it's not necessarily a matter of 'throwing a kid a bone', but rather, why add stress to your pitcher if he's not an overwhelmingly better hitter than the best of the 7 or 8 guys you have sitting on the bench? And, certainly, your job as JV coach is to try to develop all your players into potential varsity players, which they can't do sitting on the bench. And, of course, team camaraderie can only be maximized if everyone is participating with some regularity.
        I agree. Its really a difficult concept for people to understand while they or their children are in the middle of it, but the Fr and JV teams are really nothing more than developmental teams for the V. That concept is a normal one in baseball.

        Using LLI as an illustration for all 12U ball, they have 2 levels below Majors, but if a 9YO is capable, he can skip the lower levels. That same thing is available in HS with the FR, JV, and V. Any player the coaches feel can compete at the higher level can be moved up, but other than that it’s a developmental process. MLB prolly has the ultimate developmental setup though, with rookie ball, winter ball leagues they associate with, and 3 levels of MiL ball, all meant to develop players for the show.

        People actually participating in any of the lower levels don’t often have the same “BIG PICTURE” perspective as those administering the upper level, and tend to take what goes on at the lower levels the same way those at the upper levels do. FI, in the grand scheme of HS baseball, whether the Fr or JV teams win or lose, it really has little affect on whether the V makes the playoffs and is often mistaken for being unimportant.

        But no one wants to have what they do be marginalized, and in fact as far as the overall programs goes, while the W’s and L’s for the lower levels don’t really matter a lot, if those teams don’t develop players, the top team on the ladder will suffer for it.
        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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        • Been a while

          Been a while since I've posted.

          As I said in my last post our Freshman team went to play against top teams in our state.
          It was ugly.... we pretty much found out that... well, our team isn't near as good as we thought.

          My boy pitched the first game it and was the only game we were in. He gave up 5 runs in 6 innings but only 2 were earned. The rest of the games were't close at all.....

          We were pretty much dominated in every area of the game..... most of all defense. Our boys simply can't play defense and the other teams never seem to make a mistake.

          Now the really bad news..... to top it off....after the game our team was told that 2 of our players would move to the Varsity team. My boy isn't one of them and it's just killed him.....he feels like he's been shot and well... "crapped" on (for lack of a better word). As I've said many times on this thread our 9th grade team has 3 very good players (my boy being one of them). The other two moved to Varsity and he's stuck on the freshman team that has just been cut down to where we will have a hard time winning with our present team.

          It's taken the spirit out of my boy and I simply don't know what to tell him.

          My boy has pitched two complete game 1 hitters (shutouts) and they call this other kid up to pitch. He's a good pitcher but isn't having near the year my boy is.

          Anyway, I think it's because of my boy's size. At 5' 7" I guess the coach doesn't want to pull him up.

          My boy didn't care that much about moving up this year anyway. He wanted our team to stay together and win like we've done for the past 3 years. Since this has happened we've lost 4 games in a roll and the chemistry on the team is shot.

          It's a mess. I mean I keep telling my boy to work hard and stuff but I just don't know what to tell him anymore. The sad part of it is he's lost a little of the love of the game he's always had.



          Sparks

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          • Sparks,

            Seriously, you need to relax. I've seen freshman promoted to varsity at several high schools around the area and only very rarely do they have any significant impact. They're rarely big enough and strong enough to compete with high school seniors who by that time are nearly men. Having a freshman come up to varsity and struggle is not good for the child, so don't fret over it. You're in this for the long haul, and it's a long time between now and when your son is a senior.

            Also, this is high school now and your son has to grow up. Not getting to varsity shouldn't "take the spirit out of my boy". One of the great things about sports and baseball in particular is it teaches one how to deal with adversity. Personally I don't view not getting promoted to varsity as a freshman as adversity, but everyone has their own views. But hopefully you're teaching your son to perservere through adversity, to work harder to improve, not to lose spirit and give up. I suspect he's disappointed, but again, grow up and deal with it. Work harder than before, that's the American way if he truly wants to succeed at the game. He's making that painful transition between being a boy and being a man, and this is part of life. When he goes to work, somewhere along the line someone will be promoted over him. How will he deal with it? By "losing spirit" or by working harder. The lessons he learns here will serve him the rest of his life.

            Your current saga with the constant emotional ups and downs is why I believe it's important to not worry about immediate results, but to have a long term plan about where you and your son are trying to go. Objectively evaluate your son about what he does well and what he needs improvement on, and tailor a plan to get him there. My son could always hit but his fielding compared to others in his age group was below average. With a ton of hard work, his fielding is now a definite asset, above average for his age group. With these type of long term goals in mind, it will help you relax in the short term and keep your son on an even keel as well. Remember, he's trying to please you so if he senses you're upset with him, it will most definitely impact him and that's not good in my opinion.

            Good luck and relax. It's a long roller coaster ride.

            -JJA
            The outcome of our children is infinitely more important than the outcome of any game they will ever play

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            • Frosh/Soph ball isn't about winning. It's about player development. Winning should be reserved for varsity. Relax.

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              • Sparks - After the "seriously you have to relax" post above, I thought I had to post. I have read all of the thread in the last few months. I feel exactly like you did when you started posting. My son turns 9 in 3 days, and will be playing on a 10U traveling team this summer. He has played all the rec levels until now, and has been one of the better kids on the team (not best, but better). He got picked to play in a fall ball kid pitch league last year, and again did well. He fell in love with pitching and loved SS. (Insert Bragging here....) He went from playing in a coach pitch league, to being a very effective pitcher and making one of the best plays I have seen a young boy make at shortstop in a kid pitch league (stop bragging here). Now he is taking the next step, and thrilled about it. It sounds like he has as much passion for the game as your son, and as Dad's we are programmed to care 100x as much as our kids. Part of life is having the kids deal with the roller coaster that is life. Part of parenting is letting them experience it, but being there to not let them get too high or too low. And I will be the first to admit, that is a HARD JOB!!!!

                I find myself laying in bed just wondering: how he will do, will he get good opportunities, will he get nervous and not be aggressive.... and many many more. Do I need to relax, ya probably... But for me it's nice to know I am not the only crazy dad and their are other's like me out there.

                Also, just because I (or others) are that into our kids please do not automatically assume we are "those" dads. I have experienced "those" dads that email the coaches and complain about playing time or generally over involved in a kids game. I do everything in my power to just let the kid's play and the coaches coach. But that doesn't stop me from taking an active interest in my kid and his interests.

                Thanks again sparks for keeping this active, I enjoy stopping by and reading this!

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                • Sparks, it's good to vent. Now, enjoy and relax.
                  efastball.com - hitting and pitching fact checker

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                  • Sparks,

                    Are you sure those boys were promoted to the V? I won’t say its not possible, but I will say its pretty strange for 2 Fr players to be promoted straight to the V, over all of the JV players. What I think is much more common, is for a couple JV players to move up, making room on the JV for the promotion of a couple of Fr players.

                    But, its really immaterial. The coaches have total control of the situation, and will do what they feel is what they need to do. Taking a guess though, knowing your boy is small for what is considered a good template for pitchers, probably did figure into the equation.

                    I hate saying this, but the truth is, there is much more value put on how a player “projects”, and how closely he fits the physical “template”, than how successful he’s been, no matter how that success is measured, unless he’s considered very dominant. That kind of dominance would be something like 2K’s per inning average or in the case of a Fr, a cruising reading of 85-90 on the gun.

                    Hopefully, with the coming of BBCOR bats in all of HS next season, there will be a movement more toward “success” than “profile”, but its really difficult to change a mindset engrained over decades, that begins at the lowest level of the game.

                    This may ring hollow, but have him take some solace in the fact that now he’ll be so much better than all of the other pitchers on the Fr team, all it can do is make him look that much better, so the last thing he should allow to happen, is to let down and allow his performance to slip.
                    The pitcher who’s afraid to throw strikes, will soon be standing in the shower with the hitter who's afraid to swing.

                    Comment


                    • Ok.....all of you are right.... I need to relax and chill (which by the way is what my wife says....lol).

                      And yes, the boys did go straight to Varsity and none of us can figure out why. They are good players (esp. as freshmen) but there are several players on the JV that are as good or better. So none of us can figure out why this has happened.

                      I think the thing that gets my boy the most is this..... our freshmen team doesn't play many games. I don't know why that is but they have a very limited schedule. The JV and Varsity both play about twice the amount of games (maybe a few more). My boy sat at home all weekend because our Freshmen don't have a game for 9 freaking days. He wants to play... simple as that. He really doesn't care where he just wants to play.

                      It is great to come over here and vent... believe me.... it helps more than you can know. I used to vent these kind of things to my dad but he's gone now so this thread is kinda like therapy to me.

                      Sparks

                      Comment


                      • Originally posted by Sparksdale View Post
                        .. And yes, the boys did go straight to Varsity and none of us can figure out why. They are good players (esp. as freshmen) but there are several players on the JV that are as good or better. So none of us can figure out why this has happened.
                        Please don’t take this the wrong way, but evidently the coaches and those of you who can’t figure out why, are not seeing the same things. Now here’s the trouble with it. Its really poor form to ask. One would think it would be an easy question to answer, but unless you enjoy some kind of personal relationship with one of the coaches where he’s tell you in confidence why it happened, it would likely been seen as talking about players other than your son by the coaches, and they just won’t do that. Let me rephrase that. I’ve never heard of one that will.

                        There’s lots of possibilities, the most likely one to me being, since its early in the year and the games aren’t generally very meaningful, the coaches might just want to give those kids a chance to experience the V, but will send them down after a period of time. Its really a shame to say it, but my guess is ya’ll are just gonna have to trust that the coaches are doing what’s best for the team and let it go.

                        I think the thing that gets my boy the most is this..... our freshmen team doesn't play many games. I don't know why that is but they have a very limited schedule. The JV and Varsity both play about twice the amount of games (maybe a few more). My boy sat at home all weekend because our Freshmen don't have a game for 9 freaking days. He wants to play... simple as that. He really doesn't care where he just wants to play.
                        That’s not necessarily unusual, especially in the current economic climate. Heck, this season our school district cut Fr sports for all 11 HS’s, so how bad things are is really relative. We had to cut 26 Fr & So players, and still have 23 on the JV team.

                        Unless you live where playing on another team at the same time is allowed, the only answer I know of, is to start making those summer “contacts” now.

                        It is great to come over here and vent... believe me.... it helps more than you can know. I used to vent these kind of things to my dad but he's gone now so this thread is kinda like therapy to me.
                        Its not really venting, but rather just someone who cares about someone else, trying to find out what things are happening that cause them pain. Don’t worry about it.
                        The pitcher who’s afraid to throw strikes, will soon be standing in the shower with the hitter who's afraid to swing.

                        Comment


                        • Originally posted by scorekeeper View Post
                          Its not really venting, but rather just someone who cares about someone else, trying to find out what things are happening that cause them pain. Don’t worry about it.
                          Score good post....
                          "He who dares to teach, must never cease to learn."
                          - John Cotton Dana (1856–1929) - Offered to many by L. Olson - Iowa (Teacher)
                          Please read Baseball Fever Policy and Forum FAQ before posting.

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                          • It's a mess. I mean I keep telling my boy to work hard and stuff but I just don't know what to tell him anymore. The sad part of it is he's lost a little of the love of the game he's always had.
                            Sparks, I don't want you to think we're having a chuckle at your expense, but you've said this about 4 or 5 times over the years, and his love of the game has always managed to come back. And we've all always said, "Take the long view." And it's worked out. Sure, the frosh team probably sucks now, but this gives you an opportunity to teach your boy an important lesson -- worry about the things you can control and let those which you can't roll off your back. Also, challenge him to be a leader -- and since he may well be the best of the remaining players -- he's probably in a position to do so and to keep up the spirits of his frosh teammates who will face some tough times and bad losses. When the varsity coaches ask about your boy at the end of the season, you want the frosh coaches to convey that about him. And, even if they don't, that's what you will want him to do and to be.

                            Remind him of poor Barry Zito -- a former Cy Young Award winner who carried the Giants last year in the early part of the season, but fell off later on and was supplanted on the post-season roster by a rookie. Yet, he came out for every post-season series and worked with the team, prepped them for lefties they'd faced, and never complained. And, he's a hero out here in the Bay Area for those who recognize his maturity and contribution. As far as I'm concerned, he'll never have to buy his own beer in any bar I'm ever in. .... Wait a minute, he's getting $20 million a year whether he pitches or not.... Screw it... he can buy me a beer. But you get my point.
                            sigpicIt's not whether you fall -- everyone does -- but how you come out of the fall that counts.

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                            • As a V pitching coach years ago, we would often pull up freshman to take spots on the V over better JV players because we knew the spots they were filling wouldn't get them many innings. Simply put, they were good enough to fill the role and we had guys in JV who we projected to play big roles the next season. We didn't want them sitting the bench when they could be pitching and learning. Position players are a different story since they could just play both JV and V. He should feel fortunate that he isn't being called up to sit in the bullpen.

                              Comment


                              • Triple Play!

                                Tonight our little Freshmen team turned a 5-3-6 Triple play! First time I've even ever seen one. Amazing amazing amazing.

                                Got a bit of bad news....last time my boy pitched he told me his arm was hurting. Long story short his pitching coach tells him that he may have strained his "Deltoid" muscle. I don't know when he did it.....He might be done pitching for this year. We keep putting ice on it but it still seems to be sore.

                                If any of you have any ideas about how to speed up the healing on a Deltoid muscle I'm all ears.

                                Sparks

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