Diamond Notes: Recruiting 201

Diamond Notes: College Recruiting 201 By: Parents Who Have Been There-December 24, 2007   The following are some tips and observations based on our experiences with the college recruiting process. There are obviously many other things that parents and players must be concerned with, such as the NCAA Clearinghouse. Our intent is not to cover everything you need to know, but rather to share a few of the things we have learned along the way. Some of the things discussed below deal with the new NCAA rules applicable to Division I recruiting. However, much of it is applicable to college recruiting in general, regardless of division.   1. Marketing Your Son  The term “marketing” brings up images of the over-involved parent trying to live through his/her son. But if your child wants to play college ball that is exactly what you must do. College coaches seldom go to high school games anymore unless they have heard about a specific player.  The question is how to get your son noticed by college recruiters? One way is showcases. Diamond Prospects offers a number of showcases that provide exposure to college scouts. The DP Summer Showcase may have 30-40 scouts in attendance. The South Carolina Baseball Coaches Association also has a Junior Showcase each summer. The price is very reasonable and there are usually 15-20 scouts in attendance. It is a great value for the money. The only problem with the SCBCA showcase is it is only open to rising seniors, which brings us to rule 1A below.  Top-level travel teams also offer good exposure. Second tier teams are often a waste of money. What separates the two is the tournaments in which they play and the number of scouts in attendance. There are many considerations in selecting a travel team, such as fun, competition, teammates, coaching philosophy, etc. But, if your primary goal is exposure to college scouts, and your son’s team is not getting him in front of lots of them on a regular basis, it may be time to find another team.  American Legion baseball has a great tradition in South Carolina. It can be a great experience for kids. But in most cases it does not afford the same exposure to college scouts as a top tier travel team. If your son chooses to play Legion ball, showcases become even more important. College camps can also help with exposure. Your son should probably start attending two or three camps a year starting in the ninth grade. Camps at larger schools generally have instructors from that school and several other smaller schools, thereby exposing your son to several schools at the same time. Smaller camps generally have coaches from the sponsoring school only. How much exposure camps provide depends on the number of kids and coaches in attendance. Sending your son to multiple camps may also help interest him in a wide variety of schools.   1A. Start Early. If your son wants to play college baseball you must start marketing him early. The spring of his senior year is too late. The NCAA has two periods during which National Letters of Intent may be signed, an “early” signing period in November, and the traditional signing period in the spring. Most larger Division I schools have finalized 95 percent of their recruiting classes well before the early signing period in November, before the player ever plays his senior season. In many cases they have finalized their classes in the spring/summer of the player’s junior year. There are always exceptions, such as the senior that comes out of nowhere throwing 90 mph, but in most cases your son needs to catch somebody’s eye in his freshman, sophomore or junior year if he hopes to play at a large DI school.   1B. Do it YOURSELF. You should not rely on your son’s coaches (high school, travel, Legion, or otherwise) to market your son. That is not their job. Some will be helpful. Some will not. You must educate yourself and take the lead in the process.    2. College Baseball is a Business.  We cannot stress this enough. College coaches make business decisions. You should not let their personalities make you forget this. Nor should you take their decisions personally. Every decision they make is dictated by the dollars they have to invest, and the return they hope to get on their investments. They want the best players they can get for the least money. One effect that the new roster limit has had on the business is to make the two-way player, the kid that can pitch and play a position, a more valuable commodity.    3. Grades & SAT’s. Believe it or not, one of the first things that college coaches will ask about is your son’s grades and SAT scores. We have yet to be asked about batting averages and ERA’s. Good grades and high SAT scores may help your son get his shot at the college of his choice. Coaches love kids with good grades and high SAT scores for a variety of reasons. One of the main reasons is money. (Remember, college baseball is a business). If they know your son is likely to get a lot of academic money, they may be able to get him for little or no athletic money. With only 11.7 (or fewer) scholarships to divide among 35 players, Division I coaches are always looking to stretch their limited funds as far as possible. Unfortunately, good grades and high SAT scores may actually decrease (or eliminate) the amount of athletic money your son is offered. If a recruiting coordinator has two similar kids, one of whom is likely to get substantial academic money, which one will be asked to be a "Non-Scholarship Recruit/Invited Walk-on?” (See No. 6 below).   4. Verbal Commitments. Coaches make verbal offers before (in some cases WELL before) a National Letter of Intent is signed. The school usually, but not always, publicizes the commitment. Publication of the …

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Al’s View: World Series and Memories of a Better Time?

The World Series and Memories of a Better Time? By: Al Hudson-December 19, 2007   Being a baseball man, the World Series is a special time for me and millions of other sports fans across the nation. For most little boys, the first competitive sports action for us was Little League baseball. Going to the field with our Dads for the first time was one of our most precious memories. The 1950’s, when I played Little League ball, was a time of family. Dad’s first obligation after work was to play catch in the backyard. Most fathers had played the game with their Dads and there was an obligation to pass the game on to the next generation. Mom understood the importance of baseball. Everything from meals to vacation was planned around their son’s baseball games and practices. Parents did not miss a game or a practice, because this was their responsibility as a parent. Sadly, times have changed. Most parents are split as to their obligations. Some families still embrace the opportunity to be a positive influence in their son’s, and now daughter’s, life in athletics. If you go to any ball field, you will find Moms and Dads coaching, working the concession stand and helping with field maintenance. However, the vast majority of us don’t understand the importance of this mission. Too many kids are dropped off at the field for practice and games, only to have the parents return two hours later to pick up their children. Little do they understand the absolute joy of seeing their children with a chance to compete in a positive learning experience. Can you imagine the time a player gets their first hit, and there is no one from the family there to share it with. While on the subject, how about sponsors for sports programs within the community? I noticed several sponsors for the World Series that are prominent in our area. How about getting involved locally? I am not going to mention names of companies, but all local businesses should be involved in youth activities. Baseball, football, volleyball, soccer, basketball or any other sport that involves young people should be supported. We have all heard the phrase “The children are our future”. Step up and be counted. Parents, grandparents, businesses and former players are all needed to help mold the future of our children. I must admit the joy of seeing Carl Yastrzemski and his teammates from 1967 brought back happy memories of a time before Woodstock, disco, free love and the disintegration of the American family. The loss of Dad to the family has caused most of the situations that are prevalent in our society today. In too many cases, Dad isn’t home after work to play catch in the yard. In addition, I reflect to the passing of Jim Mitchell. As a young black man, growing up in Shelbyville, TN, Mitchell was subjected to a segregated education and athletic experience. Do we want to return to those times? Mitchell, an exceptional athlete, survived and went on to become an NFL star with the Atlanta Falcons. But how many young black athletes missed their opportunity because of their “situation”. Happier times, yes. Less troubled times, yes. But we live in a much better environment now. Education levels are far advanced from the 1950’s. Equal opportunity has provided a more well-rounded society capable of greater achievement. Negro Leagues Baseball: Along that vein, how do you feel about Buck O’Neil and the baseball Hall of Fame? O’Neil was an outstanding contributor to the game of baseball. A player in the Negro Leagues before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. O’Neil, too old to capitalize on the opportunity, was an ambassador to baseball until his passing at age 95. The first black coach in Major League baseball, he taught the game to both black and white without prejudice. He continued to speak to numerous groups about the benefits of youth participation in baseball until his death. The Hall of Fame recently awarded a Lifetime Achievement award posthumously to O’Neil, will erect a statue inside the museum and rename the award the Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award. Congratulations to the Hall of Fame. But why now? Before his passing, he failed by two votes of being inducted. Shame on you for not recognizing him before he died. However, in true O’Neil style, he was quoted as saying “ As much as I would have loved to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, the players that I may have helped along the way are the greatest award a man can have”. Question: What was the price of a box seat for Game 7 of the World Series if played in Boston? Would you believe that you could have purchased those tickets on a popular “non scalping” web site for only $20,589.00 per ticket. No, that is not a misprint, $20,589.00 per ticket. Most youth sports programs could run their entire operation on $20,000.00 and let the kids play for free. I hope this column makes you think. Send questions and comments to: [email protected] .

Diamond Notes: Pro Stadiums

Progress or Nostalgia? By: Al Hudson-December 14, 2007   Two completely separate ideals, yet our future generations will be led in one direction or the other. I have been fortunate enough to have lived in some of the most historic cities in the United States of America. Boston, Massachusetts, Charleston, South Carolina and Nashville, Tennessee have all been rich in history, and for different reasons. The Boston area is teeming with people, places and things that will take you back to Colonial times. This area was first settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts, a mere 40 miles from Boston and its harbor. Charleston, on the other hand, is the home of Fort Sumter. This was site of the first attack on the South in the Civil War. The architecture in both cities is still period based to this day. The city administrators understand the importance of history and nostalgia. Is there progress? Certainly, but it is not at the cost of our historic values. Nashville’s history is a combination of many cultures. The heart of country music is here. We also have our ties to the Civil War, but even before that Tennesseans played an important part in the development of this country. What this brings me to is the modernization of ballparks throughout this great country. Yankee Stadium is going to be replaced with a new park in 2009. Is this going to be the House that A-Rod built? For those that remember, the original stadium was built in 1923. It was called the House that Ruth built. Now that most of the Babe’s records have been surpassed, has his place in history been diminished as well? Personally, I do not place very much importance to individual achievement. The steroid era has tainted my feeling toward all records. Ruth, however, was a trendsetter. For all his warts and misgivings, he was the first in numerous areas of accomplishment. The monuments will be moved, and the memories will remain, but history will have been altered to accommodate progress. Fenway Park in Boston is the Cathedral of baseball in my mind. Built in 1912, it is the oldest park in the Major Leagues. People can take their children and grand children to Fenway to see the “Green Monster”, the “Pesky Pole”, or show them exactly where Carlton Fisk hit the greatest home run in Red Sox history. Here’s hoping the Sox never remove Fenway Park from the landscape of Boston. Never deprive future generations of kids from seeing where the greatest hitter of all time, Ted Williams, was a hero to so many. New Yorkers, will never again, be able to show their offspring where Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, and so many more of their heroes won their hearts during their youth. Currently, Nashville politicians are facing a decision of sorts with our Triple A farm team, the Nashville Sounds. Should they build a new stadium, or let them move to another city or town, and deprive us of minor league baseball? I, for one, am very curious to see the final decision. I think the wrong decision was made on September 7, 1963. Nashville was home to “Baseball’s Most Historic Field”, Sulpher Dell. The last professional baseball game was played on that date. The debt to save the franchise and the park was $22,000. Many major league teams played at Sulpher Dell on their way back from spring training. Future Hall of Famers like the aforementioned Ruth, Gehrig, and Mantle, along with Warren Spahn, Duke Snider, Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, the immortal Jackie Robinson, and many others graced the field at Sulpher Dell. The Houston Astros stadium has a hill for outfielders to climb in center field. At Sulpher Dell, every field had a hill for each outfielder to climb. The field just had character. Union soldiers taught the game of baseball to the locals, and the field was actually built in 1870. Noted writer Grantland Rice named the field “Sulpher Dell” in the 1920’s. The home to the Nashville Vols and the Negro League Elite Giants was dismantled in 1969. Although memories of Three Blind Mice being played as the umpires took the field probably still resounds today. We spend hundreds of millions to create stadiums for our professional teams to call home. I wonder how much it would cost to recreate Sulpher Dell. I know it would not be the same. But what cost is history and nostalgia for future generations? In this selfish world of excess, we all want a better life for ourselves and our children. Bigger houses, nicer cars and all the necessities that we didn’t have growing up. But is it time to reflect, as we give thanks, for what we are made of, and where we came from, and be able to show these things to future generations. Questions and comments should be sent to: [email protected]     .

Al’s View: Baseball Scholarships

Al’s View-Baseball Scholarships By: Al Hudson-December 4, 2007   I would like to comment on college athletic scholarships and baseball in particular. Ron Polk, Head Baseball Coach at Mississippi State University, and one of the most revered coaches at the college level, has been adamant in his attempt to rectify a problem he sees in college baseball. “A college baseball player ought to get a full scholarship. It’s a ridiculous situation, and it punishes a lot of good kids, especially those without solid financial means.” Colleges can offer up to 85 scholarships in football, but 11.7 is the maximum for baseball. College teams now have 35 man rosters. Scholarships are split to accommodate a large number of players. Some players get only enough money to pay for books. For those with parents able to bear the cost, it may not be a problem. But some talented kids simply cannot afford to attend college and play baseball. . Polk continues, “Recruiting ought to be about identifying top talent and selling them on your school and program. Instead, we have to negotiate with the kids and their parents like a used car salesman to get their expectations low enough to sign them cheaply.” Some changes have been made to the system as Division I schools now cannot give less than a 25 percent scholarship to a player. Now some kids won’t even get the book money, and 25 percent probably will still leave some kids out for financial reasons. . Baseball is a character building sport, but what are we teaching these kids about character. The almighty dollar rules the sport and will until college presidents realize what they are doing to the sport. Thumbs Up: On a more positive note, the Colorado Rockies have voted the widow of Mike Coolbaugh, a full World Series share. Most will remember that Mike, a minor league coach in the Rockies system was killed by a line drive while coaching first base in a game. Mandy Coolbaugh will receive the share worth over $230,000 to help raise their family. A classy and commendable move from the Rockies. Please send your quotes and comments to: [email protected] .

Diamond Notes: Al’s View

Al’s View He’s back! Well, not really. Al Hudson, former Head Coach and founder of the Diamond Travelers is going to be a contributing writer to TheDiamondProspects.com website. Hudson, now living in Nashville, Tennessee, was involved in South Carolina prep baseball in several capacities from 1989 to 2003. A bird dog scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers, writer and baseball editor for the High School Sports Report, and contributor for Jim Baxter’s SC Prep website, Al visited many high school campuses during his time in South Carolina. “I truly enjoyed my experiences in South Carolina. My ranking list was published statewide by several outlets. I know my opinion, at times, was controversial. But I look back with a clear conscience about my work. I tried to make all my decisions based on current ability and college potential skills.” Hudson is currently employed as assistant coach/recruiting coordinator at Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, Tennessee. “I still have family in Charleston, but I don’t get there as much as I like. I miss South Carolina and the coast in particular. I have many friends in the state, and would love to see them all.” “When my good friend, Austin Alexander, asked me to contribute to the site, I was honored to accept. Hopefully, I can remain in touch with the baseball family in the state.” Diamond Prospects will continue to provide Hudson’s take on a variety of baseball issues, stay tuned over the coming months! About the author: Hudson writes for a Nashville-based paper as a sideline. His column is sports based, and covers the full gamut of athletics. His contribution here will be totally baseball. If you have questions or comments for Al, you can reach him at: [email protected] .

Diamond Notes: Winter Baseball Camps

The value of college camps By: Charlie Wentzky – November 21, 2007 Most travel baseball teams have closed the book on the fall, football players are looking back on the season that was and spring hardball is right around the corner. So what does the baseball junky do to bridge the gap that we call winter?   Obviously money may come into play at some point but if family funding exists, players may want to take a stab at the college camp circuit.   Instead of sitting on the couch and eating Cheetos, playing Guitar Hero or watching a dozen football games on the weekend: Go get better, go learn, go get seen! Most college camps are reasonably priced and the majority of them are stocked with quality instructors. Some camps cater more to the educational angle, others focus more on getting players exposure. The astigma is out there that winter baseball camps were established to pad the wallets of baseball coaches, this notion could not be further from the truth. Most camps are set up to take care of assistant coaches who may make very little – if anything at all – during the other 363 days on the calendar. Money obtained during camps also can go towards supplementing inferior budgets and be used for uniforms, equipment, baseballs, travel, etc. Many times events like this allow players to get to know evaluators, chat with them and see what they are really like. Often times it is difficult to meet college coaches but, in a camp setting, they are roaming around all day working stations and making conversation with players and parents. What better way to laugh and hang out with college coaches and pro scouts than when their sole responsibility is to be there for you? Exposure can be very difficult to get during the winter months because of the Quiet Period rule that keeps Division I coaches off the road until March 1. If you are looking to catch the eye of a DI program, your only chance is at a winter baseball camp. As with anything, some camps are better than others. Some are cheaper than others. Some bring in more college coaches, some bring in more pro players and high school coaches. Most are very good but may offer different things; it really depends on what you are searching for. Regardless of your winter baseball needs, there is likely a camp out there for you. Parents, everyone is always looking for the gift that keeps on giving. What is better than the gift of knowledge that your kid may not be able to get elsewhere. While plenty of prep and travel programs do a good job of passing along the correct information, you cannot put a price tag on fundamentals that may be worded in a way that ‘clicks’ with your son in a way that relates to his game. Most college programs put all of their camp information on their baseball website and make it very easy to sign up. So guys, get out of that Lay-Z-Boy, check the piggy bank and see how much better you can get while your competition sits around and waits for tryouts to roll around. Note: To be linked to every baseball website in our state, check the College Directory section on the Diamond Prospects site, click here. 

Diamond Notes: A structured routine for pitchers

The answer is a structured routine   By: Austin Alexander-November 7, 2007 Most pitchers and parents out there believe if they can buy enough lessons and get with that one pitching guru, that everything will come together and their velocity will jump 10 MPH! While many mechanical flaws can be fine-tuned in the bullpen and quality instruction is an element to success, there is another way to build and maintain a strong and healthy arm. Bad news though, it requires some forethought, a lot of work and loads of dedication. Two words: Structured routine, period. People want velocity to emerge like magic during one lesson or bullpen with a coach. Pure ignorance! You want to maintain velocity deep into a game or season, the only answer is a structured routine…a foreign term to most high school kids. Ever wondered why some prep arms come out of the gate hitting 87 in the top of the first, top out at 84 in the second inning and sit at 80-82 when their most critical pitches are being thrown during the latter stages of the game? Some young pitchers pitch in the mid to upper-80’s when the season begins but, come playoff time, their do-or-die pitches range between 81-83. Answer: They prepare sporadically. Seldom ever do they prepare within a routine that never wavers, never. Not weather, not books, not what they think is a busy schedule. You either commit to it or shock your body. There is no in-between. Two variables can justifiably affect an in-season routine. Two-way players and coaches who will not keep their pitchers up-to-date with when his next start will be. There is no question that having to juggle a position with pitching can make it tougher to execute a routine. But I liken it to a switch-hitter who has to work overtime to keep himself sharp on both sides of the plate. He has to treat his craft as though he is two separate players, therefore having to put in more time than the average hitter. Coaches should have a plan for their starting pitchers. But in the event they don’t, most coaches at least have an idea of who is going to start for them on the mound. If the coach does not communicate this to his pitchers, then the pitcher should take it upon himself to open the dialogue between he and his coach. If a player is truly committed to his body, his craft and the team’s success, that coach will most likely open up and help the pitcher formulate a routine designed to help his club win baseball games. Afterall, what coach doesn’t want to develop young talent and win championships? Here’s a dose of honesty… Pitchers, ya gotta work! You have to commit your mind and body to a gameplan. Chances are you have long-tossed, lifted and run poles before. Maybe even quite a bit, even more than other players on your high school team. While that might win you the “coaches award”, if it is done without a design and executed on a daily basis – without fail – then you are basically spitting in the wind. Hall of Famer and 300-game winner Tom Seaver is well-noted for a night that he did not pitch. He’d been scheduled to throw a Sunday game on the road that was rained out. When his flight landed late that night, he had the Mets clubhouse attendant turn the stadium lights on so he could throw his 100 pitches into a net. It was his day to pitch. His body knew it was his day to throw…and so he did, in the middle of the night, even though it was far from convenient. I once had a pitcher who was our #1 starter and was scheduled to pitch on Friday night game against a conference rival. It was a Wednesday and his day to lift. We had a game on the road and returned to campus at 3:15 a.m. Fifteen minutes later he was in the weightroom, got his lift in AND was in class less than four hours later. Did I mention, he got the save in that game against the #1 ranked team in the country (because it was his day to throw) AND wrote a term paper on the bus ride home. That’s commitment to his schoolwork, himself and the program! So what should a pitcher do between outings? It’s going to vary from player to player. Every arm, body, delivery and demands are different from guy to guy. Instead of flooding DP with emails over what a good routine may entail, we’ll refer you to a previous article written by David Marchbanks as a starting point. To view, click here. Understand, however, that a routine has to be individualized and may be amended if the arm and body don’t cooperate. On a staff of fifteen, it is conceivable that there may be 10-15 different daily routines. That speaks to how the individual has to be in touch with his arm and body, then determine what the arm/body needs to be ready to go on his day to pitch. Consistent communication is strongly encouraged between the pitcher and his pitching coach in an effort to arrive at the precise routine. Here is another angle. Players who commit to excellence, generally have a psychological advantage over their opponent, whether it be a teammate that they are competing with for a job or a rival on the other side of the field. When you truly pay the price to have success, you feel like you are mentally on a power-play against the competition. Now, the majority of high school pitchers reading this article will think this theory sounds great and consider altering their lackluster way of going about their business…but then go right back to winging it the way they always have and wonder why their velocity fluctuates. It’s a choice every player has to make for himself at some point. It can’t be pushed on him …

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Diamond Notes: My Jupiter Experience

My Jupiter Experience By: Greg Harrison-October 31, 2007   Last Thursday the Diamond Devils headed to Jupiter, Florida for the annual Fall Perfect Game World Wood Bat Tournament. We took the team vans (which I met at exit 8 on I-95) and were ready to play. After going last year I knew what to expect: some of the best high school baseball talent in the country, scouts wherever you look, a fourteen field spring training complex that is shared between the Cardinals and the Marlins, and RAIN. The team that ended up winning the tournament was the Braves Scout team, which had eight Aflac All-Americans on their team. .  On Friday, we woke up at 5:30 a.m. for a game that was scheduled for 8:00. Even though it was early, everyone was excited to play. We were disappointed to get to the field and realize that it was unplayable due to rain. After going to lunch and hanging out in the hotel for a little while, we were told that our game had been rescheduled for 8:00 p.m. It was a long wait because I was anxious to get on the bump for the first game. We showed up to the complex in a light drizzle. The cages were too wet for BP, but we took soft toss and waited our turn to play. The game before us took longer than expected, so I started to warm up in the bullpen. When our team had just started throwing on the field, the rain had picked up and the umpires decided it was too wet, so we headed back to the hotel after Day 1 without even playing a game. After the whole tournament schedule and pools had been changed, we walked all the way to the back of the complex to find our field covered in water. After an hour delay (and 28 hours after I was supposed to start) it was finally time to take the field against Southwest Florida Baseball, but we weren’t intimidated by their adjustable hats. I was on the mound and got some run support early with Dutch Fork infielder Troy Zawadzki’s two-out, two-RBI double. As the game went on, they put up two runs and it was 2-2 going into the sixth inning. With two outs and a man on second, USC commit Matt Price hit a bomb to left-center to put us up 4-2. That was enough, and we won by that score. We were pumped going into the next game at 6:00 p.m. against Hurricanes Baseball out of Virginia. Matt Price (Sumter HS) threw a 17-strikeout no-hitter as we won 1-0 in a pitcher’s duel. The only hit of the game came by Wando junior outfielder and USC commit Daniel Aldrich’s RBI-single. We ended the day 2-0 and in the driver’s seat of our pool, headed back to the hotel to play some poker and guitar hero. On Sunday we showed up to the field with the surprising notion that even though we were 2-0, the St. Louis Pirates who had tied both of their games and with the point system, without a win we could end up not making the playoff bracket. After we had been hitting in the cage for a while, it started to rain once again. We put our bags under a tarp and, along with the rest of the complex, headed for shelter. It was overcrowded under the press box and tents so we found golf carts which had been deserted by the scouts and took cover from the rain. After a short delay, we were on the field playing. Wando sophomore Drew Cisco pitched a great game with 10 K’s, but we were shutout 2-0. We had lost the game and came in second in our pool, but there was still a chance to make the cut as a wild card team. Coach John Rhodes went up to the press box to find out what would be in store for us. After waiting anxiously we saw him come back with a grin on his face and we knew that we were in as a wild card. The first game of the elimination round didn’t go as we would’ve hoped, as we lost due to walks and errors so we packed it up and went back to the hotel disappointed.  I left that night and drove back to Hilton Head arriving at 3 a.m. for school that morning. Even though we were disappointed in the finish to our tournament, Jupiter was still my favorite tournament all year. The talent and competition gives you a feeling of what baseball is like at the next level. Seeing all the great players makes you come home wanting to work hard so you can get yourself to that level. The atmosphere is one that you rarely see at the high school level, with golf carts of scouts lined up against the fence looking at the gun to see what the future prospects can do. I was just as impressed my second time at the tournament as I was my first. About the author: Hilton Head’s Greg Harrison is a junior right-handed pitcher/third baseman who was rated in June as Diamond Prospects’ #1 player in the Class of 2009. He recently gave a verbal commitment to South Carolina. .

Diamond Notes: Understanding Yourself

Understanding what you are…and aren’t By: Austin Alexander-October 8, 2007 Any player who has aspirations to play at a high level, regardless of the sport, works endlessly to perfect his craft. Tiger Woods was winning tournaments and then he perfected his swing. Alex Rodriguez was hitting homeruns, then decided to tweak things a tad and will one day become the all-time homerun leader. Michael Jordan was winning scoring titles…and then decided he wanted rings too. While those three guys are headliners and Hall of Fame caliber athletes, most sports are filled with lesser known and lesser talented players. While any player should shoot for the moon, at some point every player must realize what he or she is…or more importantly, what they are NOT. Here’s what I mean. . At some point, every player has to embrace what his limitations are. It’s been often said that Wade Boggs or Ichiro Suzuki could homer at will in batting practice but their craft was (or is) pounding out singles and doubles, 200 of them a year! I’ll bet you Greg Maddux and Jamie Moyer would love to have Joba Chamberlain’s arm and stuff, but they don’t. Instead, they learned to pitch within what they are and aren’t. And it’s paid off for two decades at the highest level. Frank Thomas will never be a great bunter and Juan Pierre will never hit 40 homeruns. The point I am trying to make is that way too many young players do not have a feel for what their niche is. I go to game after game and watch the light-hitting second baseman go for the downs but he can’t drop down a sacrifice bunt. If you are small in stature, don’t possess a great arm and aren’t the fastest guy in the world, then you need to make the routine play, move runners along and serve as an emotional sparkplug. If you are a big kid and just weren’t blessed with speed, then you need to place importance on being an alert baserunner. I’ve seen 7.0 runners that are base-cloggers and I’ve seen 7.5 runners who can take bags, the difference being in the individual’s understanding of himself. Every single high school pitcher is within his right to want to throw harder. Do everything you can to make that happen. BUT, don’t lose sight of what you aren’t. If you work in the low-80’s, then develop good secondary stuff, control the running game, work ahead in the count and field your position well. In areas where you may lack, compensate it by being better in others. Catchers, don’t have a ton of arm strength? Then block your tail off, receive like a champ and be a captain for your infield and pitching staff. I could go on and on… Bottom line, while college coaches and pro scouts can easily identify raw speed, arm strength, power and the like, evaluator’s want to see what you can do to bring value to their ballclub. Ask any coach who his best players have been and he’ll show you a player who knew his limitations and maximized what he was blessed with. The great Ty Cobb once said, “In this game you have to work on what you don’t do well.” While there is complete truth in that quote, even Cobb himself understood what his strength’s were and maxed out his talent. He was never satisfied with his standing in the game but always knew what his bread and butter was, getting on base and playing with his hair on fire. Unless you were just touched by the hand of God and this game is a breeze to you, evaluate yourself and exploit your strengths. Maybe a better way to phrase it is to improve or broaden your strength’s. Once you realize what you are and aren’t in this game, your perception of the game changes and you will give your team a better chance on a regular basis. .

Diamond Notes: Baseball Expressions II

By: Austin Alexander-September 14, 2007 Whether I find myself in the mix of casual baseball people or those who consider themselves “diehard fans”, I continue to be amazed when folks don’t know the language of baseball. Over the next few weeks we will explore The Dickson Baseball Dictionary and pull terms out of it that you need to know, what they mean and where the expression originated. Hopefully at the end of our little quest through diamond diction, you will have a greater knowledge of the jargon used around our nation’s pastime…you may not be a baseball genius but you might learn just enough to fool some people!   Boot: An error, such as one made while handling a groundball. A shortstop hearing this term very often can prove costly. Used in a sentence it may go something like this, “For us to win the close games, we have to stop booting balls all over the place.” Oh-fer/Wearing the collar: A game or series of games in which a batter fails to collect a hit. If Chipper Jones went 0-for-4, it could be said that he went “oh-fer” or “wore the collar” that night. You’ll also hear of players going “oh-fer the series”, Yankee fans would argue that Alex Rodriguez is “oh-fer October.” Toe the rubber/Toe the slab: To take the mound or prepare to pitch. An example of its use would that Carlos Zambrano is the projected starter on a given night could be said to be “toeing the rubber/slab for the Chicago Cubs tonight.” Texas Leaguer/Banjo Hit/Bleeder/Blooper/Duck Snort/Humpback Liner/Pooper/Flair: A poorly hit ball that loops meekly over the infield and lands for a hit. A pitcher and manager’s nightmare are the hits that fall just out of the reach on infielders going back and outfielders charging in. See Punch-n-Judy. Punch-n-Judy: Said of a hitter who tends to hit well-placed, but weakly hit, balls for singles; one who chokes up and punches at the ball rather than take full swings. Also referred to as a Punching Judy, it’s the guy that flairs balls left and right. Obviously the connotation makes reference that the hitter is not completely masculine in his batting style. See Texas Leaguer/Banjo Hit, etc. Baltimore Chop: A batted ball hits the ground close to homeplate and then bounces high in the air, allowing the batter time to reach base safely. Legend has it that in the 1890’s, the Baltimore Orioles grounds crew purposely hardened the ground around homeplate so that Wee Willie Keeler and John McGraw could chop balls into the dirt and beat out balls that became high choppers. Ducks on the Pond: Runners on base. The phrase was coined in the 1930’s by Yankees announcer Arch McDonald. It may be heard like this: Next up is Manny Ramirez with “ducks on the pond.” That means the hitter is at the plate with a chance to drive in some runs. Headhunter: A beanball pitcher; one who aims for the head. A pitcher with a reputation of throwing at hitters is quick to adopt this moniker, whether he goes for a batter’s head or not. Throughout history, Early Wynn, Bob Gibson, Sal Maglie, Don Drysdale, Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez are just a few names of guys who used that reputation to their advantage. Blue-darter/Screaming Mimi/Tracer: A line drive. Pick one of these terms, Dave Winfield and Gary Sheffield have made  a living putting balls in play with plenty of pace, these expressions have been used hundreds of times to describe balls off their bat. The Hot Corner: A third baseman. This expression has been used for as many years as this game is old…The third baseman is the guy who often has to play even with the bag and defend bullets off the bat. See Blue-darter/Screaming Mimi/Tracer. Olay: To attempt to catch a hard groundball while playing it to the side and avoiding being hit by it. To stay with our theme of blue-darters and the hot corner, many infielders throughout history having tried to catch a ball with a do-or-die approach…Coaches on the other hand would much rather see a player “put a chest on the ball” as opposed to “olaying” a hard grounder.  .