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.