Make A Name For Yourself
So many times I see kids working hard at the wrong things. Most high school baseball players have aspirations to play in college and beyond, but they are misinformed and misled as to what they should do to prepare to get there. What are the main differences between a successful high school pitcher and a successful college one? Narrowing the gap in those differences is what will make the transition easier and, if you can narrow the gap early enough, put you in a position to draw more interest from schools and scouts.
What sets higher level pitchers apart:
#1 - Physical-ness
This is, hands-down, the biggest difference between a high school pitcher vs. a college pitcher, as well as a college pitcher vs. a professional one. Some guys are blessed with big, athletic bodies that translate well onto a pitchers mound. Often times, those are the players who dominate at the high school level. As you grow and develop you begin to throw harder and have better body awareness, which generally leads to improved performance.
I rarely worked out in high school, something kids are beginning to do today which is a huge step in the right direction. You can begin to prepare your body to perform at a high-level from the time you're young, but you need to be sure you're preparing it the right way. Pitchers aren't defensive lineman and shouldn't train like one. Baseball skill specific strength and conditioning is the number one thing you can take advantage of to separate yourself from your competition!
#2 - Command
When you begin to climb levels, whether is 3A vs. 6A, DIII vs. DI, or A-ball vs. the Major Leagues, the lineups are deeper and more skilled which leaves much less room for error. This is where command comes into play. You can get away with a lot more mistakes at the high school level than you can in college. Think about it: often times #8 hitters in college were #3 hitters in high school, #8 hitters in professional baseball were #3 hitters in college.
You can begin to bridge that gap by developing your pitches and having more than one or two pitches you can throw for a quality strike at any point in a count. I watched a Felix Hernandez interview the other day on MLB Network and Harold Reynolds asked him what his best pitch was. Felix's answer? "All 5." He is comfortable throwing all 5 of his pitches at any point in a game because he has developed command and confidence of those pitches. Having multiple quality pitches that you have command of puts hitters at a tremendous disadvantage. A great fastball might work for you in high school, but those same pitches might get hammered at the next level. Work to develop command of your fastball, first and foremost, but DO NOT neglect your other offerings.
#3 - Work Ethic
This third difference isn't really a "skill." It's a product of "how much do you want it." 95% of players are all talk when it comes to how hard they work. The people with the true work ethic are the ones that take below average abilities and make them play at the next level. And, generally speaking, the great players are the physically gifted athletes that also have a superior work ethic.
What do I mean by work ethic? I mean making baseball a priority in your life (without sacrificing your education and loved ones!). For example, when you have the opportunity to either attend a party or to work to make yourself a better pitcher, (if baseball is your priority) you should choose to make yourself a better pitcher. Those are the times when you are getting better while someone else isn't. So much talent is wasted by players who believe they can get by on their skills alone, it's a shame. The pitchers who continue advancing in baseball are the ones who sacrifice other things and work their asses off to chase their dream. Once you no longer have the drive to continue working hard and the reward isn't worth the price; that's when you should decide to hang it up.
Work hard to make yourself noticed. Most of us aren't lucky enough to just take the field and have schools and scouts drool over us. You have to give them a reason to notice you. Do the research, make yourself train properly and make baseball a priority if it's something you really want. Never look back with any "if only I would have..." statements. That will stay with you for the rest of your life!
The earlier you take these points to heart and begin acting to improve upon them, the better position you will be in to extend your baseball career. Freshmen and Sophomores in high school should be preparing themselves now to play professionally and in college. It's never too late for Juniors and Seniors to make changes and to redefine what they really want out of baseball. Even if you are in college or the professional ranks, you can still make changes and push yourself even harder. Never be satisfied: always work to improve!
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