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Hit By Pitch Epidemic Threatens Game Integrity

Hit By Pitch Epidemic Threatens Game Integrity

Irvine Player Hit By Pitch 2007 CWSBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball
© 2015 Collegiate Baseball

ORLANDO, Fla. — A massive amount of hit batters took place during the 2014 college baseball season, a good portion on purpose by batters trying to gain an edge.

As a result, the NCAA Baseball Rules Committee has cracked down with precise wording in the rule to slow down this tactic.

Speaking in front of NCAA Division I, II and III coaches at the Rules Meeting at the American Baseball Coaches Association convention, NCAA National Coordinator of Umpires George Drouches outlined an epidemic that took place last year across NCAA baseball with batters who were purposely hit by pitches.

Beyond normal hit by pitches, batters purposely moved into pitches as they were drilled in many parts of their bodies to get on base

According to the 2014 final NCAA Division I statistics, batters were hit 91 times or more on 23 different teams last season.

Incredibly, 10 teams were hit 101 or more times last season.

The new rule states that a batter must make an attempt to avoid being hit by the ball.

If the umpire rules the batter did not make an attempt to get out of the way, or that he leaned into the path of the ball, a pitch inside the strike zone that touches the batter will be called a strike.

If the pitch is outside the strike zone, it will be called a ball.

The national team leader in hit by pitches last season was Maryland with 126 hit by pitches.

Eleven batters were hit 11 or more times with three being hit 19 or 20 times.

According to the final 2014 NCAA Division I statistics, there were 33 players who were hit 20 or more times last season led by Chris Cook of George Mason (31 HBP in 56 games) and Aaron Payne of Oregon (31 HBP in 64 games).

As far as NCAA Division II, Lander University batters were hit 130 times in 61 games. In NCAA Division III, Heidelberg was No. 1 with 116 hit batters in 44 games.

In junior college baseball, Hutchinson C.C. led NJCAA Division I schools with 134 hit batters in 60 games.

This is hardly the first time there has been a problem with batters purposely getting hit by pitches.

It has been a problem for well over 30 years as the NCAA Rules Committee has wrestled with this problem when severe flareups of hit batters have taken place.

When an all-time record 53 batters were hit in only 15 games during the 2007 College World Series, the NCAA Rules Committee took a tough stance on batters purposely getting hit by pitches.

More than half of the 53 hit batters purposely stuck a part of their body in front of pitches.

Shortly after the 2007 College World Series, the Rules Committee took a stance that that batters must make an attempt to avoid the pitch to be awarded first base.

The wording was changed slightly in subsequent years. But now batters must once again make an attempt to avoid being hit by the ball or they will not be allowed to take first base.

The most prolific hit by pitch artist college baseball has ever witnessed, Tyler Crabtree, has worked his tactics the past three years.

Last season for NCAA Division II Central Oklahoma University, he was hit a modest 23 times in 44 games.

But the year prior, he was hit 41 times in 49 games as the leadoff hitter.

This tied the NCAA all divisions record of 41 set by Chris Kline of Lincoln Memorial in 1997.

One year earlier, Crabtree was hit 41 times in 49 games at Eastern Oklahoma St. J.C.

Over a 3-year period, Crabtree was hit a staggering 105 times in 142 games.

No college baseball player has ever been drilled this many times over three years.

To read more about the epidemic of hit batters in college baseball, purchase the Jan. 23, 2015 edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.

Will Flat Seam Baseball Change College Game?

Will Flat Seam Baseball Change College Game?

Flat Seam vs High Seam BallFor the first time in 155 years of college baseball, teams will utilize the flat seam baseball during the spring season which is expected to infuse more offense into the game.

NCAA Division I, II and III championships will use the flat seam ball in 2015 which means teams in these divisions will use the ball throughout the regular season.

The NAIA championship will also use the flat seam ball in 2015 as schools use the ball during the season.

NJCAA Division I, II and III championships will use the flat seam ball beginning with the 2016 championship as junior colleges switch to these balls during the 2016 season.

Northwest junior colleges (Washington, Oregon, British Columbia) within the Pacific Association Division will use flat seam balls in 2015 while California junior colleges will wait until 2016 to utilize them.

Since BBCOR specification bats have been required with the 2011 season, offensive numbers have plummeted in college baseball.

The poster child for lack of offense took place at the 2013 and 2014 NCAA Division I College World Series.

Only three home runs were hit in 14 games in 2013 while only three were hit in 16 games last June. It marked the lowest home run total since 1966 when only two home runs were hit in 15 games.

From an all-time high of 62 homers at the 1998 College World Series, the numbers have sunk lower and lower with 9 in 2011, 10 in 2012 and 3 the last two years.

Numbers the last three years have closely mirrored the wood bat era in college baseball which took place up to the 1973 season.

After several months of testing at the NCAA Bat Certification lab during the summer of 2013 at Washington State University, results showed that the flat seam ball will travel further than a raised seam ball due to the “drag effect.”

The greater the distance a ball travels, the greater the drag effect.

The test was conducted with an average ball exit speed from a machine at 95 mph with a spin rate of 1,400 RPM and a launch angle of 25 degrees. These parameters were set because they replicate the settings of a typical home run or a hit that could become a home run.

The average distance the raised seam ball traveled was 367 feet while the average distance the flat seam ball traveled was 387 feet — 20 feet further.

The home run should be back in the game but not to the extent where it was several years ago before the BBCOR bat started being used.

Craig Keilitz, executive director of the American Baseball Coaches Association, said that he talked to about 50 coaches during the fall who have utilized the flat seam baseball during practices and games.

“The majority of those coaches said they saw a difference in the carry compared to the raised seam ball that has been used in college baseball for many years,” said Keilitz.

“I am excited to see how the ball performs during the 2015 season with schools that use it and how the numbers wind up, especially home runs.

“I would personally like to see more home runs in college baseball. But we don’t need to go back to the extreme number of home runs we had before.

“It appears this ball will allow for possibly better home run production than the last few years. But we have to wait and see.”

Cold Weather Concerns
Dan Blewett, a former college player who now is the owner of War Bird Training Academy in Normal, Ill., feels a big problem may take place with cold weather early in the season with the flat seam ball for pitchers.

“Going to school in Baltimore, this was a ‘southern’ trip for us – one that would escape the frostbitten northern air,” said Blewett.

“We lost the first game of my college career 2-1, a 14-inning affair that lasted almost five hours amid snow flurries and chattering teeth.

“It was classic February college baseball – cold and windy.

“Hundreds of schools tolerate this weather for more than half of their spring season, but it will quickly become less tolerable as they transition to flat seam baseballs. These games were playable as long as the field was dry and free of snow.

“What most don’t realize is that these games were made playable in large part because of high-seam baseballs, which will be a thing of the past in 2015.

“Most casual onlookers don’t see the big deal – grab the baseball and throw it, right? Not so fast.

“The issue of foreign substance use will become rampant in college baseball as college pitchers desperately try to grip a cold, flat, dry ball with cold, dry hands.

“As such, what was a minor problem in professional baseball will become a much larger problem in college baseball.

“The flat-seam baseball used in the minor leagues is very difficult to grip and throw in temperatures below 40 degrees, especially with wind and dry air.

“The Major League ball is even worse. Fortunately for professionals, this is only an issue in April and October, as the bulk of the season is played in the warmth of the summer.

“Half of the college season is over by the time April rolls around.”

Stark Differences
Blewett said there are major differences between the flat seam and high seam balls.

“1. Flat seam balls feel rounder. Larger seams protrude from the surface of high seam balls, making the ball feel square by comparison. Flat seams make the ball feel smaller, which can also make them feel less secure in the hand. Large seams can be wedged between fingers on breaking balls, but flat seam balls don’t nest as well.

“2. The leather is slicker. Leather on pro baseballs appears to be of higher quality, and it tends to get slicker and shinier the more it hits the mitt. Pro balls become souvenirs after just an at-bat or two, on average, but colleges often retrieve foul balls. This means longer circulation time. Balls that last a few innings are likely to get harder to grip as the game wears on.

“3. Pro balls are rubbed up. This makes matters worse, as ‘taking the shine’ off the pearly white ball requires very fine mud to be rubbed on. This fine mud dries into dust. And dusty baseballs are (you guessed it) harder to grip. Though the darkened color may prove a visual advantage, this is a tactile disadvantage to the pitcher.

“4. The seams are flat and narrow. Though this is obvious, flat seams mean that more curves and sliders will slip out. The MLB ball has seams that are flatter and narrower than even the minor league ball, which can make the transition to the big leagues more difficult for minor leaguers.

“5. Round balls act differently than square balls. Physics dictates that a high-seamed ball will have more turbulent flight than a flat-seamed ball, resulting in more pitch movement. However, pitchers transitioning to pro baseballs report the opposite.”

Blewett said that because the pro ball is rounder, finger pressure is more often erroneously sent through the descending edges of the ball, resulting in unintended cut and run on fastballs.

“Pitchers in the college game will suddenly find their fastballs doing things they’ve never done before, and they’ll be scrambling for answers. But, the issue comes down to pitch slippage, predominantly on breaking balls.

“It’s very difficult to ‘feel’ the ball when it’s cold, as both the leather and the skin are cold, dry and slick.

“Ask any pro pitcher throwing under these conditions, and he’ll tell you that it affects his confidence in his breaking pitches, because the ball feels insecure in the hand.

“Pitchers want to grip and rip their curve or slider, but if they’re afraid it’s going to fly over the batter’s head, they end up choosing pitches based on the ball rather than the count and situation.

“This is what we don’t want – for the ball to dictate how the game is played.

“What does this mean for college baseball?

“Collegiate pitchers will be forced to find comfort with flat seam balls as they throw them in fall and winter workouts, giving them a trial run before the season.

“But, part of this learning curve will be finding ways to get their old grip on the new baseball.

“The NCAA and other national organizations are likely to have a problem on their hands enforcing a rule against gripping aids, one that they never had to deal with.

“Hopefully, players are discrete if they use substances, and the game can go on without interruption, much like pro baseball has.

“But, if umpires decide to be strict, there may have to be rule changes.

“Players will be throwing in front of scouts in 40-degree weather with flat seam balls.

“Rather than hang pitch after pitch and see their draft stock fall, they’re going to find a substance to help them get their old grip back.

“Is this cheating? I call it survival.

“Both MLB and the NCAA should consider creating a list of approved substances that can be used sparingly to enhance grip.

“Rosin can create tremendously sticky skin when used in warm weather. So substances that mimic that same degree of tack should be considered legal within the current ethos of the game during cold weather.”

More On Flat Seam Vs. High Seam Ball
To read more of the in-depth story of this change in baseballs, purchase the Jan. 2, 2015 edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE. Mississippi State pitching coach Butch Thompson explains his thoughts on the subject as well as Chicago Cubs’ Minor League Pitching Coordinator Derek Johnson.

12 New Baseball Products Win Best Of Show

12 New Baseball Products Win Best Of Show

2015 Best Of Show LogoTwelve innovative products at the recent American Baseball Coaches Association convention trade show in Orlando, Fla. were awarded Best of Show certificates by Collegiate Baseball.

There were 61 nominations submitted which features the top new baseball products of 2014.

Here are the 12 winners chosen by Collegiate Baseball’s Best of Show selection committee with a capsule summary of what each product does.

For the complete story which gives in-depth explanations of each product, costs, warranties and contact information, purchase the Jan. 23, 2015 edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.

Ra-Vid ProSport GraphicRadar/Video/Stopwatch Gun
Professional scouts and college coaches have wrestled for years with the nagging problem of juggling a radar gun, video camera and stopwatch when evaluating prospects.

Ra-Vid Technologies has come up with an answer with the Ra-Vid ProSport gun which combines all three of these elements for the first time in history.

This firm has teamed with Sony and Stalker to have a unit that records and captures speed as well as register time with a 1/100 second stopwatch all in a 3-pound hand-held unit.

SwingTracker is a performance analysis and improvement technology that collects batting swing data at a rate greater than 11,000 data points per second.

A special sensor is mounted to the bottom knob of a baseball bat with a strap which temporarily mounts it to that location. The sensor sends signals to a cellphone with the SwingTracker App.

As the sensor collects data, virtually any measure about the swing can be obtained.

Initially, SwingTracker calculates and reports 11 metrics that are summarized into four core elements of the swing — swing, quickness, power and control.

Within each core swing measure are 1-4 individual metrics:

Speed: Maximum hand speed (mph), maximum barrel speed (mph), speed efficiency (percent), forward bat speed (mph).

Quickness: Trigger to impact time (milliseconds).

Power: Applied power (watts), maximum acceleration (mph/second), impact momentum (kilogram meters per second).

Control: Approach angle (degrees), hand cast (inches), distance in the zone (inches).

The visualization of the swing is also an important tool to understand and improve.

SwingTracker provides a 3D motion view of the swing plane and path to the ball recreated in actual speed, slow and super slow modes.

If this wasn’t enough, SwingTracker utilizes a mobile device’s video camera in a unique way. Through a proprietary approach that enhances the device’s video resolution and precisely captures ball impact, SwingTracker synchronizes swing video with the data from the sensor for a complete picture of the swing.

Motus Pitching Sleeve
Motus has developed break-through movement analysis technology that is changing the way pitchers, coaches, medical and training staff monitor workloads and improve player performance.

Already used by nine MLB organizations, the company’s revolutionary mThrow analytics platform will be available to all in February 2015 via a compression sleeve equipped with a Motus-developed wearable device.

That device communicates directly to the mThrow mobile app to provide metrics on players’ mechanics and cumulative workloads throughout the season indicating injury risk.

A sensor is embedded into the Motus Pitching Sleeve that measures workloads and stress on the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow of the pitcher along with eight other metrics.

They include elbow torque, release point, elbow height, arm slot, wrist speed, elbow speed, arm speed, forearm rotation and maximum shoulder rotation.

Back-Spin Tee
This unique tee holds the ball from the top which is a vast departure from normal tees that have been on the market for decades.

It has been designed to allow batters to hit line drives by changing the batters’ visual perspective of focus to the bottom 2/3 of the ball.

Invented by Jarrett Gardner and his younger brother Taylor, the Back-Spin Tee has been a work in progress for over nine months.

Recently a study was conducted with the Back-Spin Tee as 30,000 balls were struck from five years olds to professionals. This tee produced a staggering 94 percent line drives, according to the inventors.

It is the only tee in the world that has a cone that rotates thereby saving the wear and tear points of contact.

Training Sled
A intriguing new product called the Power Drive Performance Sled has been invented by John Miller.

It trains baseball players to initiate power from the ground up for pitching, hitting, position throwing and fielding. It is a baseball training aid for developing skills and a conditioning aid for adding strength and is ergonomically designed for baseball.

Players will increase performance by learning to use their stronger lower body to produce power and initiate athletic skill movements.

Hittinguru 3D
Hittinguru 3D is the world’s only markerless (no sensors or pressure plates are used), single camera video system that captures full body motion with 2D and 3D video tracking and training capabilities.

The intuitive dashboard provides the user with multiple synchronized views, weight transfer and balance tracking, automated record and replay, on-line lesson sharing, key position learning, multi-user management and much more.

This system offers a 270 degree rotational 3D viewing system to analyze each player’s swing from stance to finish. The system instantly provides over 33 key metrics, including hand path and speed, time to impact and key angles of up to 25 body joints during key stages of the swing.

TAP 360 System
The TAP 360 system utilizes the time-proven TAP (Troutwine Athletic Profile) assessment of athletes’ mental makeup, a patent pending analytics engine and the latest technology to deliver a complete system for evaluating, coaching and developing the mental intangibles relating to athletic performance.

The test only takes 20 minutes but reveals vital information to coaches such as:

• Mental toughness.
• Competitive desire.
• Work habits.
• Mental processing speed.
• Coachability

Pitch Zone, Height Locator
A product 40 years in the making has just been developed by Dr. Bill and Ryan Harrison, two of the elite vision performance specialists in baseball.

For many years, both of these giants in the industry have tried to teach hitters how to visually learn their unique strike zones.

The Pitch Zone Locator and Height Zone Locator are a huge step in this direction which gives coaches and players a method to understand strike zones in three dimensions of a pitch (in and out, up and down and late and early).

Webgem Glove Care System
One of the biggest problems in all of baseball is maximizing the life of gloves. Who hasn’t seen an expensive glove destroyed by neglect or utilizing oil products that weigh the glove down or use a product that causes the glove to deteriorate.

The system includes a rigid form that rests on the pocket of the glove to keep a specific shape you want, a protective case and the firm’s proprietary glove conditioner as well as a cleaning rag.

There are currently six different designs for the rigid forms that allow the glove to remain at a precise shape which provides the player with consistent feel every time he goes out to practice or play.

Baseball Academics App
One of the most annoying problems that coaches endure are defensive players who don’t execute situations properly on the baseball field because of mental mistakes.

A solution to this problem has been addressed by a Baseball Academics. This company has developed an App to assist baseball players of all ages to become better fielders by quizzing them on what to do with the ball when it is hit to them based on numerous variables.

This App creates a series of plays in a 30-second cycle, and the fielder presses the base that he would throw to. The goal is to do as many plays in the 30-second drill as possible while maintaining the highest possible degree of accuracy.

JUGS’ Backyard Bullpen
Practicing your skills as a pitcher can become exasperating at times when no catchers are available to throw to for bullpens.

This happens all the time to high school pitchers in the fall when catchers are playing other sports or simply refuse to do it because catching is hard on the knees and tough work.

A great solution to this nagging problem is the JUGS Backyard Bullpen invented by Dave Candello and Greg Anderson, both longtime JUGS employees.

This system, which any pitcher can buy and put in his parents’ backyard, features a strike zone with 12 individual hit-your-spot pockets to isolate specific spots to aim for.

It also has a seven foot protective netting surrounding this strike zone which will catch any wild throws by pitchers.

The system also includes a JUGS Radar Cube (uses 6 AA batteries that last 8 hours) for velocity readout of pitches and tripod which gives the same accuracy index as the JUGS Radar Gun (plus or minus 1/2 mph). The Radar Cube and tripod are placed in back of the netting.

In addition, you receive 15 Perfect Pitch throwing baseballs. These are not simply baseballs. Each ball has a specific count with a pitch you are working on (for example changeup), and a location diagram grid with dots which pinpoints spots you are striving to hit.

Pitchers then take the mound and attempt to throw a perfect changeup (or other pitch directed on the ball) to the proper location.

After all balls are thrown, the pitcher recovers balls from each pocket to determine his accuracy and what must be worked on. He can write down this information or put it in a computer.

If he has a recorder, he can look at the velocity he has thrown after releasing the pitch and verbally give the MPH he threw the pitch and what pitch it was. Then you can track the differentials between fastballs and other pitches as far as miles per hour.

In short, the pitcher can do all of this now without anyone being there. This system will help pitchers spot their pitches based on count and speed. Pitchers will be able to work at their skills in practice until it becomes second nature in a game. They will not only isolate the strike zone, but a certain spot in the zone.

Dartfish Note App
Dartfish Note will take the use of video and practice performance feedback to new levels. What makes this toolset powerful is the way coaches can quickly review a player’s performance in practice and determine the areas that player needs to work on to improve. Coaches can review any player’s practice video – with performance data.

When you find the video that you want to review, for example all fastballs that missed the plate for a particular pitcher, you can download those pitches into the mobile App Dartfish Express and be able to review the video anywhere at any time even if you are not connected to the internet.

Trivia: Name 20 Ways To Stop Baseball Games

Trivia: Name 20 Ways To Stop Baseball Games

Rain Drops 2008 CWSOne of the greatest trivia questions of all time involves Bill Berrier, former coach at Juniata College for 32 years.

He was involved in more unique baseball game cancellations or postponements than anyone in the history of the game. Incredibly, he witnessed 20 different scenarios for games being called in his career.

Most people can’t mention 10 ways a game can be stopped let alone 20.

Berrier also managed 12 seasons in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ system prior to coming to Juniata.

Without further adieu, let’s go over this impressive list:

1. Rain.
4. June bug problem near Mississippi River.
Bus breakdown 200 miles from town.
Smoke (fire in dump by field).
Toxic fumes (power plant).
8. Toxic fumes (fertilization plant).
9. Tornado.
10. Light failure.
11. Dust storm (Texas League).
12. Lightning storm.
13. Hail storm (with heavy sleet).
14. Cold weather (second game 16 degrees).
15. Hurricane (Florida State League).
16. Nuked out (Three Mile Island).
17. Sprinkler system trouble (broken sprinkler head in centerfield caused huge spray of water which nobody could shut off).
18. Rocking light towers. Umpires called game due to heavy winds which rocked light towers to edge of breaking. Also, there was concern about a possible tornado.
19. No umpires.
20. Fog.

Berrier was asked what his most memorable game stoppage was among the 20 he listed.

“Probably the most unusual cancellation took place during the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster,” said Berrier.

“You could say we were nuked out that day. I am only aware of three college programs in baseball history which have ever been nuked out, and I was the coach of one of those teams. The other two were Elizabethtown College and York College.”

The Three Mile Island Unit 2 reactor, near Middletown, Pa., partially melted down on March 28, 1979. This was the most serious accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant operating history, although its small radioactive releases had no detectable health effects on plant workers or the public.

To read more about the 20 unique ways that Berrier has seen baseball games stopped, purchase the 2015 College Preview edition of Collegiate Baseball (Jan. 2, 2015) by CLICKING HERE.

2015 Pre-Season College Baseball Polls

2015 Pre-Season College Baseball Polls

Our web site has every 2015 college pre-season baseball poll, including:

• NCAA Division 1, CLICK HERE

• NCAA Division 2, CLICK HERE

• NCAA Division 3, CLICK HERE


• NJCAA Division 1, CLICK HERE

• NJCAA Division 2, CLICK HERE

• NJCAA Division 3, CLICK HERE

• California Community Colleges, CLICK HERE

• Northwest Junior Colleges, CLICK HERE

• National High School Poll, CLICK HERE

Amazing Perez Throws From Left, Right Sides

Amazing Perez Throws From Left, Right Sides

Ryan Perez Mug JudsonBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

ELGIN, Ill. — Ryan Perez of Judson University is one of the rarest of all pitchers. He is a righthanded and lefthanded pitcher. Even more amazing is that he has topped out at 94 mph as a southpaw and 92 mph as a righthander.

He was highly impressive last summer as he was named MVP of the Cape Cod League All-Star game for Hyannis. In that game, he struck out a batter lefthanded, one righthanded and a third lefthanded in the third inning.

If Perez keeps improving, he may be drafted within the first two rounds of the 2015 Free Agent Draft.

The 6-foot, 188-pounder is a hot commodity with this unique skill set.

How in the world does someone learn to pitch both ways?

“When I was barely able to walk, my dad Juan made me throw lefthanded. But I was naturally a righthander. I was picking up stuff and throwing it at a very young age with both hands. I can’t remember any of that, but that is what I have been told.”

When Perez started playing organized baseball in T-Ball and Little League, he worked on throwing lefthanded to gain more control that way. But he also threw from the right side as well.

“I remember playing first base lefthanded and then sometimes playing third base as a righthander. At an early age, I was pitching against one batter lefthanded and then the next righthanded.”

To gain better command of his pitches, his father worked with him extremely hard when he was 12 to 13 years old.

“I would long toss 50 throws lefthanded and then another 50 throws righthanded. After that, I would throw 150 pitches lefthanded from the mound and then another 150 pitches righthanded from the mound. To develop my eye-hand coordination, my dad also hit a bunch of fly balls to me going left and right. In addition, he would hit me ground balls both ways. And I got stronger and sharper as I did these workouts.”

As Ryan progressed over the years, he was able to refine his mechanics as a pitcher.

From the right side, he throws a 4-seam fastball, changeup, curve and cutter. As a lefthander, he also throws a 4-seam fastball, changeup, curve and cutter.

The only difference between the two deliveries is that he has a higher leg kick with his lefthanded delivery and strides out a bit further. His three quarter arm slot and all other mechanics are essentially the same from the right and left sides.

Surgery Setback
During the summer prior to his senior year at Westminster Christian High School (Elgin, Ill.) Ryan suffered a serious setback during a pitching outing in Jupiter, Fla. during a showcase event.

“I was throwing with my right arm when I heard a crack as if I was cracking my knuckles. Then I felt the sensation of liquid rushing down my arm, and I was concerned. But I threw another pitch, and I had sharp pain in my right elbow. After another attempt to throw, it was obvious something serious happened and came out of the game. But the next day, I pitched lefthanded but was extremely worried about my right elbow.

“The injury happened on Oct. 28 the day after my birthday. Then a month later on Nov. 27, I had Tommy John surgery on my right elbow.”

It takes a year to rehabilitate such an injury. But a few months later after a brace was taken off his right arm, his surgeon gave him the go ahead to pitch during his senior year lefthanded. He also was allowed to hit lefthanded as well but not from the right side since he is also a switch hitter.

“I was fortunate to play during my senior year of high school. But I was also rehabbing my right arm during this time.”

Tough Freshman Year
When Ryan got to Judson University as a freshman, he pitched from the right and left side during the fall. But he had a scare when a pitch thrown from the right side resulted in popping sound from his elbow.

He quickly arranged for a visit to his surgeon, and tests showed that nothing was wrong with his reconstructed right elbow. But just to be safe, he did not pitch again as a freshman with his right arm and only threw from the left side as the arm was slowly rehabbed again.

He posted a 6-4 record that season as a lefty at Judson with a 4.04 ERA and struck out 79 batters in 64 2/3 innings over 19 appearances.

In the fall of 2013, his right arm was in tip-top shape as he topped out at 92 mph from that side.

Velocity Gains
His velocity gains at Judson University have been amazing. When he showed up as a freshman, he only weighed 168 pounds and threw 85-88 mph.

But when he added 20 pounds, his velocity jumped to 94 mph from the left side and 92 from the right side. Judson Head Coach Rich Benjamin can’t wait to see the improvement Perez will keep making.

“Ryan really dedicated himself when he was young to being an outstanding pitcher from both sides,” said Benjamin.

“The long hours of work are a reason why few ever attempt to do this. When he put on 20 pounds after he got here as a freshman, his velocity really went up. And I honestly feel he has more in the tank as he adds even more weight to his frame.

“He throws four pitches from either the left or right side, and most of the time he is able to throw three of those pitches for strikes in games. When he puts everything together, he should be given an opportunity at the next level (pro baseball). During the 2014 season, he hit 94 mph twice in games from the left side.”

Benjamin said that he has never coached a pitcher with the skill set Perez has.

“It is extremely rare to even see someone throw from both sides. But when you do, they might be able to throw hard from one side and only 82-83 from the other. Having arm strength from both sides is so rare.”

Benjamin was asked what nuances his pitching charts show of Perez from the left and right side.

“We keep track of all the important pitching stats. Currently he has more command from the left side. He has good command from the right side as well, but he hasn’t developed the pitching rhythm that he will with more repetitions as the season goes. His best days are in front of him. From the right side, he has a plus slider which is just missing down. They are good misses. From both sides, he is able to throw three pitches for strikes in most outings.”

Utilizing Him To Max
Perez’ unique skill set can cause a coaches’ head to spin with how he can be utilized in games.

“As his stamina from the right side grows, we will have the opportunity to get two starts a week from him — one from the right side and another from the left,” said Benjamin.

“But we have to guard against wearing down his body. While one of his arms may be fresh, his body will still experience the rigors of pitching from his previous outing. As long as we give his body enough recovery time, I feel he will be fine. I can envision him throwing 70 pitches from the left side on Tuesday and then throw three innings from the right side on Friday or Saturday.

“We will monitor him to see what the appropriate rest should be for his body and how quickly he recovers.”

Benjamin said there has been a lot of dialogue on how to handle bullpens with Perez.

“That is a major challenge. We have found that giving him equal reps from both sides is the best course of action in bullpens. He needs that consistency so both sides can be at maximum efficiency.”

Benjamin said that when you face a team that has six lefthanded batters in the lineup and three righthanded batters, Perez could throw from the left side to all lefty hitters and switch to the right side against the righthanded batters.

Or he could throw righthanded the first two times through the lineup and then switch to a southpaw the next time through the order. And you could always have him pitch one batter righthanded, the next lefthanded and switch this way through the game.

Defensively, he has a big advantage on bunts down the lines.

“At times when bunts have been hit down the third base line and I am pitching as a lefthander, I drop the glove and throw the ball to first from my right hand on close plays,” said Perez.

“I could do the same with bunts down the first base line on plays to third if I needed to.”

Another Twist In Story
Perez was asked if he has ever experimented with throwing submarine or low sidearm before. And the startling answer is yes.

“I actually have pitched from a low sidearm delivery before and have practiced it with my dad on many occasions to make me more versatile. And I can do it from both sides as well,” said Perez.

“But the coaches at Judson University don’t feel it is in my best interests to throw from this angle at this level. I have four pitches on each side from three quarters, and they want me to refine this to the best I can. With the velocity jump from last year, it seems like a good idea.”

To read more about the amazing ambidextrous pitcher Ryan Perez, purchase the March 24, 2014 edition of Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.

Kuhn Named National Pitching Coach Of Year

Kuhn Named National Pitching Coach Of Year

Karl Kuhn

Karl Kuhn has been named Collegiate Baseball newspaper’s 2014 National Pitching Coach of The Year.

Sponsored by EDGE charting software and web stats, the award is in its 12th year.

The University of Virginia pitching coach will receive the award at the American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Orlando, Fla. Jan. 4 at the Orlando World Center Marriott.

Entering his 12th season with the Cavaliers, Kuhn has been a pitching coach for 23 years.

Since 2005, the Cavaliers own a 3.04 cumulative ERA, lowest in the nation.

His staff has ranked among the top 20 teams nationally in ERA nine of the last 11 years, including a No. 1 ranking in 2011 and a No. 2 standing in 2014 when UVa posted the lowest ERA at UVa in 40 years.

The Cavaliers also have racked up four No. 3 national ERA rankings (2005, 2006, 2007, 2009) during Kuhn’s tenure.

During Kuhn’s tenure at Virginia, his pitchers have produced 75 shutouts, including an ACC-record 16 in 2011. The Cavaliers also have boasted a league-high 26 ACC Pitchers of the Week during the last 10 years.

Kuhn’s pitchers are notorious for pounding the strike zone, averaging just 2.8 walks per nine innings since 2004 – fewest in the ACC.

Four of Kuhn’s UVa protégés have gone on to reach the major league level, including Michael Schwimer, Mike Ballard, Sean Doolittle and Kyle Crockett.

Thirty-one of Kuhn’s Virginia pitchers have been selected in the Major League Baseball Draft, including 15 in the top 10 rounds.

An in-depth story on the pitching philosophy of Kuhn will appear in the Jan. 2, 2015 College Baseball National Preview edition. To subscribe or reserve a copy of that issue, CLICK HERE.

Previous National Pitching Coaches of The Year:

2013: Nate Yeskie (Oregon St.)

2012: Shaun Cole (Arizona)

2011: Phil Cundari (Seton Hall)

2010: Mark Calvi (South Carolina)

2009: Jerry Weinstein (Sacramento City College/Colorado Rockies)

2008: Dan Spencer (Oregon St., Texas Tech.)

2007: Scott Forbes (North Carolina)

2006: Gordie Alderink (Grand Valley St.)

2005: Tom Holliday (Texas/North Carolina St.)

2004: Derek Johnson (Vanderbilt)

2003: Mark McQueen (VCU/Richmond)


LSU Lands No. 1 Recruiting Class In USA

LSU Lands No. 1 Recruiting Class In USA

Paul Mainieri LSU MugTUCSON, Ariz. — Louisiana State landed the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation, according to Collegiate Baseball’s annual evaluation of NCAA Division I baseball classes.

It marks the Tigers’ fourth national recruiting title in the 32-year history of the rankings by Collegiate Baseball.

LSU has also captured recruiting championships in 2010, 2007 and 2004.

Of the 12 recruits, which included 11 freshmen and one junior college transfer, five were drafted last June while five other players were high school All-Americans.

Tiger Head Coach Paul Mainieri said this impressive recruiting haul is as good as you can get under NCAA rules governing roster sizes and scholarships.

“We sort of gambled and went after some really talented players that we knew would be draft risks who would possibly not ever make it to campus,” said Mainieri.

“However, in the months since they all signed with us last November, in the conversations we had with them and the actions they were displaying, I could start to sense this was a different group in that they would openly express their desire to be here, be a part of LSU, and understood the significance of being an LSU baseball player.

“And that’s what you dream of as a coach and what you want in the players’ attitudes as they join your team. Our top priority was to add to our pitching staff some power arms.

And we thought they could really make a difference, and I feel we accomplished that goal.”

LSU landed seven superb pitchers, including three draft picks, two All-Americans and a member of the 2014 NJCAA National Team.

The class was assembled by former recruiting coordinator Javi Sanchez, who departed LSU in July to begin a career in business.

LSU also continued a trend where a school from the Southeastern Conference has won the recruiting title 11 of the last 12 years.

Athletes who initially signed letters of intent with a school, but then signed a pro contract after being drafted, do not count in the overall evaluation. Only athletes who came to school this fall are factored in.

The Tigers’ five players who were drafted last June include:

  • LHP Jake Latz (Lemont H.S., Lemont, IL), 11th round pick by Toronto.
  • C Mike Papierski (Lemont H.S., Lemont, IL), 16th round pick by Toronto.
  • LHP Mac Marshall (Parkview H.S., Lilburn, GA), 21st round pick by Houston.
  • RHP Jake Godfrey (Providence Catholic, New Lenox, IL), 21st round pick by Atlanta.
  • INF Grayson Byrd (King’s Ridge Christian, Milton, GA), 39th round pick by Atlanta.

The five high school All-Americans were:

  • INF Greg Deichmann (Brother Martin H.S., New Orleans, LA).
  • OF Beau Jordan (Barbe H.S., Lake Charles, LA).
  • C/INF Bryce Jordan (Barbe H.S., Lake Charles, LA).
  • RHP Alex Lang (Lee’s Summit West H.S., MO).
  • RHP Doug Norman (Ardrey Kell H.S., Charlotte, N.C.).

The lone junior college recruit was P Collin Strall from Tallahassee C.C. who was a member of the 2014 NJCAA national team. He is a sidearm reliever who sits in the mid to upper 80s with great movement. Strall made a team-high 24 appearances last season and recorded a 2.54 ERA with 63 strikeouts, 17 walks and a 7-2 record.

Also in the class was RHP/INF Austin Bain (Dutchtown H.S., Geismar, LA). He hit .374 with 11 doubles, 5 triples and collected 39 RBI. On the mound, he had a 2.85 ERA with 64 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings. He was named an All-State Honorable Mention pick.

A complete rundown on the top 20 recruiting classes is featured in the Oct. 3 issue of Collegiate Baseball.

 2014 NCAA Div. I
Recruiting Results
By Collegiate Baseball

1. Louisiana St.
2. Wichita St.
3. Florida
4. San Diego
5. Oklahoma St.
6. Mississippi St.
7. Texas
8. Stanford
9. Virginia
10. Cal. St. Fullerton
11.North Carolina
12. Oregon St.
13. Texas Tech.
14. Kentucky
15. Mississippi
16. Arkansas
17. UCLA
18. Long Beach St.
19. Oregon
20. Miami, Fla.
Florida St.

22. Texas Christian
23. Rice
24. South Carolina
25. Vanderbilt
26. Louisville
27. Arizona St.
28. Arizona
29. Florida International
30. Michigan
31. Missouri
32. San Diego St.
33. Houston
34. Tennessee
35. Clemson
36. Duke
37. Stetson
38. Florida Gulf Coast
39. California
40. Texas A&M

Other Top Recruiting Classes: Georgia Tech., Nevada, Dallas Baptist, Alabama, Maryland, Indiana, U.C. Irvine, UNLV, Southern California, N.C. State, Oklahoma, Central Florida, U.C. Santa Barbara, Cal. Poly, Kennesaw St., Notre Dame, Kansas, Loyola Marymount, Louisiana-Lafayette, Georgia, Missouri St., Maine, Nebraska, Florida Atlantic, Baylor, Hawaii, Minnesota, Southeastern Louisiana, South Alabama, Kansas St., Liberty, Kent St., Lipscomb, Fresno St., Sam Houston St., Pepperdine, North Florida, Old Dominion, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Middle Tennessee, Oral Roberts, Georgia St., Tennessee Tech., Alabama-Birmingham, Cincinnati, Michigan St., Virginia Tech., Washington, Washington St., Ball St., Western Michigan, Sam Houston St., West Virginia, Winthrop, Coastal Carolina, Connecticut, Central Michigan, Texas St., Southern Mississippi, Wake Forest, Tulane, South Florida, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Stony Brook, Ohio State, Purdue, New Mexico, Georgia Southern, Creighton, Illinois, U.C. Riverside, James Madison, William & Mary, East Carolina, Troy, Nicholls St.

Source: Collegiate Baseball


Previous NCAA Div. I
Recruiting Champions
By Collegiate Baseball

2013: Florida
2012: Vanderbilt
2011: South Carolina
2010: Louisiana St.
2009: Florida
2008: Arizona St.
2007: Louisiana St.
2006: South Carolina
2005: South Carolina
2004: Louisiana St.
2003: North Carolina
South Carolina
2002: Georgia Tech.
2001: Southern California
2000: Cal. St. Fullerton

1999: Southern California
1998: Georgia Tech.
1997: UCLA
1996: Texas A&M
1995: Arizona St.
1994: Mississippi St.
1993: Miami (Fla.)
1992: Florida St.
1991: Miami (Fla.)
1990: Arizona
1989: Florida St.
1988: Miami (Fla.)
1987: Stanford
1986: Stanford
1985: Hawaii
1984: Florida St.
1983: Arizona St.

Source: Collegiate Baseball

What Makes Great Performers?

What Makes Great Performers?

Editor/Collegiate Baseball
© 2009 Collegiate Baseball
(Appeared In May 15, 2009 edition)

FAIRFIELD, Conn. — What separates world-class performers from everybody else?

It is a question that many have asked for centuries, but not understood until now. Geoff Colvin, senior editor at large of Fortune magazine, spent nearly two years researching this question. He wrote a remarkable book which hit book stores last year called Talent Is Overrated and is the hot book to read now by coaches in amateur and pro baseball.

According to Colvin, the short answer to being a world-class performer is practicing in a precision manner on a regular basis for 10,000 hours. But the subject is obviously much more complex than that.

“What separates world-class performers from everybody else is a deep question,” said Colvin.

“The simple answer is the thousands of hours these people spend with deliberate practice. But the question underneath that is why do they put in those thousands of hours when most people don’t? And why do they push themselves so they reach this level?

“But there is more to it than that. Two different people could put in the same amount of hours, and one person could just go through the motions while the other person could be intensely focused on it at all times. The second person would get much better results.

“So again, why do some people work so hard and with the requisite intensity? That is a much more difficult question. What I have come to believe in many fields, and sports is definitely one of them, is that training starts early in life, and the role of the parent is extremely important.

“At the same time, I have found that every great performer has a moment when motivation becomes internalized. The performer is no longer practicing hard because his parents are making him do it. It becomes his own quest and own pursuit. When that happens, it typically isn’t a goal that is driving him. It is because there is something in the activity itself that he finds rewarding.

“Wherever that comes from is what really separates world-class performers from everybody else. Research has been conducted by a number of people that suggests 10,000 hours of practice done in a precision manner is the magic number. And there is separate research, but related, that shows 10 years is generally necessary. These figures apply pretty well across most disciplines. That is why it is so striking whether you are talking about baseball, playing the cello, the violin or chess, in addition to a number of other disciplines.

“This information suggests that it takes a lot more work than most people realize to be a top performer. They simply aren’t born that way. Consider that 10,000 hours is an enormous amount of time. Twenty  hours of deliberate practice a week is a lot by any standard. But you would have to do that for 10 years every week all year long for that amount of time. It’s a huge amount of work.”

Undisciplined Practice
Colvin said there is a tremendous amount of undisciplined practice taking place all across the world in different disciplines.

“It is the most common thing in every sport or activity. People tend to do what they can already do and just do that over and over because it is rewarding and feels good. You get to see some pleasant results. Those people don’t get much better. The best are always focused on what they can’t do well. And there is research on this. If you look at figure skaters, the mediocre ones spend time practicing jumps that they can already do quite well.

“The best ones spend most of their time practicing jumps that they really can’t do yet. They are constantly pushing the envelope. It is the same in baseball. Ball players must try to hone their skills so they are better in the areas which need improvement. This is also why good coaches are so valuable in any pursuit. Even if it isn’t sports, a good coach is extremely valuable. A good coach will assess where the kid is at that moment in his development.

“Based on the coach’s own experience, he will decide what that pitcher or hitter must develop next. What is it that he can’t quite do that he needs to be able to do? He must repeat this over and over again until he can do it. If it is a certain pitch he can’t throw well or locating it properly in a certain location in the strike zone, the pitcher must grow constantly in his quest to get better.

“It sounds obvious, but it is also obvious why most players don’t do it. When you first try it, you will fail. Mistakes will be made, it will feel uncomfortable, and it won’t feel good. So most players avoid pushing themselves. They are fine with what they do. But it is obvious to me that good coaches will force the players to reach new skill levels by working on their deficiencies. These coaches will also provide lots of feedback on how it’s going.

“It is also important to point out that nobody can work hard on their discipline for a tremendous length of time straight. It’s not only because of the physical constraints. There are mental constraints involved, and coaches must understand this. A player must focus very hard on learning or improving a skill. After a certain amount of time, whether that is 30 minutes or longer, you need a rest. Then you can come back to it. The mental exhaustion is at least as important as the physical exhaustion.”

Colvin said in Talent Is Overrated that researchers looked at violinists at the Music Academy of West Berlin to find out whether there was any data that showed why some students excelled and others didn’t. They studied biographical data about every conceivable subject involving all violinists, whether it be the age they started, teachers, competitions entered and other information.

At the age of 18, three distinct groups surfaced. The most accomplished group had accumulated 7,410 hours of lifetime practice on average compared to the less talented second group which compiled 5,301 hours and 3,420 for the even less talented third group.

The 10,000 hour practice rule seemed to be in full effect with the data compiled and 10 year rule as well.

“What applies to the violinists applies very well to baseball. Both of those are activities that people start as kids. When you reach the age of 18, if you haven’t accumulated as many hours as another player, it becomes very difficult to catch up. At that point, the best players are adding to their total amount of hours at a fairly impressive rate and are getting a lot of help. If you are trying to keep up and trying to do more than they are doing in order to catch up, it becomes almost impossible.

“So the early training of an athlete turns out to be very important.”

Starting Young Essential
Colvin was asked if disciplined practice is vital at a young age or consistency of disciplined practice throughout one’s life.

“Having disciplined practice is important during a person’s life. But there are two reasons to believe that it is particularly important in the early years as a pitcher. Disciplined practice will alter your brain. Researchers call this brain plasticity. It can happen at any age even if you are an adult. At one time, researchers didn’t believe adults could have their brains altered in this fashion. But in fact, it is possible.

“However, it happens much more easily when you are young. That function will take over a larger part of your brain if you focus on it early in life. And that will last the rest of your life. It essentially changes the way your brain is wired. That is one reason why.

“The second reason is the pitcher’s ability to get the arm back much further than the ordinary person can get it back. There is research that shows if you do this early in life before your bones are fully calcified, you can get it way back there and continue to get it way back even after you mature fully. However, if you haven’t done that before your bones are fully calcified, then you will never be able to do it. You will lose the ability to get the arm as far back as possible.”

Colvin was asked how a young athlete can be trained by a parent so that youngster will have a passion to play the sport and not wash out at a young age.

It was pointed out to him that many times, well meaning parents live through their kids and force the kids to practice too hard or punish their kids for failing to excel in different sports. In time, the young athlete quits playing because he can’t cope with the pressure the parent puts on him or the constant abuse.

On the other side, Tiger Woods had an exceptional father, Earl, who passed on the love he had for golf through his son with demanding, focused practices. But both had a great time doing it. And Tiger Woods has been the standard as the world’s greatest golfer for years because of this early, focused training.

 “You’ve really put your finger on one of the key issues here. In fact, I had several paragraphs in my book Talent Is Overrated about how vital the development is between parents and the child.

“The preeminent researcher on the subject, Anders Ericsson of Florida State University, feels that the passion of a young person develops rather than emerging suddenly. A youngster’s childhood may be especially important in how the drive’s development gets started.

“Anders Ericcson goes so far as to say, ‘The research frontier is parenting. Push children too hard, and they respond with anger. You have to develop an independent individual who has chosen to be involved in this activity. It’s how you as a parent can make individuals feel free to reach these levels and aware that this is going to be a long process.’

“Getting a kid to understand and go through demanding practices at an early age is necessary. But you don’t want the kid becoming angry and resentful. In a way, this is what it’s all about. Obviously Earl Woods was able to do this successfully with Tiger Woods. Yet, we have all seen examples where an overbearing parent tries to force his kid to practice hard, and ultimately the kid reaches a certain age and rebels.

“He abandons the whole thing in anger and resentment, and it turns into a terrible situation. What you are asking is undoubtedly one of the most important questions. But unfortunately, there is no research available in this area that really explains how to do it right as a parent.”

Human Experiment
Colvin was asked to explain the story he discussed in his book about Laszlo Polgar, a Hungarian educational psychologist, who believed that great performers are made, not born.

In the 1960s, Polgar felt he understood the process so well that he could prove it with a live experiment with his children as they grew up. He wrote a book about how to do it called Bring Up Genius! (English translation).

To start the experiment, as incredible as this sounds, he publicly announced that he was looking for a woman to marry him so his wife could have children in the quest to help help him with the experiment. He ultimately found a schoolteacher in the Ukraine named Klara.

According to the book, the Polgars soon had a daughter named Susan. When she turned four, he began the process of making her a Grand Master in the game of chess.

At that point, the two parents devoted their lives to teaching Susan chess along with their two other daughters who were born later named Sophia and Judit. All three were home schooled, and the parents quit their jobs to work with the kids.

The schooling consisted largely of time consuming chess instruction every day. Incredibly, the family accumulated 10,000 chess books, and a filing system of index cards which cataloged the important areas of each book. It was a massive undertaking before computers became common.

When Susan was 17, she became the first woman to qualify for the Men’s World Championship. She wasn’t allowed to compete because she wasn’t a male. At the age of 21, she became the first woman ever to be named a grand master, the highest rank in chess.

Her sister Judit became a grand master at 15, the youngest person of either sex to do this. The middle sister, Sophia, never attained the grand master rank because she was the least committed of the three. But she did reach the rank of sixth in the world.

None of the three ever became world champion.

“This story vividly shows what deliberate practice can achieve,” said Colvin.

“The father, Laszlo Polgar, was not a chess master. He knew the game and was a serious player. But he was just average. He was still able to coach his daughters to be top-notch chess players and did it by learning about the game down in-depth.

“The time he brought up his daughters was pre-internet. They had a 10,000 book library that was strictly about chess. He also created a huge filing system where you could look up any position on the chess board and see what various great players had done.

“Today, that is almost trivial on the internet. But when he did it, it was an enormous piece of work. That’s what he was able to do which enabled his daughters to be great in chess, plus of course, requiring his daughters to spend hours and hours each day on chess.

“It shows you that you don’t have to be a great performer to teach others to be great.”

Jerry Rice Workouts
Colvin was asked to explain the remarkable work ethic of Jerry Rice, the greatest wide receiver in the history of the National Football League who mainly played for the San Francisco 49ers.

He is the all-time leader in every major statistical category for wide receivers and was an All-Pro 10 times in 20 NFL seasons. He also won three Super Bowl Rings with the 49ers. 

In Talent Is Overrated, Colvin explains Rice would sprint to the end zone after each reception during team practices when others would stop and go back to the huddle.

His off-season workouts were legendary. He worked out six days a week conducted entirely on his own. Mornings were devoted to cardiovascular work, running a hilly five mile trail. He then would reportedly run ten 40-meter wind sprints up the steepest part. In the afternoons, he did strenuous weight training.

“Jerry Rice was not the fastest wide receiver around,” said Colvin.

“By NFL standards, he didn’t have the speed necessary to be a great receiver. He would clearly be a good one, but he wasn’t fast enough. He somehow devised a training program that focused precisely on what he needed to do to be a great receiver.

“There is a larger lesson here. In any job on a baseball team, it is valuable to stop and think what the specific skills and strengths are needed to be great at that position. And then figure out what will build those specific skills and strengths.

“Jerry Rice knew that he had to run his patterns very precisely every single time so the quarterback knew exactly where to throw the ball.

“He knew he had to jump high to get balls that were thrown in this area to beat out defenders. He knew he had to develop tremendous hand strength to hold on to the ball when defenders tried to strip it away.

“Jerry Rice knew he had to have explosive power so he could come off the line faster. And finally, he had to have endurance so that at the end of the game when the defender was exhausted, he wasn’t.

“So he devised these workout routines focusing exactly on those specific skills to a degree that is incredible. It made him the greatest wide receiver in the history of the NFL by a mile… not a little bit…but by a mile.”

Colvin had some final thoughts on this complex subject.

“One point I would like to emphasize is that I hope people will accept this message, because it will really effect how they lead their lives and raise their kids. If you truly don’t believe that this type of practice will make you better and believe it takes a special gift that you either have or don’t, then you probably are giving up any chance of being extremely good.

“But if you do believe that deliberate practice will work, then you do have a chance.

“It is just tragic that people give up any chance of being great because they don’t think they can do it. The message here is yes, you can do it. You can always get much better than you thought.”

To read great instructional articles throughout the year, subscribe to Collegiate Baseball by CLICKING HERE.


Survival Is Operative Word In Baseball

Survival Is Operative Word In Baseball

Survival Is Vital Element In BaseballBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR
Editor/Collegiate Baseball
© 2010 Collegiate Baseball

LOS ANGELES — When it comes to winning any type of championship in athletics, and particularly in baseball, survival is the operative word.

No matter how dominant a team is, they reach a crossroads during the season where a ball club will either move forward with renewed vigor, level off or go backwards without ever recovering.

It is an area in sports that is rarely talked about but happens every year. An expert on the subject of surviving is Ben Sherwood, author of The Survivors Club. He spent years interviewing people who survived near death experiences. And he not only documented these remarkable stories in his book, but he sought to find out who beat the odds, who surrendered and why people bounced back while others gave up.

If this wasn’t enough, he allows you to discover your own Survivor IQ through a powerful internet-based test called the Survivor Profiler which was developed exclusively for readers of the book. It gives a customized report on your top survivor strengths.

What baseball coach wouldn’t want to know this information about all his players? After studying the personalities and patterns of people who overcome adversity, five main survivor types emerged:

• The fighter.
• The believer.
• The connector.
• The thinker
• The realist.

The second part of the Survivor Profile digs deeper into each person’s psychology and tells you your top Survivor Tools.

There are 12 measured by the Profiler:

• Adaptability.
• Resilience.
• Faith.
• Hope.
• Purpose.
• Tenacity.
• Love.
• Empathy.
• Intelligence.
• Ingenuity.
• Flow.
• I

Sherwood granted an exclusive interview with Collegiate Baseball and explained how the information from his research plays a big part in sports and specifically baseball.

“Life and competitive sports present the same fundamental ups and downs,” said Sherwood.

“The question I sought out in writing The Survivors Club was who are the most effective survivors and thrivers. The translation to sports is winners in life. What makes them so successful? Are they different from you and me? Are they built differently? Are their genetics different? Are their personalities different? And how can we get more of what those winners have in life’s toughest battles?

“The framework in the very beginning of The Survivors Club in my approach was to find out what the secrets were of the most successful winners in life’s toughest battles. And how can we learn from that?

“The battles I explore in the book include plane crashes, ferry disasters, car accidents, cancer, violent crime, a mountain lion attack on a woman which left her barely alive and the like. What I’ve learned over the last few years in interviewing hundreds of survivors and thrivers around the world is that the difference between a mountain lion attack, a 10-game losing streak or crushing injury is much smaller than it seems.

“That’s because the personal qualities required to overcome hurricanes and tornados or losing streaks and injuries are quite similar and require a very similar fundamental set of skills. My thesis is that survivors and thrivers, winners in life’s toughest battles, draw from the same tool kit. We call them different things in different environments.

“In the military, they call it situational awareness. In basketball, they call it “court awareness” which is a sense of the game and play and what is happening on the court. In game four of the recent World Series between the Yankees and Phillies, I was struck by Johnny Damon’s steal of second in the top of the ninth for New York. Because the infield had shifted to the right with Mark Teixeira batting, nobody was covering third. As Damon approached second, he saw that third base was open. So he continued on to that base and made it safely. He stole two consecutive bases on the same play because of his situational awareness. He knew he could outrun the closest fielder to third base.

“The most effective survivors and thrivers are people who share this common tool kit. They have adaptability, resilience and tenacity. These are qualities of great teams time and time again in sports. You see these teams come back from being down from losing streaks, back from bad calls from umpires. They are the teams that have the ability to bounce back from adversity.

“So what I explored in The Survivors Club is what are the science and secrets of the teams, people and businesses who are able to bounce back the fastest.”

Sherwood said in baseball, you can strikeout one inning and be the hero the next.

“The great players are the ones who get knocked down. Take a look at Alex Rodriguez. He had a miserable time of it through the first three games of the World Series and essentially up to game four through the first eight innings. Then in the ninth inning of that game, he had a key at bat to win the ball game.

“A concept from the survival literature is the ability in the midst of the crisis, whether that be crisis of confidence or crisis of all the noise in your head, that you aren’t doing well and supposed to be doing better. The ability to create “deliberate calm” is essential in survivor literature.

“Deliberate calm is the concept taught to military pilots in fighter pilot school and survival school. Deliberate calm is the ability in the midst of terrible, terrible pressure, hostile environment and tremendous adversity to create the calmness to approach your task and problem you face with the type of calm that will allow you to handle it.”

Sherwood said that he noticed how Joe Torre, former manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, handled a bad stretch during the season.

“The Dodgers were in a miserable slump during the second half of the season. There was a particular point where the Dodgers had lost a 9-game lead, and the Rockies were on the verge of catching up with them. Torre was asked what his approach was. He pointed out that the game of baseball at the major league level is a pressure cooker. There are high expectations of the best teams to win and perform.

“Coach Torres’ approach to get them out of this slump was to try to spread the notion of deliberate calm throughout the clubhouse. He didn’t use those precise terms, but that is what he was doing. It wouldn’t help his team if he ratcheted up the pressure by screaming at them.

“They were already under a tremendous amount. Instead, his job was to remind them of their strengths as a unit and to remind them of the things that they were particularly good at doing and encourage them to go out and string together hits instead of trying to hit home runs.

“Putting 4-5 hits in a row during an inning would lead to victory. Sure enough. After reminding the team about their strengths and that they needed to focus on that, the Dodgers went on to win the division. The concept of deliberate calm from the survivor literature is relevant. Under tremendous pressure, you need to calmly access the situation and focus on the strengths you have to deal with the particular challenge staring you in the face.

“One of the phrases in my book is ‘Eating an elephant one bite at a time.’ The concept is relevant to baseball teams. If you go out there and look at the fact that you are in the midst of a 9-game losing streak or blown a 4-game lead in your division, the entire challenge can be overwhelming. But if you just focus on each pitch, each at-bat and each inning and put together nine successful innings, eating an elephant one bite at a time leads you in the direction of more confidence. You get momentum in what you are doing. And instead of getting indigestion and giving up because an elephant is too big to eat in one bite, you start to make progress in achieving your goal.”

Sherwood said another concept baseball coaches will find useful is “hugging the monster.”

“The most successful survivors and thrivers don’t run from or avoid danger or fear. They wrestle with it and look it right in the eyes. The more familiar you are with your fears, and the dangers and threats out there, the more recognizable they become. And then they become more manageable when you deal with them.”

More About Surviving: A special 2-part series on this subject appeared in the Jan. 8 and Jan. 29, 2010 editions of Collegiate Baseball. To obtain these two issues, CLICK HERE.