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How to earn playing time when sitting on the bench – part 3

This is a five part series about how I was able to play at the Division one level after sitting on the bench in Junior College for three years.

Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

This is the third installment of a five part series depicting my experiences of going from a bench player to an everyday player at the D1 level.

I spoke about my ability to focus on the image that I had for myself as a player as well as the process of being humble as the first two qualities that allowed me to stay persistent.

If you don’t know already, sitting on the bench is no fun. When every part of you wants nothing more than to play your heart out in every inning and yet all you can do is voice your support, giving up on yourself is a hard thing to avoid at times.

This is something that every single bench player needs to underhand. If you sit on the bench long enough, and your not paying attention, a part of you will die. I truly feel that every competitor has a fighting spirit and if you are not given an opportunity to exercise this gift, the flame burns out. Sitting the bench can take away that fire.

What I mean is if your not careful, sitting on the bench can cause you to become complacent. Do not let this happen.

You have to be ready. Even if you never play an inning, you are preparing yourself for next year. You have to condition yourself to never take a moment for granted.

There were definitely times when I was subject to feeling sorry for myself, and this may have lead to me possibly losing my competitive edge. Trust me, I had to work extra hard the next year when I earned a starting position after transferring to get back my baseball instincts and competitive edge.

I had to re-train myself to develope my baseball instincts because my ability to do so essentially atrophied like an unused muscle.

Dealing with sitting the bench is a challenge in itself. Don’t make it harder by taking yourself or the game for granted.

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12 tips for running the base-paths the right way

A hit is a hit is a hit is a hit. If you get on base, you’re increasing the chances for your team to score. Right? Well not necessarily.  If you are a joke on the base-paths, you are doing a disservice to your team. You’re nothing more than a base-path clog in the drain leading to a run scored.
Yea you may be a hitting machine, but you will be far less valuable to your line-up if you are getting thrown out at 2nd, 3rd, and home.
There are certain attributes that every baseball player should be aware of when running the basepaths. If these aren’t mastered, you are liability plain and simple.

Know what a correct lead is

The point of a lead is to get 2 things done.

  • cut the distance from 1st to 2nd
  • hopefully pick up the catcher’s signs
The trick is to maximize your distance from 1st while getting back safely with no exceptions. The only time you should ever be thrown out is if the pitcher has an ungodly pick off move, and you were stealing. Even then, a good coach will probably ask you “what the hell were ya thinkin?!!!”
Getting the correct distance will also allow you to get a good view of the catcher’s signals. The art of picking up signals can be very valuable and will be explained in another post.

Know the situation, be ready for what pitch is coming

The situation will always dictate the game. Meaning what choice you make between the lines will be directly influenced with the status of each inning.
If the pitcher is ahead in the count, he is probably coming with a breaking ball in the dirt. You should have already anticipated this and be ready to take second base if the opportunity presents itself.

Read balls in the dirt

This ties in directly with being aware of the situation. Being aggressive is great when a player is able to use it to their advantage. Reading the balls in the dirt will not only give you an advantage to score, but will make you look good. There is nothing more exciting to see than a player taking control of the flow of the game.

Know the pitchers tendencies and rhythm

Pitchers are creatures of habit. I would say over 50% of amateur pitchers do something that tips a pitch or shows where they are going to throw the ball.
One thing I noticed is that very rarely do college pitchers throw over to first after coming set. They seem to throw during the set process or before it but never after. All pitchers are different but they all have something that shows their next move

Know his timing

Similar to their rhythm, some pitchers- in their stretch, will pitch to home after a set time. EX: a pitcher may go to the plate every time after a count of “2 mississippi”. Becoming aware of this, you can break for second on ” 1.5 mississippi”. This will give you a major advantage so pay attention to the pitcher’s tendencies.

Master the secondary shuffle

Having a good secondary shuffle is absolutely nessasary. It gives you the required momentum while allowing you to be prepared for balls in the dirt.

Know the defense positioning

If you know the position of the defense, the better base running decisions you can make and the more aggressive you can be on the base paths.

Make the right turns/Get the right angles

You can be a guy who runs a 6.2 sixty yard dash but if you take lousy angles around the bag, you’re no faster than a guy who runs a 7 flat but takes better routes. Think about it.

Always slide

Never be the guy who gets tagged out standing up. Ever.

Going from first to third- use your instincts

While running from first, you have the whole field in front of you to make the correct decision to take third. Unless your coach tells you different, trust your instincts instead of what your third base coach may be saying.
Going from 2nd to home- pick up your third base coach
This is a bit different. You will need some guidance since the play will be developing behind you, and you should never be running with your head turned away from the direction you are running. From second, as soon as the ball is hit, pick up your third base coach.

Always hustle

This goes without saying. Trust me. A baseball career will flash by you. Don’t have any regrets.

I’m sure that you would agree with me if I were to say that extra-base hits are far more valuable than a walk or single. An extra-base hit will not only put you in scoring position but it forces the middle infield to play out of position in a sense, it applies my pressure on the defense and pitcher, and if nothing else, it puts the pitcher in the stretch.

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A great hitter’s approach: Think gap to gap


Want to be a great hitter?

One that is infamous for hitting for power, average,in key situations, and is constantly locked in with a high slugging %?

Take a hitting approach that focuses on gap to gap. A good pitcher will have atleast two really good pitches that he can consistently throw for strikes.

Your job as a hitter is to know what he has, and be ready for it when it comes.

The problem is, making the adjustment from a good fast-ball to a good off- speed during the same pitch is extremely difficult.

Thinking gap to gap will ease things up a bit. If your hitting approach is to hit line to line, you are leaving alot of room for error.

If you have the timing of pulling a fastball to the short stops “6” hole (throwing arm side) you will be vulnerable to any off speed or breaking ball pitches. If you have started late enough to hit a fastball to the second basemen’s glove hand than you will be vulnerable on pitches on the inner half.

A hitter that can truly hit to all fields and do it with power is one that is thinking gap to gap. Not trying to be to “fine” with how and where he hits it.

Think gap to gap and never worry about getting jammed because you’re trying to guide the ball to the opposite side or rolling over because you’re trying to hit the ball out in front.

This is how you get locked in as a hitter and build enough confidence to have a great season offensively.


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19 Baseball tips from 5 years of college ball

If you are willing to pay attention, and take the time to understand that baseball is a game where each failure is a lesson, each person you meet is a teacher, and every success is proof that baseball gives you every chance to succeed, then baseball will show you some pretty interesting things. Most of us will have to learn the hard way. But this is a good thing. We learn through experience, but a little friendly advice never hurt anyone.

Here is what I learned in my 5 years of college ball.

1.Learn to be a great fast-ball hitter–  Guys are throwing harder here. You may not be seeing 95 mph fast-balls on a daily basis, but you better believe there are at-least 2-3 guys that throw consistently in the upper 80’s and can hit their spots. Being a good fast-ball hitter means understanding the concept of timing. The harder he throws, the earlier you have to start.

2.Learn to hit to the opposite fieldHitting to the opposite field is absolutely essential. If you can’t drive the ball the other way, you’re just a dressed up out. You won’t be a good situational hitter, will struggle in the clutch, and will struggle with the off-speed.

3.Learn what foods are good for you and what foods aren’t– You will be playing more games than you are used to at the lower levels. The college baseball season is a marathon, and your longevity will depend on a few key things.One of them is the type of foods you put into your body. Eating foods that will alkalize your body and help promote recovery will give you an advantage

4.Listen to your mom– Honestly, can you remember a time when your mom gave you bad advice?

5.Clean your cleats– Do this before every game. It shows that you care, are responsible, and have a sense of pride. This will show in your performance, and the scouts will always notice.

6.Never show emotion on the field after you fail– Failure is a part of the game. Your focus should be on the adjustments you need to make. You don’t have time to give in to frustration.

7.Stay away from alcohol– I have nothing against kicking back a few beers. But alcohol gives you no benifits. Neither nutritional, phycological, or emotional. If you happen to be an average player, than you will need all the help you can get. You won’t find it from booze.

8.Learn how to stretch correctly– I have seen to many players miss playing time from injuries they could of easily prevented had they taken 5 minutes to stretch. Make it a habit to stretch after you shower. Your muscles are warm and pliable. You will be amazed at the benefits.

9.Learn how to be a great two-strike hitter– This ties in closely with hitting the ball the other way. Not putting the ball in play consistently becomes a burden in the line-up. If you can cut down strike-outs, it could be the difference in hitting .300 or .350

10.Take care of your arm– If you feel discomfort in your arm, shut it down. Your arm strength is your livelihood. Take care of it and it will take care of you.

11.Take extra batting practice– We live in a universe where we get what we put in. You want to see results? You have to be willing to put in the work.

12.Learn from others– Baseball is a games of failure. You can learn a lot not only from your failures but from the failures of your team-mates. Pay attention.

13.Bring a book on road trips– You will be traveling a lot. Take the time to get aquatinted with the thoughts of someone else. Books are formed by knowledge. Knowledge is power and interestingly enough it’s the same power you use to turn on a fast-ball.

14.Trust your instincts– Your instincts will guide you. The whole point of practice is so that you can forget what you have learned, and allow it to come naturally.

15.Don’t play to win. Play to succeed– You have no control over results. You can do everything right, and still lose. Play to succeed. This come from within.

16.Respect the game– Do I really need to explain this?

17.Never steal with a big lead– Unless you wan’t to get one of your teammates hurt, just take my word for it.

18.Don’t get out of the way of a pitch when your team needs runners on base– This is part of doing what it takes to win. No pain no game. (Sorry for the cliche)

19.Pick your teammates up, always– This game may be defined mostly by individual stats, but you will always win and lose as a team. Be supportive. Their will be a time, when you will need someone to pick you up as well.