Experts, Experts, Experts…

During my time as an athlete, coach, Athletic Director, etc. I have come across my fair

share of parents, hitting coaches, sport specialists, shooting gurus, etc. who all seem

to have it figured out what is best for their kid and other people’s kids.  For all of you coaches

and former athletes out there who “get it”, I have to relay a couple stories from last week.

I was heading to the New Haven area last week with my son Billy to do a baseball workout at

my college roommates indoor hitting facility.  We were just going to take a ride down, get

a workout in and then go grab some pizza in New Haven with my friend.  My friend had to run home for a

few minutes, but I have been to his facility before and he told me when I get there to just grab a cage.

Upon walking in to his facility, I quietly slipped into one of the back cage areas so I could hit Billy

ground balls.  Within 3 minutes of starting, I had a guy come up to me behind the cage and tell me he is

noticing Billy was doing something wrong, and asked if I minded if he spoke to him.  I had no idea who

this guy was, he had no idea who I or my son was.  At this point Billy may have taken a grand total of 5-6

ground balls and was just flipping them back to me, just warming up.  I play along, as I can’t wait to hear

what this guy has to say.  The guy proceeds to walk inside the cage and tell Billy that he is releasing the

ball exactly one inch too soon, and that is why he will have trouble throwing to bases.  One inch, he

repeated it about 4 times.  To my son’s credit he stood there and basically said he will try and get better.

This guy noticed he was throwing “one inch” too soon, from over 150 feet away!!!!  The guy was nice

enough, and certainly didn’t mean any harm but does he really take himself that serious?

 

Within 2 minutes of Throwing Guru, another gentleman walked by and said he wanted me to put my son

in the cage with him while I was down there so he can properly show him how to hit.  That guy doesn’t

even work there!!  Can I please reiterate that at this point we have been in the building 5 whole minutes,

we have hit 5 ground balls or so, and I have not held up a sign that said “please come help us.”  That

being said, I had a guy offer to help with throwing, and another tell me he needs to see my son in the

cage with him {he didn’t even pick up a bat yet}.  We ended up taking a bunch of ground balls, a few

rounds of BP and slipped out of there in less than an hour.  I chalked it up to maybe the guys were in

there trying to drum up business, they didn’t really know until after that I was the owner’s teammate

from our college days, etc.  Then I had one more encounter with another expert a few days later that

made me almost scream with laughter.

 

On Sunday’s for the past couple months I throw BP to many of my former St. Bernard players and some

other kids from local high schools.  We hit at G’s Fitness in Waterford, they have a nice cage in there with

turf so the kids get a great workout.  This past Sunday, I have my best hitter from last year in the cage

and we are working on hitting the ball the other way.  This young man, Izzy, reminds me of Vlad

Guerrero in that he grips the bat firm and just lets it fly.  No batting gloves, just hacks at anything close

and rips.  Izzy batted third for me last year, led our team in many offensive categories as a sophomore.

So, as he is peppering the screen with one line drive after another, a parent of a kid not involved in my

workout happens to walk in and say hi to me.  I swear on all things sacred, he wasn’t in the door 10

seconds and he says hi to me and looks at Izzy and says, “he’s gripping the bat too tight, not gonna get

around on the ball.  You gotta get his hands back.”  Lucky for him that we are friends, because I had just

about had it with the expert analysis for the week.  Please keep in mind this guy barely played in high

school, and wasn’t any good to boot.  He was an outstanding football player back in the day, but had no

game in baseball to speak of at all.  I calmly explained to him that Izzy does just fine hitting his way, and

that he has enjoyed great success so far and so we are going to leave him alone and just work on the little

things.

 

One of the greatest lessons about coaching I ever learned was from Sparky Anderson, the legendary

manager who won World Series Titles with the Cincinnati Reds and the Detroit Tigers.  Sparky was a

friend of my former college coach, and I had a chance to speak with him for about 20 minutes one night

back in 2000.  We were on the same cruise together, and he gave a presentation that night along with

the 1975 Big Red Machine.  During the conversation we talked about everything you could imagine, but

his number one message he kept telling me was:  “Kid, the best thing you can do with a good ball player

is leave him the {expletive} alone.  Don’t get in his way, sometimes guys invent problems with a player

so they can be part of the solution, thus get credit for their success.  More times than not, they create a

problem that wasn’t there in the first place, and they end up ruining the player.  I’ve seen it a 1,000

times.  You think I had the bright idea in spring training one year to tell Morgan {Hall of Famer Joe,

widely considered the best second basemen of all time} to start flapping his arm like a bird?  Hell no,

that little {expletive} was hitting the {expletive} out of the ball so I didn’t bother him.”  I remember this

conversation like it was yesterday, I wished Anderson good health and he asked me to say hi to my

former coach for him.

Anyway, I thought it was a pretty funny week with all the expert advice I was able to receive about

baseball this week.  I can only wonder what Sparky would have said…

One response to “Experts, Experts, Experts…”

  1. Don Benoit says:

    Here was my Dad’s advice to me way back in the 1960’s –
    ” Get comfortable in there and just hit the ball.” Seems to me most kids develop their “own” swing over time and practice through their own individual adjustments as they progress.

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