Players Moving to the Next Level
by Coach Gary Overton

From the first time a youngster steps on the field he is told about the do’s and don’ts of baseball etiquette. Some understand the philosophy as a means to more accomplishments for team and individual play alike, while others just go along with the flow for reasons not pertinent to success of the game. The legendary Joe DiMaggio once summed his reasons for playing hard every day by saying “Someone may be watching me play for the first time”.

Such is the case for baseball recruiters and professional scouts when attending games to assess a player's ability in playing at the next level. Everyone knows a player has to have talent but what about those intangibles which magnify one's athletic ability. Baseball is a game of intangibles—the every-inning mind games between pitchers and batters, the vagaries of hot and cold streaks, the curses that have plagued teams throughout baseball’s history. Just like any coach in America would tell you, a player has to have some athletic ability if they’re going to help a program, however most would like to know a little more about the individual player aside from baseball. 

Recruiters (be it youth league drafts, colleges, pro ball etc.) have strong beliefs in a players’ personal character traits, such as the way one carries himself, a great work ethic, honesty, dependability, an unselfish team player, strong leadership abilities and a player who is driven and motivated. Not to be overlooked is a player who truly desires to work hard in the classroom and enjoys himself out on the field as it’s the “high energy” player who runs everywhere and seems intent on helping teammates by interacting and causing a cohesive atmosphere.

Physically, recruiters like to see players taking extra bases, running out every hit like it’s their last and sprinting on and off the field. It sounds like simple stuff, but only a small percentage of players actually do this. Scouts also like to see a player be the first one out of the dugout to pick up a teammate that has done something wrong. There is nothing like watching a player who takes a good positive approach to the game.

Things not to be seen are arguing with a coach, walking everywhere, and throwing equipment. A scout dislikes the notion of players who carry a bad at-bat to the field and compounds mistakes. Baseball is a game where we have to deal with failure, as a good hitter only succeeds three out of every ten times at bat. By the way, learning to cope with failure is a purpose for sending pro players through the minor league farm system before reaching the Major Leagues.

On the flip side, one of the most disappointing things to see is a player whose team lost but he’s happy with his individual performance. It’s easy to find a great player but it’s hard to find an elite player as the elite player not only excels for himself but has the unique ability to make his teammates around him better.

Treat every day on a baseball field like it will be your last opportunity to take pleasure in the game. Enjoy your opportunity to be part of a team and the challenge of winning. Take the time to thank your parents and coaches for the opportunities they provide. That’s what baseball is all about – opportunity. Take advantage of it and enjoy it because the end comes along sooner than you think. There comes a day when we all have to hang up the spikes… do your best to make that day far, far away and be passionate about making yourself and your team better! More importantly, the recruiter is looking for solid student-athletes who will represent their program in a positive first-class manner. As one professional scout told me “makeup of the individual is first”.
Coach Gary Overton