I wanted to share a couple thoughts about middle school baseball, since all of you have been playing 12 U and under up to this point (This was a note that shared with my team last summer).
I’ve been involved with baseball professionally since 2014 so the kids that I started coaching are in college now, and my 16 U group from back in the day, has now graduated college. Yup, that means I’m getting old. I’ve probably said this to a lot of you on the phone at some point but I think the biggest thing that’s going to be a shock about playing on the big field is that the game of baseball at the 13 U and 14U level is a mess. There’s going to be a ton of mistakes. Good pitchers that have been able to command the zone for years may struggle to find their release point and walk a fair number of hitters. Sure handed fielders will make errors and throws that are nowhere near the desired target. As an athlete, and as a parent, this will feel really weird, if you’re on this team that means that you’re a pretty good baseball player, and have displayed a baseline level of competency, a competency level that you have come to expect from your kid, or yourself. It’s important to understand that there is no getting around the failure of 13 U baseball or Baseball as a whole. It’s a beautiful game that teaches us a lot about life, but it is unforgiving at times. This is challenging and I can’t soften the blows that surely will come. However, the way we approach things as a group will have a large impact on the morale of the team, and the morale of your son. We are going to praise effort, and we’re going to think of ourselves as playmakers, not mistake avoiders. This mindset will allow us to attack the game with the ferocity that’s necessary to play at a high-level for a long time. Also, it’s just a lot more fun when you focus on trying to do great things rather than trying to avoid bad things. The bad things are going to happen regardless, and when they do, we will coach the kids up on how they can approach things better, but as long as effort and preparation has been put forward all failure is acceptable and safe on our team.
I wanted to touch on one more thing that I think is really important about middle school baseball and the preparation to play in high school baseball because ultimately that’s what middle school baseball is. Skill is great, however it will only get you so far as an athlete I have written about this before in a previous article aimed more at high school athletes looking to get recruited by colleges but it also is true for middle school athletes. If you are skilled but not explosive the game will be very difficult for you. The biggest difference between 12 and 13U baseball is the ground you have to cover, it’s longer in between the bases, the outfield is bigger, you have to hit it further you have to throw it further you have to run faster for a longer period of time. All these things are huge changes, you can play small field baseball without being powerful and fast, I cannot say the same about big field baseball. I recommend you work out, I recommend you run sprints, I recommend you responsibly work on your arm strength (I could talk at length about what I mean by responsible but that’s probably for another day), and I also recommend that you continue to work on how hard you hit the ball. In 12 U, you have to hit the ball 100+ feet to clear the infield but in 13 U baseball you have to hit it about 150 feet to clear the infield.
Some of you that were excellent players at younger ages may struggle a little bit. And that is OK, I was exactly the same, my challenge to you is just to continue to work hard, so when you do hit puberty you have all the skills necessary to be able to execute at a high-level with your new and changed body. Playing ball when most kids are bigger than you can be challenging, and a little scary but that’s how you develop grit and mental toughness to be able to play at a high-level.
I’m excited to get to work, I hope that you are too.