College baseball left a bitter taste in my mouth. I was angry at my body for not holding up, angry at myself for not preparing the way I should have in high school, and angry at some of my coaches for not guiding me in the way I thought a mentor should.
I had some unfinished business with baseball, but at the conclusion of my undergraduate degree, I didn’t think there was a route for me to actually do anything about it.
I grew up in Vermont. People had “real jobs” where I grew up – they were plumbers, craftsmen, construction workers, electricians, teachers. I didn’t even know being a baseball coach was a real profession outside of MLB and the Minors.
I had a weird feeling at the bottom of my stomach that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. But I was sure that building computer models for the Food and Drug Administration did not resolve that feeling.
When I started coaching baseball again, I started to feel better. I was doing the right thing—helping people. I’m sure I was indirectly doing that at the FDA as well, but I couldn’t see it. I would do the work, send it to my boss, she would say good job, and that’s about it. Coaching baseball, I would give a kid a piece of advice, they would do it, and when it worked, their face would light up. It gave me a rush that I just wasn’t getting as a scientist, regardless of whether or not my work was important.
I was hooked; I had to do something in this field, or at least try. I figured that if I started a business and it didn’t work, then I had enough experience on my résumé, where I could just apply to grad school later if my business flopped. Being a business owner could even be a thing that could help me better market myself to a graduate school if I spun it correctly.
So I quit my job and dove in headfirst, teaching lessons at high schools whenever the cages were not being used, then working out of the backyard. I didn’t know what the heck I was doing, but I was figuring it out.
And I knew that I would be able to get my hands around the best way to do this if I just started doing it. I had some ideas about what I wanted to teach, but nothing was really figured out. What should I teach first? The lower half? Or the upper half? How should I teach the lower half? How should I teach the upper half? I didn’t know.
I knew I had learned a lot of drills, read a fair amount of hitting books, but there wasn’t any playbook that was really laid out yet. I needed to figure out something that would produce results consistently so I could help people best.
After years of trying multiple things and running some A/B tests – basically selecting five or six people to teach the same thing and another five or six people to teach something different, then comparing the results – I wasn’t doing anything crazy scientifically; the data was not rigorous; it was really just the eye test. Were you improving? Or were you not?
I was broke; I couldn’t afford much technology, but I was making it work. Here’s a few pictures over the years.
Things have come a long way since then. Instead of renting cage space or working out of a backyard, we have a facility now. Instead of not knowing what we’re doing, we have a clear process that consistently produces results. Instead of it being just me, we have a team that can execute at a high level.
I’m proud of what we’ve built at Ignite. But most of all, I’m proud of the people we’ve been able to help. Because ultimately, that’s why I started Ignite – I wanted to help as many baseball players as I could. When I see an athlete struggling to figure it out, or frankly, just frustrated with his or her results, I see a younger version of myself, and I want to reach out my hand. That’s what Ignite is trying to do everyday.
Thanks for reading,
Founder & CEO of Ignite Baseball
Director of Player Development Cadets