What frustrates you the most about Travel Baseball? When it comes to frustration, I truly believe when you get to that point, solutions emerge. I started coaching at East Cobb in the late ’90s. The Atlanta Braves were dominating and there was a boom of private baseball instruction. I had no idea how to coach and parents had no idea what criteria was needed to be a good coach.

While it was simply trial by fire, it paid off over time.

I remember like it was yesterday – the late ’90s. That’s when Perfect Game (PG) introduced its regional showcases in Florida. The events enabled hundreds of the region’s top players to be in the same location. It was a godsend to for scouts to evaluate talent. I was able to help dozens of players from the Southeast region prepare for the showcases.

Shortly afterward, PG disrupted the Travel Baseball industry by introducing its wooden bat tournaments. The events quickly helped separate the good pitchers and hitters from the bad ones, while also attracting professional scouts in droves.

Over the years, Travel Baseball has become loved by many and hated by others. For me, I happen to love it, even though it can be frustrating.

I’ve been a professional swing coach for 20 years, helping to develop a number of Major Leaguers, first round draft selections, and collegiate and high school All-Americans using my hitting methodology called AT-BATS.

I love Travel Baseball because it enables my players to compete against players from around the country. This helps them evaluate their talent against others, while gaining an understanding of what they need to improve in their short-term and long-term baseball goals.

I get frustrated with Travel Baseball because the complexity of the environment causes anxiety among players and parents. It forces me to cut through all of it before I can begin teaching a player how to play the game.

I recently asked three of my friends what frustrates them the most about Travel Baseball. Here’s what they had to say:

Desmond Stegall

Desmond Stegall, Head Coach, L.E.A.D. Ambassadors
The thing that frustrates me the most about Travel Baseball is the influence of power/exposure in these money-making organizations, meaning most players feel like they have to be in a certain place or play for a certain organization to be seen by college or pro scouts.

I can speak to the baseball players I deal with at L.E.A.D. You find some of them who feel they can be better coached or have more opportunities playing elsewhere. Most of that stuff is smoke and mirrors to get your money and help that organization grow.

Today, you will come across some travel ball facilities and organizations that have connections and networks to expose you to the next level, but I feel that the hype for every player to take that is increasing.

I won’t name any names, but I remember when I was playing. Most of my peers looked at me sideways because I never wanted to play for “that” all-star team or “that” coach. Instead, I played for an organization that focused on my development – one that helped me achieve my ultimate goal of playing baseball at the next level.

D.J. Huyck (at right)

D.J. Huyck, former Travel Ball parent
In Travel Baseball, as a general thought for a lot of the organizations, but not necessarily all organizations, the premise was that you needed to play baseball year-round and train year-round if you wanted to play baseball at the next level. The common theme was that when you get to high school you will need to specialize in one sport.

I have never bought into that philosophy – on any level – and, unfortunately it is creeping down to even younger ages (when a kid turns 13, if not sooner). That’s a major mistake. In turn, it is why we will continue to see kids have arm and shoulder injuries, among others, earlier and earlier in their sports career.

Too many coaches in all sports are promoting too much specialty versus play as many sports as you can to help make you better at each and every one you play. They’d say they wanted those two- to three-sport athletes, but their actions would not show that. It left the parents and players feeling like they were behind, causing way too much stress out if they played multiple sports.

As a coach, I continue to see players and parents wanting to position themselves to be “for hire” if a team or organization wants them to play in any one given tournament to help them win, even though the team didn’t have injured players, etc. I never saw this as a sense of loyalty and commitment. It was more about how I can advance my kid on “good” teams, regardless of what it was doing to that team and its roster. It became more about winning versus developing young players to compete at the highest level.

I always felt the goal of Travel Ball was to develop the player, take the talent that each one has and improve upon it so he could play at the next level – if that is what he wanted. Not everybody needs or should play Travel Baseball. The amount of travel teams out there has diluted the overall talent, in my opinion.

So, not only does that have an impact on the teams you’re competing against, but it also has an impact on each team’s players. Now you are seeing far too many position players because organizers need the numbers to make the travel program work for their organization and team budget.

What does that all mean to the player? He gets a potentially diluted group of teammates – three to five players who are all of the same caliber and the rest who are below their caliber. As a coach, you now must have kids fight for playing time.

I am a firm believer that the only way a player is going to get better is to play. He needs to get reps. The game is about success and failure; therefore, he needs to get those opportunities. This is what makes him better. It teaches him how to handle the mental aspect of the game. Not everyone gets playing time or a trophy because he paid. You have to earn – and continue to improve – to make your way.

Mike Strickland, Head Baseball Coach, The Marist School, Team USA 15U
My No. 1 frustration is that kids are losing the art of valuing and focusing on every pitch. One game leads to the next, and you’re playing for another championship the following weekend. Kids today have better skills sets than ever before, but they don’t understand, honor or adapt within the game because of the loss of urgency as described in the above statement.

Remember: Intelligence tops being smart.

For more information, visit www.diamonddirectors.com today. Also, check out our Digital Magazine.

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C.J. Stewart has built a reputation as one of the leading professional hitting instructors in the country. He is a former professional baseball player in the Chicago Cubs organization and has also served as an area scout for the Cincinnati Reds. As founder and CEO of Diamond Directors Player Development, C.J. has more than 12 years of player development experience and has built an impressive list of clients, including some of the top young prospects in baseball today. If your desire is to change your game for the better, C.J. Stewart has a proven system of development and track record of success that can work for you.

 

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Your 3-point hitting plan for May

by Admin on May 9, 2018

Tyquavious Noland is a rising junior outfielder at LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis, Tennessee

Make excuses. Miss opportunities. Maximize reps. Being healthy is a 12-month commitment if you want to live a long life. Baseball development requires the same level of focus, especially for those of you who dream of becoming an elite hitter.

May is the month to maintain skills and skills pay the bills. A skill is something that can be done repeatedly without thought while under stress. Skills can only be developed by doing stuff that’s tough. You maintain skills by continuing to do tough stuff.

There are three pitches I want you to be able to hit this May. Let’s take a look:

Strike No. 1 – Making excuses
Excuse-making during the baseball season happens just like grass grows in the summer. Players who lack skills make the most excuses. Skills are developed by doing stuff that is tough.

Strike No. 2 – Missing opportunities
Based on my experience as a master level hitting coach, hitters need a minimum of 250 at-bats per calendar year to be on track to becoming an elite hitter. You can get these at-bats in games as well as in practice.

Get your game at-bats and learn from your mistakes and right your wrongs in your next practice. Until you make it to the Majors, all of your games are practice any way.

Strike No. 3 – Maximize reps
There are seven parts to the swing. As we have discussed, it takes 3,000 reps to maintain a skill. That’s 21,000 reps. Players who lack skills are easily recognized because they do the most complaining and blaming. There are 31 days in May (744 hours). That’s plenty of time to get reps by the thousands.

Remember: Intelligence tops being smart.

For more information, visit www.diamonddirectors.com today. Also, check out our Digital Magazine.

____________________________________________________________________________________

C.J. Stewart has built a reputation as one of the leading professional hitting instructors in the country. He is a former professional baseball player in the Chicago Cubs organization and has also served as an area scout for the Cincinnati Reds. As founder and CEO of Diamond Directors Player Development, C.J. has more than 12 years of player development experience and has built an impressive list of clients, including some of the top young prospects in baseball today. If your desire is to change your game for the better, C.J. Stewart has a proven system of development and track record of success that can work for you.

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Why May is your month to get serious. Are you ready?

May 2, 2018

May is the month to maintain skills and skills pay the bills. A skill is something that can be done repeatedly without thought while under stress. Skills can only be developed by doing stuff that’s tough. You maintain skills by continuing to do tough stuff. Let’s assume you’re not a pilot. So, if a pilot […]

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Your guide to slumps, survival and success

April 25, 2018

Slumps start and stop. In life, and on and off the baseball field, the desired outcome is success. But, you have to prepare for the slumps. They are inevitable. So, what bridges the gap between the two? It’s survival. Slumps happen to the best of us. A slump is defined as a sudden severe or prolonged fall in […]

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Do you know what real competition is?

April 18, 2018

What is competition? On one hand, competition is making your opponents better, regardless of their skill level or yours. On the other hand, competition is a minimum standard that must be realized in order to compete. Let’s go deeper on both. While playing in the minors in the Chicago Cubs organization, I faced 90-plus fastballs daily. […]

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Heart work > Hard work

April 11, 2018

For my hitters, February through the end of April is about about converting habits to skills that will allow you to perform. You’ve heard quotes from coaches like, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard” and “No pain, no gain.” I profess right here and right now that heart work is more important than […]

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Why and how your skills transfer to real life

April 5, 2018

I’ve been coaching professionally for 20 years. Over the years, I’ve learned that it takes 10,000 hours to develop a skill. In my time, I’ve logged more than 30,000 hours as a coach developing Major Leaguers, politicians, pastors and teachers, to name a few. Of all the people I have helped along the way, Stephen […]

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The Master speaks – Jerry ‘Papa” Ellis on what young baseball players need to know today

April 4, 2018

Mr. Jerry “Papa” Ellis is one of my favorite people in the world, even though he’s an Alabama Crimson Tide fan. He was an All-American second baseman at Bama back in the day and knows a lot about baseball. Can you see why I listen to him? I’ve had the pleasure of coaching his grandsons, […]

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4 ways to get more at-bats this spring

March 28, 2018

What should you do if you’re not getting enough at-bats this spring? There’s an old saying that there is no need to cry over spilled milk. I agree. But before I give you the four-step advice you’re looking for to help you get more at-bats, you must acknowledge there are eight questions you must ask your […]

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Why teachable moments matter in your journey to be the best

March 14, 2018

Great coaches anticipate teachable moments such as ignorance (not knowing better), arrogance (acting better than you are) and defiance (failing to respect that there are others who are better than you). For some people, playing baseball is strictly recreation, while for others, it’s an assignment from God. For me, writing this blog is an assignment from […]

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