When I show up at a baseball game, I am usually carrying my “man bag” and my laptop. I get asked a lot if I am a scout, even at the minor league games, but almost every high school and college game. On the days that I just want to watch the game, not really wanting to talk with anyone, I will play along – neither acknowledging, or denying, that I am. I have talked with and observed a lot of scouts on this trip, I can spot them instantly. Recognizing them really isn’t that hard, so I can see why people assume that I am one. Last night was one of those nights I wanted to watch the game. I thought the game was at Johns Creek High School, I showed up and a game was being played but it was a ninth grade game. I went to the concession stand and inquired where the varsity game was being played. The attendant told me the game was at Lambert High School about eight miles away. I talked with some very nice “moms” that inquired if I was a scout. I told them “kinda”, then explained what I was doing. I was very impressed with Johns Creek sports facilities, hands down the top of my “the nicest I have seen” list! The “moms” explained how to get to Lambert letting me know it would take about 20 to 25 minutes to get there because of traffic.
I drove through one of the nicest suburbs that I have seen where larger homes and mini-mansions were the norm. These were nice well-crafted homes, not the Mc Mansions, you see in a lot of newer subdivisions. I arrived at Lambert High School to a packed parking lot; therefore, I had to park on the grass. I grabbed my gear and started walking down to the baseball field. I was blown away at the amount of people who were at the game. The stands were filled along with people standing everywhere, even standing on top of the football field bleachers last row. This was a big rivalry game and since Lambert is rated #2 in the nation, I think it brought even more people out. I instantly felt people looking at me. I was scanning the crowd for scouts, I couldn’t spot any. I tried to find a place down the right field line but the sun was in my eyes. I walked back through the crowd going down the left field line, bad angle. As I was walking through the crowd, I heard the whispers, “What does his hat say”. “He looks familiar”. “He is from Wisconsin”. (I was wearing a Badger Baseball Shirt. By the way, Wisconsin doesn’t have baseball.) “I wonder who he is here to see”, etc. I hear those whispers all the time, to be honest, I enjoy it. On this night I went with it, I didn’t feel like talking, as the game progressed I spotted a player that I wanted to watch.
Watching a lot of baseball, I have learned just how to spot the “stand out” players. I am not saying it is hard to do, most people are able to spot the good ones. What I’m talking about are the players that have that little extra. My favorite position to watch is catcher. There is something about that position that I love. It takes a special person to play and perform at a high level while catching. The catcher is the coach on the field, knows all the situations while making snap decisions. He’s the mediator between mound and plate with occasionally conferencing with a pitcher to calm down or to fire up. As a catcher, a player needs to have some “grit”. When they say, “There is no crying in baseball”, a catcher defines this statement. Besides all the mental and emotional skills required for the position, a player needs to have impressive physical skills which include quick feet, instinctive reflexes and strong arm strength.
I was watching the catcher from Johns Creek last night. He was a big kid, my guess 6’2′ (or taller), 210 pounds. What I noticed instantly was his “grit”. He had no problems throwing the ball to second to keep a runner close. When I say throw to second to keep a runner close, I mean the runner was already there, not stealing from first. The kid had quick feet, a keen sense as he naturally framed pitches. His throws to second between innings were always on the bag and they seemed so effortless. I didn’t have a stop watch to record his pop time (meaning the elapsed time from the “pop”, or the sound of the catcher’s mitt, when he receives the pitch until the “pop” of the infielder’s glove when he receives the throw down at second base). The catcher’s throws back to the pitcher were hard, crisp and to the glove. This kid impressed me with his natural gifts. I was taking notes and watching him closely during the game. You know how you can feel ‘someone’ looking at you, well his teammates noticed me pointing me out to the catcher. Some of the dads started standing by me. This has happened before when I have pulled out my notebook. I looked around noticing lots of people looking at me. A very weird feeling.
The scouts I have talked with so far on my trip have all told me that it is what is “between the ears” that counts most. If I were to sit down and talk to this kid, I would point out a few points to consider. First, I would let him know he seemed a tad too emotional with the umpire’s strike zone compared to what he thought the strike zone was. As a catcher you need to remain calm, don’t let the umpire get the best of him. He might have backed up first base when there was routine ground balls to the infield. However, I didn’t notice if he did that or not. But to move up that kind of hustle is always appreciated. I would tell him to be a gracious loser. He seemed frustrated when Lambert took charge of the game with a big lead. I understand losing “sucks”, but it is part of the game. I would explain, that kneeling on your knee looking upset when a teammate ‘boots” a ball. This gives the wrong message to the rest of the team and the player who “boots” a ball. I would advise him to be the coach and leader that you are. My very last piece advice is to have a “short memory”. If you commit an error or lose a game, put it behind you quickly! Overall this kid has a lot more upside ticks, than downside. He might be a top prospect already, but I never checked. The player I love to watch the most in the Major Leagues is Yadier Molina of the St Louis Cardinals. He personifies all of the above. When he is playing, he is in charge and I love that about him. I don’t necessarily like the team he plays for since they own the Brewers and the Dodgers when it counts.
I have picked up a lot of pointers from watching and talking about the game. I understand hitting a lot more. I’m beginning to spot the good technical hitters, but I still have a long way to go. As far as good pitching, I am lost! I might go out and get a cheap stop watch, to record pop times. I enjoy these aspects of the game. It’s like “keeping book”. This helps me hyper focus and just another outlet when at a game! Lambert beat Johns Creek, 9-3. As I was leaving one of the player’s father came up and asked which player I was here to see? I nonchalantly said, “a kid from Johns Creek”. I didn’t feel like explaining and I figured if scouts haven’t shown up to watch these kids on these two teams, they aren’t very good scouts. Plus, I gave the fans something to talk about.
NOTE: I updated by biography since I hadn’t really touched it in three months. Click here if you would like to check it out: “biography“. That will get you where you want to “look”. If you have read it before, just scroll down and look for the update from today.
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