By Eric Johnson
Note: We decided to wait on the second part of Ethan’s tips to get you off the bench because we wanted to encourage you to watch Spring training games (if you can) before it is too late. Ethan will be back next week!
Right now, spring training is in full swing. This year is also a little unusual, in that the World Baseball Classic is going on for the next few weeks as well. All of these games offer a great opportunity for you to learn more about the game you love. If you can, you should check out some of the games on TV or online. Here’s why.
- You’ll get to see young players get a lot of playing time. Some of the teams that have lost starters to the WBC are giving their up-and-coming prospects a chance to prove what they can do in big league camp. Some of these guys are only a few years older than you. Some will have been drafted out of high school, and others out of college. They’ll start the season anywhere from A ball to the big league team. Watch them. If you see a 23 year old in the field, think about how you might try to improve your game over the next few years, through high school and college, so that you can reach that skill level. Even more importantly, see what the young players are lacking that established big leaguers do naturally. Some of the things you see rookies struggle with in spring training might be the same things you struggle with now or in the future.
- There will be mistakes. It feels good sometimes to see that these guys aren’t perfect either. They’re going to make errors, both physical and mental. They’re going to make situational mistakes on the mound and at the plate. It makes your goal of playing at the next level seem more attainable when you don’t put pro or college players on a pedestal. Afterall, they were once the same age as you are now. Watch them and learn from them.
- Pay attention to what skills the coaches have their players work on. If you see a player who has the same type of skill set you have, watch and see what he’s asked to do during the game. For instance, if you’re a slick fielding shortstop with a mediocre bat, and a big league manager is asking his shortstop, who is the same type of player, to sac bunt and hit-and-run, then you’ll know that that might be a skill set for you to work on as well.
Spring training is a time for the players to not only get sharp but also learn their teams’ systems. The young guys will be new to this and their growing pains will be obvious. They’ll be expected to make mistakes and they’ll be expected to learn from them. There’s no reason you can’t learn from them too.