You waited all winter for the snow to melt, the grass to grow, and of course, for baseball to start. The beginning of the season is the most optimistic time of the year. Every player and every team gets a fresh start—everyone has an equal chance for success.
For many young ballplayers, success comes early and they find themselves in the starting line-up. For others, spring optimism is replaced with disappointment. You might be one of those guys. If you’re frustrated and without a starting job to begin the season, this series will give you some suggestions for action. In today’s post, we’ll tell you how you can help contribute to your team’s success from the bench. In Get Off the Bench Part 2, we’ll give you tips on how to make the most of the few opportunities you may get to show your coach he is making a mistake by leaving you out of the lineup.
On the Bench
If you are a guy who doesn’t get that much playing time, it is easy to get lazy. You may think that you are never going to get your shot to play, so why make the effort? Having this mentality will surely kill any hopes you have of seeing the field. To get in the game, you have to increase your value to the coaches. Don’t believe us? Watch this short video of one of the most successful coaches in history, Geno Auriemma, talk about why he doesn’t recruit or play players with disinterested body language here (1 minute mark). It may take some time to polish your skills enough for the coach to put you in a game but there is one thing that you can change right here and now: attitude. It all starts with attitude.
The harsh reality is that for some reason(s), you aren’t getting much playing time. There is a saying, “you can only control what you can control.” One thing you cannot entirely control is whether or not your coach puts you in the game. But, you can control the way you deal with being left out of the lineup. Instead of complaining, pouting, and bringing down your teammates, you can control the effort you put into making yourself the best teammate and ballplayer you can be, even if it’s from the bench. Just like Coach Auriemma, many coaches will not even think about putting in players with poor attitudes or body language, no matter what the situation is.
Here are some tips to increase your value to the coach and your team:
- For a guy who sits on the bench a lot, practice is your game. It may be the only chance you have of showing the coaches your skills, a taste of what they will get if they decide you deserve a starting spot. You have to treat practice like it is game 7 of the World Series, focus on every swing, every throw, every stretch, everything. You cannot afford to be lazy when this is all the coaches will see of you.
- Don’t treat games like they are a day-off. Study the game. Examine the opposing team, your team, and whoever is starting in your position, and ask, “What does he do that I don’t?” Ask other players and coaches questions about situations and strategy. By doing this, you will learn the ins and outs of the game while showing the coaches your head is in the game and not in the clouds.
- Be positive. Positivity is contagious. Even though it won’t get you headlines in the local paper, being a positive influence and voice from the dugout can help inspire your teammates and maybe even help to start a big rally.
- Find a way to help the team succeed. Pick the opposing team’s signs. Look for the pitcher tipping his pitches. Are the fielders or catcher tipping pitch location? Keep track of pitchers tendencies and let your teammates know. Ask your coach if you can be responsible for another type of chart. Check to make sure that the other team is not picking your signs and relaying information to their hitters. Help warm up the off outfielder. There are tons of ways to help.
- Be ready – physically and mentally. You never know when the coach is going to put you in a game, so when that happens, make sure you are ready to make the most of the opportunity. Make sure you know the situation and what is needed from you.
All of these things will make you a better player, a better teammate, and a better person. You can’t control getting in the game or not, but when all is said and done, leave no doubt that you have done everything you can to be the most valuable player on the bench and to help your team win.
In Get Off the Bench Part 2, we’ll expand on tip #5 and give you ways to be ready for your shot when your number is called.