This article is now a few years old and every year it comes up for review, it’s still as relevant as ever! We’ve updated it and it’s packed with great advice for those players who don’t feel like they have a standout tool to show off.
Greatness is all the rage and people are trying to capitalize on it. Walk through your local bookstore, browse Twitter, or do a google search and you are sure to find “5 simple steps” (or something like that) to achieving greatness yourself! Everyone wants to be great at something (or everything), but we also know there is nothing easy about achieving greatness and maintaining success.
At KPB, we are here to help you in your pursuit of becoming a great baseball player. We are thrilled that research and data continue to push the boundaries of player development and that things once thought impossible (developing velocity, hitting for power when you are small, etc.) are now considered attainable for people willing to work at it. But when it comes to sports, sometimes there are personal limitations that simply won’t allow greatness in some parts of our game, no matter how long or hard we work. Even the best players on earth have limitations.
An old article in Business Insider titled, How to Succeed When You’re Not Good at Anything in Particular, captured our interest by looking at the idea of personal success in spite of personal limitations. The article really got us thinking, what if you apply the “Jack of all trades, master of none” idea to playing college baseball and the recruiting process? Can it work? In other words, given your limitations, can you achieve your goal of playing college baseball without being great, or even above-average, in any one part of the game?
After putting this “average Joe” idea to the test, we agree with the Business Insider view that a combination of serviceable skills can work in your favor and certainly land you on a college roster. Not only that, the same combination of baseball knowledge and skills can allow you to excel once you get to the college ranks! Here’s how:
Getting to college baseball isn’t always a storybook tale of a highly sought recruit. Details are incredibly important and showing that the details matter to you is something that college coaches will notice. The way you communicate (body language, written, verbal) and go about your business carries a lot of weight in recruitment. It doesn’t take baseball skill to create a quality plan and put yourself in position to get recruited. If you take care of the details and want it bad enough, you can find your way into a program.
Knowledge of self goes a long way
We talk about the importance of understanding yourself, often. Your ability to stay within yourself, and not let others or situations dictate your behavior, is an incredible skill. If you recognize your baseball skills are average, you can stretch them farther by not trying to do things you are not capable of. A great example of this would be a player who stays with his approach and process, no matter how big the situation. Staying process-oriented, instead of being greedy for results, allows you to use your skill set to perform above your ability level. For example, if you’re not a power guy but you can stay calm, you pay attention to the opposition, and you have a decent eye for the strike zone, your coach is going to be happy to have you come up with the bases loaded because he know you will not get yourself out or try to get too big.
Being unpredictable challenges the opposition
Unable to hit the home run, throw 90, or run above average? No problem. Having a broad range of adequate skills can make it more difficult for the other team to game-plan you versus the star who is known to be really good at one or two things. If you are unpredictable and able to do your job adequately, it will be tough for any team to figure out how to deal with you in any one way. Create as many serviceable skills for your “toolbox” as possible.
Being a good teammate can add a lot of value
College baseball is known for its fun-loving atmosphere, team superstitions, and quirks. Team chemistry and togetherness often overshadows talent, even on college baseball’s biggest stage (just ask Davidson, who three years ago won a Regional, despite severe scholarship limitations). Historically, there have always been roster spots for good teammates. That won’t change, even as roster spots are hard to come by these days due to the COVID-related log jam. If other players and coaches enjoy having you around and you can make the players around you better, that can have a huge impact on team success. Who doesn’t love a good clubhouse leader or a “glue guy” who brings people together? It doesn’t take talent to be that guy.
Baseball definitely has a place for role players
A pinch-hitter, a defensive replacement, a pitcher who can field his position or hold runners, a smart pinch-runner, an innings-eater in a blowout, a guy who can get a bunt down, the list of situation specific roles goes on. Baseball, like few other games, has a place for guys who can get the routine things done. If you can do a number of these things adequately, there is a place for you on a college roster. No matter how many innings you play, you can make a difference. Think we are just blowing smoke? Read this take from Darren Fenster, the former manager for the Greenville Drive, the Boston Red Sox Class A affiliate. In the article, he describes how all 49 players on his roster contributed to their championship season.
Versatility = Playing time
Injuries, slumps, match-ups… If one thing is certain in college baseball, it’s that nothing will go as planned. The lineup at the end of the year will not be the same as the lineup at the beginning. Versatility, even if you are just average at a lot of different things, is like gold. Versatile players give themselves more opportunity for playing time.
By now, you should see that being an “average Joe” isn’t always a terrible thing. If you have no stand-out skill, become the king of using a combination of adequate skills to earn a spot on the roster, get playing time, and help your team win!