When you come to the end of the baseball season - the final quarter - you are either going to be in a playoff race or out. And if you happen to be on a team that is on the outside, how you play out the final portion of the season can say a lot.
It is real easy to lose your focus and not be as concerned with the outcome of a game. Many players seem to be playing the end of the season by going through the motions because they have no hope of making the playoffs. And not just in Major League Baseball. I have seen it at all levels.
If you are a younger player, remember this piece of advice. Someone is always watching.
If you are a high school player, there may be a college coach in the crowd. If you are in a youth league, maybe there is a coach for a team at the next level up that is watching how you play. You can always catch someone's attention. It may just be for the wrong reasons.
Neil Walker plays second base for the Pittsburgh Pirates. If you are reading this and are a high school player or younger, you weren't alive the last time the Pirates had a winning season. The Pirates, as of today have lost 101 games and won 55. They haven't been in contention for the playoffs since the first month of the season.
But I would bet that Neil understands that the management of the Pittsburgh Pirates are evaluating this year's players as they already look towards next. If Neil would have backed off and not continued to play at the level he was capable of, the Pirates may have gone into the off-season looking for a second baseman for the 2011 season.
I've been around the game long enough to know that this is happening all around the league, in both directions. Some players are committed to playing at the highest level they possibly can and will keep their positions. Others, who are looking forward to the end of the season and some time off, will find themselves replaced because a lack effort.
But I singled Neil out for a reason. If you look up his statistics from the last ten games, (via the MLB website), in which the Pirates have won seven, but also surpassed the 100 loss total, he has a batting average of .343 with two home runs, ten RBIs and has drawn eight walks.
Neil worked hard to secured his position and I'm certain he doesn't want to lose it. I encourage you to do the same.