Friday, January 7, 2011

Are You an Early Developer or Late Bloomer? A Player’s Approach to Each.

Every baseball player out there falls into two categories – an early developer or a late bloomer. You are the best player on your team or even in your league. Or you love the game, but your talent puts you in the middle of the pack.

There is a fine line between making it and being passed over. As baseball’s ladder progresses, from youth to junior to high school to college to professional, making a team becomes harder and can literally depend on a bad day, a bad at-bat or a bad pitch on the mound. 

If you have been fortunate to develop early, realize that you are lucky. Enjoy your success on the field, allow your confidence to grow, but don’t think it will always be easy. 

As I was coming through the ranks, I was good enough to be on a few all-star teams, but never good enough to play much. No question taking part in the all-star teams helped, as I was able to take part in all the extra practices.

I was cut from my high school program as a freshman (we had three teams) and made the junior varsity a year later. As a junior in high school, I pitched six innings for the varsity team, made seven plate appearances and was passed over for my local American Legion summer program. I had to go play for another program. 

This turn of events was one of the best things that happened to me. Forcing me to go play for an extremely inferior summer program allowed me the thing I needed most – to play the field and hit every day and pitch every fourth or fifth day. I was no longer sitting the bench and this allowed me to develop. 

My story isn’t meant to inspire. It is simply shows that if you work at something, you will get better. If you work on hitting or pitching mechanics, new pitches, defensive positioning, speed or whatever is your weakness, you will improve. 

But my story is meant as a warning. Most of the kids that were better than me and excelled in youth baseball were not around by the time we reached high school. Most of them didn’t work on their baseball skills. 

Because they were gifted at an early age, they always expected that baseball would come easy. It didn’t.
As late bloomers catch up, they pass the early developers. Why? They have developed true baseball skills. Early developers rely on physical maturation and natural talent. Developed skills will always win out over natural talent that isn’t refined.

If you are an early developer, make sure you continue to work on your skills. Don’t take them for granted and expect that you will always be one of the best players regardless of the amount of time you invest. Every player has a weakness. Ask your coach about yours and improve. 

If you don’t play much, didn’t make the all-star team, were passed over for a travel team, left off the select team or cut from your high school, do you still want to play? If you love the game, continue to work on it. Figure out what your flaws are and practice. Just know that you will have to practice a little more. 

Whether you are an early developer or a late bloomer, hard work does not go unrewarded.

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