Thursday, May 19, 2011

Are You Versatile?

A few nights ago, St. Louis Cardinals’ slugger Albert Pujols started a game at third base. It was the first time since 2004 that he wasn’t stationed at first base or served as the designated hitter. And while he may not have looked really comfortable, he got the job done in the Cards’ 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.

What’s more impressive to me is that Pujols apparently volunteered to shift to the hot corner and Cardinals’ manager Tony LaRussa pencilled Pujols’ name on the line-up card. Pujols started a double play, but ended up 0-4 at the plate. 

I tell all of my players that there are two easy ways to find yourself in the starting line-up. If you are one of the best nine hitters, we will try to find a spot for you and if you are a versatile player, cracking the starting nine will be a lot easier. 

The reality of baseball is you need to score to win. Sure, you try to limit your opponent to as few runs as possible, but you can’t win if you don’t score. 

Will I risk putting a player completely out of position? No. I would never embarrass a player in the field and it could hurt our team. A mental error from not playing the position or not making the correct read or play could be the difference in the game. 

But, the more versatile you can be, the better a chance you will have to play. 

Say the best hitters on your team are your first and third basemen. You also play first base. You haven’t had much experience playing the outfield and not quick enough to play second base or shortstop. It is going to be hard for a coach to find a place for you. 

So what can you do? 

If you have read my columns before, you probably can guess what my answer is – work hard. 

If you don’t have a lot of experience playing the outfield, practice it. Maybe you aren’t fast enough to play centerfield, but what about right or left field? If you have only been an outfielder, ask your coach if you can practice on the infield. Have you ever thought about trying out catcher? This leads me to the easiest way on the field – pitching. If you aren’t a regular starter, have you tried to pitch? 

As a coach, I owe it to the other players on the team to make a line-up that gives us the best chance to win. I also love it when players come up and ask me to try a new position. That tells me they aren’t satisfied with sitting the bench and want to try to do whatever they can to play. It shows me that they love the game and want to be apart of the action. It shows me that they are confident in their athleticism and are versatile.

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1 comment:

  1. I agree with you here. Never embarrassed a player in the field by putting him a different position. Plus, you will not only embarrassed the player. You also hurt his ego.

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