Saturday, May 28, 2011


With the weather finally appearing to be stabilizing, baseball season can be enjoyed in the comfort of warmth. Thousands of leagues with millions of kids are engaged in competition and hopefully some fun. However there is no denying that many kids will be looking to gain an edge by looking for some added coaching or instructions. Sound coaching is at a premium this time of year. Knowing the importance and demand for good coaching, it should be the responsibility of every coach and parent to provide the best instructions available. I realize that coaching at most amateur levels is a matter of choice. However, it does carry a certain degree of responsibility. After playing baseball for 30 years, amateur and professional, I did not think that anything could satisfy the competitive hunger that dwelled in me. However I’ve been involved in coaching since 1994 and find it to be very rewarding and satisfying, not to the level of playing but certainly a great substitute. As a matter of fact, with 13 years of coaching experience in addition to my playing experiences, some may consider me an expert. As this is a flattering compliment, I question if anyone is an expert when it comes to coaching. There are numerous books and videos claiming to have the answers taking the guess work out of coaching. Many of them promote generic philosophies and techniques. Based on my experience, most of them fall short of explaining sound coaching techniques.  Even as I may be considered an expert, I do not have all the answers needed to master the art of coaching nor do I claim that other information is useless. I do have some advice that may help: (1) There’re no absolutes in coaching (2) Never demand more of an athlete than is physically possible (3) Coaching style such be tailored to the level of players (4) decide whether your coaching will be instructional, development or for winning. Whatever your coaching style will be, patience will always payoff. In a sport full of ambiguous terms, getting your message across can be challenging. It would be to a coach’s advantage to use terms that are easily understood. Avoid or full explain terms like level swing or squash the bug, which is used frequently at the lower amateur levels, can lead to misinterpretations of instructions. Coaching is more than instructing. It involves giving options in techniques and mentally preparing athletes to perform.
Coaches have the task of motivating players. It is the hope of every coach that the thrill of competition is enough to motivate every athlete but this is not always the case. Most athletes are visual learners therefore are motivated by the appearance of results. It is the desire of every athlete to be the best, accepted, experience the thrill of competing and victory. The fulfillment of these is among the highest motivators, however, the lack of either can cause an athlete to lose confidence in the coaching and, eventually, the motivation to continue trusting and practicing the techniques. An important fact for any coach is to remember that the majority of athletes are result driven and it is this fact t can make it difficult to get athletes to understand and trust the process. Therefore, a relationship of trust must develop to maximize a coach’s efforts. The athlete must trust the coach even when the results are not immediate.
Since players don’t always respond to the teachings of the coach, coaches need motivation as well. They need to see some positive results of their efforts, some measure of success. For a coach, there are many variables that determine success and unfortunately, for coaches, success is measured by victories. Recognizing and managing variables such as; physical ability, mental awareness and knowledge of the game just to name a few, will increase your chance of success. Above all, you must have patience.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What's in a Name

What’s in a Name
    Baseball has many things in its history that it can proud of. A past that can claim ownership of having influenced the cultural diversity of sports and our society. As some may consider many of baseball’s moves as political, I view it as simple business progressions, improving an existing product.  Baseball has always been unique in the ways it operates and promotes itself. Part of baseball’s uniqueness is its use of nicknames to identify its participants. We all have names, first, middle and last names. We even have nicknames, extending the explanation of who we are. These nicknames are given to individuals, groups and teams reflecting their character, skill, purpose or religion.  Baseball is famous for its variety of nicknames. However, it is becoming more difficult in today’s game to find a player with a professional name other than his given name at birth. I will not begin to explain why this has occurred. What I will say is that the culture of game has change in a way that does not promote individuality.
    Baseball names have served the game well, promoting and representing the game and individuals for decades. These names identified some of the greatest players who ever wore a uniform or managed the game. Many of these names are nationally recognized and others were household names to a city or region. Names like the Babe, The Wizard, Doctor K, The Rocket, the Big Unit and Charlie Hustle brought national attention to the game and the players creating excitement and anticipation of what these players were able to do. In baseball, a nickname is more than an AKA. It’s a personality. It’s who he is. It stands for what he represents. It stands for what fans expect to see out of a performance from that player. It should be noted that a nickname doesn’t always describe a physical skill. It may describe an emotion or physical characteristic. In any case, a nickname becomes the primary name of identification; The Babe also known as George Herman Ruth, The Unit also known as Randy Johnson, The Rocket also Known as Roger Clement, The Wizard also known as Ozzie Smith, The White Rat also known as Whitey Herzog and Mookie also known as William Heyward Wilson. There are many other names, some more recognizable than others, having had a great impact on the game as well as individual careers.
    The association of nicknames was not limited to individual players. Teams enjoyed the recognition that nicknames provided. The Bronx Bombers, The big Red Machine, The Lumber Company were all good and well known teams respected for their dominance in a specific era of the team and baseball history. Just as anything else, names can reflect the good, bad or indifference and in all honesty, some nicknames are not very flattering.  Whether you agree or disagree with the names, their meaning or suggestions, they have been a valuable part of baseball in its effort to reinforce its connection with its fans.  Do you recognize this names? Murders Row, The Ripper, The Kid, The Hit Man, The Bash Brothers, The Big Unit,  The Lumber Company, The Big Red Machine, The Rocket, Crime Dog, Spaceman, Nails, Toy Cannon, The Thrill, Rock, Say Hey Kid, The Georgia Peach, Sarge, Puge, The Bull Dog, The Barber,  The Big Cat, The Yankee Clipper, The Bull, The Hawk, Stan The Man, Oil Can, Stretch, The Penguin, Strap Iron, The Cobra, Pops, Rooster, The Mad Hungarian, The Splendid Splinter, The Family, The Gas House Gang, The Wiz Kids, The Miracle Mets, Go Go Sox.  If you do not recognize all of the names don’t be alarmed, after all, what’s in a name?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Baseball and Religion

Baseball and Religion
In life, we are taught that, there are somethings that do not mix, oil and water, cats and dogs. In baseball, just as in life, there are things we were told don’t mix, weights and baseball and baseball and religion. Of course these two myths are based on nothing more than the ignorance of a misinformed culture.
As far as weights are concerned, I was one that believed that weights were bad for my profession. It was my understanding, again out of ignorance, that lifting weights would only be harmful for my career. I was afraid of losing flexibility and range of motion which would eventually cause me to lose the skills, speed and throwing, I depended on to excel in my sport. Of course, I was wrong.
On the other hand, religion, which I believe in, was looked upon in a different light. It was not thought of as causing or promoting any physical restriction. Baseball people, who fronded on religion as being part of a player life, believed that religion served no useful or rational purpose. The impression was that it had a damaging affect on players in regards to the way they approached and played the game. Players, managers, coaches and fans seem to be attracted to players that displayed aggressive, confrontational behavior. The thoughts were that religion caused players to be less aggressive, too passive. Managers, coaches and fellow players felt that these players, who express their religious beliefs, did not display the aggression and anger that should have accompanied feeling of disappointment of failure. The term Jesus freak was used as a negative description of a person’s calm demeanor when they were known to be active Christians. For these reasons, players were once reluctant to confirm their religious beliefs.
In the past, although I think this is no longer the case, some viewed religion as crouch for its believers to avoid accountability. A place to shift the responsibility of his career and actions. Out of ignorance, religion and its practitioners have endured the stigma of being passive, emotionless and even weak athletes.
However, in recent years, more sport figures are willing even elated to publicly confirm and display their religious beliefs. I am a Christian; in fact, I am studying to become a minister. It was my faith that helped me survived the hardships of the minor leagues. It is my faith that enables me to endure the disappointments associated with the baseball profession. It is my faith that helped me to overcome the temptations attached to fame and success as a major league baseball player. It is my faith, my religious beliefs that give me the strength to remain focus on my life and career. Christianity, just as other religions, is a way of life, accepting who you are while respecting others and allowing oneself to be strong and confident. I may be mistaking but isn’t that what every team would like to see from its players?

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Best Team Always Win

The Best Team Always Win
I posted two articles addressing some issues I felt were important to discuss. The first article was entitled A Winning Team and the second entitled Baseball’s Great Debates. The first related to the choosing of players to form a winning team and the second was to bring to light some of baseball’s debates between players, fans, analysts and management. The intent of these articles was to spark interest and conversation about baseball, its operation and relationships between fan, players and management. In doing so, I made some statements that may have raised a few eyebrows. This article is a continuation of two previous writings.
Though I have  made many statements in some of my articles, there is one that caused some interesting conversation among my peers and other associates and I believe this particular statement is worthy of your opinions and insight. Let me start by giving a little review of Mookie’s View. It is the hope of every organization to choose the players that will produce a winning team. In accomplishing this task, we must understand that a winning team is more than a collection of talented athletes motivated by selfish agendas and accomplishments. It has been proven over the course of time that having good athletes alone does not guarantee having a winning team. If nothing else, the game of baseball, in spite of the results, can teach us valuable lessons when observed objectively.
Regardless of our efforts, your expectation, the history, personnel or evaluations of any team, the best team always win. I do not make this statement from statistical numbers or expectations but from experience. This is an open and personal statement worthy of a debate which I’ve had with others. Some disagree giving a few understandable if not valid reasons for their opinions and others agree without conviction or understanding why. It would be interesting to hear what you have to say on this statement.