Thursday, February 23, 2012

How To Become A Complete Ball Player

Anyone involved in the world of baseball has heard the phrase "5 tool player", based on the 5 most recognized skills which an all-around good player should possess. Obviously, physical skills are extremely important in playing any sport, however I believe a player without these 5 necessities is much more likely to fail.
I once had a Coach tell me " Knowledge is Not power... Applied knowledge is Power. In other words, it doesn't matter how much knowledge you have about a certain thing, or how much physical ability you posses, not applying or applying those skills in a haphazard way will result either in failure or mediocre success.
Which leads me to the 5 tool player who will either fail or achieve limited success without having, what I believe are these 5 critical necessities.
1. Love of the game.
Call it tenacity, drive, motivation or just plain old craziness, but a player must be totally devoted to learning his craft. This is not quite as easily defined as one may initially think, as there is a fine line, gray area if you prefer, between perfectionism and the drive to be perfect.
The burning desire to become a perfect ball player is what motivates a player to stay after practice shagging another 150 ground balls, another half hour in the batting cages or 75 double play attempts refining the timing between second baseman and the shortstop.
Perfectionism, is the slow eroding attitude which in nearly every case, results in the player becoming frustrated, ill tempered and eventually dropping out of the game, because if they can not be the best...they will not play.
Coaches are not psychiatrist, therefore there's very little they can do to alter the emotions or mental attitude between the two players, and for the most part don't have the time to try.
2. Knowing how to be a Teammate.
This, at first, may sound a little odd to add this to a "must have" list, but how many times have you heard "The team chemistry was everything," and this is at the MLB level where everyone is suppose to be an adult and a professional.
Don't believe that for a second and don't believe that one negative or disruptive player can't destroy a team's moral. It doesn't matter if the player hits.450% or has a 0.05 ERA, if the player disrupts the team's ability to win... he's gone. Knowing how to be a teammate is important.
3. Ability to learn.
The ability to learn begins at a young age, but the middle, 14 to 16 years old, will demonstrate the true ability of a player to learn. What do I mean by that?
By this age a player's natural talent level is somewhat established, as he is either a mediocre player, relegated to the general draft teams, or a top prospect heavily recruited by traveling teams. Coming from the large pool of players, where he was a very large fish in a small pond, he wasn't really pushed to perform or learn in order to be the best player on the field.
Suddenly, he's a little fish in a big pond, thrown together with players bigger, stronger and better than he is. Will he maintain his same work ethic, ignoring coaches' advice, while maintaining in his own mind he's still the best? Or will he realize he's a very good player with a whole lot to learn and had better step his game up by training harder and picking every coach's mind for information? This demonstrates his ability to learn.
4. Respect.
A player must have a respect for the game, and what is that? The game has an unwritten code of ethics which has ruled the game for a 100 years, and similar to a Knight's code of honor, the ball player will not break or disrespect the moral code of the game.
For instance, a player will run and slide hard into second base with the full intention of knocking the shortstop down, or otherwise force the altering of his throw to first base, in order to break up a double play. However, he would Never go in spikes high in an attempt to injure another player. Thus the code of respect.
5. Pay it forward.
This re-touches on being a good teammate, but defines it in detail and for the most part is nearly impossible to detect, only the player knows if he possesses this quality.
Does the player have the courage to teach a possible opponent, although a teammate, how to solve or improve a skill issue, although it may have a negative effect on his playing?

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