Monday, November 21, 2005

Choke-Up (Part I)


Sigh. I know... I know. Too long in between posts. Won't happen again. Would it help if I told you that my hotel didn't have high speed access? Somebody mentioned dial up but I refused to take the plunge back into ancient history.

Let me tell you something, the Roger Dean Stadium Complex is as premier a venue as you can find for tournament play. The WWBA tournament showed a bunch of talent. It was a great opportunity for me to compare my prospects with those around the country. As a scout, you normally don't have a good feel about how your local kids stack up against those in other regions. You'd like to think they stack up better, but that's really for the national cross-checkers and the national scouting director to ultimately determine on draft day.

Tomorrow, I'll talk about some of the new talent I spotted as well as some of the old faces I was glad to hook up with. But today, I wanted to go into a couple things that simply made me sick. So sick I just wanted to barf all over the diamond.

First of all, I can't stand parents that ride their kids like there's no tomorrow. I see this high school senior who's having a decent night at the plate. His fielding, however, was a bit less than to be desired. His downfall started in the fourth inning. He was already 2 for 2 on offense when he lost a deep pop fly in the gap between center and right field. What should have been a routine third out, he bobbled it miserably and fell head over heals onto the warning track. Runners on second and third scored. When he eventually got back to the dugout, his coach couldn't even get a word in edgewise because his "jack---" father had come down out of the stands to completely belittle his son for "losing the game." Sure enough, his son, brimming with confidence, ended the day 2 for 5 and watched his team lose by one run. As he sat dejected on the end of the bench, I heard his father announce loudly, "Let him walk back to the hotel. Good for nothing."

You have to wonder if the kid would be playing baseball if it weren't for his father pushing it down his throat. It is so difficult to prospect kids with over-the-top parents. You never know whether deep down they really want to play ball or whether it's just their parents' dream for them. But it is something that I take notice of. It can hurt a prospect if I think his parents are pushing too hard. I want a kid that hasn't been pushed by anyone but himself. Because when he starts to go from hotel to hotel on the road in the minors, he's going to be tested. He's going to have slumps. He's going to have rough times. You have to be mentally strong. You have to really want to play ball. Period. Or else you're gone.

Second thing that annoyed me was the kid with red contact lenses. Talk about trying to get every little bit of an advantage. I guess it was Nike that released these new lenses to a select few. How this kid got a pair I'll never know. Maybe his folks knew someone, but it was really freaky to see him walking around with red eyes. Apparently it filters out both ultraviolet and blue light making it easier to see the ball. Although he wasn't a top prospect coming into the tournament, he attracted quite a bit of attention batting .525 with three homers. I don't quite know where I stand on this. Half of me says it's cheating. Almost like putting your eyes on steroids. If you can pick the ball up quicker, no doubt you will have more time to react and the pitch will seem slower. The other half of me says you still have to put the bat on the ball. For years, guys playing outfield have worn shades to block out the sun. What difference is this?

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