Friday, December 09, 2005

Complete Game (Part II)

Enough is enough. Let's get down to business. This afternoon I drove a good six hours to Tallahassee and I'm beat. There's a showcase at a local community college this weekend that I couldn't miss. Anyhow, let me talk about Jackson Savard, the junior pitcher at Macon U. Virtually a star at every level thus far. Little league, AAU, and college. Earlier this week, I knew his team had a 3 p.m. workout. So I made my way over to the field at 2 p.m. I do this on purpose. Sure enough, Jackson was in the outfield stretching and warming up. One hour before practice. He had a routine. The same routine I saw the day before. The same routine I saw two weeks ago. After about fifteen minutes, he began to jog the warning track with several other players who had just joined him. One of those players happened to be Mac Thomas.

Every last one of them had a smile on their face. They didn't get there early because they had to. Or because they wanted to impress me by showing up early. No, they were there because they wanted to be there. It was obvious that they appreciated the details of the game. The smell of the freshly cut grass. The pop of the glove with every catch. The friendly chatter as they began a quick infield. It was beautiful, dammit.

I watched very attentively as Jackson did a pen. With the pitching coach nearby, Jackson was full of questions and wanted feedback after almost every pitch. How refreshing it was to see someone so coachable. The kid was looking for little tweaks here and there that would give him some added movement or perhaps an additional 2-3 MPH. It was clear that he was a student of the game. All business. Never even had a clue I was watching him. Jackson was totally poised. Passion and drive were written all over his face.

It was almost like he had something to prove. I love that attitude. A good number of kids who've been the star player for a number of years can sometimes develop a harmful ailment-- an arrogant attitude where they feel they have nothing to prove to anybody. In other words, their past performance should speak for itself and carry them to the next level no matter what. Or they feel their physical attributes are so superior that they don't have a need to put in the extra work to refine their skills. Once he finds out that the other kids are catching up, he then motivates himself into working out by imagining the other kids working out harder than him and are catching up. His motivation is to stay a step ahead.

But I don't want a kid who has to be motivated by imagining his competition working out harder than him. I don't want a kid who wants to stay just a step ahead. I want a kid who is motivated from within and demonstrates a passionate commitment to the sport. I want a kid who is never satisfied or content. I want a kid who wants to reach his full potential no matter how hard it is to reach it. Discipline, work ethic, and willingness to learn, are just several of the attributes I need to see in order for me to consider a kid a legitimate draft pick. And this is just a starting point.

Jackson has those attributes and more. What really helps Jackson is that he isn't affraid to fail. He's very aggressive with batters. In other words, he pitches it right down the heart of the plate and he does it quite often. Of course, he's very deceptive about it with a great blend of off-speed, breaking, and fastballs. He's not the fastest pitcher around but his approach is very similar to Greg Maddux. Incidentally, practice ended at 5 p.m. I stuck around talking to the coaching staff until about 6:15 p.m. As I headed back to my car, I could still see Jackson in the outfield working on his aerobic base and Mac getting some extra swings inside the batting cage-- an hour and fifteen minutes after practice had already ended.

(tomorrow I'll take a minute to tell you about Mac Thomas and then finish up with a little blurb about who I met at the Macon U workout.)


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