Keys To Developing As A Baseball Player

Developing as a baseball player and as a person takes time and effort, here’s a few things I’ve learned along the way that helped me develop as a person and as a baseball player. Some of these I picked up early and some of them I am still learning. I guess that’s the nice thing about developing, you can continue it for the rest of your life.

1. Discipline

I’m happy to say this is something I was taught and learned at a very young age. One of the benefits of growing up in a place like Montana is the value of hard work. I had chores to do, I even had chores to do when I’d go visit my cousin. We were told to get jobs in high school if we wanted spending money. I rode my bike to baseball practice and pretty much anywhere I wanted to go. Anyways the value of discipline was instilled in me and that helped me become a better baseball player. At a certain point in your baseball career you are going to have to take ownership of what you want out of baseball. If you want to play college baseball or some level of professional baseball that is going to take discipline. Discipline is the ability to say no. You are going to have to say no to being lazy, to missing practice, to not doing homework, to skipping a workout, and etc. Discipline provides the framework for us to succeed and pursue our goals. When we say no to something we are protecting our dream. In our case, becoming a better baseball player. We live in a culture that says “you can have it now”. But you can’t have more talent now and you can’t be a better player now! There’s not an app for that! You have to earn it, you have to put in the blood, sweat, and tears to get better. And I literally mean, blood, sweat, and tears. I’ve experienced all of those along the way and so will you if you are willing to embrace the discipline it takes to become who you want to be. When you decide to pursue the game of baseball or anything in life, stay disciplined. Define your goal, create a plan, and stick to it. Embrace discipline and you’ll find you will make it further than most people. Short term gratification will ruin your long term goals. When you’re thinking of making a decision discipline is what will keep you on track, discipline is what imagines what life will look like in the future by making a certain decision.

2. Embrace Failure

This is one I’m still learning but hope to gain a better hold of as I play out my final season of pro ball overseas. The fear of failure will keep you from succeeding. I have always wanted to succeed, sometimes too much. Sometimes so much that it made me afraid to fail, which in turn caused me to play cautiously or play in a state of fear. We can’t play at our full potential with a fear of failure, we will either hold ourselves back or play too tense. I was working with a college baseball player who had this same issue and he noticed one day when his coach put him at 2nd base, even though he’d never played there, that because he wasn’t worried about being the greatest 2nd basemen of all time that he was able to play to his fullest potential. He had a great game at 2nd, hit the ball well, and just enjoyed the game. I believe it was because he was able to take the pressure off himself because he knew if he failed at 2nd base that it was okay because he had never played there. The reality is that the same thing was true if he was playing his natural position. But he always put more pressure on himself when he played there. He caught a small glimpse of what it could be like if he played without the fear of failing. The goal is to learn to take the pressure off ourselves as players and just play! Obviously we want to play our best and we don’t want to fail, but being afraid to fail actually hinders us from being the player we are.

Failure is a great teacher! If you never fail, you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough. At some point you are going to have to fail to learn and do something you haven’t done before. Maybe you’ve never thrown a back pick to first base. How will you ever know how to do that or get better at it if you don’t take the risk of failing at it? You have to embrace failure to become better. Practice is the best time to push your limits, take the chance to make a great play in practice. It doesn’t hurt the team in that situation and you learn your limits or you learn to conquer those limits. Make use of practice and stretch yourself.

3. Quality Repetition

A big emphasis on QUALITY! Repetition can be a terrible thing if it’s poor quality. You can make 100 throws down to second but if it’s with poor footwork you probably just got worse. I would rather have my catchers make 5 high quality, extremely focused throws down to second than make a bunch of throws with poor quality. Just because you do a lot of something doesn’t mean you got better. Baseball is a thinking man’s game. There is a lot of preparation for one moment and then “BAM!” it all happens in a few seconds! You don’t get 100 attempts in baseball, the average amount of pitches per at bat in the MLB is about 3.8. You might see 4 pitches in one at bat and you might get one swing maybe two swings in that at bat. 1 quality swing is all that matters! Remember that when you are at practice. Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect!

4. Learn From Others

One of my favorite parts of playing baseball overseas has been playing against and with guys that got further than me in baseball! The moment you start to think you’re the only one who knows something, is the moment you’ve reached your potential. There is always something to learn from someone else. Don’t be so arrogant to think you can’t learn from another player or a coach. When you see someone who knows what they’re doing, watch them closely, take what you can from their game and see if you can implement it into yours. If you’re able to, take some time to ask them how they do whatever it is that you want to get from them. Always be learning and always stay humble.

These are just a few things I’ve learned along that way that helped me develop as a player and most of all as a person. I think baseball in particular is one of the greatest sports to play in terms of developing as a person. Mostly because of the need to learn how to fail. I’m sure many of you have heard, “you fail 7 out of 10 times and you’re still a good hitter”. And that’s true! The guys that learn that will go a long way in baseball and in life.

Be intentional with your growth as a ball player and don’t let silly distraction get in the way!

Jeremy Howard

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