Baseball Ready: Which Day Matters Most?
Updated: Jun 19, 2020
Right now your son might be doing drills to stay ready for baseball. And if so, that’s awesome.
It’s like an extended off-season, which I know you, your son, and the rest of the baseball world did not expect.
But that day is coming when it will be day 1 again. Day 1 of tryouts, day 1 of practice, scrimmage, and the first game of the season.
After playing division I college baseball and 6 seasons of professional baseball, one thing I learned about day 1s, is that they are not nearly as important as every day after that.
In this post I want to share with you why knowing this and communicating this idea to your son will help him overcome the challenges that are ahead of him.
Let me share my own day 1 story from my days playing college baseball at Princeton University, which I think will help.
My freshman year was a roller coaster year. I’m going to give you the abridged version but here’s how the year went.
Fall practices ended late October and from November until March we were indoors in the training facility.
While it’s not the same sense of being quarantined in a house like it’s been for your son, it still presented some mental challenges for me to overcome.
Having grown up in sunny Southern California I was accustomed to training and playing baseball in natural lighting. Yet, for 4 months, I had to make a change to train inside a practice facility.
I imagine your son needs to make some changes with his training as well.
I remember my first game with the team. We were playing Coastal Carolina.
When my turn to take my first round of batting practice, it got off to a bad start.
First of all, on the first 40 mph pitch thrown right over the middle of the plate, I swung, missed the ball, and threw my bat, which ricocheted off the metal poles of the batting cage I was hitting in.
Remember, this was batting practice!
I was more embarrassed than I was nervous… but still nervous. It's not the impression you want to make and a tough way to start my collegiate career.
This is that moment when I had to make a decision to control my thoughts… something your son will need to do in the coming months when baseball resumes.
There will be experiences on day 1 that despite the training he did in the backyard, nothing could’ve prepared him for what he is going to experience.
And the thoughts that he may battle may start like this:
I didn’t…I wasn’t…I’m not…
These thoughts could be:
I couldn’t go to the batting cage these past months because of the quarantine.
I didn’t see my hitting coach as often...
I wasn’t practicing enough...
I’m not ready yet...
This is not where the mind of a ball player at any level wants to be.
But be encouraged… Day 1 is not the most important day of the year, and I'm glad because my story ends differently than how it began.
That abysmal and embarrassing first day my freshman year was my first day and it included throwing a bat, missing a batting practice pitch, and not playing at all in those games.
Three months later, I found myself up at the plate in the Ivy League Championship with the game winning run on third base, in the bottom of the 11th inning versus Dartmouth.
I hit a base hit up the middle to drive in the winning run to help us win the Ivy League Title and advance to the NCAA tournament.
I ask myself how I went from the nervous freshman who swung and missed a batting practice pitch day 1 to three months later knocking in the winning run.
There're lessons I learned from my freshman year and how I developed myself into the player I became, but for this post, here’s what I want to convey that I realized:
The most important part of the season wasn’t the Ivy League championship… but the days between day 1 and the day I got the game winning hit.
How I handled the days after day 1, including my perspective and thoughts, got me ready for that moment.
On day 1, your son may experience nerves and even a bad game...
The adage is true, "It’s not how we start the season but how we end the season that matters."
Day 1 is but a moment…
He’ll have plenty of moments after that day 1 to practice, learn, and improve that can lead him to his moment when he makes a great play in the field, strikes out a batter, or gets a clutch hit.
If someone whispered in my ear to tell me right after I swung and missed that pitch in batting practice that I'd be getting the game winning hit in the biggest game of our season three months later, I'd tell you there's no way!
What I learned is not to judge potential based on a moment's poor performance.
How your son ends the season depends on how he handles his Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, etc.
Your son may experience doubts and disappointments on his day 1 like I did, but he can also stack lots of positive moments together with his preparation and attitude.
Share my story with him and the lessons learned will help him get through his Day 1 and encouraged him to be ready for his moment.
because his moment is coming!
If someone came to mind while reading this post, please share this with them right now.