Baseball 2024 Season Begins!

I grew up in southeast Missouri on the Mississippi River and baseball has been a part of my life as far back as I can remember.  My family and I would get up on Sunday and attend an early morning church service. We would change to our “Fun Day” clothes, pack up a picnic lunch and head to St. Louis and a Cardinal baseball game!

Devil Rays vs Yankees 2004 Yankee Stadium

Fast forward about 30+ years and much to my shock, I had a son who loved baseball, too and was drafted in 1999 by the Chicago Cubs. He went on to play nine years with some awesome players and coaches. I think what makes me most proud was his work ethic and the awards he received, often related to the MLB’s Roberto Clemente Award for work in the local communities. He especially was willing to visit children in hospitals as his brother was battling cancer during those years.

I interviewed John when he was doing some private and community coaching for an online post. Today with kids and parents getting ready for another year of playing and coaching, it struck me that there was wisdom to be shared.

Things you share with parents of baseball players:

  • It is more important to teach your kid to be a good husband & father than a baseball player.
  • At the 12U level, playing 200 games/year or in tournaments every weekend is ridiculous. I played 160 games/year and got paid for it! It was my job! When a player is pushed or not guided with wisdom, by the time the child gets to high school, they hate baseball!
  • Winning this game or this tournament isn’t everything. Think about the future, the bigger picture.
  • Dads, do not live your life through your child. Your child has to want to play and get better for himself, not because you say so.
  • Of all the high school baseball players in America: 2% play NCAA baseball, 2% play JUCO baseball. So only 4% of all high school players will play beyond high school. Of that 4%, only 2% of those get to play minor league baseball and only 1% of those get to play in a Major League game.
  • Help your child to develop his interests outside of baseball.

What do you wish you had known before you were drafted by the MLB?

  • How hard the grind is in minor league ball. Year around playing, little family time. You will find out how much you really like baseball.
  • How little you get paid unless you are one of the few who receive a signing bonus. I averaged $238/week.
  • Friendship – in the minor leagues, it’s like a family. In the majors, it’s more like acquaintances. That observation might be different if I had been in it longer, but I don’t think so.
  • How great it is to walk on to an MLB field in an MLB uniform. I’ve never found anyone, including myself, who can put it into words.

Coaches – Think of three coaches who meant the most in your life from t-ball to Major League. What did they teach you that has stuck with you?

  • What they taught me about life has meant more than the skills that they also taught.
  • “You want to be an ‘instant generation.’ It takes work, years of work to achieve your goals.”
  • “You are going to have hiccups, obstacles to overcome. What are you going to do? Give up or work harder?” He told me this when I had to have Tommy John surgery. I worked harder and came back in less than a year.
  • When I was having success, he took that arrogance and challenged me and showed me I had so much more to learn.

As parents, grandparents, and true fans, our job in any game is to be a fan – not a coach. And when we are eating pizza with the ballplayer, let’s take our conversation direction from them! Let’s enjoy the 2024 season!

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