You will be tempted not to. After the team dues, tournament and umpire fees, uniform costs, coaches fees, hotels, gas, food, and equipment costs, your budget may already feel maxed out. But incredibly, team practices and tournament play will not be enough in terms of individual development. Sad to say, but true in our experience. Your player will need help from a professional at some point. Be prepared.
When Did You Hire The First Trainer and For What?
He was nine years old when we hired his first trainer. It was for throwing. My son’s throwing motion caused him to throw sliders. Of course, I had heard all the horror stories of those who threw sliders too early and ruined their arms. It freaked me out so I decided to get some professional guidance to help correct his throwing motion to something more safe. Former MLB players are all over Florida offering lessons on the side. We worked with one of them for six sessions until the new mechanics started to take hold. But it was tricky at that age. You would never know how his mechanics would look like from week to week. Things changed so rapidly. If you saw something one week, it would be gone the next and vice versa. Fortunately, we were able to eliminate some of the bad mechanics although they tried to creep back from time to time.
Did You Hire A Batting Coach?
Yes. At first, I didn’t want anyone to mess with his swing. But his first travel coach actually made a suggestion during one of his practices that seemed to unlock a better swing. That’s when I started to warm up to the idea that maybe someone could make his swing even better. At around 11 years old, we took him to his first batting coach who had some good ideas. He developed more confidence for sure. But again, his mechanics would change from week to week. Consistency was difficult. Plus the batting coach was very process orientated. The swing was broken down into steps. Great for a kid who needed a process, but it caused mine to overthink and look more robotic. He needed something more fluid. After six months we switched to another former pro who happened to be Dominican. He taught a much more athletic swing. The player was taught to use his own athletic ability in a more dynamic, smooth approach. He still uses the same coach today.
Did You Hire A Fielding Coach?
You bet. When my son started a growth spurt at 12 years old, he began to thin-out and was able to shift from third base to shortstop. His Dominican batting coach played third base and middle infield during his professional playing days and could still demonstrate the footwork and throwing techniques flawlessly. We were blessed that he saw something in our son and felt he could turn him into a complete middle infielder over time. It took about two years of work to really see the difference. His 13u and 14u seasons gave him plenty of room to find his way and learn a position that he didn’t grow up playing. But again, it was a field-it-with-your-legs approach that was based on using his own athletic ability to make plays. It was an art form. No different from a dance professional.
Did You Hire A Strength and Conditioning Coach?
Without a doubt, hiring a strength and conditioning coach was the ultimate game changer. He started around 12 years old with a group of kids on a field with a bunch of agility ladders, strength bands, weighted medicine balls, and other stuff. It was a mix of football, soccer, and baseball players. Mostly a focus on core and leg strength. He worked hard and loved it. We would do this group approach off and on through 13u and 14u. At 15u we switched it to a trainer that was more “baseball specific” in his approach and had 2-3 players max per workout session. This trainer worked with a number of D1 commits as well as current college and pro baseball players. In fact, many of them would return in the off-season to train which gave my son a great opportunity to work out with them to see where he stacked up. This trainer also works with him on his running technique and preparation for the 60-yard dash which is an important metric for recruiting.
Prepare yourself. Where we live, the going rate for a training session is somewhere between $.50 and $1 per minute. In the late summer offseason and fall season, he sees his strength and conditioning coach 2-3 times per week and his hitting/fielding coach 2 times per week. Sessions last an hour to an hour and a half. In the spring season, he might be able to work in a session with his hitting/fielding coach once every couple weeks for a “check-up” of sorts and for strength and conditioning, he participates in the program offered through his high school baseball team. This is certainly good for maintenance but with so many players (JV and Varsity) and limited gym size, it’s tough to take things to another level.