As we enter the dog days of August, in a VERY DIFFERENT summer of travel baseball organizations are beginning to hold tryouts for their fall teams or have already done so. This was a summer that many teams played 50-60+ games or players participated in the Last Dance & legion games without much ramp leading into all of those games. In many cases, organizations are selling the fact of missed games from the spring as justification for playing that many games.
This off-season you need to have be calculated with your approach as to how you plan for your fall development as a player or for your son or daughter. Injury rates in the MLB have been very high this season over the course of the first month since restarting the season due to the stop of play and then quick ramp back up.
I would define “fall-ball" as playing a season: including games, tournaments, and practices. Participating in a Showcase or college camp would not be considered "fall ball" in my opinion, unless you are doing one every weekend. There is 1 main question you should ask yourself as to whether you should invest time into playing fall-ball: “Will I be playing in meaningful games and getting the skill development needed to take my game to the next level?”
From a development standpoint, athletes at TNL that have taken the time 2-3 months to put the primary emphasis on training & developing & focusing on 1, maybe 2 (at most) showcases or camps, have seen the biggest leaps in progress. Thus, making them a more valuable recruit for a college program. That should be focal point for the 2021 & 2022 class moving forward for this fall.
When you get through with a showcase or college camp, and you are not a top 50 stud player or are still developing physically, what do coaches tell you do? 9 out of 10 times itʼs, “You are a solid ball player, but we would like to see you still get bigger, faster, and stronger.” OR “You need to put on some size as well.” You have to remember, showcases are for “showcasing skills” and if your skills are still being developed, does it do you any good spending money on a showcase if youʼre not where you want to be?
Playing tournaments every weekend during a fall season, having potentially 1-2 games and 1-2 practices a week can potentially be a hinderance to the advice of these coaches. Factor in travel demands on top of being in school in the morning/afternoon, it can add up to be a lofty time commitment. When college coaches are going to games or showcases, and they see a specific metric that isn't up to par with what they are pursuing it leads to that name being automatically crossed off the list.
Many conversations with high school athletes about playing fall ball, typically go something like this:
Connor: Are are you playing fall-ball this year?
Player: Yes. For 2 teams
Connor: Oh wow, 2 teams. Thatʼs going to be a lot playing. How will that help your development as a player?
Player: Because I will get more game repetitions.
Connor: I get that, but how exactly will that help your development as a player? Do you have the skills (aka throwing velocity, speed, bat speed, power) to showcase and get noticed by college coaches? Will you be getting exposure by playing in front of college youʼre interested?
Player: *looks around, pauses*.....because I will be playing in games. I am not sure about the college coaches.
Connor: Playing is great and all, BUT how is that going to help you improve your ______________? (insert athletic quality: SPEED, STRENGTH, POWER, ARM STRENGTH, INJURY PREVENTION, INCREASE BODYWEIGHT, etc). Remember we discussed how “gaining weight” or “improving speed” can help your game and with the recruiting process?
Player: Oh yeah. Thatʼs a good point. I didnʼt think of all of that.
At the end of the day, you can only give 100% to everything involved in your life...no more. Itʼs like a pizza pie, if one piece is bigger it takes away from the other slices while they get smaller. Ex: playing full-time fall-ball takes away time from athletic development and vice versa. If you’re a player that is at the point of development that will be noticed at games or showcases then playing is for you, otherwise most players need to develop more physically.
At TNL we break down athletic into two elements: physical & skill development. Physical development is tasks that are geared improving athletic qualities and abilities. Ex: strength, power, speed, resiliency, mobility, size, etc. Skill development is a task that is directly related to your on-ﬁeld skills. Ex: throwing and swing mechanics, ﬁelding practice, etc.
If you now have answered “No” to the original question, then you should most likely be putting more emphasis into your physical development as an athlete (#1) and as a baseball player (#2). More and more coaches at the next level, both college and professionally, are becoming more interested in individuals who are not only great (or even good) players, but great athletes. Those days of just playing to play and getting repetitions are starting to become extinct.
If you answered “Yes” to the original question, then you must ﬁnd the balance to continue to work on your athletic development while playing another “season”.
At TNL we prioritize what an athlete needs to do to be successful on the field through their off-field development and remain brutally honest as to where they stand in the pack.
Hereʼs a fun little story to wrap things up - a teammate I had in college was on the cusp of being cut his prior to the start of his sophomore season, but actually wound up being kept on the team that season because the head coach saw him dunk a basketball before practice one day. Fast forward a couple of years and he wound up platooning a decent amount of games in the outﬁeld his sophomore season and then was a starter his junior and senior years.