As we enter the dog days of August, travel baseball organizations are beginning to hold tryouts for their fall teams or have already done so. You should be calculated to your approach as to how you plan for your fall development as a player. After already completing a high school season and summer season the amount of innings (and pitches), games, and mental stress can add up. 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 fulltime fall-ball takes away time from athletic development and vice versa. What do I mean by athletic development? This can be broken down 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 tasks that are directly related to your on-ﬁeld skills. Ex: throwing and swing mechanics, ﬁelding practice, etc.
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?”
When I ask high school athletes about playing fall ball, it goes 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.
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.
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”.
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.