Chances are, if you’re a Next Level Ballplayer subscriber, you’ve dreamt of one day playing in the Big Leagues. Shoot, I STILL have dreams about it, and that ship has definitely sailed.
While that dream might seem far away if you aren’t already in the Minor Leagues, the inside information you’re about to get today will help you no matter what level of baseball you’re at today.
Gene Watson is the Kansas City Royals’ Director of Pro Scouting. He’s been a scout for over 15 years and now reports directly to the General Manager on players both inside and outside of their organization.
Over the years Gene has seen hundreds, if not thousands, of baseball players enter minor league baseball, with dreams of making it to the Big Leagues. Few actually make it (around 1% depending on who you ask).
I was able to meet up with Gene at the Royals’ Academy in the Dominican Republic to ask what it takes to make it to the Big Leagues.
Thanks again to Gene for sharing these insightful nuggets in this quick 3 minute video.
“You gotta be able to manage success and you gotta be able to manage failure. The filter is always on. Whether it’s your life style or not it’s a job”
I have a great story for you guys today. We’ll get to today’s big league pitching advice video on what to do after giving up a big hit, importance of staying positive on the mound, the best pitching advice Chad’s ever heard, and more…
But first a quick behind the scenes look at our interview guest of the day, Chad Reineke.
Chad wasn’t recruited out of high school and ended up walking on at Miami University (Ohio) where he struggled his freshman year and almost got cut his sophomore year.
Going into his Junior season, there was no guarantee he would make the team, let alone get legitimate playing time. That year Chad established himself as a solid middle reliever on a Redhawks team that came one out away from winning the MAC Tournament Championship.
When Chad’s senior year can around, getting drafted was the furthest thing on his mind. He was more concerned with stepping up in a bullpen that had lost some key components, including the closer who was drafted by the Yankees.
Throughout Chad’s college career he continued to work hard and develop. By the time senior year came around, he was regularly hitting low 90’s on the radar gun and successfully stepped into the closer’s role.
One night the Redhawks were playing down south on a warm Spring night and there happened to be two Astros scouts in the stands looking at Miami’s first baseman Mike Ferris (eventually a 2nd round draft pick that year).
In the 8th inning, one of them wanted to leave. The other one talked him into staying one more inning incase Ferris got one more at bat. Before they knew it, there was a pitcher on the mound throwing mid 90’s.
Of course that pitcher was Chad Reineke, who had no idea there were scouts in the stands. That night Chad topped out at 97mph.
I saw a lot of incredible pitching performances in my four years of playing at Miami University (Ohio), but that night was something special. Dominate doesn’t begin to explain it.
The funny thing is that those Astros scouts never came back to see him pitch.
Then sure enough when draft day came around that June, the Astros selected Chad Reineke in the 13th round based on that one warm Spring night. You just NEVER know who’s watching and what might happen!
Fast forward to today and Chad is in his 10th season of professional baseball and has pitched in the big leagues for the Padres, A’s, and Reds.
He was a free agent this past off season when he decided to play in the Dominican Winter League where today’s interview was filmed. No team had signed him at that time and there was a decent chance that his career might be over.
I was amazed at how at peace Chad was at the time, “I would love to keep playing baseball, but if nobody signs me then I’m ready for the next step in life, whatever that may be.”
The Red’s ended up inviting him to Spring Training with NO GUARENTEES, and he ended up earning a spot on their AAA team , the Louisville Bats. So far Chad is leading the team in wins and is 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA…
A great story that keeps getting better
Chad has been a good friend of mine since my freshman year at Miami University, and I appreciate him spending some time on camera sharing his best pitching advice he’s heard over the years.
This article is officially sponsored by Phoenix Bats who make world-class wood bats for amateur and professional ballplayers everywhere.
At just about every level of baseball, you’ll face pitchers that throw gas. Probably not Aroldis Chapman gas, but compared to the other pitchers you see on a regular basis, certain guys throw harder.
The question becomes, what adjustment do you make as a hitter?
Too many players don’t make any conscious adjustment and either try to swing harder or just hope they get lucky. What usually happens is hitters tense up and try to swing harder. When that happens bat speed actually slows down.
That’s not good enough for serious hitters trying to get to the Next Level.
So what do elite hitters do when facing pitchers that throw gas? They make one simple adjustment.
Great hitters get their front foot down early!
You can’t hit with your front foot off the ground. When a pitcher is throwing hard, it’s even more important to get your front foot down early. Early means a little BEFORE he releases the ball.
Better to be a lot early, than a little late.
Let’s here how the Pirates’ Josh Harrison (Who knows Chapman’s 100 mph+ fastball from experience) describes his mindset when facing hard throwing pitchers.
Situation: Padres are winning 5-3 in the bottom of the 8th inning. The Dodgers have runners on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out. Skip Schumaker is at the plate (What a great baseball name by the way) and AJ Ellis is the Dodger on 3rd base.
What Happened: Skip hits a comebacker to the pitcher, who fields, checks 3rd, then throws to first base for the force. AJ Ellis freezes at 3rd when the pitcher looks at him then breaks for home when he throws to first. NLB favorite, Yonder Alonso, playing first base for the Padres, fires home for the inning ending, rally killing, double play. Dodgers go on to lose the game.
What We Can Learn:
Runner on 3rd: AJ Ellis CAN NOT make the 3rd out of the inning in that situation. He does not represent the tying run and therefore can only make that break to home plate if he is sure he will score.
Once the pitcher freezes him, he has to get back to the bag. If he would have done that then at least the Dodgers would have gotten an extra at bat where a single could tie the game.
If you represent the tying run in that situation it’s ok to be more aggressive, but because it’s late in the game and you’re down 2 runs, you have to play it safe.
Pitcher: Some pitchers in this situation would not bother to check the runner and just throw to first and take the out. In this situation Luke Gregerson fielded the ball in plenty of time and did a quick look over to 3rd base.
It didn’t look for a second that he would actually make a throw to 3rd, but that’s not the point. The point is that just by turning your head to look at a runner usually will freeze them.
That freeze of the runner was all Yonder Alonso needed to make the relay to the plate in plenty of time for the inning ending double play.
Trevor Bauer might just be the most polarizing pitcher in the game today.
He long tosses well beyond the length of a football field BEFORE every game he pitches.
He never runs poles.
He has at least seven pitches he can throw and over ten others he’s worked on in the past.
He crow hops and throws as hard as he can on his FIRST warm up pitch between innings.
Those are just a few things that make Bauer, well, different. Here are a few more:
He was a Freshman All American at UCLA.
He led the nation in strikeouts his sophomore and junior year.
He won the Golden Spikes award (Heisman Trophy of College Baseball) his junior year.
He owns UCLA’s career records for most strikeouts, wins, and innings pitched (among others)
He was the 3rd overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft.
I was pumped to get the opportunity to spend some time with Trevor and dig a bit deeper into why he does what he does and the reasoning behind some of his “wacky” habits.
What I quickly found out was that regardless of all the flack he gets in the media, Trevor knows exactly what he does and why he does it. It’s fascinating to talk with someone who knows himself and his training inside and out.
Everything baseball that Bauer does has a reason behind it.
That’s a great goal for all aspiring ballplayers!! KNOW yourself as a player. When you are able to do this, you get the most out of your training, performance and future in the game.
In this quick four minute video Trevor breaks down his pitching philosophy, shares how he mentally prepares on gameday, how he deals with failure on the mound and more.
“Whatever stuff I have today, I have to go out there and compete with it and do my best with what I have.”
–Indians’ Trevor Bauer on his mindset before a start
An underrated way to become a better ballplayer is to WATCH MORE BASEBALL!! I am deeply saddened by how many aspiring baseball players just don’t watch baseball on a regular basis. There is soooo much that can be learned by simply watching games and paying attention to how the best players handle different situations.
I am currently on my 4th year of subscribing to MLB Package (Almost all MLB games), and despite the occasional argument with the wife about the need to have four games on at the same time, it is awesome.
Along with the usual Next Level Ballplayer interviews and articles, I’m going to do the occasional “Smarter Ballplayer” posts based on things we can learn from watching MLB games. Without further ado, here is the first installment.
When to Work a Count:
Game: Giants vs Dodgers (4/2)
Situation: Bottom of the 9th. 2 outs. Dodgers losing 3-0. Two hole batter Mark Ellis is up in a 2-0 count.
What Happened: He took the next pitch even though it was a fastball down the middle. The next pitch was a ball leaving the count at 3-1. Everyone in the ballpark knew another fastball was coming, yet Ellis still was taking all the way. Another fastball down the middle to bring the count to 3-2.
What We Can Learn: The point that Ellis ended up striking out to end the game on the 3-2 pitch is irrelevant. The point is that he recognized the game situation and acted accordingly. Down 3 in the 9th meant that his job was to get on base any way possible. His run meant absolutely nothing. Therefore, ESPECIALLY in hitting counts (2-0, 3-1) it’s a good idea to take. Some coaches and players will even take till you get a strike or even two strikes in a situation like that, but you definitely shouldn’t swing when the pitcher is struggling to throw strikes.
Game: Cardinals vs D’Backs (4/2)
Situation: Beginning of the top of 7th . Cardinals up 3-1. Heath Bell is making his D’Back debut. He was a lights out closer/reliever with the Padres for many years, then struggled last year in Miami. Everyone in Arizona wants to know which Heath Bell will show up this year. No doubt Heath wants to get off to a good start.
What Happened: First pitch- BOMB to dead center (more on this in the dating section below). TV camera catches Bell yelling curse words. Next pitch is a curveball which crosses up the catcher who had called for a fastball. That batter ends up walking. 3rd Batter- BOMB. More cursing. Visually upset. 4th Batter- Double. 5th Batter- Strikeout. Whoa baby!! 6th Batter- single. Night over. Hit the showers.
What We Can Learn: Bell visually got more and more emotional as the inning wore on. It’s hard to blame him, because of all the expectations but at the end of the day, as a pitcher, you HAVE TO hold it together. This is why it’s so important to have a “focal point” that you can go back to when you need to refocus. Every pitcher is going to give up hits. It’s just a matter of being able to refocus on that next pitch. Clearly Bell was so distracted by the first pitch HR he gave up, that he miss read the catchers sign for the next pitch. From there, he was never able to get it back together.
Game: Cards vs D’Backs (4/2)
Situation: 1st Pitch of the 7th inning.
What Happened: The Cardinals’ Pete Kozma hits the first pitch he sees 440ft to dead center for a homerun. Some ding dong is on a date and sees the ball coming straight at him.
Instead of playing the hero and catching it, he plays the zero and bails at the last minute. Of course the ball hits his girlfriend (Hopefully ex- girlfriend) right in the face! (Video here if you want to see it.
It is mind blowing to me that this could happen. Don’t fans go to games praying for a chance at getting a ball?!
What We Can Learn: Don’t take a girl to the ballpark if you aren’t willing to make a play! If a ball is headed towards your girlfriend’s face- you do what needs to be done to protect her… And if you’re a Next Level Ballplayer follower, than you just make the catch and really impress her!
If you see any MLB game situations worthy of our “Smarter Ballplayer” section, email them to me @ Franco@NextLevelBallplayer.com (The Game, Situation, What Happened, and What We Can Learn)