Unfortunately, for many high school baseball players the junior varsity may be their final year of interscholastic baseball.
We have all heard of the ballplayer who didn’t start or, even worse, make the varsity baseball team and went on to do great things in baseball as a walk-on in college.
However, for most ballplayers, not making the varsity in high school means the end of their interscholastic baseball. For this reason, the junior varsity is probably the most important step in their development.
As a coach, I usually know the six or seven high-end players trying out for my program. For these players the experience will be a continuation of many years of preparation and success and, depending on the coaching they receive, a step toward the next level or a year of stagnation.
What about the other ten to twelve boys being considered for a spot on the team? It has been my experience that these players are fairly similar in their development and are better or worse than each other in various areas of baseball, but still at a lower level than the six or seven higher-end athletes. What makes the difference at the end of the year is two fold.
Firstly, the coaching and secondly, the ability of the coach to motivate these athletes to develop to as high a level as they possibly can.
In this article I am going to address the try out procedures developed by the coach in making his initial cuts, because it is at this very critical juncture that the process begins.
Unfortunately, on the east coast and many other states not blessed with spring-like weather in the spring, baseball tryouts are limited to the school gymnasium. I have learned over the years that this tends to give me as a coach an unrealistic view of many potential ballplayers.
Ground balls are always executed in the best of conditions. Hitting in the indoor cages is only as difficult as the athlete’s ability to adjust to the timing of the machine or the coach’s thirty foot pitches.
Basically, with the exception of the high-end players and those with limited skills, the ability as a coach to distinguish between most of the ballplayers in the mix is greatly hampered.
It is for this reason that I try when possible not to make my cuts until we have played several games against live competition during the scrimmage pre-season.
It is critical to be able to evaluate a ballplayer’s skills in a game situation. That same third baseman who looks like a gold glover infielder in the gym may not be able to make the “real” throw to first base. That hitter who looked like a slugger in the cage may not be able to put the bat on the ball against competitive pitching. Also, players who looked average in the gymnasium drills may turn out to be excellent competitors in a game.
The school gym is a necessary part of most climates described. However, it is critical for the coach and the athlete that the ballplayer be evaluated in the most realistic settings: the game of baseball played on the diamond.
To best ensure the fairest opportunities for these young men, for whom baseball is such an important part of who they are, it is critical that he has every opportunity to show his skills in the best possible environment and to be evaluated against others who perform in that environment.
Bob Saarinen is the Junior Varsity baseball coach at Mamaroneck High School in New York. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org for any advice or questions about the try out process in Junior Varsity baseball.