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South African Baseball
   
"Hustle Does not Require Talent"

 

What are Scouts Looking for at the 15U World Cup?

 

As you embark from South Africa on your trip to the 15U World Cup in Baja California Sur, Mexico, embrace the fact that you have an extraordinary opportunity to showcase your individual abilities to a very receptive audience. Scouts will be there in large numbers, representing all 30 Major League clubs. Give them something to write home about.

"Projectability" is one of those words that you will hear frequently at the 2014 15U World Cup. Typically it describes the likelihood of a player's improvement over a four to five year time period.,

Scouts are paid to make an educated guess as to the likliehood of a players contributing to a Major League club sometime in the future, and it is based on many factors. Colleges are more likely to look for polished current ability. Colleges coaches are paid to win, they don't have the time or resources to focus on development or potential.

Professional scouts need to look at a 15-year-old and try to figure out the players ceiling or potential. Colleges might be interested in players that project to get much better in a shorter period of time.

Here are some of the things that can play a part in projecting a player: Body type (projectability often equates to size); Physical maturity or immaturity (some boys may be fully developed by fifteen); Athleticism (speed and arm strength are two of those things that cannot be taught); Peer Comparisons; Player Track Record; Mechanics; Tools; Passion for the Game; Competitiveness; Work Ethic and Makeup. The scouts know that you are from a non-traditional baseball country, a lack of polish is not necessarily a negative.

The best current player does not necessarily equate to the most projection. A high school player who hits .300 might get drafted while another high school player that hits over .400 receives no interest. A statistically successful high school pitcher might get overlooked in favor of one who was less successful.

That said, the highest level of interest will center on the best current players who still project to get even better.

Scouts do not rely on high school or club stats. The all state high school pitcher with the great statistics including a 10-0 record could be ranked lower than another pitcher with mediocre statistics. Scouts determine who they think will end up being the best. You might hear the term "upside" applied to the chosen player.

The game changes at every level. Success at one level doesn't mean success at the next level. An all-star pitcher, even when he is pitching in one of the strongest US high school leagues, is likely to take the mound in the pros and face nine hitters that are better than anyone he ever faced in his league, county or region. Scouts need to rely on their experience to determine if the player has the ability to make that step up.

You could say that scouting is all about projection. Trying to figure out who will end up being in the Big Leagues and how much they will contribute there, takes projection. Same for college recruiters, except they try to figure out how important a player will be to their program. It's all about the future and that is what makes it difficult.

It does not take talent to hustle

As simple as it may sound, you need to play as much baseball as you can before the 15U World Cup. Baseball is not just about talent, it's about repetitions. The more reps you have under your belt, whether it be swinging the bat, throwing the ball, taking grounders or fielding fly balls, the better prepared you will be to play in this tournament. The better the competition you play against, the better the preparation and when you are playing in a pool that includes the USA and Japan, both of whom are currently in season, preparation is key.

Make sure you are on some kind of throwing program. Throw long toss to prepare your arm. Whether you were the youth baseball shortstop of the year or all league third base, your arm needs to withstand the rigours of tournament play. Expect to throw more during that week than you have in months. Scouts are on the lookout for arm strength because it is an integral part of baseball, in any position. If you have arm strength (and speed) coaches believe they can teach the rest. If your arm is tired after day one because all you did since the season ended was play "Call of Duty", you have given them a reason to overlook you.

Look the part! Arrive looking like a baseball player! That means proper baseball pants with a belt and your baseball top neatly tucked in, clean cleats and a baseball cap. The cap should not be tipped back on your head or worn backwards. Avoid anything that might detract from your performance. Your peers might really like your two glistening diamond earrings; the funky haircut; your ability to keep your pants hanging below your behind without falling off; but this screams to the scouts that you are an uncoachable individual playing a team sport.

The first impression during a baseball tournament is vital. Get there early and eagerly (you can bet that scouts will be watching you arrive). Maintain eye contact with the coaches and hustle between innings. Not only are scouts evaluating your ability, they are also keenly watching your effort. If two players are of roughly equal ability they will then look for a reason to follow one over the other. This is the time to disregard the peer pressure to conform to the mediocrity of the majority. This is no time to be timid. Give your best effort, hustle everywhere and go out of your way to be helpful. And above all else, be nice! You are very likely to be tense and focused but force yourself to be relaxed and friendly. Not only will you perform better but you may give the scouts a reason to add you to their follow list.

 
 

No matter where you are exhibiting your skills, scouts are looking for similar things. Your overall athletic ability which includes your overall strength and your ability to move and run. They look at your baseball ability which includes your throwing, catching, hitting and the ability to make the routine play. Your unique ability to emulate the style of a particular Major League player while flashing the glove at shortstop is not going to help your cause. The rule is going to be less flash and more substance. They will look at your coachability. This necessitates that you display a trust in the coaches despite your conviction that your way would probably be better. Show some hustle. It does not take talent to hustle.

As you partner up and hustle out into the outfield to throw for the first time on the first day of tournament, you will be watched. Take it seriously - you play like you practice. Warm up properly and hustle from the first throw. If you have bad throwing mechanics, you are going to stand out. With bad mechanics, unless you can throw in the high eighties and are infinitely coachable, you are giving them a reason to ignore you.

Do things right, even when you think nobody is watching you. When you jog to warm up be in front of the pack. When you stretch be the best. When you play catch, repeat good mechanics, throw to a target and hit it every time. When you play catch, catch the ball or block the bad throw and keep it in front of you every time. When you are doing a drill, focus on doing it right, every time. Hustle all the time. Never walk on a baseball practice field. Sprint out to your position every time whether it's the first or last inning. As a batter/runner run to first as though it matters whether you are safe. Know the situation on defense and do the right things. Trust the coach and give maximum effort to every task. Scouts will believe that what you show during the World Cup is the very best you have, and it should be.

Outfielder expectations. During the tournament, a radar gun will probably measure your velocity but scouts are going to be looking at your ability to hit the target with a throw rather than a high velocity throw that hits halfway up the backstop. If you have a strong arm, it will be noticed, but your inability to control it will be considered a liability. In the outfield scouts are also looking for your ability to judge fly balls and how smoothly you get into position to catch and make a throw and how you field a ball on the ground while on the run.

When scouts are evaluating a players arm strength it is usually during pre-game infield-outfield practice. A scout will get to see several throws by the outfielders to second, third, and home plate. If a player has a good arm, chances are he will show it here, particularly on throws to home plate. Scouts are looking for four things from outfielders: a strong overhand throw, a straight-line trajectory, good carry, and good life on the turf when the ball finally hits the ground.

Infielders expectations. Again you might see a radar gun measuring velocity and arm strength but these attributes are irrelevant if your throw ends up in the dugout. More important is your ability to field ground balls, your athleticism, the speed with which you get the ball out of your hand and the accuracy of the throw. Infielders must also know the cut-off plays and be able to turn quick relays.

Catcher pop times will be recorded. That's a glove to glove stopwatch time on throws to second base from a crouched position behind the plate. They are looking for timing and accuracy. Scouts will judge your ability to receive pitches and block the ball in the dirt. Catchers are expected to direct the traffic because they in a unique position to see the entire field. Don't be afraid to be vocal during your try out.

Scouts are always looking for pitchers. The focus is on good mechanics; location, location, location; ball movement; change of speeds; velocity and above all mental toughness. Pitchers should be able to shorten the leads of base runners and stop walking leads by sporting an effective pick-off move to all three bases. Pitchers must also be able to field their position, cover home on a passed ball, back up third base or home on throws from the outfield and cover first on balls hit to the right side of the infield.

Scouts look for two things with hitting. Can you hit for power and can you hit for average. Hitting for average is the ability to hit any pitch from right- or left-handed pitchers to anywhere on the field, and hitting for power is the ability to hit for extra bases. The combination of power and average allows versatility within the batting lineup to maximize offensive production.

When hitting, whether you touch the ball or not, do you exhibit swing mechanics that show that you have the ability to be a potential hitter? Did I mention that coaches believe they can teach everything other than arm strength and speed. You are expected to exhibit bat control. You should be able to drive a pitch on the outer half of the plate to opposite field. Scouts emphasize hitting "behind" a runner at first or second base in order to move him over into better scoring position. Despite the fact that you never bunted in youth baseball because you were the number three hitter, you are going to be expected to lay down a sacrifice bunt in the tournament, and be willing to give yourself up for the sake of the team. You need to know and understand the difference between a sacrifice, an attempted bunt for a base hit and the game situations for using each technique. Be selective at the plate and swing only at strikes. Hitters must be patient enough to wait for a quality pitch to swing at, recognize the pitch and be able to capitalize on the opportunity when you get "your" pitch. Strive to hit every pitch either back up the middle or to the opposite field and hit high percentage line drives. Be as good at taking bad pitches as you are at hitting good pitches!

You have to truly believe that you have the ablity to be a MLB player if you are to have any hope of succeeding. You are embarking on a heady journey with a very enticing destination. What may seem like a long time will accelerate and if you don't constantly stop and take stock, you might miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime. You will have to make sacrifices to achieve your goals. But the reality is that the enrichment you and others on your journey are receiving while participating in these athletic contests provides ample compensation. Before you know it, you will be faced with the enticing choice of playing professional ball or accepting a D1 baseball scholarship.

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