Join former Big Leaguer Jack Perconte and Sam Zagorac, owner of Diamond Edge Academy in Willowbrook as they talks all things baseball. No softball or baseball question is too basic or too complex for these long time coaches. If you like what you hear, send questions and tell a friend about these podcasts and thanks for listening.
This episode was taped in the spring of 2016 when it looked like both the Chicago White Sox, one of Jack’s former teams, and the Chicago Cubs were going to contend for the World Series. We all know how that ended up. Anyway…
In this episode, Jack and Sam answer these questions:
What is the one thing you would change about the major league baseball game if could?
Seems like we are not through with the steroid era, is there something major league baseball can do now? What advice do you give the high school ballplayer who wants to play college baseball?
What do you say when players come in and say they popped every ball up this past week, and you begin to throw to them and everything’s a ground ball?
At what ages and levels of baseball and softball should coaches not rotate player positions?
OK, this is looking like a possibility, who you picking, game 7 of this year’s world series, Sox vs. Cubs, Chris Sale on the mound against Jake Arieta?
Isn’t is funny how last year Twin’s Paul Molitor was a great manager and Sox manager Robin Ventura was an awful one, and this year the roles have reversed?
Full Transcript Of Podcast Below
JP: We would like to welcome everybody to another podcast of Something Worth Catching, like a Baseball. I am Jack Perconte, and I am here with my double-play partner Sam Zagorac. I played major-league baseball and have been a coach and instructor for 27 years. Sam has taught and coached for 21 years at the professional and amateur ranks. We are once again broadcasting from Sam’s beautiful new indoor facility, The Diamond Edge Academy. This podcast series has one intention of helping ball players, parents, and coaches to have a better baseball and softball experience. Sam and I have over 45 years combined in the business, and we invite your questions and you can send those to my website at www.baseballcoachingtips.net and just hit the contact button. Or by reaching out to Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any and all baseball and softball questions are welcome. If you enjoy our show, please tell your friends and teams to check it out. One never knows when one piece of advice may make all the difference in a young player’s career. We also invite you to stay tuned to the end of the podcast for an inspirational or funny sports story to your team and kids. Now let me hand it over to Sam for any of the latest news here at the academy.
SZ: Hey Jack, how are you?
JP: Doing good Sam.
SZ: Good, thanks for everyone listening and checking out our podcast here again today. Diamond Edge Academy like Jack had said, is a fairly new facility opened in December of 2015, and moving into the summer here we’ve got a bunch of summer camps, both outdoor and indoor. We’ve got both baseball and softball, with private and semi-private instruction along with camps, and we’re starting the second phase of our business which is the sports performance and speed, agility side which will be opening up in July. So, if anyone is interested in checking us out, please feel free to check out our website at www.diamondedgeacademy.com or feel free to give us a call here at (630) 601-7171. We’re looking forward to a great summer Jack.
JP: Ya thanks Sam, I’m sure kids can take advantage or should take advantage of you programs if they want to get ahead this season. Before moving on I would like to inform people that my latest book called Creating a Season to Remember is gonna be out this year too, so I’ll keep everybody up to date on when that publication date is. So as in the past, our first podcast Sam and I take turns asking each other questions that are about the game of baseball either at the professional, or maybe the youth level, or softball. We have a pile of questions lined-up and we don’t know beforehand which one we will get, so if you’re ready Sam I’ll ask you the first question.
SZ: Fire away
JP: What is the one thing you would change about the major-league baseball game today if you could?
SZ: You know being a traditionalist, I don’t know. That’s a great question especially not being prepared to think about that one. I think TV makes the game longer, so your time-outs and your time between innings and TV to get commercials in, and so on and so forth, I think extends the game a little bit. You know other than that, I think if you truly love the game and you understand the game, it doesn’t seem to take the 3 hours that it shows you on your watch because you’re involved in the game, you’re trying to think about what’s going to happen next. How the pitcher’s gonna attack the hitter, what’s the hitter’s approach here, do you run on this pitch, do you hit and run, do you play the infield back, do you play the infield in? There’s so many different things that happen between the pitches that have to be thought about, so you sort of try and get in the minds of the managers and the hitters. You know in terms of changing the game I would say no, I think the game is better now than maybe it’s ever been. The length of it I think has to do with the fact we have TV involved, so that time that happens between innings extends the game more than it should.
JP: Right, you know I agree with you Sam. And I think pace of play is still their biggest issue. I just don’t see kids willing to sit down and watch a whole ball game very often, and the times of games, and like you say the length is an issue. I think we have to get the kids watching baseball again, which we don’t. I think maybe every team should hire Mark Buehrle to teach their pitchers to get the ball and throw the ball, instead of, I know they have a rule, but it’s never enforced, but you know 10,11 seconds is enough time to get your ball, get your sign, think about what you have to do, and throw the ball. And so, I think that would maybe help to just keep kids and adults interested too where the action was just coming a lot more fast and furious I guess you’d say.
SZ: Well ya that and now you have the video review which comes into play, and so if you get three video reviews in a game, one on each side, and then you get a, I think they call a crew chief review, now you’re at another 15 minutes potentially on to a game. I like the fact that they’re getting things right, but I’m sure there’s a way to possibly squeeze out some of that extra time they have.
JP: I agree. Baseball’s probably the slowest sport maybe to change anything. So, it takes a while, but hopefully they’ll uh, I was real glad when they put the nets in this year, or they’re putting nets in to protect some of the fans at the lower levels. I just thought that was ridiculous that a fan is expected to field a ball coming at them 120 miles an hour
SZ: With no glove.
JP: With no glove, so I’m glad they did. But like I say, baseball’s slow to change but hopefully they’ll keep working on finding ways to get kids back interested in watching and not just playing it.
SZ: Very good Jack, your turn here we go: At what ages and levels of baseball and softball should coaches not rotate player positions?
JP: Oh I was really hoping you’d get this one first Sam because you’re out there coaching. How old’s your son’s team now?
JP: Eleven, ya so you’re out there. You know I think up until high school, kids should probably keep rotating positions. Like we talked about last time on the first podcast, that major league baseball’s going to more players that are more versatile, so I think that could help. I think up until high school, kids should move around in positions but that’s not to say in the biggest games of the year you shouldn’t have your best players at their best positions, I still believe in playing to win and putting kids in positions to succeed. So, tough question, tough answer I guess, but I think keeping kids at different positions in games is important.
SZ: Well especially at the younger age because it allows them some flexibility when they get to high school. And having them learn and understand positions, position responsibility, but you did steal a word there from me and that’s success, and having kids be in a position to be successful. You know it’s hard to put a smaller kid at third base who can’t make the throw across the diamond, or put a kid who has a fear of catching behind the plate. So, I think it’s an important equation that is equaled out to the fact that hey, what does the kid want to do? What’s he feel comfortable doing? And as a coach, where can I put him to be successful, so I do think it’s important to learn multiple positions.
JP: You know sitting kids out isn’t the worst thing either, where each kid has a few innings on the bench. You know that can be helpful down the line for them to take some of the pressure off.
SZ: Teach them how to compete.
JP: Right. Alright Sam, here we go: It seems like we’re not through the steroid era as the events of the last couple weeks have shown. Is there something major-league baseball should be, or can be doing now to help this situation?
SZ: Well, as in life everyone’s always trying to find a way to get ahead, and trying to become better or stronger, if you will. I think really the only thing that major-league baseball can do is just make it a no-nonsense sort of disciplinary action, you know you get caught once and you’re done. I think that is the issue, you look at the players, and there’s multiple players that are out there that are still doing it, to them, is it worth getting caught and being suspended for 80 games? Where I may have that one good year, that may really help me, my power numbers, and I can sign a 30-million-dollar contract, well if I get a 30-million-dollar contract and I sit out for 80 games, I think I would make that deal. So, getting off of what even Arrieta said, you know with people questioning him is, make it a no-nonsense, make it non-tolerable. You get caught and you’re done for life. I think that’s probably the easiest and best way to go after that.
JP: Ya, that’s a tough issue there obviously because there is always a possibility that someone is innocent in the process, even though they were caught. I mean, that might open up the game where people may spike their drinks or something like that, so you hate to penalize someone for something that maybe wasn’t totally their fault at all. Ya, I still think they need to keep working on their system. It seems like a lot of the players anyway want better rules too, where like you say, the 80 days isn’t maybe enough of a deterrent. It just turns me off every time I see a big-name player that gets caught, because like you say, there’s multiple players, it just makes me wonder, are we getting back to where we were? Success and fame are just such a draw for people.
SZ: And it’s such a financial issue. If you get caught, great, but if its gonna get me and lead me to signing a three or four-year deal where I’m making 10-12 million a year, well that’s a hard way to walk away from.
JP: That’s true, you just really wonder where the fans stand on this in a sense. I mean we’re fans too, but I wonder where the fans stand because I always tell everybody, if we had a steroid league only, and a non-steroid league, unfortunately I believe most of the fans would watch the steroid league.
SZ: Right, absolutely.
JP: They want to see guys throwing 105, they want to see home runs hit 500 feet, and so that’s kind of where baseball is stuck too I think. What do we do so we don’t kill the game?
SZ: And some of the fans don’t care as long as their teams winning.
SZ: Moving on to our next question, here you go Jack: What advice to you give the high school ball player who wants to play college baseball?
JP: Well besides developing their skills which is a non-ending process for everybody, I think they have to be willing to market themselves. To get out there, be looking for skills at a young age if they want, and look at different levels of school so they’re prepared. Most kids get slotted in a level that they belong in the long-run, so they want to be open to looking a different schools. I think a lot of kids depend on their coaches to find them everything, or think that, oh if I do well, I’m going to automatically have a school to play at, so I think it’s important that players get proactive and start looking at schools themselves, and what fits academically and with the baseball mix. I think a lot of parents might over state their child’s abilities and think division one right away, when that’s not realistic for a lot of kids. I think the important thing is that they play and that they get an education, so be prepared to look at all levels of colleges.
SZ: Ya, and it’s funny that it follows up this steroid comment, because I talk to a lot of the high school players that I work with, and to move onto the next level, you certainly have to have a higher level of strength. So, you get a lot of kids who stay from the weight room and stay away from getting physically stronger. You know baseball is a physical game, and being able to create that speed and being able to use your lower half, I think that’s an important piece, you know getting stronger physically. The other one is the academics. Colleges have 11.75 scholarships which they’re allowed to use over 24 players. Well I’m not a mathematician but that’s not very much, and that’s less than half of what you roster. You know in talking with college coaches on a regular basis, their biggest thing at the baseball side is, how are they in the classroom? If their academics are good and they have a high academic fixture, meaning GPA, test scores. That will allow them a heck of a lot more leeway in terms of granting academic money that is there in resources so I think keeping an eye on the academic side is also important.
JP: Ya, I would agree. Getting back to those two questions we talked about, do you feel the steroids are in at the high school level in the sport of baseball, or is it hard to say?
SZ: It’s hard to say. I think to say it’s not there, I think is not a true statement. To know or to guess at what number percentage is virtually impossible, but I believe it is there. You know you see some kids that are just physically mature beyond a point where you question whether or not they’re doing things on the up and up. But it doesn’t take away from kids that have worked extremely hard, and have dedicated themselves to eating right, and exercising and working out and making themselves stronger. With today, and different levels of supplements that are out there, you know natural supplements that you can take that are going to aid in that, I think that’s also a factor.
JP: Right. Ok Sam here we go, another question and this is kind of a funny one I guess: Isn’t it funny how last year, Twins manager Paul Molitor was a great manager, and Robin Ventura was though of an awful one, and this year the roles have totally reversed?
SZ: Ya, that’s the old “what have you done for me lately?” You know obviously both of them have a great past playing the game, you know Paul Molitor is a hall-of-famer so it’s not like one day he knows more the next day. It really comes down to, do your players execute? Do you players have good years? How are your pitchers doing? You know I think that’s been a strike against Ventura, and fortunately for me I’ve gotten to know him a little bit and be around him, is he really is a player’s manager. He allows them to go out and do what they need to do to play, he’s certainly not going to change his approach to that. This year I think he’s surrounded by a better squad, you know you add Frazier, and Eaton is healthy, and Jackson is doing well in center field, and you’re getting what you think out of Sale and Quintana, so from a catching stand point they’re getting a heck of a lot more production out of the catching position that they have in the recent years. So, it’s not that either of those guys have changed their approach, or changed the way that they handle things in the clubhouse, it’s just the players are producing better.
JP: Ya I think that hits it on the head. I think with how great how Joe Madden is, if you bring Joe Madden in with some of the teams five years ago for the Cubs, he’s just not going to make of a difference. You know it does take talent, but I think I saw stat once where they said a manager’s probably worth three, four, five wins a year. So, it does come down to the players having enough talent to go out there, but there is a lot to a manager that can, like you say, be a player’s manager and get the most out of players, and that’s the part that we probably never really find out. But I’m sure Paul Molitor didn’t get stupid over the winter all of sudden and can’t manage.
SZ: Yes, and I think too that player development is the key. You look at organizations who develop from the bottom up, its important, are you delivering players who are ready to play at that level at a daily or yearly level? But it’s interesting how it will go, so hopefully Molitor keeps his job, great baseball guy. And I think Robin’s a great baseball person as well as a person off the field too.
JP: Right, I would agree.
SZ: Alright Jack, your turn here we go: What do you say when players come in and say they popped every ball up this week, and you begin to throw to them and everything’s a ground ball?
JP: Oh there’s another one I was hoping you would get. That one is such a mystery, I get that a lot where a parent says ya, flying up, popping up everything. Then I go, let’s take and look and I throw them a few pitches, ground ball, ground ball, ground ball. So, first thing I try to say that the incorrect swing can cause obviously different results based on the pitching, so if you have a wrong swing and the pitcher’s one speed, then you could get pop-ups. Whereas you add a different speed and it could turn into ground balls, so hitting’s a real mystery so once again, obviously, the mechanics can’t be correct if they’re falling into one pattern or the other. It is kind of embarrassing in a sense to see, you know sometimes when a hitter all the sudden is like well, I don’t see a pop-up swing in that swing, I see a ground-ball swing, so you have to kind of maneuver your way through that lesson and try to get them obviously, a better swing and build their confidence back up. But I would say I prefer seeing hitters that maybe pop the ball up a little more than ground balls because I feel like the pop up is real close to turning into the correct swing, whereas a lot of ground ball hitting is a lot of times a sign that there’s more work to be done.
SZ: Right, getting a little too steep. But I think the issue is too, is that you have some kids especially at the younger level, have a cage swing, and then you’ll have a game swing. Where, they don’t trust the adjustments and trust the work they’ve done in the cage, and then they go outside and do something completely different. Without having video of a swing that they’ve taken in a game, it’s hard to diagnose what could be a cause and effect, because what they show inside is completely different than what they show inside. So, trying to compare the two, what I do with my clients is I’m very adamant about trying to get me some video that I can look at from a game so I can try and look at it and see what they’re doing there to apply it in here. But I think you get kids who don’t trust themselves yet when they get outside because the scenario changes, the whole now I’m outside, I’m in a game everybody’s watching, versus, I’m in a cage and I feel comfortable, I know that every pitch I see is going to be a strike, and I’m in batting practice and so on and so forth.
JP: Ya that’s true, that’s a good point and I would agree. I try to get video from the parents on the game action because it’s amazing what you will see. I’ve had hitters in the past who never lifted their knee ever with me and just take a controlled stride, the parents bring in the video and this kid has this huge knee lift on every pitch like, you know I don’t know what I can do. In here he swings great, he doesn’t do that, he gets in the game and everything changes so you definitely need the game video to really help. The other thing I see sometimes and maybe you do too, is I see in softball, I get a lot of hitters and maybe it’s from the coaches, but they’re so intent on running that the minute contact is made, boom, they’re out of there and they never finish swings. Whereas in batting practice when you’re not worried about running, boy you take a great swing and drive the ball. Then games come and it’s like 1/2 swings and get out of the box, and like I say, they don’t give their swing a chance to work.
SZ: No they don’t. And some of them are just happy to make contact, they want to get out of the box as fast as they can, so they swing at the first pitch even if they roll it over or hit an infield pop-up, they just want to get out of there and say, my at-bats over.
JP: So true. So, parents, try to get that video, but try to get up close. I sometimes get the video from the center field fence and I’m supposed to decipher what’s going on with their small mechanics of hitting, when they’re 80 miles away.
SZ: You have to zoom in, you don’t even know if it’s the same kid.
JP: Exactly. Alright Sam, I’ve got one more for you today, good luck. Oh ya, I definitely wanted you to have this one, ok this is looking more and more like a possibility: Who are you picking Game 7 of this year’s World Series Sox/Cubs, Chris Sale on the hill versus Jake Arrieta? Here we go, pressure time.
SZ: Well, I’m a Cub fan so that leans me that way. And secondly, I think that Arrieta has shown to be very dominant to the point that traditional numbers that just don’t even make any sense, almost video game numbers. So, I think what comes into play is not necessarily the two pitchers themselves, but I think the Cub’s ability to drive up pitch counts, so if they were to play in a game, the Cubs have proven this year their approach is drive up pitch counts, be aggressive in the count if it’s a drivable pitch, but they’ve drawn a ton of walks. They’re number one in baseball in walks, they’re number one in runs scored, I think they’re number one or two in on-base percentage. I think the starting pitching that they’ve faced this year have averaged just under six innings, so I think they would be able to get Sale a pitch count up to the point where they may be able to get him out of the game early enough to get to their bull-pen. So, from that stand point from my heart value I’m going with the Cubs. But then also stepping back from a baseball side and trying to understand how the two teams would approach that, I think the Cubs would have the advantages because of what their offense approach is.
JP: Stated like a true Cub fan, right! I thought you used to work for the White Sox.
SZ: I did, I did. Used to is the key word.
JP: Well I have to take the opposite side here. I think if the Cubs were in a game 7 against any other game in baseball I think the Cubs would win it, but I believe that the enormity of the situation with the Cubs history, I feel like their fans are gonna have to suffer one more time, and the Sox would be doing this game. You know Chris Sale, he definitely can raise his level also, just like Jake seems to do every night, but Chris seems to have another gear when he has to have it, and he can be awful dominant too. So, let’s pray this happens.
SZ: Ya, certainly
JP: If we can get those tickets I think I may have to sell it, I’m sorry to say that.
SZ: Well I’m not selling mine, I’m going to game 7.
JP: But ya, I think it would be great for baseball if things continue the way they do in the City of Chicago, it’s just never happened before and it’s just exciting for both sides. I think both sides are happy for each other right now, but like I say if you get into a World Series situation, things could get pretty ugly, but also very beautiful too at the same time, so let’s see what develops.
SZ: Ya, absolutely
JP: We might have to make a small wager on that game if it comes about.
SZ: That would be great, and it would be great for the game.
JP: I think so. Well Sam I’m pretty sure I’m doing another podcast with you, and I look forward too many more. Once again, we encourage people to send in questions. We want to be a source for people’s questions, and helping their sons and daughters become better ball players, and have better futures. Ya, and that’s what we’re trying to do with this podcast, and then we encourage you to stay-tuned for our story at the end of each podcast. Anything else Sam?
SZ: No, that’s it. Thank you for listening in and hopefully your season’s going well.