If you haven’t caught our podcast yet, it is “Something Worth Catching” hint, hint. In this podcast, Coach Jack Perconte and Coach Sam Zagorac discuss a few more major league items than in the past. Jack and Sam discuss the players they believe will be the comeback players of the year. (We would like to know your opinions, too.) One of those is fairly obvious as we get to see the Chicago teams, White Sox, and Cubs, more than others, but the other selection may surprise, as this player always seems to be awesome.
They also discuss the major league baseball players they enjoy watching the most and what it is about them they like. They give their opinions as to which major league teams may surprise people this year and so far both Jack and Sam seem like they may be on to something. Of course, it is still very early in the season and the standings after only one week can be very deceiving. Over the course of the season, teams will gravitate to their true character and ability level.
They talk about who they feel will win this year’s World Series besides the Chicago Cubs, who are the easy pick, even though no team has repeated since the New York Yankees did it years ago.
Other areas of discussion in this episode of Something Worth Catching include talking about the importance of a compact baseball swing and how the high school ballplayer has changed over the years. If anyone should know this it is former Major leaguer Jack Perconte who has 28 years of coaching experience and Sam Zagorac the owner and head instructor of the Diamond edge academy in Willowbrook IL who has over 20 years of coaching experience.
It’s time to catch, Something Worth Catching and tell your friends and teams about it. Always grateful when you do. Please send any questions our way on this site. Our next two episodes will include an expert pitching coach and catching coach so don’t “miss it.”
Jack Perconte has dedicated his post-major league baseball career to helping youth. He has taught baseball and softball for the past 27 years. His playing, coaching and parenting stories create better experiences for athletes and parents. Jack has written over a thousand articles on coaching baseball and youth sports. Jack is the author of “The Making of a Hitter” now $5 and “Raising an Athlete.” His third book “Creating a Season to Remember” is in the works. Jack is a featured writer for Baseball the Magazine. You can also find Jack Perconte on YouTube with over 80 fun and innovative baseball instructional videos.
Listen to the podcast here:
Big League Banter
I’m Jack Perconte, former Major Leaguer and long-time baseball instructor. I’m with my double play partner, Sam Zagorac, from the Diamond Edge Academy in Willowbrook, a beautiful relatively new facility that people should get out and check out. Sam, how are you doing?
I’m doing well. Thank you very much.
Our goal with this podcast is to help parents, players, and coaches to have better experiences in the game. Sam and I have over 45 years of coaching experience so we feel we have something to offer. We hope you would tell your friends and players and everybody that likes baseball about our podcast. We look forward to getting your questions. It will give you information on where to reach us after we get rolling. For you unfamiliar with our program, Sam and I have questions that we don’t know who’s going to ask each other what, and we ask each other a question, and then we fire away from there. Sam, which Major League player do you believe will have the biggest turnaround from last season?
I’m certainly hoping it’s Jason Heyward. He offensively had such a poor year last year that all he can do is go up. I don’t know if his offensive numbers can get any worse than they were, and I know he’s working and shouldn’t be hard on himself. Speaking from my heart as a Chicago Cubs die-hard fan, I know they will need him to chip in offensively more than he did last year, and now he’s done a lot of work in the off seasons as well, he would be the one player that has drawn the most scrutiny in regards to what happened the last year. The Cubs being the World Series champs and being in the limelight on national television, everyone is being made more aware of the struggles. His commitment and staying in Arizona all winter and working on his swing and trying to make some adjustments, I would think and I hope that he would be the one that will have the biggest change for a positive this year.
Jason is obviously one that comes to mind. We’ve talked about him and his struggles in the past. The guy I expect to have a monster year, especially after last year, would be Bryce Harper. He underperformed for his ability with David Murphy who was probably the best hitter on that team last year and the most feared hitter in that line up. With Bryce Harper’s ability, that shouldn’t be the case. If you saw Bryce’s swing, it just wasn’t a good swing last year. He was cutting the ball, wasn’t staying behind and driving it the correct way. Even though he still hit a few monster shots, it wasn’t a Bryce Harper swing that we’re used to from the past. Bryce is going to come out and have a super a year. If he gets the correct swing, that should happen.
Harper will have a better year but I’m hoping it’s Heyward.
Hopefully, both of them. Both have a big upside to them this season.
Here’s a question that ironically we were talking about in the conversation with some of the guys around, how the high school athlete has changed. What has changed within the last ten to fifteen years?
You really have to earn their trust a little more now especially if it’s someone that you haven’t worked with very much in the past or if at all. If I get a new student that I haven’t worked with, I feel like I have to earn their trust more than in the past. Fifteen to twenty years ago, if a kid knew I was a Major Leaguer, they were going to listen, whereas now they’ve been inundated with so many coaches over their careers and they’ve heard so much information that unless you can tell them something, not necessarily different but that hits home with them, they’re just a little less coachable than they were in the past. Maybe that’s just my experience, but you have to learn to earn their trust more than in the past. A lot of them are set in their ways and they’ve been told how to do something for so long in their careers that they’re not willing to take new advice. That would be the thing that strikes me a little bit more nowadays than maybe fifteen to twenty years ago.
Also the size of the players.. I went to a Pro organization workout. Every high school pitcher that walked in of the fifteen of them or so that were there, all of them were 6’3”and taller. The size and the commitment of high school kids eating much healthier, the game has changed. When I was playing at JM, high school kids are going 85 miles an hour, the guy who was throwing hard. Now it seems like every school has one kid throwing 90 as opposed to some schools have multiple kids. The game has changed on a lot of different levels, but the size and the strength of the athletes is the big deal.
Do you feel they are as coachable as in the past or maybe not? What’s your experience?
I think they maybe more coachable now. The fact that you’ve got high school players more directly, they’re committing to one sport sooner now than they ever did. They’re seeking out instruction more. From the outside world, they’re being told some unrealistic things, whether they are a Pro prospect or whether they’re a Division 1 athlete or those things. We’re running into that issue with players thinking of being told things that may not necessarily be at the time be true. I would say that they are quite more coachable just because there are more things to coach now. Technology-wise, there are more things, there are more facilities, there’s more coaching on that.
From your experience, do you run into trouble with kids that you work with or just come new to you or whatever, that another coach has told them do it a different way than you’re teaching or even their high school coaches telling them different things? Do you run into that a lot or not necessarily?
[Tweet “Stay with a more consistent strength program.”]
You do. Sometimes it’s the way things are presented. There are some coaches that are trying to get kids to do the same thing but may talk about it in a little different or terminology maybe a little different. You’re trying to get the kids to understand what the terminology means and what their coaches is telling them. “These are those words they’re using and what do those words mean when you relate it to what I’m trying to teach you to do.” I do a lot of video work. I try to let the kids see as well as feel what they’re doing. That’s an important part of that. Technology has really made the teaching side more efficient in terms of trying to get your point across and get kids to understand what you’re doing. I always tell kids, “You got to keep your ears open to everybody .You have to learn your swing. You have to learn your abilities. Everything that someone has been telling you, there’s going to be something in there that’s going to apply to you. It may not be everything, but respect what people are telling you and have an open mind.”
The videos help immensely. I don’t know many times I’ve had kids that keep insisting they’re doing it either the right way or what I’m telling them to do. I say, “Let’s look at this.” They realize, “That’s not quite what I thought I was doing.” The video is a big help to us coaches. Who are the one or two Major League players you like to watch?
That one is Mike Trout. He could be the best all-around player in the game. When it’s all said and done, he could really go down as one of the greatest players. He has every tool that is there. He will be the one player that I would pay and go to see. He’s just that good. The other one we’re starting to get spoiled to see on everyday basis here is Kris Bryant. To have the back-to-back years that he has without having that sophomore slump, he’s starting to understand what pitchers are trying to do to him. He has been able to make adjustments and adjust from day-to-day and sticking to his plan. Those are the two players that stand out in my mind. There are others; I’m a big fan of José Altuve, 5’6” in the last handful of years. Trout and Bryant will be the two that I really enjoy.
You certainly couldn’t argue with those two. Both MVPs and. We each predicted one of those last year to be that good. Kris Bryant was very impressive because even though he was Rookie of The Year, he realized he had a few flaws in his swing and went out and even improved upon that. He’s a great story for kids to never get satisfied and realize you can always improve. Even being Rookie of The Year, you can improve upon that and avoid that sophomore slump by making some adjustments and improve. The two guys I’ve always enjoyed watching and I still do, one would be Miguel Cabrera and the other would be Adrián González. They seem to swing so effortlessly. Miguel Cabrera, it seems like he’s in slow motion and yet you can’t throw a ball by him. He hits the ball eight miles and squares balls up. It looks like he’s hardly even swinging. It’s so amazing to me. Other hitters, Mike Trout, you can just feel like he’s putting maximum effort into that swing, whereas Miggy he looks like it’s just, “That was just easy. I’ll get the bat out for 195 miles an hour without even working. Adrián González hits almost the same way. He had an offset field homerun against the Cubs last year that it looked like he hardly even swung at the ball. I’m amazed that guys can do it that easily sometimes. It all gets back to maintaining a beautiful balance throughout the swing to where it looks like there’s no effort and tremendous results.
Adrián González had a couple of years there that weren’t very good with the Boston Red Sox and then his first year with LA. I do agree with what he does. Miggy and Trout and so far Bryant, just in two years, and Altuve, these guys have been so consistent year in and year out, fighting through the grind of playing every day and fighting through the grind of pitchers that are throwing much harder now than they did fifteen years ago on a daily basis. It’s amazing to me how good they really are.
Which Major League team will come out of nowhere this year and be in the World Series?
I’m assuming that question means they were pretty brutal last year. With that in mind, I see nowhere but up for the Arizona Diamondbacks. I can’t believe Greinke wasn’t having a good year, really a very solid year. They got A.J. Pollock back which should help immensely. They were just brutal last year when they thought they were going to be pretty good. I would say that Diamondbacks have a chance to contend and surprise everybody. The other team I like on paper anyway and they’re a fun upcoming team might be the Colorado Rockies, even though they’re in the same division. That’s another team that you like to see their line up in Coors Field. Not too many teams are going to hard hit them. If they can get any pitching, they could be a surprise team this year.
I agree with the Rockies when you picked that between the Dallas and one of the lineup that they have; Oberg, Blackmon. They’re a team that can surprise people. The problem is that you’ve got the Dodgers and the Giants who seem to be reloading every year with their depth. On Central, a team that couldn’t have a much better year would be the Pirates. I don’t know if any of those teams can nationally have the depth to get past the Chicago Cubs or Washington Nationals or LA Dodgers team. On the American League, the East just beats each other up. The Rays happen to have it seems like a year, every other year or every third year, they come out of nowhere and surprising people. AL Central, the Cleveland Indians, they’re successful. White Sox now are rebuilding. Even the West, you have the Rangers and Seattle Mariners. The Angels aren’t going to be as bad as they were last year, they just don‘t have any pitching. I do think that the one team that could surprise people would be Kansas City Royals. I wouldn’t be surprised if they found their way back in the mix, bouncing back from a poor year after the World Series.
I like that the word you mentioned there is depth. A lot of times we don’t think of that in baseball as much as maybe the other sports, but it’s crucial nowadays. They have the depth where you can go down and get a Minor Leaguer to come up and help or to be strong in their pitching and all the way through. You’re going to have injuries on both sides of the ball, offense and defense there. To have that depth to withstand those injuries is just crucial or maybe no team that can do that like the Cubs can.The term compact swing is used a lot when talking about hitting. What does that mean to you and how important is that?
Compact to me gets back to barrel control drill path. When you’re trying to get the barrel to a zone as quick as you can, and getting it to the zone the proper way behind the ball. You could be compact in your body where your bat path, if the barrel weighs off and gets away from your backside, it’s just going to get really long. It’s either long on the backside, it’s going to have to be short in the front. You can’t have long-to-long swings. It’s very difficult to do that. To me, guys who have compact swings, once they get to front heel plant and they start their swing, that bat just hugs their backside and gets on point and gets to the ball. To me, that’s a short compact swing.
It’s crucial. I tell everybody I’ve never seen a Major Leaguer that didn’t have a compact swing for the most part. They could get out of whack a little bit but the swings are still compact. Their body angle and all that can change to where maybe that’s why they swing underneath balls a lot. I don’t think you can get to the Major Leagues without what I consider a compact swing. The interpretation of that word might be a little different for everybody. Sometimes they hear that and they think, “You’re going to be really short to the ball.” It’s not necessarily exactly what we mean by compact. You hit it on the head when you said it’s a very direct swing but you may come from a little different position. Each hitter, depending on if you’re a power hitter or maybe just a singles hitter, that can change, but as far as compact, the term, it’s a necessity for hitters.
[Tweet “Everything that someone has been telling you, there’s going to be something in there that’s going to apply to you.”]
The different path is related to where their hands are at in their launch position. Are they low launcher or are they high launcher? Their barrel position and tracking on plane are going to be different based on where their hands are at right on their launch too. We have ten different guys and they can write down ten different definitions, but compact to me is someone who can get barrel length through balls and exposing a pseudo ball and bat speed through the ball, not exposing us their bat speed behind their body trying to get the barrel to the ball.
If you have to do it all over again in your career, what would you have done different?
I’m not one of these guys that say, “I would do exactly the same thing.” I would do a lot of things different. A lot of people think that I got the most out of my talent. When I look back, I feel like I didn’t get nearly enough out of my talent. That’s not a regret, it’s just the way I look at things now. The first thing is, I wish there was academies like this. I really do. If I were to learn the mechanics better, I would have learned to adjust and I wouldn’t have to work so hard to get to those adjustments. Without really knowing what the mechanics entailed, maybe I wasn’t paying attention enough with my coaches, I don’t feel like I knew what I was doing. When I struggled, I would work so hard to get it back that I’ve brought on fatigue and it cost me a lot. I just didn’t know what I was doing enough. I wish I would have run into maybe a Charley Lau back in the day, that would have given me more direction. My hitting coaches didn’t really give me fundamental understanding. You don’t feel like it. Even though I could do things and I had great hand-eye coordination, I didn’t have the wherewithal to understand the mechanics.
My confidence level was very low at times when I struggled. That was tough. The other thing is just staying with a more consistent strength program. I seem to be on and off back then. Part of that was when I grew up, it was taboo for baseball players to do too much strength training. I was always in the middle, “Should I do it? Should I not do it?” There were weeks and months I’d do some strength training and then there’d be times when I didn’t do them. I wish I would have had a more consistent pattern because the strength is crucial for maintaining efficiency during the long season. Those are my two biggest things I would do a lot different.
I agree with the strength training part. If I had to do it all over again, I would have been more consistent with doing that and getting stronger. That was the one downfall. I just wasn’t physically strong enough. I’m probably physically stronger now than I was when I was playing. I was very fortunate to have played for a couple of very good coaches that were very influential in my career. That’s why I do what I do. I was lucky to have those people. To begin, the academies and the accessibility of a place to hit nowadays are so much greater than they ever were when I was playing and growing up. Having kids taking advantage of places like this and getting the hit and working with guys who have a very good understanding of what they’re doing and what they’re teaching is really important.
Give me three or four teams that can beat the Chicago Cubs for next season.
My pick is the Cubs. It’s hard. No one’s gone back to that since the ‘80s. It’s talent and the high level of play. The pitching is greater now than it ever was. The Cubs are the favorite. They still have the depth. In the National League, the one team that could be tough is going to be Washington. Their pitching, if they stay healthy, is good and really deep. That would be the team in the National League. In the American League, I would really be surprised if it wasn’t the Boston Red Sox. Their acquisition of Chris Sale really puts them a step above everybody in the East. The Texas Rangers seem to have always been there every year. Their signing of Tyson Ross to be the number five, number six, there’s rumors they may go with a six-man rotation. The Rangers will be tough, but as a baseball guy, having a World Series with the Cubs and the Red Sox in Wrigley and Fenway would be really good for the game. The game is part of them now and stronger now than it has ever been. For me, I’m a die-hard Cub fan. I do think we’ll have Cubs and the Red Sox in the World Series.
It’s hard to pick against the Cubs. On paper, they’re by far the favorite. Probably the only team that could beat the Cubs this year would be the Cubs, in the sense that it’s so hard to repeat and if things didn’t get to their head like it does to some championship teams, they’re going to be really tough to beat. Sometimes you ease up a little bit on the work load and think it’s going to be easy. They’re going to be the team everybody’s gunning for this year. No one is going to go out and play the Cubs this year without giving their maximum effort. It does make it tougher but they’re the team to beat. The Red Sox too, they have the depth, they have the hitting, they have everything. They could do it from the American League. I don’t think you’ve count the Indians out again. They got to the World Series without two of their best three pitchers which is totally amazing. They added Encarnación to that lineup. They’re going to be strong out of the American League too. You can’t look past them. It’s going to be exciting again. This is the first time we can say in about 108 years that the Cubs are now the hunted team as opposed to the hunters. It should be exciting and looking forward to another great season.
Sam, it’s been great having you for the podcast. Why don’t you let people know what’s going on at your academy and how they can reach you, especially to ask us some questions? We’re always looking for questions from people.
You can follow us on Facebook, Diamond Edge Academy. We’re on Twitter. Feel free to email us. DiamondEdgeAcademy.com is the website. You can e-mail me at Sam@DiamondEdgeAcademy.com. We’ve expanded here and offer a very good product. We really care about the players who come in here. We have some of the top cultures in the area working out of here and working with our players, along with former and current Major Leaguers. It’s quite the staff that we’ve surrounded ourselves with including Jack. We’re trying to provide something to help kids have some success in their early age and really enjoy and love the game and sit with it.
My third book is Creating A Season To Remember for coaches. It’s a handbook, very comprehensive, and everything they need to know to inspire kids and parents to have a great season and a great future in the game and create that love of sports. I’ll keep you informed on that and where you can get it. You can always reach me and follow me at www.BaseballCoachingTips.net. You can always reach Sam at Sam@DiamondEdgeAcademy.com also. We ask you to stay tuned for our story. Tell your friends about our podcast. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you soon.
Our story has an important message for kids in it. When I was in high school in my freshman year, I was sitting in class one day when the teacher decided to ask everybody in class what they wanted to be when they grew up. From person to person, everybody would say something. When it came to me, I said that I wanted to become a Major League baseball player. The whole class broke out in laughter. Needless to say, I never told anybody again what I wanted it to be. I always wish I would run into those people again, and not for the reason you think, not to say, “I told you so,” but to thank them. It’s the people that doubt us in life, the haters nowadays that make us stronger. Those are the ones that push us to become who we want to be or at least to try as hard as we can to be what we want to be. The message for kids is pretty obvious. There’s going to be doubters in your life, people who don’t think you can do it. Even your parents sometimes don’t believe in you, but it’s important that they believe in themselves and keep trying and giving their best. Not everybody reaches their ultimate dreams, but as long as you give your very best effort then the best things come out for you in the long run. I hope you enjoyed our podcast. We look forward to seeing you again in the future.