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?

Listen to the podcast here:

Something Worth Catching Podcast EP3

This podcast series has one intention of helping ballplayers, parents, and coaches to have a better baseball and softball experience. Sam and I have over 45 years combined in the business.

Thanks for checking in on our podcast. Diamond Edge Academy is a fairly new facility. We’ve got a bunch of summer camps, both outdoor and indoor. We’ve got both baseball and softball and private and semi-private instruction along with camps. We’re starting the second phase of our business, which is the sports performance and speed and agility side.

I’m sure kids should take advantage of your programs if they want to get ahead this season. I would like to inform people that my book called Creating a Season to Remember is out. 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 but we don’t know beforehand which one we will get. What is the one thing you would change about the Major League Baseball game if you could?

Creating a Season to Remember: The New Youth-Sports-Coaching Leadership Handbook

Being a traditionalist, I don’t know. I think TV makes the game longer. Your time out and your time between innings and TV to get commercials in extend the game a little bit. Other than that, if you truly love the game and you understand the game, it doesn’t seem to take the three 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 is going to attack the hit or what’s the hitter’s approach is. Do you run on this pitch, do you hit and run, do you play the infield back, do you play the infield in? There are so many different things that happen between the pitches that has to be thought about. You try to get in the minds of the managers and the hitters. In terms of changing the game, I would say no. The game is better now than maybe it’s ever been. The length of it has to do with the fact that you have TV involved. That time that happens in between innings extends the game more than it should.

Pace of play is still their biggest issue. I don’t see kids willing to sit down and watch a whole ball game very often. The times of the games and the length are an issue. We have to get the kids watching baseball again. Every team should hire Mark Buehrle to teach their pitchers, to get the ball and throw the ball. I know they have a rule, but it’s never enforced. Ten, eleven seconds to me is enough time to get the ball and get your sign, think about what you have to do, and throw the ball. That would help to keep kids interested longer and adults, too, where the action was just coming a lot more fast and furious.

You have the video review, which comes into play. If you get three video reviews in the game, one on each side, and you get a crew chief view, you’re adding another fifteen minutes onto a game. I like the fact that they’re getting things right, but I’m sure there’s a way to a possibly squeeze out some of that extra time that they have.

Baseball is probably the slowest sport to change anything. It takes a while. I was real glad when they put the nets in this year where they’re putting nets to protect the fans at the lower levels. I just thought that was ridiculous that a fan is expected to feel the ball coming at them at 120 miles an hour with no gloves, so I’m glad they did. Baseball is slow to change, but hopefully they’ll keep working on finding ways to get kids back interested in watching it and not just playing it.

At what ages and levels of baseball and softball should coaches not rotate player positions?

Up until high school, kids should probably keep rotating positions. Major League baseball’s going to more players that are more versatile, so that could help. Up until high school, kids should move around in positions. That’s not to say in the biggest games of year, you shouldn’t have your best players at the best positions. I still believe in playing to win and putting kids in positions to succeed. Keeping kids at different positions in games is important.

Especially at the younger age because it allows them some flexibility when they get to high school, having them learn and understand positions, position responsibility. You did steal a word there from me and that’s “success”, having kids be in a position to be successful. 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. It’s an important equation that is equal out to the fact of, “What does the kid want to do? What’s he feel comfortable doing?”As a coach, we’re working on putting them to be successful. I do think it’s important to learn multiple positions.

Switching kids out once in a while isn’t the worst thing either, where each kid has a few innings on the bench. That can be helpful down the line for them to take some of the pressure off. It seems like we’re not through with the steroid era as the events have shown. Is there something Major League Baseball should be or can be doing to help the situation?

Everyone is always trying to find a way to get ahead and become better or stronger. The only thing that Major League Baseball can do is make it a no-nonsense disciplinary action. You get caught once and you’re done. That is the issue. You look at the players and there are multiple players that are out there that are probably 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 help me and my power numbers, I can sign a $30 million contract. If I get a $30 million contract and I sit out for 80 games, I would make that deal. Getting off of what even Arrieta said with people questioning him is, “Make it a no-nonsense. Make it non-tolerable. You get caught and you’re done for life.”That’s probably the easiest and best way to go after that.

[Tweet “Keeping kids at different positions in games is important.”]

That’s a tough issue there because there is always the possibility that someone is innocent in the process even though they were caught. That might open up the game where people may spike their drinks or something like that. I hate to penalize them for something that maybe wasn’t totally their fault at all. They still need to keep working on their system. It seems like a lot of the players want better rules to where 80 days isn’t enough of a deterrent. It just turns me off every time I see a big-name player that gets caught because there are multiple players. It just makes me wonder, “Are we getting back to where we were?” Fame is a draw for people.

It’s such a financial issue because if you get caught, great. If it’s going to get me and lead me to signing a three or a four-year deal where I’m making $10 million, $12 million a year, that’s a hard one to walk away from.

You wonder where the fans stand on this. 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, I believe most of the fans would watch the steroids.” They want to see guys throwing 105. They want to see home runs hit 500 feet. That’s where baseball’s stuck to. What do we do?

Some fans don’t care as long as you keep winning. What advice do you give the high school ball player who wants to play college baseball?

Besides developing their skills, which is an unending process for everybody, they have to be willing to market themselves, to get out there and be looking for schools at a young age, and look at different levels of schools so they’re prepared. Most kids get slotted in a level that they belong in the long run. They want to be open to looking at different schools. A lot of kids depend on their coaches to find them everything or they think, “If I do well, I’m going to automatically have a school to play at.” It’s important that players get proactive and start looking at schools themselves and what fits academically with the baseball mix. A lot of parents might overstate their child’s abilities and think Division I right away when that’s not realistic for a lot of kids. The important thing is that they play and they get an education. Be prepared to look at all levels of colleges.

It’s funny that it follows up the steroid comment. I talked to a lot of the high school players that I work with. To move on to the next level, you certainly have to have a higher level of strength. You get a lot of kids who stay away from the weight room and stay away from getting physically stronger. Baseball is a physical game and being able to create bat speed and being able to use your lower half. That is an important piece, getting stronger physically. The other one is the academics. Colleges have 11.75 scholarships, which they’re allowed to use over 24 players. I’m not a mathematician but that’s not very much and that’s less than half of what you can roster. In talking with college coaches on a regular basis, they’re 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 lot more leeway in terms of granting academic money that is there and resources. Keeping an eye on the academic side is also important.

Do you feel the steroids are in at the high school level in the sport of baseball?

It’s hard to say. To say that it’s not there is not a true statement. To know or to guess what number percentage is virtually impossible. I believe it is there. You see some kids that are physically mature beyond a point that you question whether or not they’re doing things on the up and up. It doesn’t take away from kids who have worked extremely hard and have dedicated themselves to eating right and exercising and working out and making themselves stronger. With the different level of supplements that are out there and natural supplements that you can take that are going to aid in that, that’s also a factor.

SWC 3 | Baseball Coaching

Baseball Coaching: Baseball is a physical game and being able to create bat speed and being able to use your lower half, that is an important piece.

Isn’t it funny how Twins’ manager, Paul Molitor, was a great manager and Robin Ventura was thought of as an awful one. This year the roles have totally reversed?

That’s the old, “What have you done for me lately?” Both of them might have a great path playing the game. Paul Molitor is a Hall of Famer. It’s not like one day he knows more than the next day. It comes down to do your players execute, do your players have good years, how are your pitcher’s doing. The one thing 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 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. He’s surrounded with a better squad. He had Frazier and eating as healthy. Jackson is doing well in center field. You’re getting what you think out of Sale and Quintana. The catching standpoint, they’re getting a lot more production out of the catching position that they have in the recent years. 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.

With how great Joe Maddon is, if you bring Joe Maddon with some of the teams for the Cubs, he’s just not going to make much of a difference because it does take talent. I saw a stat once where they said, “Managers are probably worth three, four, or five wins a year.” It does come down to the players, having enough talent to go out there. There is a lot to a manager that can be a player’s manager and get the most out of players. That’s the part that we probably never find out. I’m sure Paul Molitor didn’t get stupid over the winter all of a sudden.

Player development is a key. When you look at organizations who develop from the bottom up is important. Are you delivering players who are ready to play at that level on a daily or yearly level? It’s interesting how it’ll go. Hopefully, Molitor keeps his job, great baseball guy. Robin’s a great baseball person as well as a person off the field, too. What do you say when players come in and say they popped every ball off this week, and you begin to throw to them and everything’s a ground ball.

That one’s is such a mystery. I get that a lot where a parent says, “Flying off and popping up everything.” I throw them a few pitches, ground ball, ground ball, ground ball. The incorrect swing can cause different results based on the pitching. If you have the wrong swing and the pitcher’s one speed then you could get pop ups, whereas if you add a different speed then it could turn into ground balls. Hitting’s a real mystery. The mechanics can’t be correct if they’re falling into one pattern or the other. It is embarrassing, in a sense, to see sometimes with a hitter all of a sudden. It’s like, “I don’t see a popup swing in that swing. I see a ground ball swing.” You have to maneuver your way through that lesson and try to get them a better swing and build their confidence back up. I prefer seeing hitters that maybe pop the ball up a little more than they do ground balls because I feel like the popup 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

The issue is that you have some kids, especially at the younger levels, that will have a cage swing and then they’ll have a game swing where they don’t trust the adjustments or 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 showed outside. I try to compare the two. What I do with my clients is I’m very adamant about trying to get some video that I can look at from a game so I can take a look at it and see what they’re doing there to apply it in here. We have kids who don’t trust themselves when they get outside because the scenario changes. “Now I’m outside in the game, everybody’s watching,” versus, “I’m in a cage and I feel comfortable and I know that every pitch I steal is going to be a strike and I’ve been batting practice, I’m in flips,” and so on and so forth.

I try to get video from my 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. I don’t know what I can do. He swings great. He doesn’t do that. He gets into the game and everything changes. You definitely need the game video to help. The other thing I see sometimes, especially in softball, is I get a lot of hitters that they’re so intent on running that the minute a contact’s made, they’re out of there and they never finish swings, whereas in batting practice, when you’re not worried about running, you take a great swing and drive the ball. When the games come, it’s like half swings and get out of the box. They don’t give their swing a chance to work.

[Tweet “Play with no fear. Go up there swinging. Take your chances.”]

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 rolled over or hit an infield pop-up, they just want to get out of there and say, “My at-bat’s over.”

Parents, get that video, but try to get up close. Sometimes they get the video from the center field fence and I’m supposed to decipher what’s going on with our small mechanics of hitting when they’re 80 miles away.

You don’t even know if it’s the same kid.

This is looking more and more like a possibility. Who are you picking in game seven of this year’s World Series, Sox – Cubs, Chris Sale on the hill versus Jake Arrieta?

I’m a Cubs fan so that leans me that way. Secondly, Arrieta has shown to be very dominant to the point of traditional numbers don’t even make any sense, almost video game numbers. What comes into play is not necessarily the two pitchers themselves but the Cubs ability to drive up pitch counts. If they were to play any game, the Cubs have proven that their approach is to drive up pitch counts, be aggressive in the count if it’s a drivable pitch. They’ve drawn a ton of walks. They’re number one in baseball in walks. They’re number one in runs scored. They’re one or two in on-base percentage. The starting pitches that they face this year on average just under six innings. They would be able to get to Sale’s pitch count up to the point where they may be able to get him out of the game early enough to get to their bullpen. From that standpoint, from my heart value, I’m going with the Cubs. Stepping back from a baseball side and trying to understand how the two teams would approach that, the Cubs would have the advantage just because of what their offensive approach is.

If the Cubs were in the game seven against any other team in baseball, the Cubs would win it. I believe that the enormity of the situation with the Cubs’ history, their fans are going to have to suffer one more time and the Sox would be dominating this game. Chris Sale can raise his level also, just like Jake seems to do every night. Chris seems to have another gear when he has to have it and he can be awful dominant, too. It would be great for baseball if things continue the way they do in the city of Chicago. It’s never happened before and it’s exciting for both sides. Both sides are happy for each other, but like I say, if they get into a World Series situation, things could get pretty ugly but also very beautiful at the same time. Sam, I appreciate another podcast with you and I look forward to 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 ballplayers and have better futures. That’s what t trying to do with this podcast.

Thank you and hopefully your season’s going well.

Our story is one of those that still seem unbelievable to this day, but it is all true. I played baseball for Murray State University, a Division I College baseball program. One day, we were playing in another Division I school when leaving off the fourth inning, our leadoff man at that inning was Bobby Mantooth. Bobby hit a line drive towards the short stop, who reached up and made a fine catch, out number one. The next eight batters in our order all reached base. Up to the plate strolled Bobby Mantooth. Bobby this time had a shot towards right center field. Center fielder came out of nowhere and made a nice running catch for out number two. The “what ifs” started early after Bobby batted. What if, what if, batter after batter? Pretty soon the “what ifs” turned into, “I can’t believe this might happen. There’s no way this is going to happen.” The next eight batters, once again, all reached base.

You guessed it, up to the plate strolled Bobby Mantooth. Of course there wouldn’t be a story if that wasn’t the case. They count one-two and three-two on Bobby. The next pitch was about eye level. Bobby could have taken the easy way out, taken ball four and that would be the end of the story. Bobby was a gambler and he decided to take a whack. He swung and missed, strike three. Bobby Mantooth was the owner of all three outs in the same inning in a Division I College baseball game. I doubt that has ever happened before. It never happened since. Maybe in Little League but not at that level of baseball. There’s a few messages here for kids. The first one is don’t swing at the eye level pitch. The second one is if you’re having a bad day out on the field, just remember Bobby. It’s probably not as bad as Bobby’s day was. The last thing is, just like Bobby, play with no fear. Go up there swinging. Take your chances.

Thanks and we look forward to our next edition of Something Worth Catching, like a baseball.

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