USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Playced.com. This week’s article is written by Ross Hawley, the president of the company. Playced.com identifies appropriate colleges for potential recruits and delivers an online DIY college planning experience for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
Baseball is a humbling sport. Anyone that has been around the game for a long period of time will tell you just that. Think about this; you are considered a great hitter if you hit .300. That literally means that you are getting out 70% of the time. You are failing 70% of the time! So what does it take to succeed when failing is inevitable?
I sat down with Tyrone Brooks, Director of Player Personnel for the Pittsburgh Pirates to get his take on what success looks like, on and off the field. It doesn’t take long to understand why Mr. Brooks is one of the most respected men in baseball.
Q: Physical talent aside, what do you look for when you are evaluating a player?
A: The first thing we notice about any player is how he handles himself on the field. Quite simply, we look for leadership ability and how he interacts with his teammates. Is this the type of guy that builds everyone up around him? Does this player make his teammates better? We want to answer yes to both of those questions before we get serious about bringing a player into our organization.
Equally important to how a player handles himself on the field, is how a player handles himself off the field. The ideal player would be the one that looks beyond himself. Be the guy that stands out for the right reasons. There should be more to a baseball player than just baseball. We want guys that serve their community and contribute to the success of everyone around them.
Q: Based on your experiences, what separates minor league talent from big league talent?
A: First of all, ability is always the great separator. To ignore that fact would be unfair to Major League Players. The players that you see having success at the highest level are the players that commit to the process. Failure is a big part of baseball and the guys that are truly committed to the game go further than the ones that are not. I think the key to achieving ultimate success, in anything, is a belief in one’s self. Unshaken confidence in personal abilities is what gets a guy to the big leagues and it is what keeps him there for a long time.
Q: What advice would you give any student-athlete wanting to play at the next level, collegiately or professionally?
A: There is a level out there for every student-athlete wanting to play at the next level! What it really boils down to is self-evaluation. If you can be honest about what kind of a player you are and what type of a student you are, you can absolutely play at the next level. It is important to identify your strengths, as well as your weaknesses when assessing what level is right for you. Being able to evaluate your own abilities, honestly, allows you to implement a game plan for your future. I strongly encourage student-athletes to approach the recruiting process with a plan. If you don’t have a plan to execute, the outcome is completely out of your control.
Q: What would you want every parent and student-athlete to know about being a professional baseball player?
A: I don’t think parents and student-athletes really understand how much of a grind being a professional baseball player is. The length of the a professional baseball season is long, sometimes lasting up to 9-10 months, including spring training. That doesn’t even account for the winter ball schedule most high-level players participate in. Professional baseball will take a mental, emotional and physical toll on every player. I would want every aspiring professional baseball player to know that they must be mentally prepared before they take their shot at pro ball. You may only get one chance at this, so make sure it counts and you are ready to make a living out of it.
Q: What is the greatest lesson you have learned from baseball?
A: Be genuine and take no relationship for granted. Sports teach us so much about life and commitment, especially baseball. There will be ups and there will be downs, but with a consistent approach to your daily habits, you can have tremendous success. Whether you become a professional athlete or not, you can always control how you treat people and the effort you give. It is far more important to be a quality person than it is to be a quality athlete!