By Matthew Magron
Baseball is a game of failure.
As a baseball player, you have to learn to be okay with failing, and be able to bounce back within seconds, especially as a pitcher.
This was something incredibly difficult for me to figure out in my senior year of high school.
Up until that point, I was a third baseman. That was all I knew, and I was good at it. I played there throughout little league and started taking third base seriously when I got to high school.
I remember growing up at baseball fields. My brother Shane and I would both take ground balls while my dad would drill fungos (ground balls) at us for hours.
We would do this, take batting practice, then get in the car and talk about baseball even more. We were the definition of a baseball family.
My dad was a major leaguer for a bit, and he passed down his passion for the game to Shane and me. We both worked hard, and the game started rewarding us for it.
When I got to high school, Shane was a senior, making his name as a catcher. I got some playing time at third base, and before long, I was starting.
I continued to work harder after Shane went on to play college baseball because that was something I wanted to do as well. I worked harder and harder, even getting ranked as high as the number 25 third baseman in the state of Florida.
I started getting offers as a third baseman, but during my senior year, my coach suggested something that changed my life.
As much as I loved playing third base, it was hard for many coaches to overlook my build. I was a 6’5” slender guy with good arm strength. Anytime a coach looked at me, the first image they had in their head was a pitcher. I had never pitched before, that was, however, until my senior year.
My coach started putting me on the mound, and suddenly everything felt like it opened up for me. As much as I loved playing the field, pitching just felt natural for me. I knew that was what I wanted to do.
Soon, all my offers coming in were either as a pitcher or a two-way player. I ended up committing to Florida International University. Not long after, however, I took a step back.
I thought about my family and where I was with everything, and I realized that FIU was not the best situation for me. This resulted in me de-committing from FIU and signing with Austin Peay State University in Tennessee as a pitcher.
My freshman year of college was the first year in my career that I had ever been a “pitcher only.” It was an incredibly different feeling for me.
I went from just trying to throw hard and continue to focus on hitting to learning how to pitch. I learned how to use off-speed pitches and hit my spots. I worked incredibly hard that year, only for the year to get washed up by Covid.
When I came back for my sophomore year, I came in ready to take the mound.
I started the season as one of the go-to arms out of the bullpen. After a few rough outings, however, I saw my appearances become more scarce. I just wanted to pitch. I ended the season with 12 innings pitched. This was not bad for a freshman, but something did not sit well with me about the school’s area. What once felt like a home to me now felt strange and uncomfortable.
After a lot of thought and prayer, I entered the transfer portal after the season.
Having just entered the portal, I knew I needed to pitch well over the summer for a chance to transfer. There were thousands of division 1 players in the portal, making every outing I had over the summer that much more important. I decided to return to the South Florida Collegiate Baseball League, the summer league I pitched in the previous summer. It is a very competitive league, and I knew it would give me the best chance to work on my stuff and get my name out there for scouts.
The best part of pitching in the SFCBL was that my catcher was none other than my brother, Shane. He never had the chance to catch me in a game before. He always caught bullpens and threw with me when we were home, but when we played together, I was not a pitcher yet.
He knew what worked for me, he knew what to say to me to calm me down, and he knew how to elevate my game. This became very clear during each outing. Every time I took the mound, I felt my stuff get better and better. I was throwing harder, my off-speed pitches were moving more, and I was hitting my spots better than ever.
All of this work paid off, as I received an offer from the College of Central Florida, an extremely competitive junior college. That is the school I will be attending in the fall, and I cannot wait to see how the rest of my career plays out. I am going to pitch until I am dragged off the mound. That has always been my mindset, and it always will be.
When it comes to making decisions in our careers we can easily be swayed by the thoughts and illusions of “what we think it will be like or what we want to happen.” Especially in my case having to change positions so late in my career, find the right home to play at was a jaded search, to say the least.
But don’t be afraid to do what’s best for you. It’s easy to sit back in bad situations and do nothing about them.
The effort put into finding the right situation, unique to you and every player, is an effort that I promise will be worthwhile.
Dealing with the Pressure of Your Family Name
The Grieves: A Family of Baseball
Baseball has always been the center of my life. When I was growing up at a young age, I never really felt the pressures of having so much rich baseball history in my family, but the older I got, the more people noticed my last name.
The pressure that came with my family name impacted how I treated the game. My parents did not put any pressure on how far I made it playing. They always just wanted me to play the game respectfully because the name on the back of my jersey carried a lot of baseball knowledge and experience.
My dad Ben was drafted second overall in 1994 by the A’s, my uncle Tim was drafted in 1994 by the Royals, and my grandpa Tom was drafted sixth overall by the Senators in 1966.
Consequently, the pressure was on my younger brother and me to be baseball players.
I doubt my brother realizes that yet, and I definitely didn’t know it at his age, but now, I realize. Every coach that I have ever played for knows who my dad is. When I go to big tournaments, people come up to me and ask if I am related to Ben or Tom. I definitely feel like people are always watching me when I am playing and that there are always high expectations for me to perform well.
However, I have taken this in the best way possible most of the time as I use the pressure to motivate me to reach the expectations people have on me.
Other times, it has been more challenging, though. When I make mistakes, I feel even worse than I should because I feel those same people watching are disappointed. It is nearly impossible not to compare myself to my dad or grandpa when everyone else is.
When I am playing at my worst, I wonder if my dad experienced those same struggles, and that weighs over me.
It is a blessing to have so much experience and knowledge of the game at home with me, as I essentially have the best built-in hitting coach possible in my dad, but it is also hard to learn from someone who had baseball come so easy to them.
My dad can give me all the mechanical advice I need, but when it comes to mental advice, he cannot offer the same direction as he does on physical parts of the game.
I struggled majorly with the mental half of the game for most of my life, as the pressure I put on myself was often way more than I knew how to handle. In comparison, my dad was the top prospect in the world when his senior year in high school rolled around, which is where I am right now.
He never dealt with the mental struggles I have endured, at least not as a high schooler. In that sense, I feel helpless when I get in my head, as the tremendous mentoring of my dad becomes less and less valuable.
He can offer some changes to my swing and slight adjustments that might help me get back on track, but he can’t help me get out of my head when I go through a rough stretch at the plate.
With that, I have learned to embrace the mental toughness I have developed, as I have never once thought about giving up. Despite all the struggles I have endured playing the game, I still only want to be better and work harder.
Maybe my mental struggles are a blessing more than a downfall.
I have used them as my motivation to practice more with my dad when I am struggling. Yes, I get down on myself, but everyone does when they struggle. And baseball is a sport of struggling, but I have never backed away from the competition or the challenge. What I once considered my weakness in baseball, I now consider a strength. When I am at my worst, my inner doubt has only forced me to become better. It is a unique part of my game that no one can compare to my dad, uncle, or grandpa.
Addressing the Future of Baseball in 2021
QnA with 50 Year MLB Coach and Scouting Veteran, Jerry Weinstein.
This week I caught up with Jerry Weinstein, a long-time baseball buff, to say the very least. Jerry began his coaching career back in 1966 as a freshman coach at UCLA, and today, after an unprecedented coaching run that found him atop leading Team Israel in the 2017 World Baseball Classic qualifiers, he now finds himself a part of The Colorado Rockies Player Development System as a Scouting Special Assistant.
With fifty-plus years of experience in the game of baseball at the highest level, I thank Jerry for answering our audience’s question amidst a time of significant adjustment for the game of baseball. Upon receiving this great opportunity, I wanted to hear from our audience and have their questions answered by Jerry. Dictated by your questions, this was the extent of our conversation:
What behavioral issues do you run into with players at the professional level, and what can we do as coaches when we have these players younger to foster better habits or character?
“We have fewer behavioral issues at the pro level because there is so much internal competition & there are really no fallback options. The organization has the leverage. With that being said, it’s all about choices & owning those choices realizing that there are consequences for poor choices. Transfer of blame is not an option. The key is establishing standards of behavior & consistently holding the athletes to those standards.”
What are we doing now in the industry that is hurting participation and the retention of good athletes in the game of baseball? As we witness, athletes to the likes of Kyler Murray choose not to pursue baseball professionally.
“Retention-Make it fun. Connect with the players as people & not just players. Be positive. Know what you are doing. Allow for individual differences. Be organized & have enough help to keep players moving in small groups. Short-tempo practices & games. Make it competitive. Player-centric environment. It’s more about them than the scoreboard. It’s a collaborative effort between players, coaches & parents.”
What are your thoughts on the game of baseball missing out on talented players with the shortened draft and college rosters overflowing? With 1,525 draft selections in 2010 and only 160 in 2020…
Professional baseball does not miss very often. Maybe they don’t get slotted the way they end up, but good players do not go unseen. If they are playing somewhere, they will be seen. It may be in an Indy League where many late bloomers & players from lower-profile programs thrive. If they have tools or are playing up to professional standards, they will be seen. The problem lies in the fact that we are losing a lot of the better athletes to other sports. We need to do a better job of attracting those athletes & retaining them. MLB is making a real effort in that area in the inner cities with its RBI program. I’m concerned that the current Travel Team movement has priced a lot of the economically challenged families out.
I want to once again thank Jerry for his priceless insight and wisdom. His generosity in answering these questions I know will go a long way for our audience memebers. The game of baseball, perhaps having always faced unprecedented times, now faces reconstruction and rebranding efforts post pandemic. With the universal designated hitter (DH) now active in both the American and Nation League, the game of baseball now looks to another evolution in rules for greater growth amongst fan bases and most imporantly, youth. Baseball’s ability to keep promising athletes in the sport will set the horizon the future of baseball is destined for.
The San Francisco Giants 107 Win Season Should Be Remembered for More Than Painful Ending
Recapping the Incredible Run of the 2021 San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants season came to an end in game 5 of the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers this past week.
The game ended in San Francisco with the Giants down just one run on a check swing appealed and called a strike against the hot bat of Wilmer Flores. It is by no means a surprise that much of sports media has run with the Giants’ season-ending call.
Some even rank the Giants among the top teams in MLB history to have the most painful season-ending loss. But the fact of the matter is the ’21 Giants might have pulled off one of the most impressive seasons in MLB History.
From the resurrection of Buster Posey to the resurgence of past greats like Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt, Gabe Kapler’s squad should be beyond proud of their efforts. Kapler not only led his team to 107 wins after the team had finished with losing records for the last four years but utilized vital players off the bench like Donovan Solana and Austin Slater to plot many late-inning comebacks.
The ’21 Giants also saw the birth of unlikely heroes unforeseen going in Spring Training like Kris Bryant, who was picked up at the trade deadline, and LaMonte Wade Jr., whose late-inning heroics all year, earned him the title “Late Night Lamonte.”
Overall, to let the Giant’s season go to waste or be manipulated to provoke fan and public reaction because of one “highly disputed” call would be an act of great injustice. The fact also remains that no one game comes down to any single call; the Giants had missed out on multiple scoring opportunities before the 2-1 deficit.
And at the end of the day, the Dodgers had just played better baseball that evening; Gabe Kapler said after the game, “I have no regrets, congratulations to that very talented squad on the other side.” We hope to acknowledge the magic the San Francisco Giants created this season for the fans and world of baseball and remind people never to be swayed by the narratives of “BLOWN CALL RUINS SEASON” columns and tabloids. Congratulations to the 2021 San Francisco Giants!