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Athlete Reflections

Baby Steps

I remember things back in my day just being so much simpler

Image taken by Travis Kinyoun, edited by Dominyck Bullard

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By Travis Kinyoun

I was a seventeen and a half-years-olds, switch-hitting, high school catcher when the phone rang for me.

It’s a call many young baseball players spend their whole lives dreaming of.

The fact that such a young kid could be offered this sort of opportunity is still unbelievable. 

And believe me, I felt the weight of such a gift.

But the fact was I was to be a professional baseball player!

I could not wait to begin my professional journey. 

But make no mistake, the journey to that position had started a long time ago.

Baseball is surely unique, no doubt about that. But it’s a lot like everything else in life. There are levels to it. You don’t just take a ten-layer cake straight out of the oven. The process of getting it perfect is made up of a multitude of elements.

The most important element being consistency.

This element pushed me to fields all over Southern California, at every time of the day.

Becoming a good baseball player and progressing in the game is built off of BABY STEPS.

Yup.

No one likes to hear it.

But greatness is made in small, consistent steps.

Every…single…day.

Every single day I worked. It was wake up, practice, eat, practice again, eat, play, eat, sleep. 

This routine I followed religiously.

Coaches loved me, players couldn’t keep up, and private instructors…well, let’s just say I made them a lot of money, possibly with my parent’s own. 

A quick word, to all my parents out there, you know what private instructors mean. And you all are not thanked enough for your sacrifice. So thank you.

Like I was saying, luckily for me, all that hard work went somewhere.

I signed with the Detroit Tigers out of high school.

All the blood, sweat, and tears that I put in had paid off. 

All because I never took no for an answer.

Living the dream was definitely something I will never forget. 

Every day I think about the memories and accolades I was gifted from that period in my life.

Most importantly, I think how proud my family was of me. I can see the proud look on my

mom’s, my dad’s, and both my brothers’ faces’ every time I look back in memory.

 

But the grind didn’t stop.

Each off-season I prepared myself to head into spring training knowing I had a chance to 

move up through the ranks of the minor leagues, trying to get that cup of coffee in the show.

I even spent a couple of off-seasons overseas brewing up my MLB debut campaign.

Unfortunately, though, my dream to play in the show only made it that far.

Remember the cake reference I made earlier.

Well, it seems everything had gone right. I followed instructions, worked consistently, and put the cake that was to be my career safely into the oven. It was so close. 

What every chef doesn’t tell you about is the precarious nature of navigating a perfectly baked cake to the table through a field of extraneous variables. For me, I got tripped on the way there. 

It was in the 1992 season playing High A ball with the Kansas City Royals in Wisconsin when the dream would eventually come to an end. 

While receiving a throw from our right fielder to home plate I was crushed by the base runner in a collision that would ultimately be the start of the end of my career as a player.

I went into emergency surgery and spent most of the season rehabbing and trying to plot a comeback.

Never being hurt at any time in my life as a player, this was all new territory for me. 

After all the rehab, I finally made it back the last month of the season. Hitting a home run in my very first trip to the plate. I felt like I had not lost a step.

But deep down I felt like the knee was not completely back. 

After getting back onto the field the knee never came back the way it once was. 

For better or for worse, the cake never came to fruition. 

After all the hard work it came to an end… 

I eventually was given my release and had to make a decision that would be the hardest I would ever have to make as a player and retire from professional baseball. 

The Dream was over.

But the work wasn’t.

Now at 50 years old, I am a coach.

Coaching and instructing became my new passion. It gives me tremendous pride and self restitution trying to help other kids achieve the dreams I once had.

All the passion I had as a player transformed into my passion for being a Coach/Instructor. 

However, I came to find out coaching is completely different today from when I was being coached as a player.

The world is definitely different.

The same things I was told as a player and put through when I was younger are culturally unacceptable in this day in age.

You make do with what you have though.

But the grace period of adjusting to this new role as a mentor, as an example for younger athletes was not without its difficulties. 

I remember things back in my day just being so much simpler.

Now parents require that they share their every waking opinion about everything.

Your style, diction, attitude, price, appearance… are all judged.

I was feeling discouraged at first. 

I think anyone with this big of a culture shock would be.

But then I recalled such a common and unappreciated phrase that once was at the heart and pinnacle of my success. 

Baby Steps.

I think it was because of my “go, get it” nature it was tough to slow down. 

As an instructor, you have to find strategies for each and every kid you work with. You can’t spoon-feed the same thing twice or expect one lesson to carry over to the next.

Most importantly, you have to keep it simple.

The game of baseball is unimaginably difficult.

Especially when you try making it to the college and professional level. 

Attention to detail is critical to becoming great at the sport. 

So that is where I went back too.

Now in charge of providing instruction to clients, high school, college, and professional athletes, my motto is baby steps. 

Small steps every single day is what matters.

I think everyone wants to see their kids and players out competing with this unstoppable and audacious drive. 

But the reality is, this attitude and culture are built on consistent steps.

The thing I have come to appreciate is that every player is different. 

I beg coaches, teachers, people, in general, to please not try to make every player and person be like someone else or like how you were as a player. 

Simplify the game based on each individual’s makeup. Let them learn from their mistakes! 

The participation trophy and militant structure culture are two sides to the same catastrophic coin.

I was great because of the freedom I had to learn and make mistakes on the field. 

And at the same time accept accountability for the shortcomings and successes. 

Wherever you are, as a current player, coach, assistant, teacher, even person… just let people make mistakes and learn from them.

What I thought at one time to be my life’s greatest tragedy, transformed into a flourishing career. 

Keeping things simple and always in perspective.

Chances are whatever problems you may face there are small and simple steps to follow to help you overcome life’s biggest obstacles but most importantly achieve what was thought to be impossible. 

 

 

 

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Athlete Reflections

Addressing the Future of Baseball in 2021

QnA with 50 Year MLB Coach and Scouting Veteran, Jerry Weinstein.

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Image credited to Weinstein Baseball

 

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.

 

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Athlete Reflections

The Life of a Cheerleader – Grounded in Friendship

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The biggest lesson I’ve learned from my cheer career is that teammates are the most important part of cheerleading.

When I’m on the floor, what gets me through the routine is my teammates yelling, we got this; we’re almost done, keep going. When you put in the work for yourself and your teammates, the team’s success fills you with indescribable pride.

I’ve met some of my closest friends through cheer, and my teammates make even the most challenging practices enjoyable even when my body wants to give up.

My teammates are my family.

My base Abby who’s been with me for eight years is practically my sister; I can always count on my best friend since elementary school, Meghan, to do whatever it takes to make the stunt work; I love cracking jokes with my Backspot Zora and my flyer Presley, and my friend Emma I can always count on to get me through a challenging practice. Teammates make not only cheer but sports what they are.

Our teammates drive us.

When you spend the majority of your time with just these people, you create bonds that will last forever. Especially nowadays, where the headlines rarely include more than one, it is essential to remember how instrumental teammates are in our success and life. Make sure you make known how much you appreciate those around you that you go to the war and back with. Chances are, wherever you are today, a teammate or many teammates have helped support that success.

 

 

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Athlete Reflections

How to Become a Great Athlete

Elite, sports trainer, David Mariani, takes us through his life story until finding the work of training revolutionary, Ben Patrick

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How do I get better?

Growing up not too far from Chicago, the Bulls last 3-peat sparked my love for the game of basketball.

I wanted to be a great basketball player like MJ, Scottie, and Rodman, BUT I had no clue how to get there.

I did know that I had a lot of work to do, so I headed outside to work on my game. Every day I got shots up and worked on my handles. The sun going down was the only thing that prevented me from being on the court all night. Working on my game for 6 hours in a single day was common for me. My parents led the example of working hard, but neither of them played basketball, so it was on me to find the answers on how to improve.

I didn’t know at the time, but 6 hours a day is a great way to overtrain and prevent yourself from improving at a fast rate. It did build mental strength, which is why I was able to get honors in high school for basketball, but it came at the expense of my athleticism. My collegiate coach called me “the most unathletic player he coached in 40 years,” and he wasn’t mean. It was very accurate. I shouldn’t have even played in college, but I wouldn’t take no for an answer, and I outworked everyone to build trust from my team and coaches.

College was when I started to lift weights to build strength and put on size for my 6’4 150 lb frame. I had no clue what I was doing, and my college didn’t have a strength program, so I spent hours researching how to get better. If I wasn’t on the court, I was studying and studying the greats. I even obtained my exercise science degree and CSCS cert. If someone said they were getting results, then I did everything in my power to learn from them. Not only was I very un-athletic, but I was also constantly getting injured. Spraining my ankles every week, shin splints, torn meniscus, Osgood Schlatter’s and patellar tendonitis, as well as a lower back fracture, was my reality upon graduating college. I tried to play lower-level pro, but I was too slow and too hurt to make any impact. After two years, I decided to use what I learned to help others, and I transitioned to training athletes full-time.

I always trained like I was still playing pro ball because I wanted to experience what I was telling my athletes to do. My athletes kept getting excellent results, but my injuries never fully healed. At one point, I had to take over a year off from playing basketball, even just shooting around. It was one of the most challenging times of my life. I told myself that I would do everything I could so no one would have to experience the pain and suffering I went through.

The darkest dark is proper before the light.

I was depressed, injured, and lonely in my quest to find the best ways to improve fast and safely. That was when I stumbled upon my brother Ben’s Instagram @kneesovertoesguy.

The truth was Ben was training his knees over his toes, something that my education told me not to do. I knew he was onto something by how he moved on the court after all of his injuries. I wasted no time and messaged him on Instagram, asking for his help.

This is something I’ve come to learn: if someone has real answers that can help others, they will gladly help you if you are respectful and show that you are willing to put in the work. I did exactly what Ben suggested. Within the first week of doing his ATG online program, Knee Ability, the pain started to go away. It was an unreal experience. I had gone the majority of my life moving with pain and had completely forgotten what it was like to move pain-free. I started using ATG methods with my athletes and despite them already getting good results, the results have never been. I even had an athlete go from a 20″ vertical to a 32″ in one off-season!

I might be the oldest athlete to get their first in-game dunk at the young age of 33! I always had the belief, and even though sometimes doubt would creep in, it never stopped me from relentlessly pursuing.

Now, I’m entirely pain-free and helping athletes around the world get pain-free themselves. “Pain-free sets the gains free” is something Ben has said that I’ve seen not only in myself but all the athletes we’ve trained.

YOUR POWER IS GREATER THAN EVEN YOU MAY REALIZE

David Mariani

 

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