By Vincent Esquer Jr.
Walking up the plate I always found my dad in the stands.
To a degree, it might have even become a bad habit.
My dad offered me a level of comfort and hope that nothing else ever seemed to give me.
I was not the greatest baseball player.
Far from it, actually.
My dad loved baseball.
No, he REALLY loved baseball.
When he wasn’t busy working out with me or teaching me new skills he would spend his time in his decked-out baseball office any fan could only dream of.
The jerseys hanging from his office walls I often caught him glancing at.
He always told me that one day if I continued to work hard I might end up there one day.
But I knew he loved me either way.
That’s the thing about him.
He was a hard man to please.
It seemed whenever I did something perfectly he could still pick out the flaw.
That aspect of him always pushed my buttons. But pushed my buttons to go a little harder the next time around or show him what I was made of.
But like every great teacher he always had his secret ways.
I can remember countless times when I seemed to push the guy away about baseball. It seems we as people every time we get the slightest bit uncomfortable or upset about changing or improving we seem to bark back at whatever source we feel is coming at us but are really trying to just help.
Just like postgame dialogues in the car.
They were always a bit…spooky.
You got two guys, one (my dad) who spent his whole week getting you ready to kill it on the field and the other (me) who absolutely dropped the ball, trying to converse.
It was just always a recipe for disaster.
I would defend my lack performance while he gave it to me how I disappointed him.
IT’S TIME TO COME CLEAN
He actually never said he was disappointed… That’s just how I felt.
I was just acting selfishly in that moment.
It’s just all those drills.
The cross-country car rides.
The insane coaches.
The disgusting protein shakes.
THE ENDLESS, LONG NIGHTS.
Those things just always seemed to build expectations of success followed by continual thoughts and insecurities about possibly not succeeding.
There is no easy way to say this.
But my dad had multiple myeloma.
His condition was brutal.
In the time he fought cancer it seemed to destroy him physically.
The irony was beyond cruel.
This man that I loved more than life itself… my teacher…my coach… my mentor… my life…was now asking me for help.
But I was there for him.
I did the best I could and he did too.
Even down to my final showcase as a baseball player. Where he was there to mentor and train with me when he wasn’t lying sick in bed.
But baseball was secondary at this point.
When he was sick I could just never stop thinking about him.
I could see the pain in his eyes.
The fear of getting sicker weighing down even more his compromised immune system.
Watching him like this was just excruciating.
My dad passed away earlier this year.
It’s strange because although I could see it coming I never realized the depth of it until it happened.
The best way I can describe is like riding a roller coaster to the top and just freezing.
There is just that feeling of emptiness, of loss.
But some time went by and as I replayed memories of him one thing always came back to me…
And that’s why I’m here to write this.
Dad first off I miss you beyond understanding and I hope you’re doing well and in peace. I just wanted to say thank you. It didn’t fully hit me until you were gone that my baseball career was not really about you wanting to see me in primetime one day, though I am sure you would have minded that:) You really did not make this about you. Even in your fight to stay alive you never made it about you. I remember how you never told people you met of your condition unless asked upon. You never even once said to me that you were sick. Obviously, you spoke about the condition you had as being crippling at times and unbearable but you never became that pain. I am sorry it took me till now to realize this but all those nights you spent with me working, all the long talks about how I needed to improve, and the plan we were going to set off on together to make me better was never at all about baseball. It was just life. You taught me to not become the energy around but to stay neutral. You taught me that life somedays is going to tell me I am the king to inflate my ego and the next day erase it completely. But most importantly you taught me to never ever say that life is unfair. Thank you dad for your fight and for teaching me how to fight. You gave your life to show me how strong I really am. As I move forward I promise to keep you in my heart forever. Although I don’t walk up to the plate anymore you will always comfort me. Please continue to help me push, grow, and simply love all things and people I encounter.
Love you, Dad,
My dad left me with this as his greatest lesson.
More times than not in life we will not be perfect at whatever endeavor we take on.
It is critical to remember why we do things.
Our why is who we are and what we live for.
If our why is weak we have nothing to stand for.
If our why is strong though, we have already declared that we cannot lose.
My hope is that you all have strengthened your why in 2020. These have been very trying times but as I have learned trying times are what make us. What you do and learn from this point forward is your story.
To young athletes or people that were once in my situation or here now I say to you this:
Pinch yourself every time you walk on your stage.
Take it all in and most importantly the people who helped get you there.
And let only passion and love for what you do drive you forward.
You have nothing to prove because there are those around you that love you more than you could ever imagine.
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 Life of a Cheerleader – Grounded in Friendship
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.
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
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