By Ethan Bourg
Going into the 2020-2021 school year I had decided to transfer schools and leave a place where I had built a name for myself.
My reasoning for leaving had a lot to do with my family and my mother’s career.
My mom was a teacher and had been in the Tomball Texas Independent School District for twenty years. However, after that many years, she had worn tired of the job and decided that Magnolia would be better.
After she had gotten the job she wanted, she came to me and asked if I would be okay transferring. I loved the idea of all the new challenges like having to go to a new school, making new friends, and earning my spot on the baseball team.
I settled in well and the school year was going great until around January.
It was then I started to feel a pain in my left hand.
That same pain that the doctors said would have healed by then. But after the pain became unbearable, I decided to go get another MRI done on my hand.
The doctors said my hamate bone was broken and I would need surgery. This was a week before the beginning of the high school baseball season.
At this time everything started spiraling downhill for me.
I got the surgery done on February 10th and they had said it was a six to eight-week recovery.
After the surgery was successfully done, all I could do was sit there and wait for my hand to heal up. I started to realize that everybody that was behind me was going to pass me up, and that motivated me.
I think it’s important before continuing that you all know this. At my last school, I was one of “those guys”. I’m referencing all the kids in their respected sports or groups that usually have more weight on their shoulders than they can bear.
Getting back to my hand situation, I had just lost all motivation after surgery.
I got my surgery cast off two weeks after the procedure and the doctor said my hand looked good and was healing right. I took this as a sign to start playing baseball again.
I took this sign this way not because of the passion I had for the game but because of what I had to live up to.
The thing about being a hyped-up player at such a young age is that you center all your attention on satisfying others and living up to their ideas of you then just simply playing the game.
I had forgotten what it meant to just play the game I loved.
And there was a consequence for that.
After two and a half weeks, I was back on the field and playing high school baseball.
Now, I know that this was too fast to be back on the field but I felt I had no choice.
As soon as I stepped onto the field and got a ground ball hit to me, I realized that my mentality was not the same at all. I had been dug in so deep mentally that I had started to play scared.
After my first five or so games, my performance was poor and my motivation was lost.
I started to hear people say that I was “overrated” or that I was just flat-out not a good ballplayer. I knew these weren’t true, however; I started listening to the outside noise and I let it affect my game.
About midway through the season, my hand was still hurting, I was not playing baseball to my standard, and my motivation was nonexistent. I started to not eat anything and my weight started to plunge. I lost around twenty pounds simply because I lacked the motivation to do anything, even eating.
For the first time in my life, I did not want to go to practice or do anything including baseball.
This was not myself and I knew it.
The saddest thing was I knew this was self-inflicted. Obviously, I knew I couldn’t control the hand situation but any smart player would have waited the six weeks to recover and come back on their own terms.
Well, when I had decided to get back out there too early to appease the crowd, I handed over those terms to everyone but myself.
I knew that I had to get back to my old self and start loving the game again.
One of the sayings that I live by is “embrace every day”, it basically means to enjoy the little things while working towards your goal. The real issue was not the hype or anything like that. It was that this hype and pressure, which I want to clarify is a privilege, had taken my focus off the process and put it on the literal outcome. I needed to get back to enjoying the small things, the things I could control.
Once the high school season ended, I returned to my gym looking skinny and almost like I was dying. I started putting in every day, consistent hard work that I should’ve been doing all along. The work that made me in the first place.
I started eating the right foods again and my hand started feeling healthy.
My life slowly but surely came together and I had put on about twenty-five pounds again.
I decided to block out everybody else and just do what I love to do. For the first time in months, I was feeling amazing.
The school year ended and I had gotten back with my summer team and I reconnected with all of my buddies that I loved playing ball with. These boys are like family to me at this point and getting back to playing with them just brought back my old self and my confidence.
In these past few months, I have learned a lot about myself, but also just a lot about life and how to conquer your fears and doubts.
Most importantly, I realized that this “hype” is way harder to deal with than most think. Everyone wants to be THAT guy. But they have no clue what it brings with it. Like I said earlier, if you’re fortunate enough that people want to spend every waking moment talking about you and your ability, it’s a privilege.
That added pressure should have driven me to focus even more on the little things that made me a player of that caliber, to begin with. Not shifting my focus to what everyone else thinks.
So please, always be true to yourself and love what you do.
If you are doing what you love then it doesn’t matter what other people think about you!
Shut out all the outside noise and do what makes you happy. Push yourself, work hard, do everything with confidence, and the rest will fall into place as your dreams become your reality.
If you’re a player or person flying under the radar, remember those are the clearest skies.
And to those around you that want all that hype, sometimes you just gotta hand it to them.
That goes as well to all the people whether it be other players, parents, coaches, sportswriters, etc. that only want to talk about “huge potential” players. They themselves will feel the stress just trying to keep up with it all.
Experience is the best teacher.
But if you’re wondering if I would change anything, the answer is absolutely not. In fact, I look forward to more high-pressure situations and cultures. Although I might have fallen short previously, I will always welcome situations that can make me a better player and person.
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!