By Colby Hatler
Every kid that plays baseball growing up has the dream of playing in the MLB.
For me, it wasn’t any different.
I grew up with a bat in my hands. When I was about two years old my parents got me a toy bat and ball that I never wanted to put down. As I got older, I joined a recreational league near my house and began playing on my first team.
I had never felt more comfortable in my life than I did on the field.
I practiced every day with a tight-knit group of friends, and the fire that I had to play the game never went away.
Besides, I just loved to be outside and compete.
I played every sport I could just because I wanted to compete. My dad played football in college, but he played baseball in high school as well. His guidance and passion for sports definitely led me to play multiple sports as well. Growing up I played mostly football and baseball and ended up playing football through my sophomore year of high school.
Even now I will play pickup basketball or football with my friends back home.
Specializing in one sport can sometimes make certain movements robotic with the sheer amount of repetition required at high levels. Playing other sports allowed me to stay loose and athletic.
It is also a great reality check.
A reality check that later on I would come to know as grit.
But anyway, the best parts of my baseball journey happened when I got to high school.
I came into my freshman year after committing to play at the University of Florida.
Some might say I had a lot of pressure going into that year, and I had no idea whether or not I would even touch the field as a freshman.
But I kept pushing myself and ultimately won the job as starting shortstop.
Soon after this, I started getting invites to big showcases and tournaments. One of the best times of my life was getting to represent my country with team USA. That team was full of unreal talent. We got to visit Taiwan and Korea playing the game we loved. That was an amazing group of guys and an experience I’ll never forget.
We even have 10 of them in the pros right now and a few more in college trying to get there.
Although high school was amazing, the switch from high school ball to college ball has been quite the journey so far.
When I arrived at the University of Florida for the first time, the first thing that struck me was how solid everyone was. Every person on that team was the best player at their high school. Everyone out on the field was a stud. Even our third-string guys are some of the best in the world.
At this level, baseball is a job.
It takes digging down deep and giving everything you have each and every day regardless of what you have left in you.
It takes grit.
I remember growing up, my parents would always tell me “Baseball is a great dream and all, but you need to have a backup plan.” That was, however, until I was about 14. I remember my mom sitting me down and saying, “Honestly, I don’t know why I always tell you to have a plan B. If this is what you want to do, go at it with all you’ve got.”
That was a great moment to know that my parents believed I could achieve the dreams that I’d always had.
This gave me the confidence to embrace the grit of the game.
I went through every practice, workout, and game with the goal of playing in the MLB in the back of my mind, but ultimately my biggest driver was just to get better each and every day that I was on the field.
I mostly wanted this so I’d be prepared to win at whatever came next in life – learning to beat the guy standing across from me.
That is what this mission is truly all about.
I love this game. I love going out and competing every day. I love the work it takes to give yourself a chance to be successful. Things like 5:30 AM workouts are brutal, but after walking through fire and coming out on the other side you gain a certain confidence that can’t be achieved any other way.
Nothing about baseball is easy.
And neither is anything worth fighting for in life.
Everyone wants the same thing. Success.
But the ones who make it are separated from the ones who don’t by who is willing to work the hardest.
In essence, it’s who has the most grit.
At this point in my life, baseball has allowed me to do things and meet people I never would have been able to without the game.
I truly believe this is the result and reward for asking the utmost of myself each and every day.
The good thing is, I can promise you that the life you see for yourself, your “dream,” isn’t that far off from reality. It just takes grit.
The same grit that exists down here in Florida that breeds some of the best athletes on the planet is the same grit that your one conscious choice away from embracing that will allow you to sacrifice the necessary things you must to be successful.
I am so thankful for every memory and experience this game has created for me, including the countless friends and mentors I’ve gained as well. I am blessed to have made it this far, and I cannot wait to see where it takes me in the future.
But there’s no way this dream would have been a reality without grit.
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!