By Matthew Semon
The worst thing for any athlete to go through is an injury.
Unfortunately for me, I’ve had to deal with multiple, and through each one, I know that I come out better and stronger each time.
My dad was my coach throughout Little League. From a young age, he always kept things black and white with me. He is not someone to waste time, and he certainly never would have wasted mine.
Throughout my time playing when I was little, he always told me I had the talent to play this game for a long time. I took those words to heart, and I made sure to make every workout and practice count. I was not here to waste time; I was here to push myself.
When it came time for me to go to high school, I was faced with a tough decision. I grew up in Nyack, New York. The public school I would have been going to was not a nice school, and it certainly did not have great athletics.
My family and I sat down, talked it out, and elected to have me go to Don Bosco Prep, a private high school in New Jersey with a storied athletic program. I came in there my freshman year, and I could not wait to get on the field. Little did I know that this would not be for a bit longer than expected.
I came in as a shortstop. I loved playing in the infield. That winter, however, I tore my ACL.
This was heartbreaking for me. I remember sitting down with my coach and talking about what my next move should be. As a freshman, I threw pretty hard. I was usually between 82-84 mph whenever I pitched, which was not super often. I thought hard about what I wanted to do.
In the northeast, it is difficult to be scouted by really good schools. I realized that pitching was a lot more numbers-based than other positions. If I were to try and get scouted as a shortstop, I would have to hit around .400 for multiple years and just hope that the right people were there to see me on a good day. With pitching, I knew all I really had to do was try to throw hard and get it on video. In my head, I thought, “if I can hit 90 on video, I can play Division 1 baseball.”
That became my mindset.
I decided to switch my focus entirely to pitching. When I got back from rehabbing my knee, I hit the ground running. Within a few months, my velocity jumped from 84 to 89 mph my sophomore year.
This was huge for me.
I knew now that I had what it took to play at the next level. Luckily for me, both my high school head coach and pitching coach played baseball at St. John’s University. That was a dream school of mine growing up.
Once I really started throwing hard, St. John’s gave me an offer and knowing so many people that had gone there, that made my decision to go to St. John’s that much easier.
I loved playing at St. John’s.
I loved the people, the program, all of it. My freshman year was a huge developmental year for me. I kept working hard because I wanted to do whatever I could to get on the field. I started my freshman year coming out of the bullpen, and as the year progressed, my outings got longer and longer. I made 15 appearances that year, including a start.
I felt good after the year, and I was ready for my sophomore year to come so I could get even better.
During my sophomore year at St. John’s, I was struck with another injury. I was throwing with a buddy of mine when I felt pain in my elbow. I then went to get it checked out and the results showed a tear in my UCL.
This is a common injury for pitchers, but it is not a pretty one.
This sidelined me for my entire sophomore year. I was back on the IL.
Once I was able to begin rehab, I did everything I could to maximize my recovery.
I kept working.
Through all the pain and struggle, I remembered my dad’s voice telling me not to waste my time. Not taking physical therapy seriously would be a waste of time, and that was something I was always taught not to do. I pushed through it, and when I came back, I was better than ever.
After a solid junior year at St. John’s, I decided that it was in my best interest to enter the transfer portal.
I pitched in multiple summer leagues to get my name out to scouts again. I wanted to be on their radar because I needed somewhere to play. About halfway through the summer, I decided to pitch for the Boca Raton Blazers, a team in the South Florida Collegiate Baseball League.
It was a fun group of guys, and we kept pushing forward until the end. I found my last start of the summer to be in the championship game of the SFCBL. I remembered all the work I had done, and I went out to show everyone that I was ready to go. That was the best my arm had felt all summer, as I went out and pitched six innings, allowing only one run on 2 hits.
After going through everything that I have, I am thankful to have people like my dad to be such a strong support system for me. He has pushed me to become the best I can be, and I am grateful for that. I am thankful for everything this game has shown me. I know that I can overcome anything and come out of the other side better and stronger than I was before.
In sports, your game is as strong as your support system.
Really anytime you find success, it’s more than likely someone else or a whole lot of someone else’s helped you get to where you are.
A simple thank you can go a long way…
Thank you to everyone who has helped me to this point, the show goes on.
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!