“We seek out the highest competition we can play and go play them.”
Our interview with former MLB catcher John Hodgins provided grand slam information for parents, coaches and young athletes. John talks about why travel teams make kids better, knowing why the fundamentals of baseball are essential, why scouts arrive early to games and much more.
“A travel team in any athletic event you do, you want to play against the highest level you can play at least EQUAL TO OR GREATER than and that’s how you become better.”
There was a time when playing sports was seasonal and then came travel teams. Many parents new to having their kids play baseball may not know or understand the significance of their child playing on one of the travel teams. John breaks down the purpose and how he sets up his team.
Selected players from a young age make up most travel baseball teams. The team can be anywhere from 10-12 players. On John’s team, he carries anywhere from 22-26 players. They travel to different states and play other teams that are highly competitive. Playing teams with skills higher than their own can make players better in the long run according to John. “You don’t just go to tournaments to play...you go where there are scouts...you go to be seen”. John also has a fall travel team, and they play 32 games at different colleges in six different states: Division II, NAI, JUCO 1, 2, and 3. During this time, the players can get exposure to playing at the colleges, and potential scouts.
“The fundamentals in baseball is everything.”
There is a difference in why some children want to play sports: they want to play professionally, camaraderie with friends, or just an after-school activity. For whatever reason, your child decides to play- knowing the fundamentals of the sport is essential. It can be frustrating to players, coaches or the athlete if they are making errors because they do not understand the fundamentals of the game.
According to John, players should be taught the fundamentals of baseball such as how to field a baseball, the proper footsteps in hitting, arm slot in pitching and where to throw a baseball at certain times. John wants parents to know that college and professional scouts look to see if a player has mastered five fundamentals:
Hitting, Hitting with power,Foot speed, Foot and glove work, and Arm strength.
The fundamentals are important to start learning at the young level-coaches and players should start focusing on the skills especially if their dream is to one day play in the MLB. “It’s a tough way, less than 1% in the world get to play pro-baseball”.
“We actually start looking at kids at the age of 14”.
Now, what if some players are serious about playing the game of baseball. They have their sights set on the major leagues. Are there nuances of scouting that is important for the parent, coach or athlete to know?
Yes, according to John, scouts can arrive up to an hour before games. The purpose is to be able to see players doing infield and outfield skills. If John is sent to scout someone and he never sees the player get a ball, then he may not be able to do a report on that player.
Also, scouts may start looking at kids at the age of 14. The player can be followed once a year throughout high school with more visits during their senior year. “We can draft kids out of high school.”
“There’s a lot to baseball that’s just not talent.”
According to John, it is a formula- one that includes a thing called make-up. When John is scouting a player, many factors come into play. He may need to know the size of their feet, their calf size, waist size, if they have a barrel chest or flat chest, if they have sloped shoulders or square, how big are their hands and if they have facial hair. All this goes into the formula, and each club has a different method or a different way on how they want their players to look. The MLB understands that scouts may see young athletes, but this information determine if the young athlete will be able to play at a high level eventually.
How important is speed and agility in baseball?
According to John, to play Division I Baseball the 60-yard dash timing has to be 7 seconds or lower. Speed is an important skill to work on because it is important at the college level and professional level. For John, he stresses, “it’s hard to beat a kid that has good speed,” players with speed can change the dynamics of a game with stealing bases and putting pressure on the pitcher.
John’s Motivational Moment
“Make sure that you LIVE YOUR DREAM, go after your dream and make sure you WORK ON whatever game you are going to play everyday…” John Hodgins
John Hodgins is a Colorado Rockies MLB Scout and founder of Lake Area Dodgers youth travel ball organization that has helped over 700 young athletes receive college baseball scholarships.
David Edwards Founder of the DYA Network.