How to Become a Professional Baseball Player
Before we get into the ins and outs of becoming a professional baseball player, it’s important to state the obvious reality – this is a VERY hard thing to do. The statistics that follow provide a reality check to anyone thinking they will luck into a baseball career:
Before you slink away in despair, there are some ways that you can improve your chances. After all, being drafted is no guarantee of a pro career – Mike Piazza was inducted into the Hall of Fame last year and he was drafted in the 62nd round as a favor to a friend.
What does this mean for you? The possibility of being a pro player in The Show exists, but it requires a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and a few good breaks here and there.
Fortunately, this post will help guide you on the right path towards achieving the incredible dream of being a professional baseball player.
What You Need to Get to The Show ?
Being a professional ballplayer isn’t easy. There will be many disappointments along the way and many people who will doubt your desire and skillset.
The bottom line is to be a professional ballplayer you need to believe in yourself and your ability no matter what anyone tells you. A great example of this is Dustin Pedroia. His height is closer to 5’7’’ than 6’, but his unwavering self-belief is how he became an All-Star and MVP.
Every youth coach and high school coach will tell you they’ve had kids with the skills to go to The Show but never maximized those gifts.
Often, it’s because these kids believe they know better. They beat competition because of their athleticism but once everyone is at the same skill level they don’t experience the same success. Listen to your coaches and take their advice – they’re coaching because they want to help you get better!
This one goes without saying, but you’d be surprised how many aspiring baseball players think the game will just be handed to them. It doesn’t work that way. The great hitters spend more time practicing hitting than just the couple hours at practice.
Great pitchers spend time working on perfecting a couple pitches, not throwing seven different curveballs. Best example of effort: in Game 1 of the 1967 World Series, Carl Yastrzemski was so upset with his performance he pulled out the hitting turtle after the game and had a full batting practice.
To maximize your chances at playing baseball professionally you need to work infinitely harder than you think.
How Do I Get to the Show?
So, let’s say you have all the intangible qualities that are listed above. The reality is they are no guarantee for success. The best chance for anyone to be a professional baseball player starts when you’re young. Around the ages of 5-6, kids with an interest in baseball or softball should be playing T-Ball. Learning the fundamentals about how to hit along with running the bases and fielding properly are the basics players at all levels need to know.
A great place to find out about T-Ball and other youth leagues is Little League. They have great programs to teach kids how to play baseball along with the right coaching techniques to instill a love of the game in young people. For someone whose goal is to be playing professionally, youth baseball is critical. The skills and coordination developed during this time allows greater chances for success as you climb the ladder.
The next step on the ladder is playing interscholastic baseball. In the United States this simply means playing for your Middle and High School teams.
The competitive element is introduced and many times this is where scouts will catch their first glimpses of potential big league talent. Often, scouts travel throughout the country and these high school games are a great way to impress the scouts.
So how do you impress scouts? It’s not as hard as you think! It’s pretty simple actually – just play the game the way you’ve always played it. Play hard and leave everything on the field.
Scouts understand that a player who is gifted at 16 may be peaking and will not have much more of a ceiling. However, all scouts notice the guy who runs hard on a routine fly ball to second.
They will notice the guy who is talking the whole time and making sure his teammates are where they’re supposed to be. They’ll notice the hitter who is working at bats even though they started off with two strikes and no balls.
They will definitely notice a pitcher who hustles every time the ball is hit.
This is the point where people will start asking about specializing, and the answer to that question is a resounding NO! Play all sports – this develops your body’s strength and allows you to increase your athleticism while girding your physiology against injury.
A major problem occurring throughout baseball is the throwing injury epidemic. This is occurring because high school age kids are playing only baseball. They’re throwing too much and wearing out their arms.
What does this mean with scouts? They may tell you to stick to baseball, but when they look at your medical records before a draft and notice that you’ve never had arm problems, you have just become that much more valuable!
What about positions? This is an easy question just like playing multiple sports. The answer is to play all of them. What if you’re left handed? Usually this means you’re restricted to pitching, outfield, and first base. However, if you learn all the positions you’ve made yourself that much more valuable.
Detecting a theme here? In high school baseball, it’s all about value. What can you do that other player like you can’t? Buster Posey could play all nine positions before the Giants drafted him. Now he’s the best catcher in baseball.
This time in your life as an aspiring baseball player is all about versatility. Chances are you’ll pitch a lot in high school but may not in college or if you’re drafted. Or it could be the reverse.
Simply put, being able to play many different positions allows a team to have more options with you. If you are a second baseman and that’s all you can do, your development and growth are stunted and teams are less likely to draft you or even send a scout to check you out.
Teams May Be Interested…
Now, let’s fast forward a bit. You’ve put in the hard work. You’re playing everywhere and doing everything your coach asks. Let’s say that scout has asked to talk with you. The key here is to be yourself. Don’t plead to get drafted. The desperation is off-putting and will keep scouts from sending positive reports.
That’s not to say be disinterested, but be smart about how you show interest. If a scout asks what’s your favorite position, be honest. If you’re a great pitcher but you really want to play centerfield, let the scout know.
They’ll appreciate the honesty and many times a team knowing this is the case will put you where you want to be. They’re investing in you as much as you’re investing in them. At this point, you may be listed in Baseball America or other magazines. A great thing to do is take part in showcases.
These can be expensive, so you don’t want to do too many because you’ll spend too much money and possibly get hurt. Perfect Game is a leader in this area, so it’s smart to sign up with this service.
If you didn’t get drafted especially high coming out of high school or are interested in pursuing a degree, college is a great option. There are tons of programs that can help you become a better player – it doesn’t need to be Division I.
These games are televised often and many times scouts find players who weren’t extremely impressive in high school but they may have grown into their bodies. This time is important to develop your game and learn more about who you are as a player. The same rules with scouts still apply though.
Now, imagine you’re drafted and have an invite to the Minor Leagues. You’re close – but not there yet. In fact, very few minor leaguers ever get called up for a few games, let alone a whole career. You need to impress here.
The best way to do it? Keep playing hard like you’ve always been. Work on those aspects of your game and listen to your coaches. The bus rides and per diems are not glamorous, but they’re designed to see who really wants to be a ballplayer and who wants the easy ride. Guess what? The guys who are willing to work are the ones who end up going up the ladder!
The Happy Recap…
There are a few themes you can discern from this blog – the biggest one is putting in the work. There are no guarantees but if you work hard your chances increase. It’s a very difficult thing to do – become a professional baseball player.
However, baseball is the best sport and time spent pursuing the goal of being a professional baseball player only helps you in other endeavors! Even if you didn’t start as young as 5, put in the work and see what happens – you never know who may be watching! Just keep plugging away, and while you plug away please share this blog with anyone you know who also dreams of becoming a professional baseball player. Make sure you comment and let us know what has worked for you and what hasn’t, we’ll be sure to include it!