The Boston Rams players are getting their hacks and innings in this spring season in their High School matchups. Considered the "warm-up" for summer travel, the boys are tuning up for what promises to be an action packed summer of baseball. Teams will be traveling north (Maine) and south (Florida) this summer along with tourneys scheduled in Long Island, NH, and Conneticut to round out the summer.
I have the rather unique opportunity to speak to a lot of high school athletes, parents, coaches and athletic directors through my recruiting seminars. These provide a great forum to talk about not only recruiting but also many of today’s issues facing high school athletes in all sports.
One of the topics that always comes up is the issue of the single-sport vs. multi-sport athlete. So here is my take on the pros and cons of playing only baseball year-round. I will tell you up front, I am 100 percent for the multi-sport athlete, but to be fair, here are both sides, starting with the pros of playing only baseball.
PROS OF BASEBALL ONLY
• Skill sport
Being a hand-eye skill sport, baseball requires lots of practice to master hitting, fielding and pitching. So the more repetitions you get, the more you’ll improve at those skills.
Even in baseball hotbeds such as Florida, Texas, and California, most athletes play multiple sports. But the fact remains that the better weather allows them to play more outdoor baseball than here in New England, and, of course, more big-leaguers come from these three states than the rest combined.
The reality is that the best high school and college players in our area are every bit as good as the ones in the warmer climates, but the “average” kid is flat out better down South and out West than in the colder areas.
The more time you spend on baseball, the more time you have to develop and get seen in terms of college recruiting. While the biggest time to get recruited is — and always will be — the summer, the truth is if you play baseball in the fall, you have more time to get seen than those playing other sports. Same with the winter. There are camps, clinics and events that can get you noticed and recruited all year round, winter included.
CONS OF BASEBALL ONLY
Now, we get to the cons of playing only baseball. Of course, if you don’t like any other sport, then just play baseball. No one should force you to play another sport (though prep schools require students to play three sports as opposed to taking physical education classes). But if you are being talked out of playing your second and/or third sport, here is the case against it.
How many swings or groundballs or pitches can you take or make a year, a month, a week, a day before it just becomes counterproductive? When do you wear out from that grind mentally? Physically? Emotionally?
Develop as an athlete
Being good at baseball, means being a good overall athlete. So if soccer, wrestling, football, basketball, tennis, golf, volleyball, hockey, help you become a better athlete, it also will help you on the diamond.
Further, any sport at any level is about competition. What’s better, trying to win a basketball game in December or hitting off a tee? Competing, of course. The pros in just about every team sport were multi-sport athletes as kids.
Pure athletic time
High school is your last time to play sports for the pure fun of it — to play with friends, in your local community. College athletics are great, but much more work and stress. If you give up a second sport, you will never get those years back.
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I can’t tell you how many players I have coached who regretted not playing another season of a sport they gave up. In college, if you make a baseball team, you will play baseball, year-round, for four years. Why rush that?
If baseball is your first love, play on a summer team, find time to hit, field, pitch to stay sharp during your other season if you need to, but giving it up is a shame.
This article originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of New England Baseball Journal.
Wayne Mazzoni, the pitching coach at Sacred Heart University, played baseball and football in high school and college, and he wishes he picked up golf earlier so he didn’t hack up courses the way he does now in his 40s. Follow his blog at CollegeBaseballCoachesCamp.com