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Baseball: Minor League System Friday, October 12, 2012
Baseball: Minor League System

When it comes to making it all the way to to the Major Leagues or to the NFL, Baseball is very different than Football. When teams draft players in the NFL, they are expected to make a relatively immediate impact on the team (especially early draft picks). Baseball is totally different. First off, a lot of baseball players are drafted right out of high school whereas, in the NFL, players are drafted after showing what they can do at the college level--playing with players who are infinitely more talented than the ones they played against in high school. To get to the Major League level--whether you're right out of high school or college--you have to go down a long road, slowly progressing up the minor league levels (such as rookie ball, A, AA, AAA).

General Managers for baseball teams tend to slowly work a prospect through their system. They need to be careful, because if they bring the prospect up through the minor league system too quickly, they'll limit the potential of the prospect. Baseball is such a mental grind that confidence is as important as raw talent. It's the same concept I bring up in my other blog about Comebacks vs. Blowouts.

For most young baseball prospects--especially the ones drafted right out of high school--success has come relatively easily, and that has given them confidence. But sometimes that has made them too confident. When the competition gets tougher and tougher, the confidence that has helped the prospect succeed can be shattered. Once a player has been mentally broken, it's highly unlikely that their raw talent will compensate for their broken psyche. Raw talent doesn't compensate for a broken psyche--humility does. That means a player has to accept that he's not ready for the big show and understand that the best thing for him is to get designated for assignment--dropping back down a level or two in the system.

If you're not succeeding at something, you may need to swallow your pride, take a few steps back to ease some of the pressure you're putting on yourself, so you can give yourself the best shot at getting your confidence back.

Getting to the major leagues too soon can destroy a prospect's confidence. Slowly going through the minor league system should *build* confidence. It's the same thing with mental illness recovery--you can't get everything you want out of life right away. When a baseball player is drafted, he doesn't become a star instantly just like, when you try a new medication, it doesn't cure you instantly. And even when you give the medication time to kick in and do it's job, it still won't cure you just like success in rookie ball won't get you straight to the major leagues... in baseball and mental illness recovery, it's all about going through a slow and steady progression that will eventually get you where you want to be. You need more than a pill to get what you want out of your life. You need to have patience. You need to understand that you can't find yourself living your dream a couple months into your recovery process. But you don't need to be living your dream to get all your self esteem back. All you need to know is that you're *on track* to reaching your dream that can give you your self esteem back.

Most top prospects want to get to the Major League Level right away. They may feel like they can dominate like they could in high school. They are impatient--young guys who used to be stars but now find themselves playing in single A with players who used to be stars as well. It's a General Manager's job to have patience with impatient prospects. The same thing goes for your doctors--a good doctor is going to help you stay patient and get you to realize that recovering from mental illness is a long, bumpy road. He'll get you to understand that, if you try to recover too fast and are doing too much too soon, you'll end up trying too hard, making mistakes, and losing your confidence when you could have been slowly building it.

Making it all the way to the MLB level requires the same character traits that you need to have to recover from your mental illness and get back to living the kind of life you want to live. You need patience (especially when it comes to building confidence), perseverance, faith in yourself and humility.

I already talked about patience and confidence, but perseverance is probably the hardest character trait to maintain. I say 'maintain' because perseverance is about the long haul--you can't just have it for a little while.. There are players who have spent ten years in the minor leagues (making a very small amount of money) before they find themselves able to achieve moderate success in the big leagues. Above all, perseverance comes from having faith in yourself. If you don't believe in yourself, you're going to give up on the things you want most. When you have faith in yourself, you give yourself a real chance of getting what you want out of life because you're getting yourself through, as opposed to relying on someone elseto get you through.

There is a huge difference between *relying* on someone else and letting someone help you. When you rely on someone, you come off as needy and you're going to push the person away (unless it's your doctor). But *allowing* someone to help you is different. A a minor league pitching or hitting coach can see things about your throwing mechanics or swing and help you make adjustments. This can be hard for some players because they might be too stubborn. Even though what they're doing isn't working, they may feel like--since it worked in high school--they don't need to change anything. That kind of player isn't humble enough to seek help. But the players who do have the humility to try new things to improve their game give themselves a better chance to succeed, but only if they know their success is dependent upon themselves far more than it's dependent on their coaches.

When I first started seeing my second psychologist (the first one was terrible), I was like a baseball prospect who had no interest in changing something in his game to make him a better player and get him higher up in the minor league system. I was lacking that humility. My doctor kept saying that, unless I stopped smoking pot, I wasn't going to get any better. But pot had helped me in the past so I wrote off that advice every time he brought it up (and he brought it up a lot). But once I quit smoking, my sessions with him became far more productive. Since I'd quit smoking pot, we were able to work on other things that made me into the person I am today. When I was still smoking pot and seeing this doctor every week, I just wanted him to drop the whole pot issue and tell me what I needed to do to build a better life for myself. But he'd already told me how I could build a better life for myself a million times--stop smoking pot. I was relying on him to fix me, but was refusing to fix myself. That would be like a hitter refusing to move closer to home plate even though he keeps flailing at low and outside pitches and striking out.

No matter how much great advice you receive, if you're not going to take it, you're not going to get any better. But it's also about having the right attitude. If you take advice and it doesn't work out at first, don't give up right away and certainly don't blame the person who gave you the advice... keep an open mind and realize that you might not be following the advice as much as you thought you were... a hitting coach can't step up to the plate and hit for you--you need to take the advice and put it to use yourself.

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