Although I realize that most showcases are probably now over as the summer is starting to wind down, I couldn’t forego the opportunity to address this topic. This blog stems from my attendance this past weekend at the Perfect Game Showcase held at the Ballfields at Craigs Ranch in McKinney, Texas. I went to watch Garrett Wolforth play, but what I saw led to a discussion with Coach Ron Wolforth about the way 95% of the kids in attendance played.

Before I delve into how the majority of athletes played at the showcase, there are a few things I think are important to mention first. For starters, every athlete in attendance paid a great sum of money to be on the field (I believe it was in the neighborhood of $600 at this particular showcase). Therefore, athletes need to understand the best way to make that incredible investment payoff. Second, the nature of a showcase is that you get a relatively few opportunities, such as a couple of at bats per game, or a couple of innings over the course of a weekend, to show off your abilities. This is remarkably different than being able to look at a larger body of work, such as an entire season, to determine what type of skills a particular player possesses. Third, and probably most importantly, is the purpose of a showcase. It is to showcase your skills to the scouts in attendance. A player needs to showcase his skills in a way that makes him stand out to scouts over the hundreds of other athletes in attendance. How do you do this? Well, as Coach Wolforth said best yesterday, scouts are looking for the extraordinary. They are looking for the remarkable. Not simply the ordinary, or the average, or the players with the best “fundamentals.” With this in mind, let’s turn to what I witnessed yesterday with the majority of athletes.

The first pitch of the game, the pitcher threw a changeup. That’s right, a freaking changeup. This is actually what started my discussion with Coach Wolforth that led to this blog. I then witnessed, in no particular order, infielders lobbing the ball to first base when warming up between innings, outfielders hitting their cutoff men when runners were advancing, hitters taking fastballs for strikes early in the count, stagnant base runners, and fielders not laying out for balls that were reasonably close to them. I am sure I am leaving out a few things, but these are what stuck out to me.

Some people reading this might be surprised by some of the things I listed above. You might even be thinking to yourself, “Aren’t you supposed to hit cutoff men?” Or, “It is good for hitters to work the count.” And you would be right if this were the regular season. But it’s NOT. This is a showcase. An opportunity you paid a lot of money to attend as well as hundreds/thousands of hours of practice and preparation you invested in order to work on your skills. Therefore, many fundamentals need to stay at home the moment you step onto that field.

The key to a showcase is to stand out, to be extraordinary, to be remarkable. There is nothing remarkable about hitting cutoff men, or being “cute” on the mound throwing off-speed after off-speed, or being patient at the plate and working the count. A scout won’t remember the above things. He won’t go to his packet of information to look up your name if you do these things. A scout will only remember you and flag your name as a person of interest if you impress him and stand out above all the other players.

How do you do that? Here is my advice:

For infielders, when it is between innings pretend it is the 7th game of the World Series. Field the ball and come up firing to first base as though the fastest guy in the game is running down the line. Show scouts how quickly you can get rid of the ball and the type of velocity you can put behind it. Who knows, that might be the only time in the several innings you play in the field where a ball comes to you and you can show off your arm and glove.

For outfielders, do not hit your cutoff men. Why would you? That is not impressive. Field or catch the ball and come up firing, even if there is nobody on base. If there are runners advancing then try to gun somebody at second, third, or home. Put as much as you can behind your throw and try to have it carry to that bag. Show off your arm to those in attendance. It is ordinary to hit your cutoff man, anybody can do that, but not everybody can come up firing from centerfield and throw a guy out at home on the fly.

For hitters, do not work the count. Take the first fastball you see in the zone and try to absolutely crush it. There is no benefit in trying to work the count or to show patience. This isn’t a regular season game where you want the opposing pitcher to get his pitch count up, or a situation where you want to see pitches early in order to help you during your third or fourth at bat off the pitcher. That pitcher is only going to be in the game for a few innings and his pitch count is irrelevant to you. You aren’t going to face him again. So be aggressive. A scout will notice a player who can drive a ball into the gap. Working the count and then slapping a 2 strike pitch on the ground in the infield won’t get anybody’s attention. Don’t be too selective either. You shouldn’t only be looking for a pitch in your ideal spot. If you want a ball up and in, but the first fastball is knee high and over the middle of the plate you should not let it go simply because it wasn’t in the exact spot you were looking. Attack it, because you have a better chance of driving that fastball for a strike than any subsequent breaking balls once you are behind in the count.

For baserunners, try to steal a base. If you are on first, try to get to second as soon as you can. Remember, you want this showcase to be about you. Not about the guy at the plate or on the mound. Make scouts turn their attention to you, and if you are on the base path the way to do this is by being aggressive. If you show you can get great jumps and have some quickness then you are more likely to be memorable. If you simply hang out at first base for an entire inning while the pitcher gets 3 outs nobody will even know you were on base.

For pitchers, try to flash a big number on the radar gun. Like I said before, this isn’t a game, this is about standing out. If you are 83-84 and have great command, that doesn’t stand out. But if you can let it rip and run those numbers to 86-87, even if that means you are sacrificing command, you now have a chance to get a scout’s attention. Do NOT throw a first pitch change up. Even if you have a Cole Hamels change up, be smart about throwing it. Sure, use it when you are ahead in the count to strike a guy out, but keep in mind a scout won’t care if you have an amazing change up if you don’t show that you have a good fastball. The goal is to light up the radar gun.

Essentially, all players and parents should keep in mind that a showcase is an entirely different animal than a baseball game. It is all about YOU (or your child), not about the team, and your actions should reflect that. Try to show scouts what you bring to the table that is remarkable. Scouts don’t care about a base hit up the middle, or about “fundamentals,” such as hitting a cut off man; they are looking for the extraordinary: the diving snag, the ball driven to the gap (or out of the park), the radar gun to flash a big number, speed on the bases, or a cannon in the field. This has to be your goal when you step onto the field at a showcase. You have too much money and time invested to do anything else.

Until next time,

Brian Oates