It is hard to believe, but high school baseball is nearing the end of the regular season. Playoffs will soon be upon us, and one by one high school baseball players will find themselves done competing for their high school teams. For many of these baseball players, the end of the high school season means the beginning of their next season, which will occur over the summer on their select or travel baseball team. When the summer season comes to an end many of these athletes will move right into the fall season with these same select teams.

I missed out on the year around baseball phenomenon that has taken over youth baseball. But I certainly partook in it during my junior and senior years in high school. Year around baseball does not end after high school, as college players go from fall baseball with their schools, to the regular spring season, to collegiate summer leagues. It is not hard to find yourself playing baseball nearly continuously throughout the year with small breaks in the early fall and over the Christmas holidays.

I have already written about the importance of having an off-season (click here to read that post). To briefly summarize, if an athlete is constantly in season, then he will never have the opportunity to become a more dynamic and explosive athlete, which is imperative for 99% of athletes if they want to play at the next level. I know that the three summers I dedicated to training between 18 and 23 years of age were absolutely the reason I ultimately had an opportunity to pitch in the Seattle Mariners’ organization. I think it is important for me to point out that those other summers were spent playing in the New England, Coastal Plains, and Cape Cod summer collegiate leagues, which are by all accounts some of the very best leagues in the nation (Cape Cod is considered to be THE premier summer league).

So why do we do it? Why do we play year around? Some might say it is to get better through game experience. And yes, there is some validity to that. An athlete must play in games in order to mature as a ballplayer. But I would submit that the regular season—whether that is little league, high school, or college—is sufficient to build the necessary game experiences. The real reason, in my opinion, that baseball athletes tend to play nearly year around, especially in high school and college, is under the pretense that we need to play as much as possible in order to be exposed to college and/or professional scouts. But this thought process is flawed.

Exposure to scouts from the next level is indeed a very good thing. But very quickly, an athlete can go from having exposure to being overexposed, and overexposure is a very bad thing for your baseball career. First of all, scouts will become accustomed to seeing you play. Although you want scouts to see you play, you never want scouts to see too much of you. These scouts might really like some of your talents the first few times they see you on the field, but over time, they will start picking at you, finding imperfections and weaknesses.

Let’s use a life example. You see a very attractive girl walk in the door. You can’t stop staring at her. She might be the most beautiful woman you have ever seen. But then you start talking to her and you realize her breath sort of smells bad.  Then you realize that her voice is really squeaky and annoying. The more you observe and interact with her the more imperfections you look for and (legitimately or not) find. You get the point (and apologies to my hypothetical girl).

Now back to baseball—you want to be the hot girl who walks in the door and then leaves a few minutes later. You want the scout to see you play, for you to showcase your skills to the best of your ability, and then get the heck out of there. You don’t want to play game after game after game in front of the scout so that he can see you have a tendency to throw the ball away while in the field or that you struggle hitting a breaking ball.

Of course, there are caveats to every suggestion. If you have played poorly in the past in front of scouts, then yes you will want to try and redeem yourself and show them what you can do. But if you just hit .500 during the course of your regular season and played better than you had in your entire life, why wouldn’t you want that to be what the scouts remember. What if you then went to train for a few months to get faster, stronger, and quicker. Sure the scouts might be inquiring as to why you aren’t playing the summer, fall or winter season, but who cares. They want to see you. They are interested, so keep them chasing you. In addition, if you spend this time training and getting better, you will be even more prepared to further impress these scouts the next time you play in front of them.

In sum, playing baseball year around in order to get exposure is a somewhat paradoxical phenomenon. The purpose of playing year around is to improve and to have an opportunity to make it to the next level; yet overall, it does not accomplish this. Whether you are a marginally talented baseball player who is not garnering much interest at the next level or an elite baseball athlete being scouting by everyone at the next level, the over-exposure created by year around baseball is damaging. For those of you not being scouted, there is likely a reason for it—your skills just aren’t up to par for the next level. So instead of playing more games, you should be training your butt off to try and become a better athlete and, in turn, a better baseball player. If you are an athlete being scouted by everybody, you already have the scouts attention and you can only harm your baseball reputation by continuing to play and thereby allowing scouts to see weaknesses in your game. And just like the athlete not being scouted at all, you are not improving your skill set.

I’ll leave you with this final thought. If you have talent, scouts will find you. You don’t have to play in every tournament and every showcase for that to happen. Throw 90+ mph or hit the ball 400+ feet and you will have an opportunity to play at the next level. So focus on the quality of your exposure instead of the quantity.

Until next time,

Brian Oates