In this age of ESPN Sportscenter, instant internet baseball highlights, and fantasy baseball leagues, youth league players are consistently bombarded with images of three-run homers, diving plays, big strikeout performances, and offensive statistics. Rarely, if ever, are baseball fundamentals highlighted. Unfortunately, young players get the impression that walk-off home runs and diving plays win baseball games. They don't realize that making the routine play, hitting the cut-off man, taking the extra base, working the count, and hustling down the line gives the team the opportunity to win with a three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth.
They don't realize that the events leading up to the blockbuster play is what really wins games, not the big play.
During a recent White Sox Game, I witnessed Omar Vizquel, the consummate professional, hustling down the line to beat out an infield hit in the 3rd inning of scoreless game. With two outs already that inning, Vizquel’s effort seemed inconsequential in the grand scheme of the game itself.
However, the next batter walked, followed by back-to-back home runs. I can guarantee that the back-to-back home runs, most notably the 400-foot, three-run bomb that was hit first, clearly made the highlight real.
At the same time, I can guarantee that Vizquel’s infield single certainly did not make the cut for Sportscenter, though it was his hustle that enabled the inning’s offensive explosion to occur in the first place.
As a coach, it is critical to stress the importance of playing fundamental baseball, making the routine play, and taking what the opposition gives you. This is what really wins games, not the web gems, 15 strikeout performances, or superstar performances.