Post-Labor Day 2013 - Tip of the Month
"Parents Aren't Blind, Deaf or Dumb Simply Because You Call Them 'Mom' or 'Dad'"
Years ago, I was preparing for my first professional spring training. I had just signed a contract with the Nashua Pride of the Independent Atlantic League and was told by a few affiliated clubs that I just needed to show well for a couple months and I'd have an opportunity waiting for me. A partially torn rotator-cuff, frayed labrum, strained UCL and a severe case of biceps tendonitis a couple weeks into Spring Training put an end to that dream really quick. But as much fun as that brief time in a professional environment was, it was the time spent training for that opportunity that has provided me with the best piece of advice I can give to any student of mine.
I had been working as the general manager at an indoor baseball facility in Lawrence, MA and after my day ended I was able to get some swings in and work on my mechanics behind the plate. One particular night after my dad finished his lessons, he asked me if I wanted him to take a look and give me some honest feedback if he saw anything that needed to be fixed.
Now, for those of you who aren't familiar with him, my dad was Dave Weaver. Widely referred to as one of the best, if not THE best, catching instructors in the country. Needless to say, if anyone could give me an honest assessment of where my skills were at, it was him. So I jumped into his cage.
Most of the first 10 minutes was filled with small fixes. Simple adjustments like my knees were a little bit too far forward in my stance and my elbow was bent a little too much. After a quick progression through some receiving drills, we moved onto blocking. This is where my private lesson with Coach Weaver turned into a very public and humorous spectacle between father and son.
We started with blocks down the middle and got through those fairly quickly. Then we moved on to blocking pitches to the sides. On the first block to my left, I put the ball about a foot behind the plate, right in front of my chest. A perfect block.
Before I could look up my dad had shouted "HANDS!"
Now, the tone I used was debated for years, but I definitely replied with an "Excuse me!?!"
"HANDS FIRST!" My dad shouted just a little louder this time. I can remember seeing a few eyes peek over at us, but didn't really pay them much attention. I confidently responded by telling him that "My hands went first dad! It can't be done much better than that!"
Now his voice got a little louder, and those of you who had the pleasure of standing across a crowded room from my father know everybody heard him reply with: "Your hips moved first, your knees hit the ground first and the only reason that ball is sitting in front of you is because I don't throw all that hard. Try that at 95MPH and see what happens bud!" Within moments a full-blown argument had erupted and those who knew us in the facility were laughing so hard you couldn't hear us anymore.
You see in those 15 minutes it didn't matter how respected Coach Weaver was in the baseball and softball worlds, how many years he had dedicated to the position or how great his ability to teach was. For those 15 minutes, to me, he was just "dad". It didn't matter that, yes, he was actually right.
One of the things I try to explain to all of the students I work with around the country is that just because your parents are "mom" and "dad" to you, it doesn't mean they've lost their ability to see and hear.
As the player, it's hard for us to comprehend that they may actually be seeing something that can help us be a better catcher. After all, what do THEY know. They aren't professional catching instructors.
They're probably not, but if you are as fortunate as I was, to have parents so interested in the game you enjoy playing that they attend more games than not and actually listen during the private lessons they have paid for, use them as another tool to better yourself on the field. Try to realize that they are simply trying to help and they would love nothing more for you to reach your goals and realize your dreams. Oh, and.......they may actually be right.
Now, this isn't a free pass to all the parents or loved ones out there to start criticizing their sons and daughters in the middle of games. But rather a suggestion to all of the catchers out there to always be open to information. No matter where it comes from. It may not always be right, but if you decide not to listen because of who is delivering the message, you may miss an opportunity to learn from it and better yourself behind the plate.
Thanks for reading this month's Tip of the Month!