November 21, 2017

Rambling on About My Glory Days – Here’s to You J.D. Salinger

January 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

As many of you probably heard, J.D. Salinger, the author of the “Catcher in the Rye” died a few days ago. That was my favorite book, especially the part where he wrote about the person who could really whistle. He writes about how every person has at least one thing that they do very well even though it may not be known to others, even something as minute as whistling. At least, that is my take on what I read, but the point is that every person is worth respecting because they have something of worth about them. You may never know it but you may find out that they went on to achieve, like maybe, becoming a major league baseball player.

I am not going to claim that J.D. Salinger is the reason why I began writing nor do I plan on going into the “author recluse protection program” any time soon. I never thought my life as being all that interesting, although I wouldn’t trade it for anyone’s,” well maybe for a few, but… Joking aside, when I began writing I realized that many of my experiences might help others understand sports a little better. That is why I set out writing in the first place. Having taught baseball for so long I believed I had an expertise in “How to teach” youth to hit a baseball so I wrote “The Making of a Hitter.” I then realized that I dealt with so many ballplayers, parents and coaches over the years that I might be able to add insight on how to help parents “Raise an Athlete,” so I wrote a book about that. I continue to write articles that I hope will help players and parents in these areas. My passion is baseball, and specifically, to help youth develop their baseball skills and have the positive sporting experience that I have been fortunate to have had.

With this in mind I would like to relay my experience of entering collegiate baseball. I don’t want this to sound like I am trying to make myself out to be a hero, but it is an example to youth that they can overcome the odds and that hard work and perseverance pays off in life, usually.

I was a pretty good high school baseball player. I believe I hit over four hundred my senior year. I was relatively small and relegated to playing second base for four years of high school because I had a weak arm. When it came time for college, I didn’t have any viable options for continuing to play baseball, my first love. As a 16 year old, I had played in a baseball tournament in Murray, Kentucky. I fell in love with the college field there, even though we played on a community field for the tournament. Senior year I applied to Murray State University and wrote the coach about my interest in playing baseball there. The good news was that I received a small academic scholarship from the school. The bad news was that the baseball coach wrote back saying that their best player was an underclass second baseman. Because of that, he advised that Murray was probably not a good fit for me as far as playing baseball. I appreciated his honesty but, as mentioned, without any other good baseball playing options, I attended anyway.

I was blessed with good speed, quickness, hand-eye coordination and from what I now realize, a good baseball swing. My drawbacks were a weak arm, bad throwing mechanics, some-what stiff hands and a lack of confidence. Fortunately, the positives outweighed the negatives and I was added to the team. I received 8 at-bats my freshman year but got an assurance from the coach that they would try to work out more playing time for me the following year. That was enough to want to return and the rest is history, as they say. The Dodgers did tell me when I was drafted by them that I was the first second baseman they had ever drafted; all of their other second basemen were converted from other positions. I am not sure about that but it is probably true of a player who only played second base all through high school, too.

The amusing side of this was the chance meeting I had one of my first days of college. I happened to be sitting near another student at the ball field one day before tryouts had begun. We were viewing some baseball team members practicing when we struck up a conversation. “I am trying out for the team,” I said. “Oh nice, I am already on the team on scholarship, he replied. “Good luck,” he said when the conversation ended. To this day he admits thinking to him self when walking away “That kid has no chance.” We always laugh when we see each other seeing how I went on to play in the major leagues.

As mentioned, maybe this can help people to “Keep whistling,” and respect all because you never know.

Footnote: The baseball coach mentioned was the great Johnny Reagan who has meant so much to my life and career.

Former major leaguer Jack Perconte is the author of The Making of a Hitter (http://jackperconte.com) and has a baseball instruction blog that can be found at www.baseballcoachingtips.net. He has recently published his second book Raising an Athlete: How to Instill Confidence, Build Skills and Inspire a Love of Sport

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