Every time I see #ThrowbackThursday photos of my playing days as a youth, I immediately think about the people that were integral in shaping my career.
When I was ages 10 through 17, I was fortunate enough to have two great coaches and mentors, Eddie Rodriguez (El Gallo) and Rich Hofman. Then for my first seven years in the majors, I played for the legendary Lou Piniella. So over that 15-year span, I had three coaches who were all special in different ways and who all made a huge impact on my career and my life. I had the luxury of learning from what was basically a hybrid of Pat Riley and Bill Belichick.
They all taught me that the formula for winning championships was combining good pitching and defense, coupled with some timely hitting. But you couldn't compete for a World Series if you weren't on the team and one thing I knew for sure: You wouldn't stick around in the major leagues as a young player if you couldn't defend.
It doesn't matter how good you are in the batter's box; if you're a shortstop and you make 50 errors, you'll be back in the minors. But if you have good fundamentals - playing great defense, bunting, good baserunning, contact hitting, situational awareness - you don't have to hit .320 to be a successful major leaguer.
Today’s young players should focus more on putting the ball in play and less about hitting home runs. They should spend more time learning about how to be in a good defensive position when a pitch is thrown instead of being one dimensional.
I'm forever grateful for the amazing mentors who taught me so much about the game I love. That's why I believe it's crucial for today's coaches and parents to stress the importance of fundamentals, to help the next generation become more complete players and to keep baseball's future bright.
#TBT #Westminster @mlb