As the title says it's really important that you are flexible as a baseball player in your career. Now by saying flexible I'm not talking about being a yoga master, although that can benefit your baseball career (see Dr Durnin's video at the end of this post for help with physical flexibility)! What I'm talking about is that you have to be flexible with anything that might happen to you as a player. During my second season of pro baseball with the Calgary Vipers I was struggling..big time! My ERA was hovering around the 6.00 mark and basically I was still on the team because I was a rookie and they had to keep 4 on the roster. It also probably helped that I was the token local boy. Each home game there would be 15-20 family/friends coming to the game to see me pitch and if you ever went to a Vipers game they needed all they could get! For 4 years I battled shoulder injuries on and off, when I was healthy I got up to 91mph but after the shoulder problems I was only 86 now from over the top. Our manager, Mike Busch, called me into his office and I was expecting the call for a few weeks and thought I was getting released. He told me "Freebs I want you to start pitching sidearm, you are athletic and I think you can do it". Translation: "Freebs you suck, we are going to release you but don't have anyone to replace you right now, so try something new". It was something I had never thought of but figured why not...I really had no choice! I went out to right field and threw a flat ground sidearm and my arm felt pain free for the first time 4 years. I hopped on the mound in the bullpen and my manager liked what he saw. He liked it enough to throw me out on the mound that night in the 8th for an inning. I went 3up-3down and ended up getting my first Indy ball win. It was pretty crazy!! After that I worked hard on it, went to Australia to really get some stuff down with my new sidearm delivery, and the following season I was an All-Star. I went from basically getting released to having interest and workouts with some MLB teams again.
That's just one of my stories about being flexible. If I would have been stubborn and told my manager "no thanks", my pro career would have been done. There are many ways as a baseball player that you need to be flexible. Here are some examples:
1. You might be a middle infielder but coach asks you to play OF
As younger players growing up almost everyone wants to be the SS. As you get older being able to play the OF becomes a very important factor for your team. Being open to this can make you a valuable asset to your team. I'm sure Mike Trout was a great athlete on his teams growing up probably played some SS but moving to the OF was a great decision!
2. You might be a starting pitcher but get moved to the bullpen
Starting pitchers seem to get the glory, if they pitch well they get to pitch more innings. Hopefully get the win. You get to pitch longer, but sometimes that switch to the bullpen can spark plug your baseball career. Some guys end up throwing harder since are now throwing just for an inning. Some pitchers are just more effective one time through the order.
3. You get moved down in the batting order
Being in a slump obviously sucks and isn't much fun. You usually bat 3,4,5 but just got moved to 8. It's how you handle yourself that will help you get back to the top of the order. You should definitely realize why you got moved down and use that as motivation to work hard to get your swing back. You may also see more fastballs when you are lower in the order and can take advantage of pitchers pitching you differently.
4. Getting cut from a team
Nobody likes this feeling at all but it happens to everyone at same point. It's how you react to it that will make you a better player in the long run. Everyone knows Michael Jordan got cut from his HS team and safe to say things worked out for him. It's the players that use it as motivation and accept why they did that will get better from it in the long run. I made the Canadian Jr National Team over Rich Harden who ended up playing 8 yrs. in the show. I would gladly trade my experience with Team Canada with Rich!
5. Being a team player
One of the easiest ways to help you keep a baseball jersey on for a long as you can is the ability to be a team player. Runner on 1st, will you be ok with a sac bunt? Will you hit behind the base runner and be happy with going 0-1 in that AB? It's the players that do these things that mangers love to have on their team!
6. Dealing with failure, realizing that baseball is a hard game!
As a baseball player the sooner you learn to deal with failure in baseball the easier your life will be. It's hard to hit a baseball, the good ones fail 70% of the time. You aren't always going to have your best stuff on the mound, even King Felix the other month, a former CY Young winner gave up 8ER in 1/3 IP. It's going to happen, it's how you deal with it, that will determine the baseball player you will become.
7. You are a hitter but get asked to pitch
Tim Wakefield, Jason Motte, Kenley Jansen, all 3 great pitchers that all started out as position players. Wakefield was a SS batting .190 in the minors that was fooling around with a knuckleball in the OF that everyone seems to do. Got asked to do that on the mound and the rest is history. Motte and Jansen were catchers with cannons but couldn't hit to save their lives. Moved to the mound and could both throw 100MPH. Things worked out well for them too.
Always be flexible and open in your baseball career. You never know what is going to happen!
And if you want to improve your physical flexibility, check out this video from Dr Evan Durnin (former Giants coach):
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