Jason Euler, Pitcher at EIU
High School, Juco, and D1 Baseball Transitions
At an early age I decided I wanted to play college baseball and made that my goal day in and day out. As I progressed, I looked at baseball like a funnel. In the early little league years there are a lot of kids playing the sport, but each year a few funnel out. I know I could name a number of kids that never made it to high school baseball that I played with at younger ages. After high school, that funnel really begins to start narrowing down, and fast. While there are many universities out there, not everyone goes on to play college baseball especially at the higher collegiate levels.
After all my years of playing high school baseball, I moved onto Junior college and then to the Division I collegiate level, and I noticed one thing. The biggest separator between teammates and players I played against was strength. While some players have natural gifted athleticism and strength others have to work very hard for it. My personal trainer in Junior College always said it best, “I believe.” He would always say, “You don’t need to be big to play baseball but you sure as hell got to be strong. It’s a strong man’s game”. That always really clicked with me and got thinking me that in a game of inches that extra bit of strength can make the difference. Guys like Dustin Pedroia and Pedro Martinez aren’t the biggest guys, but I guarantee they have some serious strength. I know for a fact I personally have been fortunate enough to continue playing at my current level due to the fact I was properly training in a weight room at an early age.
As the funnel continues narrowing down, talent level continues to increase. In high school, you may have a few to several teammates who are looking to play ball at the next level. College is the culmination of all those players coming together. When you get to college everyone on the team was all-conference or all-area. Many go from being a big fish in a small pond to just another average player on the diamond. This is because with that increased talent and competition level the game speeds up. Coming in as a freshman a lot of information is thrown at you and the finer details are really important to coaches. Processing all this information and applying it properly is the difference between playing and sitting the bench. High school baseball allows many players to get away with small mistakes. In college, these mistakes get exploited along with any flaws our weaknesses in your game. Opposing coaches and players are looking for any weakness to capitalize on. As a player, we all enjoy working on what we’re good at. Players that thrive at the collegiate level are the ones who put in countless hours working to strengthen their weaknesses.
In high school I never really thought about how important the mind was in the game. I was always just focusing on my physical skills: hitting, fielding, pitching, and athleticism. Don’t get me wrong all of that was great, but the difference in getting to use your physical ability to the best of your ability is within your mind. My freshmen year, I really began to develop an idea of sports psychology and just how important it was. If I could have learned one thing sooner or changed one thing back in high school it would’ve been my awareness of the mental game. Learning this helped me relax when the pressure of the quicker game got to me. It’s amazing that we spend all this training working on our physical skills and we just over look just how powerful our mind is. If you can’t gain a physical advantage over your competition, beat them with your mind.
The time commitment was a big adjustment for me going from high school to junior college. Every high school program is different, but weight training programs and practices are much more demanding at the Juco level. The Juco level was even more demanding than D-1 ball because they don’t have near the restrictions that the NCAA places on programs. With the increased time commitment effective use of time is imperative. If you’re not taking advantage of each practice or even each rep, one of your teammates is and he’s going to beat you out for a spot.
As a high school prospect you’re not only looked at for your current talent but more importantly your potential. College coaches and recruiters are looking at you 2 or 3 years down the road trying to assess what type of player you’ll be then. It’s your job to maximize your potential from the first day you set foot on the field for college ball. Take advantage of it, only a handful of guys are lucky enough to be college athletes. At the end of the day the most important thing in high school, college, or even pro baseball is your work ethic. Lucky for you, it’s the one thing in this game that you’re in complete control of.
If you have any more questions about my experiences at the high school, junior college, or Collegiate level feel free to message me on Twitter @jeuler9. I can also give sports psychology book recommendations or credible strength coaches on the web you can learn from. If you just want to talk baseball I’m free for that as well!