Baseball Magazine

I Belong at This Level

By Meachrm @BaseballBTYard
Close your eyes and think back to the month of July when you were 19 years old.  What were you doing?  For many people, much of what they remember might not be fit for print.  For baseball players it probably meant plugging away in the heat and humidity on a less than ideal field in front of a few fans made up of a mixture of parents and girlfriends.
I belong at this levelDid any of you picture yourself playing center field for the Los Angeles Angels in front of thousands of fans?  I doubt it.  But that's exactly what 19 year old Mike Trout is doing this summer.  Pretty amazing when you stop to think about it.  Mike Trout obviously is an incredibly talented individual.   To be playing at that level at the young age of 19 (not even two full seasons removed from high school ball!) is just beyond comprehension.
But Mike Trout is struggling.  At the time this post was written, his average was .179.
When a player moves up a level, there will always be an adjustment period.  For some players who tear it up quickly, the adjustment period is obviously very quick.  For others it may take more time.  It is important to note that adjustment periods are not just physical in nature.  Mental adjustments are just as important and many times even more so.

I belong at this level

Sometimes what's missing in a player is his
own belief that he belongs at that level.

I don't know if Mike Trout is dealing with this right now but there are times when a player isn't quite sure if he belongs at a particular level.  Unfortunately, getting off to a slow start just reinforces that mind set.  I have some experience with this.  In the summer of 1988, I made my way up to Falmouth, Massachusetts to play in the very prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League.  It had always been a goal of mine to play there and I was getting a chance.  The Cape League had the reputation (and still does) of bringing in many of the country's best college players so I was thrilled when I was recruited to play.  The first week or so did not go particularly well.  My very first swing in batting practice ended with more than half the bat fluttering down the third base line and the other part still in my hands.  The ball went about 20 feet.  It was my first real experience with wooden bats and I immediately realized "I was not in Kansas anymore."  To make matters worse, in the first inning of our first game, Frank Thomas smoked a double to left center.  I walked over to second base after the play and two thoughts immediately came to mind.  1) Frank Thomas was the largest human being I had ever seen in a baseball uniform, and 2) if a lot more players in this league were built like him, I was in big trouble!
I have to admit that some doubt as to whether I belonged in this league began to creep into my mind.  My defense was very good at shortstop but my hitting was horrible.  Thankfully, about a week into the season I turned it all around.  I switched to a different model wooden bat one day, adjusted a couple things in my hitting approach, and ended up going on a hitting tear.  The season went very well and I even played in the Cape Cod All-Star Game.   Although both of the initial adjustments I made were physical, the most important and long lasting adjustment made was mental.  Stringing together a few good offensive games quickly made me realize that I did, in fact, belong at this level.  That thinking was much more important than any physical adjustments I could have made.
Mike Trout had his first major league home run yesterday.  I'm sure he is trying some physical adjustments but maybe that hit will do much more to help his confidence and allow every ounce of his body to truly believe that he belongs at the major league level.  Ultimately, regardless of his physical skills, that belief is what he will need in order to stay in the major leagues.
I'm hoping he does.

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