Home Baseball Content Baseball Showcases: A Great Way to Waste Money and Get Injured

Baseball Showcases: A Great Way to Waste Money and Get Injured

Written on March 26, 2010 at 4:04 am, by Eric Cressey

Q: I read your blog here the other day about your “ideal competitive year” for a baseball player.  What’s your take on showcases and college camps?  They always occur during the “down periods” you mentioned: fall ball and the early winter.  How do these fit in to a baseball player’s development?

A: To be blunt, while there are some exceptions to the rule, they rarely fit into development. In reality, they usually feed into destruction – at least in the context of pitchers.  I openly discourage all our young athletes and parents from attending them almost without exception.

I know of very few showcase directors and college baseball coaches who legitimately understand anatomy, physiology, the etiology of baseball injuries, the nature of adolescent development, or motor skill acquisition.

Showcase directors specialize in promoting and running showcases.  College coaches specialize in recruiting players, developing talent, planning game and practice strategy, and winning games.  To my knowledge, understanding scapulohumeral rhythm and the contributions of a glenohumeral internal rotation deficit (GIRD) to SLAP lesions via the peel-back mechanism isn’t all in a day’s work for these folks.

nomo

The fundamental issue with these events is their timing.  As you noted, they almost always occur in the fall and winter months.  Why?

1.  It’s the easiest time to recruit participants, as they aren’t in-season with their baseball teams.

2. It’s not during the college baseball season – so fields and schedules are open and scouting and coaching man-power is free.

You’ll notice that neither #1 or #2 said “It’s the time of year when a pitcher is the most prepared to perform at a high level safely.”  It is just profitable and convenient for other people – and that occurs at the expense of many young pitchers’ arms.

In 2006, Olsen et al. published a fantastic review that examined all the different factors associated with elbow and shoulder surgeries in pitchers by comparing injured pitchers (those who warranted surgery) with their non-injured counterparts.  Some of the findings of the study:

-Pitchers who eventually required surgery threw almost EXACTLY twice as many pitches as the control group (healthy pitchers) over the course of the year…from a combination of pitches per outing, total outings, and months pitched per year.  For those of you who think your kid needs to play on multiple teams simultaneously, be very careul; add a team and you instantly double things – at least acutely.

-The injured pitchers attended an average of FOUR times more showcases than non-injured kids.

-Interesting aside:  injured pitchers were asked what their coaches’ most important concern was: game, season, or athlete’s career.  In the healthy group, they said the coach cared about the game most in only 11.4% of cases. In the injured group, it was 24.2%!  These crazy little league coaches are often also the ones running the showcases…

The big problem is that these issues usually don’t present until years later.  Kids may not become symptomatic for quite some time, or pop NSAIDs to cover up the issues.  They might even go to physical therapy for a year before realizing they need surgery.  It’s why you see loads of surgeries in the 16-18 year-old population, but not very often in 15 and under age groups.

elbowsurgery

So why are appearances like these in the fall and winter months so problematic?  Well, perhaps the best way I can illustrate my point is to refer back to a conversation I had with Curt Schilling last year.

Curt told me that throughout his career, he had always viewed building up his arm each year as a process with several levels.

Step 1: Playing easy catch
Step 2: Playing easy catch on a line
Step 3: Building up one’s long toss (Curt never got onto a mound until he’d “comfortably” long-tossed 200 ft.)
Step 4: Throwing submaximally off a mound
Step 5: Throwing with maximum effort off a mound
Step 6: Throwing with maximum effort off a mound with a batter
Step 7: Throwing with maximum effort off a mound with a batter in a live game situation
Step 8: Opening day at Fenway Park in front of 40,000+ people

curt-schilling1

Being at a showcase in front of college coaches and scouts with radar guns is Step 8 for every 14-16 year old kid in America.  And, it comes at the time of year when they may not have even been throwing because of fall/winter sports and the weather.  Just to be clear, I’ll answer this stupid question before anyone asks it: playing year-round and trying to be ready all the time is NOT the solution.

I can honestly say that in all my years of training baseball players, I’ve only seen one kid who was “discovered” at a showcase.  And, frankly, it occurred in December of his junior year, so those scouts surely would have found him during high school and summer ball; it wasn’t a desperate attempt to catch someone’s eye.

I’ll be honest: I have a lot of very close friends who work as collegiate baseball coaches.  They’re highly-qualified guys who do a fantastic job with their athletes – but also make money off of fall baseball camps.  I can be their friend without agreeing with everything they do; there is a difference between “disagree” and “dislike.”

Fortunately, the best coaches are the ones who go out of their way to make these events as safe as possible, emphasizing skill, technique, and strategy improvements over “impressing” whoever is watching.  So, it’s possible to have a safe, beneficial experience at one of these camps.  I’d encourage you to find out more about what goes on at the events in advance, and avoid throwing bullpens if unprepared for them.

As far as showcases are concerned, I’d encourage you to save your money and go on a family vacation instead.

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  • Well said Eric. Keep spreading the message!

  • Great read! Very true about progressing up to mound work. Kids and most importantly parents need to understand the importance of progressing up to throwing at the intensity, there is a reason why big league pitchers start tossing beginning of January and don’t throw bullpens at max effort until end of February – it takes time to build up to that capacity.

  • washedupcollegeplayer

    Couldn’t agree more with this. Me and a bunch of guys on my Legion team went to half a dozen of these back in the day. 10 hacks in a cage, 10 throws off a mound/across the field to a JUGS gun, and the All Important 60. All for low price of 75 bucks per kid. The highlight of these showcases was going to McDonalds on the way home.

  • TJ

    Eric,

    Do you think you’ll ever write a manual for young baseball players (14-18 year olds), especially for pitchers?

  • Bob Gorinski

    Yipes Eric! It took some courage to write that. THANKS for being honest when it likely upsets some in the bizz.

  • RT

    Similar thoughts may apply to “speed” camps as well. What use is it for a fall sport athlete to attend a one week speed camp in early July?

    Is the surgery at 16-18 related to the maturation process in any way?

  • Eric,
    The Shilling pre-season throwing guidelines are sweet.
    With his name behind it the credibility is fantastic.
    Many young kids don’t know how valuable long – toss is.

    Great contribution.

    Thanks,
    Craig

  • rick

    Awesome stuff Eric!

  • Great article Eric. As an adult it is so much easier to see the big picture, than when I played ball in high school. Health and activity are so important your whole life it is counter-productive to blow out one’s arm at a young age just to impress someone who most likely does not have your best interest in mind anyway.

    James Reno
    Raw-Food-Repair.com

  • Kevin Brower

    As an extension to Eric’s comments, even the showcases in the summer have become a moneymaker, and less about talent being “showcased”. There are a few good showcases left, where professional scouts have to request the players to be invited, but the rest have become so oversold that scouts have to weed through a mass of players to find the 2 or 3 that may actually be what they’re looking for. The best advice I could give a high school player looking to get noticed is to pick their top 3 college choices, find out if they’re holding an “elite” camp, and attend. If the school has such a camp, it’ll be for sophomores and juniors, and will be held over multiple days so hitters can get more than the regular 10 swings, or a side session for a pitcher.
    RT, another scam these days. You can’t teach speed in a week. Speed is a skill and needs thousands of repetitions, weather it’s linear, lateral, decel, etc. Speed camps just take people’s money, condition the athletes, and send them home.

  • Great post, I linked to you in my blog the other day. I posted a blog today that analyzes showcases from a college coach’s perspective that you will be interested in.http://milesnoland.wordpress.com/

  • Dan

    Eric:

    I’ve followed your posts for a while — this is the best thing I’ve seen you write yet. You are doing a great job teaching athletic training the correct way — benefit the players first and foremost. Leave the “excessive parenting/promotion” to the poorly educated and poor planners.

  • Shawn

    Eric,

    While I do agree with your statements about the injury rates among young players. Isn’t the possibility of injury higher because many of the pitchers and position players taught improper mechanics before they attend a showcase, and not the showcase itself?

  • Shawn,

    Mechanics are one part of a very complex injury equation. There are big leaguers who are healthy with what we might call terrible mechanics, and others who are injured with what might be perfect mechanics. The sooner we start attacking all the different factors equally , the sooner we’ll be able to get guys healthy.

  • Bill White

    Great post Eric. Can you assign some timeframes to the Curt Schilling steps you reference in the article?

    Thank you!

  • Mike Kahne

    I agree one hundred percent. It’s about time these so called experts get a real job. The coaches and the scouts to do theirs, not relying on someone else to find talent for them.

  • Thanks Eric for confirming what many already know, but are in denial.

  • Tom

    Eric Iowa has high school summer baseball which results in many baseball players having to participate in football, wrestling, basketball and weight training activities at the same time they are participating in a 40 game baseball schedule. We are trying to rebuild the program. What gains both physically, mentally and skill wise are being made by athletes who never truly get away from all these activities? We want to build a solid program without asking the athlete to specialize.

    Thank you

  • Hi Tom,

    Thanks for your comment.  It’s certainly not optimal to have all that stuff at once, so it needs to become a matter of prioritization of certain elements throughout the year.  When one is prioritized, the other is back-burnered – and vice versa.

  • Thanks, Charlotte!

  • Bill,

    As I recall, it was about 14-16 weeks from Step 1 to Step 8. Most of our guys take five weeks of building up before getting off the mound.

  • Clay

    One thing that needs to be mentioned here is the psychology the parent needs to have ready to pull out if the player does not do well. Very rarely is the player physically ready to go at these “wonderful opportunities”. Been on more than a few long rides home.

  • Colin Young

    I was lucky enough to play pro ball for 9 years without having to attend a showcase or play select ball for that matter. Physical and mental prep for the season allows you to “showcase” your talent in season. I always tell parents that talent is talent and will be noticed, whether your D1, D3, or NAIA.

  • disqus_5T2jXBEN10

    Suburb kids have way to much money


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