Forget about `five-tools' talk and build on baseball basics

ASK CAL

Youth sports

January 27, 2008|By CAL RIPKEN JR.

DEAR CAL -- I hear lots about "five-tool players" - those who can hit, hit for power, run, catch and throw. Of the five tools, which one do you feel is the most important and which one is most likely to gain the attention of coaches and scouts?

Jack Watson,

Media, Pa.

DEAR JACK -- Generally speaking, I dislike the "five tools" terminology. I think it is a way that scouts can communicate and differentiate the talent level of various players in baseball. I value players who can hit, catch and throw well. It's unfortunate, but the stopwatch and radar gun seem to overly excite scouts. That means speed and a good arm tend to grab their attention.

In a way, that's kind of sad, because to me the most important things are the ability to hit, throw and catch, and sometimes I feel as if scouts get too excited in the ways they describe a player when it comes to the "five tools."

A good baseball player is someone who throws, hits and catches well. Those are the most important factors.

A player with good speed who has a knowledge of how to run the bases properly is a great asset to his team. That player, if he can catch well, also can do a few more things in the field than a player with less speed, but that shouldn't be the determining factor as to whether the player has a future in the sport.

DEAR CAL -- Our 13-year-old son has hit a rough streak in many avenues. He shrugs his shoulders and questions the referees in basketball and his mother as coach, and he doesn't listen to advice about how to play better. He even taunted an opponent recently after a blocked shot. After this was discussed with him, he continues to act in these ways. What ideas do you have to help change his behavior?

Mike Peplinski,

Eau Claire, Wis.

DEAR MIKE -- The problem of getting a child to listen to or take advice from his or her parents is hardly a new issue. We all struggle with this from time to time. As I've written here before, there was a time when my son, Ryan, would listen to other people's baseball advice instead of mine. It was as frustrating to me as I'm sure it is to you. Over time, he has outgrown that, and now he comes to me more often for advice about all of his athletic endeavors.

I think the tactics you are trying are the right ones. I have seen numerous cases in which a player who plays on a team coached by one of his parents will push the limits of not paying attention to Mom or Dad but will snap into line when instructed or confronted by another adult. So, having your son talk to other adults and athletes he respects is a step in the right direction. I might take that one step further and have a coach he might want to play for down the road - like the junior varsity or varsity basketball coach at the high school he will attend - speak to him about the importance of character and what he looks for in a young player.

While it never is a good idea as a coach to punish your child more severely than you would the other kids, perhaps creating a team policy of taking kids out of the game who complain to refs or taunt opponents could send a message. Another potential avenue is to maximize the time you spend with your son attending sporting events or watching games on television. Point out sportsmanlike play and players who display great character and contrast that behavior with inappropriate, unsportsmanlike actions and ask him directly which players seem more likable and which behaviors are more appropriate.

Seeing something in a different context as an outside observer and discussing it sometimes can be an eye-opening experience, and your son might realize he doesn't want to portray a negative image on the court.

Have a question or issue arising from your involvement in youth sports? Send it by e-mail to askripken@baltimoresun.com.

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