Is American’s Pass-Time Canada’s Future?
By Coach Jim Lefebvre
While speaking at the Vancouver Coaches Association’s Annual Meeting, I was delighted to see the enthusiasm, excitement and pure joy that was exhibited at the event. The coaches are receptive to learning new things; they are well trained; they enjoy teaching their teams; and they love the game of baseball. It was like being in America 20 years ago.
It is a known fact that America’s Pass-Time has been slowly dying in popularity. Once the number one sports game in the country, it has fallen to a pitiful fourth place according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. Each year little league teams scramble to get a full roster of players. Kids are no longer dreaming of being a pro-baseball player as more and more sports and activities compete for their time.
So what is the problem? Many things. Kids drop out of playing baseball because the practices are boring. Sad to say, but for the most part, coaches are untrained and not really interested in learning anything more than what they already know. They are putting in their time with their child’s team out of necessity, not desire. And it is well documented that if a player does well and enjoys the sport in their early days of playing, they will stick with it throughout life, playing at all levels, maybe college and even work or church leagues. And more importantly, they are a life-time fan.
If however, they have a negative experience, then all the pluses mentioned are erased and they go on to find something else to hold their interest.
The length of the season has also been noted as being too long, thus losing the fans along the way. Finding a hero was once an easy thing to do in the world of baseball, now, not so much. The major league teams have been scarred with drug allegations, cheating and off-the-field activities that darken the reputation of the sport itself.
Why is Canada so successful? Just look at their stats: Ten-Plus All-Stars; Three Canadians have been MVPs since 1997; One Baseball hall of Famer; Two Cy Young Award Winners; One Rookie of the Year; Four Silver Slugger Award Winners, (totaling seven different years!); One Hank Aaron Award, and on and on and on! And their program is seemingly getting better.
After spending a weekend with about 250 coaches and managers, I saw a passion for the game. They train their players the way we used to train our players: Repetition, repetition, repetition! Hit, catch, throw and do it again and again. They build arm strength with drills and concentrate on making each player great. They start with kids at an early age and teach them to be the best they can be. They make practice fun and make sure they are prepared. I taught them some new drills and they were excited about learning—they readily put their egos aside and admit that even the best coaches can learn something new.
Canada has hundreds of college students who are on full baseball scholarships at American colleges. Why? Because they have been trained to be the best they can be and college recruiters see their talents and skills.
What can we do to bring back that passion? How can we revive the love of the game of baseball? My life has been spent in the world of this game. I have been in many positions, Rookie of the Year, World Series player, International player, hitting coach, manager, International Coach. Now I spend my time teaching coaches to reignite the fire in their players; my greatest desire is to see this generation of young players be the ones that bring back America’s Pass Time. I want to hear little kids singing “take me out to the ball game!” once again. Together we can make sure that baseball has a future in America by taking an example from our Northern Neighbors.
There are five tools of baseball. Let’s break it down:
And some even believe there is a sixth tool—the Intangibles. That includes attitude, work ethics, baseball IQ and overall make-up of the individual. What does he bring to the team? Players aren’t always selected by their basic five tools, there are other things that are part of the selection process.
What can we do for skill development? I am attempting to give you my thoughts on the five tools and the sixth tool. I want to share my 45+ years in baseball. Including having been been a player, manager, coach, field director of player development (responsible for all the training tools used for the team to take them from signing in the minor league to taking them to the major league team), Japan training, and the China natural program when I was the manager of the Chinese National Team of the 2008 Olympics. I want to share this information with you so you can develop a great program for 2014 season. I was blessed to have been around great players and coaches in my own development. If you are interested in my help, contact me about your program.Read more tomorrow!
Coaches’ Training Programs
The Five Absolutes of Hitting
Teach how to train five absolutes
Drills for each of the absolutes
Teach players how to take training into the game
Mental mindset and focus
From fundamentals of hitting to how to become a great hitter taught by one of the greatest hitter of all times.
Jim Lefebvre grew up when baseball was THE game in America. Long before numerous other sports took center stage, or even shared the same platform as baseball. From little leagues to sand-lots to neighborhood backyards and school play fields, baseball was on the minds of most kids from sun-up to sun-down. And many of them shared the same dream: To become a major league ball player.
Jim Lefebvre realized his dream as he was scouted and picked up by his home-town team, the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was Rookie of the year in 1965 and helped propel his team to the World Series Championship. In 1966 he was one of the All Star players. His name became synonymous with baseball.
Not only did Jim (nicknamed Frenchy because of his ethnic last name) appear on the field, but also on TV screens throughout America with guest appearances on Batman, Gilligan’s Island, Knight Rider and M*A*S*H. It was the wonderful days of family TV when everyone could enjoy an evening in front of the tube
Jim continued his career with the Dodgers for seven seasons and was then picked up by the Lotte Orions in Japan. He was the most-played baseball player in Japanese history, and the first player to be on a championship team in both the MLB and in Japan.
Jim loved the game of baseball and when his on-field play time ended in 1976, he moved up the ladder and began a series of coaching jobs. He began coaching the Seattle Mariners in 1989 and led the team to its first winning season but was released in 1991. Jim went on to manage both the Chicago Cubs and the Milwaukee Brewers. It was after that when he was presented with what he calls “his greatest challenge of all”: Building the Chinese Baseball Team for the 2008 Olympics.
Out of Left Field is the story of this adventure.