The Importance of the Baseball Tryout

So much of a baseball career rides on The Tryout. Maybe too much. 

After all, how can coaches really evaluate how good a player is, how consistently he hits, how reliable he is in the field, how well he can fool batters, what kind of character he has based on a few swings, a few grounders, a few pitches?

Oh, they think they know. They evaluate mechanics, velocity, swing plane. They convince themselves this tells the whole story. 

They never have to see the players they cut. 

For the player trying out, there is the agonizing pressure of knowing his future in baseball hinges on these few swings, throws, catches, and the opinions of the baseball gods with the scorecards. Even one mistake could mean total failure. 

Just thinking about it can make you frozen with fear and dread.

Take Hunter, for example.

Big kid, Hunter.

Strong. Stocky. Athletic.Talented.

He can do it all.

Even when he was 12 he looked a lot like Roger Clemens on the mound. (OK, what Roger would have looked like at 12)

Scary fastball. Damn near unhittable. Even with ordinary little leaguers fielding behind him the opposing team could hardly ever score any runs against him. 

At the plate he was fearsome. A home run threat every at bat. 

At third base he was a human vacuum cleaner. With a gun for an arm.

Hunter was THE 5-tool, can’t miss, budding young superstar in his community. Everyone knew that if anyone from this town was going to the Bigs, it would be Hunter B………

 Everyone knew except the high school tryout coaches. It’s all fresh meat to them. They don’t care about your reputation. They don’t care what the word is on the street. They go by one motto.

Prove it on the field. 

Prove it at the tryout. 

You get one shot. Do or die.

The Big Day.

Part I of the high school tryout: fielding. From third base. Piece of cake, Hunter thought. “This is my position. I own third base.”

But while waiting his turn behind 20 other guys Hunter’s brain started going into overdrive. “Man these guys are good” he thought. “Am I good enough?” “What if I get a bad hop?” His doubts grew. “I’d better not bobble the ball.” “I think I’ll throw really hard to first so the coaches can see my great arm.”

Finally, Hunter’s turn came. Yeah, you guessed it. Coach hit him a tough 2-hop tweener that bounced off the heel of his glove. As he was scooping up the ball, Hunter thought, “now is the time to show off my gun.”

Woah. Slow down cowboy. Yeah, Hunter sure proved he had a great arm. It’s a good thing no one was in the stands because that rocket launch would have caused someone some serious injury. It seems that Hunter forgot that his goal was to throw a ball that the first baseman could actually catch.

“Oh well,” thought Hunter. “Maybe one of those other guys will play third base, but just wait till the coaches see how far I can hit.”

Each kid got five swings. Hunter’s competition was making good contact, most of them getting two or three decent line drives.

This is where Hunter knew his light was gonna shine. Line drives? Fagetaboutit. He was going to launch at least one of those pitches into orbit with the moon.

First pitch. Mighty upper-cut. Foul ball to the screen. “I’ll get the next one,” Hunter thought. 

Way out in front. Swing and miss.

“OK, OK. Settle down man. You can do this. Don’t fail.” Hunter took a little off his swing this time. He just wanted to get his simple line drive like the others. Instead, he got a swinging bunt, right in front of the catcher.


By now Hunter was totally baffled at the plate. He’d forgotten what his normal hitting mechanics and timing even looked like. The next two pitches? Swing and miss. Swing and miss.

“It’s over,” thought Hunter. “I can’t field and I can’t hit. I’ll never make the team now.”

Still, he followed some of the others over to the bullpen to show the coaches his pitching. “Maybe, just maybe, they’ll just let me be a pitcher. That’s not so bad.”

But when his turn came to pitch the horrible memories of his awful failures came pouring over his mind. The airmail to first. The swings and misses. “If I’m going to make the team I have to pitch perfect.” Hunter thought.

“Next,” the coach, with notepad, bellowed. “Hunter, right? Show me your heat.” “OK, I can do that,” Hunter thought. A slow wind-up, he reared waaay back.

Swoosh. Hunter’s still got the heat. Trouble was, it was way over the catcher’s head. “Just a little high.” as Bob Uecker said in the movie Major League

“Wish I’d had some time to warm up,” thought Hunter. “No matter, I’ll compensate this time.” 

Second pitch: in the dirt.

“I’ve got to show them I can throw a strike.  Really, I think I can do it.” This time Hunter took a little off the heater so he could aim the pitch, but he still missed the zone.

 “I can’t even hit the broad side of a barn today,” thought Hunter, as the coach said, “OK show us Uncle Charlie.” 

“What’s the use, I’m toast.” Thoroughly demoralized by now, Hunter tried to snap one off, but it just hung up there, an easy home run ball if ever some lucky batter saw that pitch in a game.

Hunter left the tryout, shaking his lowered head in disgust, holding back tears.

The best player in town. But he blew it in the tryout.

This is a true story. Hunter got so discouraged he never played organized baseball again.

Ace The Tryout

It doesn’t have to be this way. There’s a way to avoid the fate of Hunter.

Here my friend Nick Shaw and I share tips on how to ace the tryout


Here’s the secret to tryout success in a nutshell:

  1. Be on time. Don’t even bother if you’re late. The coach will probably not bother with you.
  2. Be prepared. Bring the right equipment and wear the right clothes. (Some fools even wear blue jeans to a tryout)
  3. Pay attention to the coaches and follow instructions.
  4. Eat right the day before the tryout and right before the tryout. Carbs are good the day before and eat enough the day of…But not so much as to make you feel heavy or bloated.
  5. Prepare. Don’t just begin your training the week before the tryout, but weeks or even two months before. For example, work on your sprints months in advance if you want to impress the coach with your speed in the 60-yard dash.
  6. Get good sleep the night before.
  7. Don’t be nervous. One way is to practice deep breathing techniques. Slow your breathing to slow the game down.
  8. Hustle. During the play, but especially between plays. When the coach says next station, be the first one there.
  9. During fielding, overdo the footwork to show off your proper fielding mechanics. And show off your arm at least once.
  10. If you’re a pitcher, make sure you have a warm up before you arrive.
  11. Hitting for power is good, but make sure you show your contact skills first and your ability to hit to all fields.
  12. Most Important. CONFIDENCE. Believe you belong. Believe in your success. Visualize and affirm success before the Tryout. Stay calm. (see # 7) Most of all, HAVE FUN. Yes, look at the tryout as fun, not as something to be afraid of. You got this.

For more on success in the Tryout, check out my Tryout Domination video series, available on sale.

And the perfect complement to Tryout Domination, for success at the tryout, throughout the season, and your whole life, Confidence Booster

Baseball is 90% mental. Confidence Booster teaches how to achieve the all-important mindset a player absolutely needs for baseball success.