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Yesterday, I read that Mark Appel was stepping away from the game indefinitely. The former 2012 1st round draft pick (#8) of the Pittsburgh Pirates out of Stanford who decided not to sign and return to school. A year later Appel was eventually drafted No.1 overall in the draft by the Houston Astros in 2013. He was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies in December of 2015.
As a former player and 1st round pick, I can empathize with him. This game is hard physically but, most of all mentally. Dealing with many different variables on the field and the distractions off the field can be overwhelming. Most players will learn to deal with things over time as they become better equipped.
The Variables on the field are the mental and physical demands of a professional player. Being a professional is not just showing up. To be clear,I am not saying this about Mark at all. This is a general statement. As a professional you work on having your ducks in a row. As you move through the minor league system or at the Major League level you must work on the physical aspects of the game. This is the sweat equity part. You must work on and refine your technique whatever that may be to perform to your capabilities. This can be physically demanding at times. There is no way around this. If you want to continue to improve or maintain your skill. The more experience you have the more sweat equity you have and the less experience you have…you get the point. It all goes into developing or maintaining a skill. Baseball is hard.
Having your ducks in a row on the field meaning having a consistent daily routine or process for improvement makes life on the field and off the field much more manageable. Understanding, that physical work and the strategy of playing the game are two separate things while knowing that preparation and performance go hand in hand.
As a coach, I often tell young league players who are just starting that “this game is hard and don’t let anyone tell you any different. This game may look easy when you watch it but, what you are seeing are players with years and years of hard work.” Or “sweat equity” as “The Rock” would say.
Back to Mark Appel. I hate to see anyone struggle or not reach their potential. I feel for this young man. I had an opportunity to watch him pitch and I saw the plus fastball, a wipeout slider and the talent that everyone else had seen. It was just a matter of time. However, this game is hard and it can eat away at your confidence, your desire and your life by making you forget who you really are.
Baseball is hard. But, it doesn’t define who you are and it doesn’t define who Mark Appel is either.