Recapping the Butch Baccala Conversation

Welcome to The Baseball Awakening Podcast where we dive into the raw, unfiltered, unsexy side of player development.

Summary:

On this episode, Host, Geoff Rottmayer, recaps his conversation with Butch Baccala, National Scouting Director of Prospect Wire and former National Cross Checker for the Cincinnati Reds and Seattle Mariners. The biggest takeaways that he discussed in this show are:

  • Coming from 25 years of experience and Butch talking about not being a know it all.
  • Lessons learned while first getting into the scouting world.
  • Hard work is the answer to success.
  • How you want to build a database of guys you can then later compare guys too.
  • Be your own guys who do his own research and homework.
  • The saying behind everyone id good.
  • Strength over Size.
  • What he looks in players and pitchers.
  • Scouting confidence and how it’s not taught.
  • How you respond to things matter.
  • Swinging at strike and hitting it.
  • and much more.

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Email Address:geoff@baseballawakening.com

Transcribe:

Hey guys Geoff Rottmayer here with the Baseball Awakening recap show where I share with you the biggest takeaways I got from my conversation with Butch Baccala – as well as how I plan to implement what I have learned with my players that train with me at my academy in Tulsa Oklahoma. 

Again, as I always say, we want to hear from you because different things mean different thing to different people so it would be interesting to see how you guys interpret something that Butch said or something that I am going to say today. I will make a show reading your email because we can all learn something from it, so my email is going to be geoff@baseballawakening.com, so some your thoughts, comment, or feedback. 

Butch comes from over 25 years over evaluating players and shares a lot of nuggets with us in this conversation. First thing I am going to relay that Butch said at the very end of the conversation that I think is great for people who are seeking to have success in anything is ‘don’t be a know it all’ in a time where anyone can call themselves an expert or post content too many fall into this trap of thinking they have things figured out. My comment to that is – for me, the more I learn the more I realize how much I don’t know. So, if one doesn’t feel that way then personally I think its a problem. But with that said, everyone starts somewhere but you have to keep learning and reaching out to guys to learn from their experiences. Butch has been in the game for a long time and has tons of experience that one can learn from as well as everyone else that I have interviewed. It’s also ok not to agree with someone and still have a civil conversation. But that’s my take on that

Now back to the conversation I had with Butch. I ask Butch about becoming a scout and the lessons he learned in doing so, and he said thirst three years you are learning. Which is reality is the first three years in anything you do, there is a lot of learning and experience. But he said it taught him that you have to work hard. It’s true and a lot of people think they work hard but until you have been around people that work really hard, you probably don’t work as hard as you think you do. I tell kids this all the time, yeah you are working hard at practice but what are you doing outside of practice when no one is watching to improve your game. Same thing here, the job of the scout as Butch explained is watching players, writing reports, and projecting. The more you do and the more you watch the better you get. I love the hustle, he said it put on 25 tryout camps his first year – that awesome, you know he saw a lot of players and wrote a lot of reports. So if anyone is looking to be a scout or anything really, put int he work and whatever the core job is, so in this case watching players and writing reports is the key.

Later on in the conversation, he said that the advice he got, was to be a scout for 10 years before moving up the chain because now you have seen enough players to compare too. Which makes sense – you watch guys and he reminds you of someone and you can take the track record of the said person and almost predict what this guy potentially can be. Predicting has to be extremely hard so they obviously rely on comparing players. 

I like also how Butch said he wanted to be is own guy – he didn’t want to be a follow the crowd type of guy. Just because these guys like him it must mean we all like him. This is where trusting your eyes and experience help and forcing yourself to really do your homework and research on a guy. 

I went on to ask him about the saying behind, just like I asked John Kazanas in one of my earlier conversations, what is the saying behind the saying if you are good they will find you. He said that you had to play better competition and there as to be an easy way to play for a guy. Easiness, having a plan and an approach, good swing and stuff like that. 

I then got into the what are you looking for a part in baseball players. He said it was important to watch a guy practice and do a showcase because he wants to see how a guy works. He is watching how hard you work, so I tell this to my guys all the time if someone was here watching you, would you be putting on your best performance. A lot of kids do not realize the perception they put off, which is why it is important to bring it o their attention. Body language, energy, how they walk, how they talk, all that type of stuff which matters, and kids need to be brought this attention. 

Butch then went on to say that he was never a believer in a player need the size, he wanted them to have strength. This is huge, this is what everyone that works with kids says, you need to have strength. You need to put in the work in the weight room, this is a year-round deal. See a lot of kids and programs will stop lifting during in-season. So essentially you lose a lot of what you gained over the course of the year, you were going to lose quite a bit anyway but you need to maintain. I would say the same thing with putting in extra work, keep putting it in, if anything makes sure you are using your time to reflect on your games, week, and come up with a game plan for next week. This is something we are going to pick up a lot more this year, is evaluate the games through our journal and then sit down at the end of the week and reflect on it. Use this week’s information to come up with a game plan for next week. This way we can stay on top of the emotional component of the game, the mental component, and the physical component. Its easier to lose focus and lose sight on what you are trying to accomplish if you are not able to sit down and reflect. 

I continue to ask about position players, and he said he is looking for easiness, guys that can make routines players with great fluid movements and body control. The guy with strong arms, he like arm strength over the range for the simple fact that id a player has great range but can’t get guys out then it an overused tool. So having the arm strength to make those crazy range plays and getting guys out will be important. All of these things that Butch is talking about can be developed. But as Butch eluted to earlier as well as myself, you got to work at it. We spend a lot of time working on hitting and throwing in my state- as we are considered a cold state, but there has the be time to improve your defensive work. A lot of work can be done with a ball and a wall. Believe me, I got a handful of guys that do not waste time when they train, they are working on their defense when waiting for an offensive turn or whatever. 

Then I got into to asking Butch that how you respond matters, coaches and scouts that are coming to watch a player play, they can see that the shortstop made an error when you are pitching or that the center fielder made an unbelievable slide to take a hit away, they see that. That’s why stats do not tell the whole story. But Butch explained that playing under pressure brings different tangibles to the game, which is a great way of looking at it, I hadn’t heard anyone explain it like that. and he is right – he simply talking about how you respond and making adjustments. stuff like that, so I thought that was great. But he also talks about how they are looking and watch you play time and time again to see if you are consistent with how you are responded. They want to see how you handle failure and adversity. 

I then jump and ask butch, if you have guys that can play a little bit and can swing the bat, but he has no plan and no approach what would be his thoughts as a scout? And I first started off with says that he doesn’t care too much about guys swinging and missing outside of the zone, but he does get worried if a guy swings and miss on strikes or just taking a pitch. If you watch some of the better hitters, especially at a lower level, they do not swing and miss at strikes they swing at. So having the barrel control, the eye brand hand connection, and plate discipline are huge for guys like Butch. Ge stressed plate discipline pretty hard, the guys that can see balls and strike are picking baseball up and are able to quickly make a decision. He even said there are guys that would chase pitches like tori hunter and Vladimir Guerrero but when they did swing at strikes they didn’t miss. So this is a huge thing that we stress to our players is making sure you work on plate discipline and when you do swing the bat at strikes, you can miss it. This comes with reps, plan, and approach. 

The next thing I asked and was my favorite thing to have ask because I have this conversation with kids and parents all of the time. Can you scout confidence: and without any hesitation,n he immediacy said yes. Which is true, he said the players that are good have a swagger about them that is different from other players. It shows in how they interact with coaches, teammates, adults, umpire. As well as saying he can see immediately players how do not have confidence. Confidence is number one in his eye. I also stated that the how-to part of developing confidence is a huge issue in youth ball.

He agreed and said it was a combination of things and I am going to repeat what he said because I love it.  He said it is due to a coach not being able to reach a kid communication-wise, and then the inability to teach and kids are lost. He then said he isn’t big on guys buying on what he is doing but he is big on the coach that knows what he does and player believing in that coach, believing in what the coach is teaching. He then said I think its huge when players can be coached, coaches show them technique, mechanics, and making them better and the kid starts to flourish because the belief in themselves rose quickly. I love it. and I think he is right – players are lost these days, there is so much information out there and the player has to stick with people they trust and with coaches who believe in what they teach and allowing players to become the best version of themselves. Everyone is different which is why it makes developing of players challenging and I love the challenge but its truly a challenge when you take the approach that everyone is different. 

The last thing I want to talk about in my conversation with Butch and again I would encourage you to listen to the conversation because there are so many golden nuggets that can help your players with understanding. But I ask him about what one should do if they wanted to get into scouting. And he said, go to baseball games every day and start writing reports. That is the first thing, you need to experience watching the game and players through a different set of lens. But more importantly, try and find a player. Network with scouts, and attend winter meetings and try setting up a meeting with people who are in charge of hiring people in their organization. So he saying you need to be proactive, just like with anything. 

I have llistenedto my conversation with Butch Baccala 9-10 times before I share with you all and I still get something from it every time i listent to it. Its great. and I encourage you to listen and relisten. Thanks for tuning into my recap show on my conversation with Butch Baccala