Recapping the Matt Walbeck Conversation
Welcome to The Baseball Awakening Podcast where we dive into the raw, unfiltered, unsexy side of player development.
On this episode, Host, Geoff Rottmayer, recaps his conversation with Matt Walbeck of Walbeck Baseball Academy. The biggest takeaways that he discussed in this show are:
- Matt is as grateful as he is for getting an opportunity to play professional baseball.
- The wisdom and brilliant approach his dad took to developing Matt and getting him ready to play.
- The process his dad took to help him with hitting.
- The lesson he learned about thinking it was good enough and how slacking off hurt him.
- How there is no plan B.
- The process he took to get stronger and why he felt he needed to.
- Visualization and mirror work he did in his bedroom on his own time.
- Confidence and his whole take on it and the best players in the world.
- Dealing with coaches who want to change your swing.
- The advice he had for guys who want to play.
- and more.
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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 Matt Walbeck – 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 Matt 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 firstname.lastname@example.org, so some your thoughts, comment, or feedback.
Matt is a great guy and one thing I got from him in this conversation was he was truly grateful for the opportunity to play professional baseball. There is a lot of nuggets in this conversation.
Matt started off telling us about his youth days and the advise and stuff his dad gave him and its brilliant stuff. I love how as soon as Matt told his dad he wanted to play professional baseball, he encourages it but also made him realize he would have to work hard for it. He also took the approach of making sure he was ready to play before he started letting him play, which mean that practice. That is an interesting approach and one that I like. If I end up getting a son and he wants to play baseball – I might lead toward that approach. Have the basis fundamental down before you get out there. To understand how to catch a ball, understand how to hold the bat and swing it, understand how to throw a ball from point a to point b. Whether it was perfect or not – at least he got him ready.
I also love how his dad would set the tee up and instruct him to hit a target or hit it over him and stuff like that, and that was how he taught him how to hit. They would have ghost runners so that was already building up the visualization process. There was no mechanical talk at a young age. I believe when you are younger you want to encourage kids to hit the ball hard but do not get wrapped up with mechanics – take this approach.
They also took this approach and just practice until he was ready for kid pitch. Man, his dad may or may not have realized what he was doing but I think he got it right – I love it. As I said earlier, I get a son and he says he wants to play – I am taking this approach at a young age.
Later on during during this first part of the conversation he talked about how he was playing behind a guy who happens to have brought attention to him and was able to get their attention by hustling, being on time, making routine plays, be a good teammates and stuff like that and while they saw that they saw that he was a good catcher and could hit a bit. This is huge because these are the things that grab attention and kids don’t realize how big of a deal this is. Do the things, little things that show you know how to play the game and respect the game, respect your teammates and coaches and you will get their attention enough to get them to look deeper into your skills.
Later he went on and shared how he had a pretty successful first year and walked away thinking the game was somewhat easy and then came back around on him. He didn’t work as hard that off-season and it showed. I loved that he shared that with us. When you do not put in the work and do think you are bigger than the game then the game is going to have a way to humble you and that’s what happens with Matt. So this shifted his mindset in that if he didn’t work hard and prepare that he wouldn’t be playing anymore. So think its great that he shared that with us because kids that are listening, that may have signed to go to college tend to think well I got a place to play I have worked so hard up to this point, I can just take an easy my senior year. So Matt shared his experience with that and I am there are countless guys that can share the same experience that Matt had.
Later Matt shared that he has an injury and during that rehab time, he taught himself to switch hit. Haha, that’s crazy – and it’s crazy that the cubs were very supported of it. They preach then how much baseball is mental, not physical. They told him they did not care about the results to just go out there and do the best he could. And at the end of the season, they would assess and see if it was worth continuing to pursue. That instills so much confident him Matt – this is what we as coach of young players need to do – we need to encourage kids to do what they want to do and we need to build them up so much that they feel confident enough to go out there regardless of the what the results show. Just focus on the process Minor League baseball is about development but so is youth baseball.
Later on I asked him how we came to realize that he needs to lift and get stronger, and I ask this question because there are so many kids out there that work really hard at their swing and the fundamentals but lack strength and it sounded like for Matt, it was that awareness and understand what he was going to need to do to play the game at higher levels. I interview a scout Butch Baccala and he said he didn’t care about a guys size, he was more concerned about strength. So, strength is a big deal and young players need to fall in love with the weight room. It’s better that you have a program and get with someone who knows what they are doing but just get started. Something is better than nothing. There are credible and reliable guys on the internet – you have to be careful who you listen to but if you want my input – send me an email at email@example.com and I can give you my input base on guys that I have a relationship with and understand what they teach and do it for the right reason. But the sum this part up – get in the weight room and throw around crazy weight and get strong. The earlier you get this awareness the better but get to the point where you have awareness is better late than never.
Later on, Matt talks about visualizing and working in front of the mirror. This is a coach dream to have a player who is so dedicated that they would spend 20 minutes a night in front of the mirror just working on his stride and the only reason he only worked on his stride was that his room was smaller. I have no doubt he would have swung the bat in it entirety if he had room. He would visualize himself in the big moment, in the big league stadiums and more important as Matt said it was constant. It was an obsession. Personal I remember doing that but I wasn’t as constant as I could have been. I am more obsessed as a coach then I was a player. I wasn’t a bad player and if I would have figured out a few things no tell but enough about me. There is tremendous value in visualizing, in picturing, in positive imagery. This is some gimmick – visualization is important same with self-talk. Self-talk is tremendously important but we can talk about that another time. But I love that Matt shared this with us. This interview is full of nuggets man – if you haven’t listened you need to.
So then we started talking about how he had no backup plan. Backup plans can distract you from the process, especially when it gets hard. So I think he took the right approach in not having a backup plan but as long is it fun for him. There come a time when the game is as fun or the game is done with you. And when that day comes when you have to tip your hat and try and give back to the game. I do this full time and I spend all day learning and talking to baseball people, which is part of why I started the podcast, I wanted to record some of this great conversation and share it. But having no backup plan kept Matt focus and as he said – he had that career-threatening knee injury – there was no plan b so what did he do – he learned to switch-hit haha that crazy and awesome. I tell guys all the time, know what you want to do and stick to it – there are going to be tough days and if you can’t make it through that then it’s not going to work. I had accepted that there is no plan b – and I love what I do. I develop baseball players, and learn baseball, and talk to baseball people. I started my academy and survived a fire and 2 different floods. Not sure how but I did. But if you have a desire – then it will work out but you have to stick to it.
I then went on to ask about confidence – Matt’s answer was great. Confidence is practicing a lot and getting good at something, then go play and come back and work on what you need to work on – practice and then play and before you know it you are all of the sudden better. I tell guys this all the time – put in the work, get better prepared, have faith and trust what you worked on and get out of your own way mentally and you will have confidence. Continue to self talk the crap out of yourself. It works – if you tell yourself you are tired, well you are tired. If you tell your self you are in a slump, well you are in a slump. You can change the course of your day but changing your thought by telling yourself what you need to hear and not listen to the voices in your head. But back to confidence. Confidence is a choice, work hard, practice, prepare, self-talk and believe in yourself and your work and you will be surprised.
Next part we got into that I love, was I ask Matt about whether there were attempts to change his swing. And he said as a coach you have to be careful because of an if a kid losses the feel for whatever you are trying to do he will lose a lot of confidence. And when you lose confidence as a player man everything goes against you. That’s why he said the best players in the world have a way in making themselves feel like they are ht best in the world regardless of what’s going on and that huge. I see this all the time, and kid spend all offseason working on his swing or throwing motion only to have his coach without seeing the results in games tell a kid that isn’t going to play and now the kid loses confidence and things are worst, but if you let him play with what he had been working on all off-season and give it time the results will likely show up. But at least give a kid time to do so. But Matt said at the end of the day, its best to just go back to the approach of keep everything simple – just see it and hit it. and know thyself.
Lastly what I want to talk about – when I ask Matt about advice he has for someone who thinks they want to play professional baseball – you got to work hard, you got to focus on the things you can control. Find something you are good at in the game and get really good at it. Spend the time know thyself and know what kind of a player you are. Hang around people who you aspire to be like and learn from them, work as hard if not harder than them. Study the game, read books. All of this is brilliant. Man, I can’t say enough, if you haven’t listened to this conversation you need to. Matt shares a lot a lot of thing with us. And this is guy who spent a lot of time in the big leagues. So I talk Matt for sharing all that he did, he killed it. So thank for listening and will catch you next time.