Talent, Work Ethic and Baseball

What type of player are you?

Baseball is a game of skill. But how players develop those talents can differ dramatically. Talent alone will only carry a person so far. It takes more for an athlete to reach their potential. 

There are those born with talents or aptitudes. They can quickly learn and impliment specific tasks more quickly and easily than the average person. That talent may fall on a wide scale.

Those that aren't naturally gifted can often still learn these skills and tasks through repetitive practice, instruction and determination.  The road for them may be more difficult, but they can usually achieve a level of competency similar to those that grasp it easily.

Still others may desire to develop a skill, but no matter what they do, they usually fall short of their goals. It may be a physical impediment or mental block holding them back. It might be lacking direction or just an inability to grasp a concept. Occasionally, under the right circumstances, these folks can breakthrough their struggles to achieve the skills they crave. 

You can find these types in most arenas of interest. Baseball is no different. For purposes of this article, let's call them the Naturals, Bloomers and Wild Cards.

In early stages of baseball, all three of these types of players coexist. Fairly early on, it's usually easy to spot the Naturals. Throwing and hitting are fairly skilled activities and those with good body control, hand-eye coordination and game conceptualization will often pick one or both of these skills up fairly quickly. 

The other 2 types of players are hard to discern at this level. Because the elements of the game don't come as easily for them, their learning curve is longer. Over time they become more distinguished as they move along through the different levels of youth baseball. 

Leveling up

In Little League and similar youth leagues, competitive fairness is a goal. So most of these organizations will hold tryouts and a "draft". In the draft, coaches pick their teams based on the skills and other factors they see in kids at tryouts. Typically, the more talented athletes are picked early by the various teams, with the other types rounding out the coachs' selections. 

These youth leagues encourage everyone to participate. They include playing time rules so that each player has a chance to get on the field and bat. Ideally, the youth leagues are a place for kids to develop skills and learn an appreciation for the game. 

At this level, the Naturals tend to have a lot of success. They will typically get the most playing time at the higher skill positions like shortstop and pitcher. The Bloomers will start showing varying levels of development. Their effort will be a big factor at how quickly they build their skills. The Wild Cards will be given fewer chances but still have opportunities.

Practice at this level is usually 1-2 times a week before the season starts. Once the season is in full swing, practices may be fewer. How much a player does to get better when away from the team environment will have an impact on their progress. 

As these players pass on through the different divisions of the league, a skill gap  between the Bloomers and the Wild Cards can develop. During this period, there's a lot of kids that drop out of the game because of frustration. Those frustrations can be from low playing time, lack of attention from coaches or low esteem of their play. Some just find they don't like baseball.

The effort and work kids put in at the youth level will have a big impact on their skill level. Having the right coaches and support around them can make a big difference as well.. Under the right conditions, any of the types of players can be successful. The path for success is different for each though.

At the youth level, the game is about learning and having fun. Kids discover their feelings about baseball and whether it's an activity they want to put their effort into. With so many other things going on for them, like school, friends, family and additional activities, baseball might just be a passing interest. But for some, it takes on more importance. This organic separation will start to thin the field of players as they go through the different age/experience divisions in the sport.

As they grow and move on, youth players opportunities will change as well. Most high school and competitive travel ball teams require try outs in order to be selected. And these teams have a finite amount of players they can take on. Not everyone will be able to play. A high number of Naturals and Bloomers will usually make the team. Few Wild Cards will, but some can if coaches see the right attitudes and possibilities from this group. 

At this level, much of the game changes. The speed of the game and competition is typically higher than they experienced in youth baseball. The amount of work put in and dedication to improve is expected to rise to meet the challenge. Players can't rely on their talent alone. Development both through team practice and independent workout is a must. 

The coaches are going to look at current talent and skill sets. But there are other personal attributes they are looking for as well. 


How willing is a player to receive criticism and suggestion? How willing are they to make the changes coaches request of them? Do they have the capacity to integrate the necessary changes? Do they do everything the coach asks of them?

⚾️Work ethic

Does the player put in maximum effort? Do they put in work on their own time to improve? Do they seek out every available chance to become better?


Does the player have a positive demeanor? Are they a good teammate? How do they react to failure? 

Coaches want players with the skills needed to help the team compete. In try outs, they are going to be looking for the best players available. But they also will be gauging personal attributes in players. Every high school coach I've ever talked to has said that coachability, work ethic and attitude are as important to them as talent. And there are reasons for that. 

At this point it's the intangible qualities that will allow the players to further grow to their potential. And it's those that embrace them that are most likely to succeed. 

As high school careers go on, scouts for both college and professional levels start taking notice. They will be watching some performances in person at games or showcases, or watching them on video, obtained or provided. They are looking for talent that can be built upon for their programs. But they will also be inquiring with coaches about the players personalities and schools about how the athletes work off the field, too. At this point, natural talent won't get you any further on its own. A willingness to hone it is necessary.

If a player earns an opportunity to join a college or low level minor league team, the dynamic changes. If they are selected to this level, chances are they were one of the best players on their high school team. Once they are in college or pro ball, each of their teammates comes from a similar circumstance. The pressure to improve and standout is even greater. 

A player that started every game at shortstop in high school might be sitting behind an upperclassman during their freshman year in college. They may be going through a positional change also. The coach may see them as a second baseman or outfielder instead of a shortstop. The player has to have flexibility at this level. They aren't just competing for playing time. They are constantly competing for a place on the team. 

It's at this point that work ethic and growth is absolutely essential. Their coaches already knows they have skill. And the coaching staff sees the potential for those skills to improve or the athlete wouldn't be there. A player must constantly strive to meet or exceed these expectations to remain with the team and create opportunities to move up. 

Spots on these teams are relatively scarce, and each year, there are more players coming up, trying to take one. Coaches will have some patience if they see the right attributes from the athletes, but there will be a short leash. Growth is a must.

Reaching the top

Getting to "The Show", Major League Baseball, is the ultimate achievement for most baseball players. To get there, a player has to have talent, natural or honed, worked exceptionally hard, developed as their coaches have instructed and bring value to their team. They have to have taken all opportunities that presented themselves to get here.

They've succeeded through the various levels of the sport and proven they have what it takes to reach this stage.  But even once they've made it to a major league roster, it's still an uphill battle. 

More than ever, there are players below them in the organization gunning for that roster spot, doing everything they can to take it. The player has to constantly work to maintain and improve their value to the team. The percentage of players that make it to the senior circuit is low. Those that can find success and stay at that level of competition are the elite players in the baseball world.

Most people that play baseball will never reach this level. 2.6 million kids played Little League in 2021. There are 1200 players on the 40 man rosters of the 30 MLB teams when they are full. To get there requires skill, work, coachability, the right attitude as well as seizing opportunities that come. Its an extremely high bar to reach. Few reach it. 

Adult League

There is another place for players to go after they are through pursuing the big league dreams. And that is joining an amateur adult league. Across the country and spreading in cities around the globe, there are opportunities to continue playing baseball. 

These leagues differ from each other based on association, location and participation. There are leagues affiliated with national organizations like MSBL, NABA and Roy Hobbs. Some are offered by city recreation departments. And others are offered by independent organizations. 

Along with local leagues, there are tournaments where teams can go to play teams from other parts of the country or region. 

In adult play, there is a huge variation of talent. Ex- major and minor leaguers, ex-college and high school players and ex Little leaguers. There's even folks that never played an organized game before joining a team. 

The leagues each vary their rules for how to get on a team. Some require tryouts and drafts. Some allow the teams to recruit and build their own squad. Others will place players based on the needs of teams. In some places, you may have to be put on a free agent or waiting list. But the opportunities are there for those that want to play. 

And the dynamics are different from the levels from youth to MLB. A player whose highest level of competition was Little League may face an MLB level pitcher.  One team might be built of all power hitters and face a team that thrives on scrappy small ball. Some leagues offer different age divisions or divisions with different restrictions based on players' history. The better organizations do what is possible to make the games competitive, such as determining which division former pros can play in. Many of these games are very exciting to watch. 

Levels of work ethic are different as well. Because these are amateur leagues, most participants have their daily lives to take care of. Baseball is a luxury, an escape. But it is still a team sport. Teammates must rely on each other to bring their best to the the field. 

Some teams get together for regular practices. Most rely on their players to work on the game in their own time. Teams want to be competitive. At the same time they want to have fun. 

While there is a variety of talents throughout adult baseball leagues, there is still a drive for competition in the hearts of the players. They each play for the love of the game. No matter what type of player they started out as, they still suit up and take the field. And that is a win. 

The take away

Conceptually, baseball is a simple game. In reality, it's difficult to excel at the different skills required to be a well rounded player. Having athletic talent can give you a step up on others. But in the end, what you do with that talent will be the determining factor of your success. 

Baseball is a team sport. Still, it relies on individual players to each work on their skills. How you practice not only helps your play, but can inspire your teammates to improve themselves as well. You and your teammates rely on each other. Having the right attitude on the field, dugout and in practice sets the bar for others in the same uniform. If you do it right, people will notice.

Work hard. Listen to your coaches. Get better for yourself and your team. If you are still playing, chances are you love the game. Give it the effort it deserves. And enjoy every bit of it. 


Play ball

Leave a comment to tell us what level of baseball you reached and if you still play. 

If you enjoyed this article, follow The Middle Age Amatuer Ball Player blog. 



Popular Posts