If you’re interested in playing independent professional baseball (indy ball), there are some classic pitfalls to avoid before you even show up at the tryout. Mistake #1) not contacting the team(s) before you go to their tryout. It’s ultra-important you send a short e-mail to let the tryout “decision-maker” (field manager, director of baseball operations and/or player procurement) know you’ll be attending; if you’re preregistered, you give that person/organization a chance to do some research on you. However, in the process of contacting teams, I see many players make potentially career-crippling mistakes that are easy to avoid:
1) Unprofessional E-mail Address – You need a clean, basic, and professional e-mail address (ex. email@example.com). Personally, I read every e-mail, but for many (including your potential non-baseball employers), sending an e-mail from an address such as “firstname.lastname@example.org” or “email@example.com,” shines a negative light on you and your resume.
2) Unprofessional Writing – Your e-mail is a job application and the way you write is a direct reflection of your makeup and intelligence. Keep it simple, write in complete sentences, and make an honest attempt at correct punctuation. Writing a quick, scribbled e-mail that looks more like a text message makes you look like you don’t care.
3) Impersonal/Mass E-mail – Make your e-mail personal – mention the contact person by name, mention the name of the team, and make it look like you did a little research. If you choose to send an e-mail to multiple teams at once (not advised), be sure to use BCC (Blind Carbon Copy). Sending a mass e-mail to 50+ indy clubs is a big turn off.
4) Resume – Do not attach a resume – it probably won’t get opened. If you want to include a bit of your background, make it as brief as possible. Include the basic info such as height, weight, hit/throw, 60 yard dash time, and a couple of key stats from the highest level of baseball you’ve played (not required – your stats will be verified before the tryout anyway). If you make it too long, it won’t be read, and never include high school stats, awards, or references. The only references you should include should be from pro scouts. College coaches are bad references because of their emotional attachment to ex-players.
5) Statistical Honesty -DO NOT LIE ABOUT YOUR STATS. It takes me less than ten seconds to verify all your information. Lying about your stats is an extremely poor reflection on your character and a mistake that is very difficult to overcome.
6) Injury Information – If you missed time with an injury, just say: “I missed most of my senior year due to injury.” Do not say, “I missed most of my senior year due to a major hamstring tear.” If you get a pro contract, you’ll need to pass a physical anyway, and offering too much injury information can taint how you’re perceived at a tryout before you even show up. It also makes it look like you’re making excuses for yourself, which is never good.
7) Phone Calls – Do not pester pro teams will phone calls, you’re not going to talk your way onto a professional roster. If you have questions about upcoming tryouts, e-mail is the best avenue. Repetitive phone calls do not make you look persistent, they make you look like you’re difficult.
8) Being Argumentative, Rude, or Forceful – If someone from an indy club takes the time to respond to one of your e-mails and you want to follow-up, be polite and respectful. Unless you have significant pro experience, the vast majority of indy clubs will not sign you sight unseen. Every year I get return e-mails from players without pro experience who expect to be signed on the spot and are upset that I suggested they attend one of my tryouts (see below).
9) Poor Self-Evaluation – Be honest and realistic about your ability. Look yourself in the mirror – people who work in pro baseball are good at their jobs, they find talent, and if they’re not banging down your door, you are a tryout player. If you’re contacting pro teams and they’re not contacting you, do not be insulted when they ask you to go to a tryout.
10) Mom/Dad – Never (ever ever ever ever) allow your parents to contact professional baseball teams on your behalf. In fact, don’t let mom and dad contact McDonald‘s on your behalf. Having been through “difficult parent” scenarios on almost a yearly basis, there is nothing that raises a bigger red flag than a parent contacting me on behalf of their son. It brings up the following assumptions: the parent is going to be demanding and the player is going to be soft (among other things).
Conclusion – If you’ve managed to set up your tryouts, contact the teams involved, and avoid the missteps mentioned above, make sure to check out Part 2, where I’ll lay out the biggest mistakes players make at the tryouts themselves.