So you want to give professional baseball a shot? An MLB tryout might be a good place to start. But before you show up, it will greatly benefit you to learn exactly what you can expect to encounter on MLB tryout day.
MLB tryouts are usually slated to start at 9:00 AM, but hopefuls are asked to show up a half hour early. When you get to the park, the first order of business is completing a registration card. You’ll find a number on this card, based on your position; for example, pitchers might be numbered 101, 102, 103, etc. That number is how you will be addressed and identified for the rest of the day.
You’ll be asked to tryout at only one position, even if you typically pitch as well as play the field. However, the scouts may allow you a shot on the mound later on if you display the potential to generate some big league gas when showing off your arm in the field. Once everyone is registered, it’s time for position players to show the scouts their wheels. The MLB tryout begins!
A baseball player’s speed is measured via the 60 yard dash. This is run on a makeshift track marked off in the outfield with cones. Two scouts man the finish line with stopwatches and clipboards, as two players are called to the line to run. Each heat typically starts with a drop of the hat. If a guy puts up a great time, he may be asked to run again to prove that the time was legit.
The importance of the 60 at an MLB tryout cannot be understated. The time a player puts up at the beginning of the workout may dictate whether or not he’s even taken seriously for the remainder of the day. That’s a bit of a downer, I know, but it’s the reality. In the eyes of scouts, other skills can be taught if the potential is there; speed is something you’re born with. If an outfielder or middle infielder doesn’t run 7.0 seconds or better, he’ll have to hit/throw extremely well to receive any type of consideration from a scout at an MLB tryout.
After all players have run, everyone is given time to loosen up their arms before showing them off in the field. In most cases, outfielder line up in right field in between a pair of cones. A scout hits easy fungoes, as each player unleashes a few throws to both third and home. They aim for a cut-off man, who lets each throw go so the scouts can gauge trajectory and life off the turf. They look for the ball to stay straight, on an even plane, and take one lively bounce before reaching the target.
Middle infielders and third basemen then field a few ground balls in the hole at deep shortstop. Scouts watch closely as each player uncorks a few throws over to first, looking for the same characteristics (minus the bounce) as those from the outfielders. While scouts will look at fielding ability, body control, footwork and hands, the throwing arm is what is primarily evaluated here. First basemen get to throw a few across the diamond at an MLB tryout as well, but arm strength means little to scouts at this position. First basemen are called on to carry a big stick first and foremost. But if one of these guys shows a big arm, he may project at another position.
Catchers then get their turn in the spotlight. For catchers, an MLB tryout is all about “pop time.” A scout clicks his stopwatch as a catcher receives a pitch, then-as the catcher simulates a steal situation to second-stops it when the ball reaches the target’s glove at second. The goal here is 2.0 seconds or better.
After the arms have been evaluated in the field at an MLB tryout, a cut is usually made. The scouts get together and decide which players they will keep for the next phase of the tryout. For those that don’t hear their numbers called at this point, the workout is over.
Those that are invited to stay get the chance to field their positions, as the scouts more closely evaluate defensive skills. Batting practice typically follows, so the scouts can analyze the mechanics of each player’s swing, along with each athlete’s power potential. From there, the roster is slashed once again to include only those that will stay to hit live pitching.
So now you know what you’re in for as a position player at an MLB tryout. If you’re a ballplayer that hopes to break into the pros, there are many avenues you can pursue to try to make this happen. There’s a whole lot of WORLDWIDE opportunity available today, both inside and outside the umbrella of Major League Baseball. That said, a solid showing at an MLB tryout could get you on the radar, and put you on the road towards a pro career. Knowing what you’re in for on tryout day is the first step towards living the dream.