A letter to the 18 year old Matt Talarico
Written by Matt Talarico (33)
LETTER TO THE 18 YEAR OLD Matt Talarico
Dear Matt (from 15 years ago),
You are getting ready to go to your first fall season in college baseball. base stealing There is a lot of excitement and a little fear of not knowing exactly what to expect. This is great and completely normal. It will be the most fun you have had in your entire life. You will meet your best friends, form great memories, win a ton of baseball games, and find your passion in life. This passion will lead you to coach amazing players, work for great people, and eventually take a job that allows you to meet your beautiful wife. This will all come from the next four years. Congratulations!
I do need to tell you something about college baseball though, you will not be ready.
You think you are better than you are. It would really be beneficial to shut up and learn to work at a much different level than you are used to. This means becoming borderline obsessive. This means learning to practice what truly needs improved. Your entire life you have just relied on living in a batting cage vs. actually going and fixing the other areas of your game. You have a football mentality and need to understand the weight room and determination will help, but it won’t fix everything you need fixed.
Listen, everyone in college can hit. Everyone wants to play and is good enough to play. You need to be a high-level defender, and this is going to take reps. You need to learn to run the bases. You need to learn to think the game. You are behind and will lean toward complaining instead of taking the time to get caught up. In fact, it will take you an entire year to realize that it is you who needs to change.
This change isn’t easy. It will save you time and grief if you take this advice and come in with a beginner’s mentality. But you won’t. You are too stubborn and will need to fail over and over again before you realize the truth. One day you will look back and say “I’m just going to shut up and develop a plan.” This plan will be real. It will teach you life lessons. It will teach you true goal setting. But you won’t do it now. Instead you will try to fall on your high school accolades – which won’t get you very far anymore. Nobody cares. They don’t care about high school, summer ball, or the recruiting process. The culture at college is simple, the best guys will play… that isn’t you yet.
You will come in unprepared and overwhelmed. There will be a lot of positive things happening that will mask the negative that will need Positive thoughts to help steal basesimproved. You are going to meet new people, live in a new environment, and will be completely responsible for yourself. This is fun and exciting. But you also are responsible to live up to your end of the bargain. You are here to be a student-athlete. That means you have to get good grades and nobody cares if you struggle anymore academically. They will just get someone else. You have to get your school and baseball work in because nobody owes you anything on the field or in the classroom. The deal was you would do BOTH.
Please take my advice.
First, from a baseball standpoint…
1. Build comfort.
What I mean by that is you want to eliminate things that make you uncomfortable. These insecurities will get in your way of actually performing. If you can never slow down practice, the amount of repetitions will weigh you down. Being unprepared allows room for self-doubt. You cannot afford to be anything but extremely confident in an environment like college athletics. Confidence is EARNED through preparation. Get prepared – starting now!
Here’s an example:
You need to come into college in the best running shape of your life. This means running sprints and distance. This means working in the weight room. This means eating healthier and sleeping more. Don’t wait until 3 weeks before you go to campus. The best time to start was May; if you didn’t in May then the second best time is right now.
When you run you have to mix sprint days and distance days. You will realize this in your second year, after you have already given a first impression. You will make it your goal to never lose a sprint again. The only way to do this is to run on your own and actually run sprints that are tough to recover from. Take my word for it and give the best first impression possible. Get in shape!
This is very different than relying on speed. It isn’t about you being fast. From a coaches standpoint there is nothing that says “I don’t care about the program” or “I am unprepared” like seeing a guy who cannot keep up with the team. In fact, there is nothing that stands out more than a guy who is great shape and winning meaningless running sessions. It will say “I am ready” or “I took my off-season serious.” It also shows you are mentally tough.
Controlling things that are controllable (like getting in shape) will help you deal with things that are out of your control. Conditioning will go from a concern that adds stress to eventually become one less thing to worry about. Allow everyone else to worry about conditioning.
2. Take ground balls.
I mean take a billion ground balls. Don’t worry about the surface you are fielding on, in fact I would recommend a rough surface. The backyard, parking lot, or a field all work. Keep track of the balls you boot and try to make this number less the next time. This needs to be a daily part of your routine. No excuses. You fielded the ball clean or you didn’t.
In about 10 months you will realize this and buy your dad a fungo. You will field ground balls every day in the rough back yard and begin to stop making excuses for yourself. I wish you would just take my word for it right now!
3. Learn to bunt.
There is nothing that is more frustrating than a player slowing down practice because he cannot bunt. Study pro players. Get into those positions and look like you know what you are doing. This is easy. This is something you can control. Look good bunting because every team has to practice this. You know it is going to happen so be prepared.
Listen, you do some things very well but those things will be masked by the “minor” things you have neglected. Mastering these “minor” things will allow you to show off the things you do well. They will allow you freedom to play. Until you do this, it will always feel like you can’t get anything right.
4. Don’t talk.
Nobody cares about what you tell them. It is all about what you can show them. What can you do right now? You telling everyone what you have done in the past is just annoying and frustrating. The faster you close your yearbook the better. Just focus on improvement and what you can do to help your new team win.
Don’t tell anyone what the lineup should be or where you should be playing. Just work. That stuff will work out fine without your opinions. There is literally nothing you can say that will help your situation but there is plenty that will hurt it.
You will be given plenty of opportunities to join in with other players feeling sorry for themselves. You need to pass on these opportunities. There will be times you are frustrated but venting to other unhappy players will get you nowhere. It is simple, just be better. Just work until you are one of the best on the team without any doubt. Your friends want you to be happy and will listen to you but this avenue is doing nothing but prolonging the reality of the situation.
5. Your coaches will help you.
They are not personally mad at you when they have suggestions. No matter how they relay the message, they are trying to help you fix issues that are keeping you from reaching your full potential. Don’t take it personal. If they didn’t care they would ignore you. As a coach, I’ve never recruited anyone hoping to not play them.
It is crucial that you understand how many players I’ve coached who show up to school and cannot play the way they are capable. You will fall into this category. Yes, you will figure it out eventually but this can save you a lot of time. I have coached so many players that are getting in their own way. They play with this storm cloud that follows them 24/7.
This cloud is formed from anxiety that could have been avoided. The only way to make this cloud disappear is ownership. Take ownership in everything about your development. This includes being honest with yourself after making a mistake or with areas of your game that need improvement. Make investments every single day to build skill which will ultimately build confidence. Passing blame is one of the biggest mistakes you will make, once you learn to overcome this obstacle you will grow at an incredible rate.
From a classroom standpoint…
1. Schedule classes appropriately.
It will be very tempting to schedule classes allowing you to sleep in. This is a trap. The later you start the more you push your routine close together. This means rushing from class to practice and skipping early work (where you will do the majority of your improving). Your days of sleeping in are numbered. You might as well lose that attachment now.
2. Go to class.
This is the most important thing. Once you miss one single class it will be easy to do it again. This is the biggest factor in getting good grades in college. Go to class.
Once you are in class, then be sure to know all important dates. Write them down. Know when everything is due. Knowing when you have to do each assignment allows you to plan ahead. It is amazing how much you get done when you are actually aware of when it is due.
3. Get to know each professor.
Your professors are people. They are real human beings with feelings and emotions, even if it seems this isn’t the case at times. Go out of your way to smile, be friendly, get to know them, and show them you care about whatever it is they are teaching.
Each professor is teaching their subject because at some point they chose to be interested in the topic. If you were teaching, you wouldn’t want someone who was just trying to get by. Let me ask you a question, if you were the professor wouldn’t you show favoritism to those who seem interested? Of course you would! So get to know them and let them know you care about learning and doing well in their class. This will go a long way if you ever need a break. As a student-athlete you need breaks. You will have to miss class due to baseball and it is nice to have a professor who wants to work with you on that.
How do you get to know them?
Sit in the front.
Sit there every single day.
Say “hi” when you walk in.
Don’t look like you just got out of bed.
Get your work done on time.
Come up with good questions about their lecture or your work.
4. Make good study habits.
When you get to campus there will be a lot of temptations. You will get to your dorm room, meet a new roommate who is also a baseball player, and move to a floor with your best friends. It will be hard to sleep at night. It is so fun it will feel like you just cannot miss anything. This happens every single night.
You have to balance your new friendships with your classwork. Some people don’t need to study. You do. Get comfortable in the library. There are rooms designated in the basement where everyone will leave you alone. If you make habits of studying every night then you won’t have to stress the night before.
This will also open more TRUE free time. College will offer FAKE free time. For the first time in your life you won’t be going to class from 8:30-3:00 with no break. You will have class at 8:00-8:50 then be off until 11:00. This seems like a break but it isn’t. This is all time for your work. If it isn’t class then it is the weight room, if not the weight room then time in the cage, if not time in the cage then extra ground balls. TRUE free time comes to those who are caught up. One of the biggest traps in college you will face is FAKE free time. This will result in constant stress which will get in the way of baseball.
5. Have an open mind.
You will be amazed with the amount of freedom organization will give you. Use these opportunities to LEARN MORE. You are at a time in your life where you will have NOTHING to do but baseball and class. When you are going through it you won’t realize how easy this is. It is easy. Stay organized it will allow you the freedom to get a full college experience.
The door will be open to new topics and different personalities. Don’t assume anything about anyone. Learn about them. When you become a coach you are going to coach ALL walks of life. Use your college experience to truly get to know people. This will help you relate to everyone and make you a better person.
6. Invest in your education.
Find out what you love and dive into it. When I was in your position, I wish I knew I was going to be a baseball coach. I would have catered everything to learning about strategy, leadership, motivation, etc.
When it comes to school you will get out of it what you put into it. You will be lost when it comes to choosing a career. It is fine. You will figure it out. Understand that the habits forged in the next four years will help any profession. Put great effort into any class you take. You may not take the specifics from that class but you WILL take the habits created to perform well.
You are going to choose to be a history major. Yes, you read that right. You are going to fall in love with studying the history of everything. You will then graduate and get a job in baseball. In baseball you will use your ability to research and be open-minded literally every day. You will use your ability to communicate every day. This irrelevant degree will help form you forever.
So there is the secret. If you follow this letter college will be a breeze. You will be successful from day 1. But I know you. I know you have to learn from experience. I know you probably haven’t even read this far down. In a weird way that stubbornness will help you in life. In a way this will allow you more important experiences.
These experiences allow you to find out what it feels like to be desperate. To find out what it feels like to be embarrassed and hurt. I know what those feelings are and I know that hard work can get you out. What an amazing lesson. So the more I write the more I realize it isn’t about the failing you are about to go through but about the learning experiences. So try to follow this letter, but when you do screw up, learn from it. Don’t be the best at anything except adaptability.
As long as you embrace learning this experience will only be positive. Every experience is molding you. Without these trials how will you know what you are really made of? This is truth. Every person is faced with this at some point. You find out what you are really made of then get the choice to change or quit.
These next four years will go so quick you won’t believe. Before you know it you will be 33 and wonder what happened. Enjoy every single minute and learn, that is what this next journey is about. Not being perfect but trying your absolute best to get close. It is about the ability to redirect back to the path quickly. So good luck. When times are tough get this out and remember it will be fine, even failing will help you. Just get back on track!
PS. Grow your hair out now. In real life you can’t pull that off in most interviews!
Matt (from 15 years in the future)
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Written by: Matt Talarico (33)
From: United States