The Atlanta Braves just promoted their top prospect by the name of Ronald Acuna Jr to the parent team at the ripe old age of twenty years old. He proceeded to get his first hit and his first home in his last two games against the Cincinnati Reds. He also has two RBI’s to go along with a .444 batting average.
We’ve seen this happen over the years with the likes of Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Xander Bogaerts, Aaron Judge, Manny Machado, Ohtani, Mookie Betts, and many more. It’s not only position players but young pitchers who have high velocity fastballs and cutters that tie up even the best hitters. The Chicago White Sox have more young players than any other team in baseball and while they’re struggling to win games many of their youngsters are able to perform at a high level. It’s been truly amazing and it’s great for the future of the game.
The question I have is how did they develop these talents at such a young age? We know that the Dominican athletes join a major league sponsored academy in their country at a very young age. Some at the age of five years old. There’s plenty of instruction from former major leaguers and they play in a lot of games. That helps them to learn all types of game situations. However, it’s the offensive side of the game that usually gets them the opportunity to play in the big leagues.
American, Japanese, and Korean kids usually play little league ball and then progress through leagues similar to our Babe Ruth and Ripken organizations. After that on to high school and possibly college baseball. If they have knowledgeable coaches they can progress to a higher level. The advantage is for kids in states like California, Florida, and Texas where they can play all year around.
Make no mistake, the development years for an athlete are from the ages of eight through seventeen. There are late bloomers but not many. Their high school junior and senior years are when scouts and college coaches are looking to sign players for their teams or organizations.
Kids who play more than one sport have an advantage. They develop more than just baseball muscles. They develop the athletic body. They build all the muscles that help with agility and lateral movement. Hand-eye coordination comes with repetition.
If kids love to play a particular sport they won’t get burned out. That’s a myth that many parents think is a no-brainer. Starting young is important to the development of the whole athlete. It’s when they start learning all aspects of the game. Get professional instruction if possible and work hard everyday. After all every sport needs talented players. There’s lots of opportunity out there and take it from me it’s all worth the effort.