Introducing Jack Perconte
The Baseball Page
Introducing Jack Perconte
I’d like to introduce you all to Jack Perconte.
Jack Perconte is a former Major League second baseman who played from 1980-1986. Perconte played for the LA Dodgers, Cleveland Indians, Seattle Mariners, and the Chicago White Sox. Perconte has also written two books - "The Making of a Hitter- A Proven and Practical Step-by-Step Baseball Guide" and "Raising an Athlete- How to Instill Confidence, Build Skills and Inspire a Love of Sport". In addition, Jack is an avid baseball instructor.
Jack is going to start writing for TheBaseballPage.com and I got a chance to interview him about baseball, writing, instructing, and parenting.
Why don't you start by telling us a little about yourself?
I have been very fortunate up to this point in my life to have done the things I am most passionate about – I played major league baseball and even better, have taught baseball for the past 23 years to young, aspiring ball players. In addition, I have written two books so far, and numerous articles, in the hopes of helping many more young ball players, through helping adults be more knowledgeable about the game and working with kids.
I'll jump into your playing career. What's the greatest memory you had in baseball?
So many great memories - at the big league level and on the personal side it would be my 180th hit in 1984. At the time it tied the Seattle Mariner season record and it was off Hall of Famer Tom Seaver, making it even more special. At the big league level and on the team side, it would be the last three games of the 1980 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers when we beat the Astros 3 straight to force a one game playoff; I played some and helped in each game.
Is there a certain play that you will always remember?
I caught the last ball that Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski ever hit in a major league game – I was with Indians, October 2, 1983, last game of year, when he popped the ball up to me at 2nd base.
Is there a particular story that you love telling people?
Just to pick one – when telling kids how to play the game – I came up to bat one night for the Seattle Mariners and we were trailing something like 9-0. I hit a shot towards first base against the Yankees - Don Mattingly dives, snags my shot, and flips to the pitcher for the out. I tell kids that that is an example of how to play - 9 to nothing, zero – zero, it doesn’t matter – play your hardest at all times and then you can accept any outcome with no regrets.
I see you played with guys who who have since managed professionally, Baker, Scioscia, Hargrove, Guillen. Could you tell that they were cut out for managing when you played with them? These guys specifically?
Yes, Yes, absolutely – those guys specifically. They were very good “people” persons, led by example as well as vocally, and it was apparent they had great knowledge of the game. They were all hard workers who came to play every day, remained optimistic no matter what and could think on their feet, which are so crucial over the course of a long season.
Speaking of which, who's the smartest person (in the sense of baseball) you've ever come across?
Tough one there but it would definitely be a catcher because they have to know, or get to know the game, so well. With that in mind I would say my former major league manager, Del Crandall, and current major league manager (Angels), Mike Scioscia. Both were former great, big league catchers, who have a great understanding of people and the game.
It was always very interesting and never a dull moment around those two. Steve once told me as he was hitting close to .300 with the White Sox that he was so excited because he had never hit .300 at any level of ball. I doubt that was true but his point was that he made the big leagues by being a great “Jack of all trades” and not on his offensive production. I remind my students of this story because often they only want to practice their hitting and not all the other facets of the game.
The thing I remember about Ozzie is the same as I see now with him managing - the ability to talk to the fans and umpire one second and focus on the pitch the very next, with no apparent lack of effort or concentration. It has helped me as a coach to realize that just because a player is not staring at me when I talk, they may be still listening.
The other stories are probably unprintable – ha.
You've played with a lot of greats, who's the best that you've ever seen? Who's the best you've ever played with?
George Brett and Eddie Murray were the best I ever saw and Fernando Valenzuela was the best I ever played with. Fernando, as much for the unlikelihood as well as the greatness, and he could hit too, making him even more amazing.
What's it like getting traded? Do you still hold any feelings towards the teams that traded you?
Both times I was traded, I was at the point where I was stuck where I was so it was very exciting and necessary. Both times were during the off-season so there was no real extra hardship with moving. As far as bad feelings - yes and no – yes, because you feel a little bad that a team felt like you did not fit in their plans and that you would be leaving good friends. No – because it was going to a team that apparently wanted you and would be giving you an opportunity. Of course, feelings are hurt the most when a team releases you, which happened a few times, too.
While in the minors, did you ever have doubts?
I am sure I did but because of the everyday nature of the game, it was not something I dwelled on very often. Additionally, as long as I felt I was improving and doing well, the doubts did not come often. The off-season was spent building “The eye of the tiger” mentally and physically, to steel yourself against the doubts, also.
Is there one piece of advice that you might have for someone who is trying to make it in baseball?
Narrowing it down to one is difficult but only hang up the spikes when it is your decision and not because someone else tells you that you are not good enough. If you enjoy playing, keep playing at some level, because you never know and you are only young once. I also tell aspiring players that if all the current major league players quit when someone told them they were not good enough, there would be a whole set of different players in the big leagues.
Was there one piece of advice that someone gave you that stuck with you?
At a difficult time in my career, my manager told me something to the affect – “You were given a bad break, but life is not always fair, but you can’t let that affect who you are and what you can become.”
Would you have done anything in your career differently knowing what you know now?
For sure, I would have learned the fundamentals of what I was doing much better. I often did not know what adjustments to make and because of this lack of knowledge, I often had to work to exhaustion to get good results back. The exhaustion was a detriment to peak performance.
What are you thoughts on today's game? Ways it's different from when you played?
The most obvious is the size of the players and the money involved. Players hit the weight rooms from high school on and work out year round, creating a much more power game with bigger, faster and stronger players. I often wonder if I would have even been given the opportunity in today’s game because of my lack of size and power. Additionally, because of the huge money investment in players, many players, who are not ready, are rushed to the big leagues, causing a lack of execution of the little things and inferior play. I like to believe that the quality of ball may have been better back in the day, although players of today are better athletes than in the past.
How did you get into writing? Has it always been something that you enjoyed?
I always thought I was the least creative person in the world. After I stopped working so hard running my baseball academy, I discovered I had a lot to say, and I felt in a voice that did not already exist in the market place.
What were some difficulties you had while writing these books?
The ideas were in my head so that was easy, but I never realized there were so many ways of saying the same thing. Figuring out which way was best to say things, in an understandable way and a way that made the most sense, is a big challenge.
Both of your books are instruction based, in one way or another, correct? Do you feel that it's a hard type of writing to do? What were some parts of the game that were really hard to communicate in writing?
My first book, “The Making of a Hitter: A Proven and Practical Step-by-Step Baseball Guide” needs to be very detailed and technical at times so it was a challenge to be precise, and yet not boring. Of course, all the photos help that.
My second book “Raising an Athlete; How to Instill Confidence, Build Skills and Develop a Love of Sport” was challenging because I did not want to come across as saying “You should do this or do that” as if there is only one way to parent and as if I was being judgmental of adults when coaching kids. Also, I wanted to get across that there is so much more to positive parenting in sports than just saying “have fun” to kids. My goal was to provide concrete solutions to the issues that parents and coaches encounter in youth sports in a practical, non-clinical voice.
Both of your books touch on confidence. I've heard athletes say that every professional athlete believes that they are the best player on the field, whether it's true or not. They say that you need that mindset to make it, do you find that true? What was your confidence like?
I was very different in that I virtually had no confidence when I played, and especially at the major league level. I touched on this briefly above. Without the knowledge of how to do the fundamentals, even though I apparently did them enough, I often felt out of control, which led to a lack of confidence. (I hope that makes sense to readers.)
So, in my experience, having a lack of confidence did not deter me from making it, but it did deter me from reaching my potential, I believe. However, I did have an optimistic nature in that I believed that ultimately I would succeed. I believe that performance of the correct fundamentals is more important than confidence, although fundamental correctness usually leads to success, which breeds confidence. One can succeed by doing things correctly even if they are not sure they can do it, but success will not come without the correct fundamentals. Having said that, having confidence is definitely the preferred way and as mentioned, an optimistic life view is usually necessary for ultimate success.
I hear that you really enjoy positive teaching for kids, do you have any stories about that?
My book Raising an Athlete is all about how to be a positive parent, coach and role model and is full of uplifting stories. To me there is no alternative way than to be positive. One of my favorite statements attests to that, “Negativity, rarely, if ever, inspires.”
Do you keep track of athletes that you've trained? I mean that in the sense, as if one went to college, do you check in on them from time to time, or check into their numbers?
For sure - I like to think that I was teaching more than just baseball to my students and that they realized that I cared about them beyond the ball diamond.
You're still involved in coaching and instructing now? Where are you doing that? What is the hardest part to teach a young athlete? What about a young baseball player specifically?
I still do some coaching in and around Chicago; mainly the western suburbs of Chicago. I get as much pleasure helping kids improve as I did playing in the major leagues. The hardest part is changing habits that have been ingrained in kids for many years. It is much easier to start new habits than to change old ones. The sooner parents get kids working on the correct fundamentals of sport, the better, for long-range success.
I am trying to do more coaching of baseball parents with their kids because parents are the ones going to their kids games, so the more they know about the fundamentals, the more they can help their kids. Additionally, having parents and coaches teaching the same things make it so much easier on young players, so they are not hearing different ways of doing things, which gets very confusing for kids.
The Little League World Series starts this week, do you think it's a good to put these young athletes on national television?
I have written about this in the past and can see both sides of the issue. The pressure on young kids can be enormous, but most seem to handle it well. I do not believe it is going to ever be taken off TV because of the money it generates, so I prefer to look at the good it does. To me, because all involved, parents, coaches, and players know that they are on TV, it brings out the best in them. Everyone tends to stay positive, encouraging, and respectful (good sportsmanship) because of the TV cameras, and that is what youth sports should be.
Having said that, I am becoming more and more dismayed with the showmanship behavior of some of the teams and players. Of course, this un-sportsmanship behavior can be attributed back to what kids see from the big leaguers, so kids are not all to blame, but their coaches should be putting a stop to it, in my opinion.
If baseball wasn't part of your life, what would you be doing?
Could not imagine that to be honest; I am sure I would probably be teaching kids in some way.
Tell the readers what your writing style is like? What can they expect in your articles on The Baseball Page?
By Mike Lavery
I like to think that I have a unique perspective in that I have been there – played major league baseball; done that – taught youth for 23 years; and seen a lot - having dealt with parents as a coach and with coaches as a parent. I will write on how to teach the game of baseball and what it means to be a positive coach and positive parent when it comes to sports. My style is practical and easy to understand, I believe. My two websites can give people a feel for my writing – www.baseballcoachingtips.net and http://www.jackperconte.com.
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