Major league tryouts are typically scheduled for 9:00 AM, but players are requested to get there a half hour early. When you show up to the yard, the first thing you’ll do is fill out a registration card with your personal information. Your card will also have a number on it, based on which position you play; for example, pitchers may be assigned 101, 102, 103…catchers, 201, 202 and so on. Remember that number because it will be your sole form of identification for the remainder of the major league tryout.
If you play more than one position and would like to try out at both, unfortunately, most times the scout in charge will tell you to pick your best one and work out there. (An exception may be made later on if you show a cannon in the field, in which case he might want to see if you can generate some premium grade gasoline from the mound as well.) Once registration is complete, the head scout assembles everyone for a brief meeting, after which the major league tryout begins. For position players, that means it’s time to show off the wheels!
A 60 yard track is marked off with cones—beginning on one of the outfield foul lines and ending somewhere in centerfield—with enough room for two players to run at a time. Two scouts are stationed at the finish line, each toting a stopwatch and a clipboard. Position players are called by number to step up to the line, as one of the scouts starts each heat with a drop of the hat. The guys that put up exceptional times may be asked to run again in order to verify that the numbers were accurate.
I can’t stress enough how important the 60 yard dash is at an major league tryout. Put up a time below seven seconds and a scout will say “There’s a guy I want to see throw and hit.” Run in the mid sevens or higher and he might say “Get this sloth off my baseball field.” No, it’s not fair, but traditional scouts are more or less infatuated with speed. Almost any scout will tell you that if an outfielder or middle infielder doesn’t run a 7.0 or faster at a major league tryout, he’ll have to do something else (throw or hit) extremely well to get any kind of consideration whatsoever.
Once everyone has run at least once, position players loosen up their arms and take the field to display their guns. Not every major league tryout follows the same format, but in most cases, the outfielders line up behind two cones set up in either right or center field. One of the scouts hits light fungoes, and each player gets to uncork a few throws to third followed by a few more to home. A cut-off man stands in line with the target, but let’s every throw go so the scouts can observe the ball’s trajectory as well as its reaction off the turf. They want to see a long, straight, one-hop laser that gets a nice live bounce when it hits the ground.
Third basemen and middle infielders then gather at either deep third or in the hole at shortstop, where they field a few ground balls and exhibit their lasers over to first. The scouts primarily look at arm strength here, but also take note of the infielders’ footwork, hands, and body control. First basemen get to unleash a few throws across the diamond to third at a major league tryout, although arm strength carries little importance at this position. These guys need to hit, period. But if the scouts find a first baseman with an electric arm, he might project over at third, in the outfield, or even on the mound. It never hurts to take a look.
The catchers then get to show their stuff. One by one, they squat behind the dish and fire pearls down to second base, delivered from a scout standing roughly halfway to the pitcher’s mound. Another scout mans the stopwatch and records the “pop time” for each throw. The scout clicks the stopwatch when the ball hits the catcher’s mitt, then stops it exactly when the ball hits the infielder’s glove at second base. They want to see 2.0 seconds or better.
Once the arms have been evaluated at a major league tryout, it’s typically cut down time. The scouts have a little powwow and analyze the cards of each position player to decide who to keep for the next phase of the workout. They then gather everyone together and call out the numbers of the guys that are invited to stay.
The chosen few that remain get to field some balls at their positions, while the scouts evaluate fielding ability, footwork, body control, and hands. Each guy then takes a few batting practice hacks so the scouts can appraise swing mechanics and power potential. Another cut is made from there to decide which position players get to stick around and hit live pitching.
Now you know what to expect as a position player at a major league tryout. As a baseball player that hopes to become a professional, there are many courses of action to take in order to make this happen (order "
" to learn exactly how to go become a pro!); a major league tryout is just one of them. That said, an impressive exhibition at a tryout camp is a great step forward towards signing a professional contract. Knowing what to expect on tryout day gets you that much closer to reaching your goal of playing professional baseball.
Major League Tryouts: Chucking for Dreams
What Major League Tryout Day is like for Pitchers
Unlike position players who can cash in on the initial excitement of a major league tryout by jumping straight into the 60 yard dash, pitchers are often advised to “Hurry up and wait.” If the workout is well organized and there are enough scouts running the camp, pitchers will head off to the bullpen to begin their evaluations directly after the position players run. If there aren’t enough scouts, pitchers won’t even pick up a baseball at a major league tryout until every single position player has been evaluated in the field. This translates into a couple of hours with little else to do but loiter in foul territory and roast in the hot sun like a Fenway Frank.
Before the pitcher evaluations begin at a major league tryout, the scout calls out an order by registration number and the first few guys begin to warm up on the bullpen mounds. After the first group, the others usually warm up on the side or on an adjacent field so they’re ready to go full-tilt when their numbers are called.
If the tryout is at a major league spring training complex, as many as six or eight pitchers can throw at the same time. The scout roves around behind the catchers with a radar gun to record fastball velocities. He then watches each guy break off a couple of curveballs along with any other pitches he may have in the arsenal. Every pitcher gets to throw between 10 and 15 pitches that the scout actually looks at.
During this assessment, scouts will evaluate a few aspects of your performance; the primary one, as you can imagine, being velocity. Although a scout will probably tell you that velocity is just one of many elements he takes into consideration, the fact is velos captivate scouts. This doesn’t mean you’ll never get signed if you can’t break 90; there really are other things that they look at. But while movement and breaking balls can be taught, pure gas is something you’re born with. So no matter what they tell you, it IS important. They’re looking to see at least 88 MPH and above on a consistent basis from a right-hander. Lefties get a little more leeway at times.
Next they’ll check out your movement. Unless you throw in the upper nineties (which very few people legitimately do), movement on your fastball will dictate your success more than sheer speed. It’s just more difficult for a batter to hit a ball in the high eighties that runs or sinks, than it is to hit something in the low nineties that stays flat. The two types of movement they’ll look for are “sink” and “run.” While sink moves downward is it approaches the plate, run moves more laterally, towards either the hands or the end of the bat.
When assessing a breaking ball—whether a curveball or a slider—the scout will observe the sharpness of the break as the ball approaches the hitting zone. Beyond that, a pitcher may showcase a change-up or a split-fingered fastball at a major league tryout. For both pitches, arm speed and mechanics should stay exactly the same as the fastball. A good change-up will travel roughly 10 MPH slower than the gas and often show a little run as well. An effective splitty will dive as it approaches the zone.
Beyond your pitches, a scout at a major league tryout will check out your arm action and mechanics. Without getting overly technical here, when a scout watches a pitcher deal the baseball, he looks for a silky smooth motion that doesn’t appear forced or over-exertive, and remains consistent. A pitcher’s ability to repeat the same delivery on every type of pitch—regardless of his arm angle—is a key to success in pro ball.
Once everyone has thrown, the scouts sift through the data and call out the numbers of the guys they want to stick around and throw live to hitters. By this time there are few players left, so live hitting goes by pretty quickly. Each pitcher throws around 25 or 30 pitches on the game mound, while the scouts stand directly behind the catcher protected by a home plate cage. At some major league tryouts, the scouts actually keep enough guys to play a live scrimmage game so each pitcher gets to throw an inning or two. Once the live work is done—usually by mid to late afternoon—the lead scout thanks everyone for coming and lets them know that they may hear from the organization at some point in the future. The tryout is over.
Bear in mind as a player that hopes to go pro, there are a number of steps you can take to maximize your chances of making it happen (both inside AND outside the umbrella of Major League Baseball--order "Live The Dream: Get Paid to Play Baseball
" to learn how to do it!). Major league tryouts are just one avenue. That said, an impressive performance at a major league tryout can be a sizeable stepping stone towards realizing the goal of playing professional baseball. Knowing what to expect on tryout day gets you one step closer to achieving the dream.
Major League Tryout Guide: 10 Things you Need to Know to Prepare for a Major League Tryout
Preparing yourself to impress at a major league tryout starts months before the actual event. But here are some tips to keep in mind as the day approaches to help you feel, look, and perform your very best. Keep in mind that this article pertains to preparation for a major league tryout; tips to succeed at the tryout itself will be featured in another article.
1) First of all, make sure you’re in shape—baseball shape, that is. There’s a big difference between training your body to say, run a marathon, or to compete in your local Strongman competition, or to strut around in a man-thong at the beach; and preparing to try out for a professional baseball team. If you haven’t been throwing, hitting, and doing some type of sprint work—in other words using the muscles that are crucial for a serious baseball player—for at least a few weeks, skip the major league tryout and get ready for the next one. Firing 120 pitches to your dad or taking 500 hacks in the batting cage two days before a major league tryout isn’t going to cut it. If your body isn’t baseball ready, not only will your performance be subpar, there’s a good chance you’ll end up hurting yourself…and no one wants to see some guy with a pulled groin try to waddle around the beach in a man-thong.
2) If you’re hurt or have recently sustained an injury, DO NOT tryout unless you’re back to 100%. It’s just not worth it. Why risk putting yourself on the shelf for even longer, maybe for good? If you’re not at your best, you probably won’t impress any scouts that day anyway. There will be other major league tryouts.
3) If you’re on a lifting program, keep the weights light in the week leading up to a major league tryout. Lifting heavy causes tightness in the muscles, which will slow you down during the 60 yard dash, rob your swing of some extra juice, and inhibit you from generating your best fastball. You can go back to screaming at the top of your lungs while maxing out your bench press (an antic SURE to impress every female within a half-mile radius) once the major league tryout’s over.
4) You’ll be pumped up the night before a major league tryout, but try your hardest to get a good night’s sleep. Whatever helps you catch some z’s—warm milk, a hot shower, a bedtime story from mommy—do it so you’re refreshed and ready by the morning.
5) Make sure your equipment bag is packed before you go to bed. You’ll obviously need spikes and a glove, but don’t forget the little things like your protective cup (hopefully that’s not TOO little), batting gloves, and a jacket or windbreaker in case it cools off at some point during the day. If you have a bat—particularly one made of wood—bring it, as well as a batting helmet if you own one. Scouts should provide the lumber and helmets at a major league tryout though. It’s also not a bad idea to pack an extra undershirt in case you sweat through one in the morning. You’ll want to be dry in time for the afternoon portion of the workout.
6) Pack a light lunch or a couple of energy bars along with plenty of water to keep you sustained throughout the day. There may be a water cooler in the dugout, but bring your own to be on the safe side.
7) The morning of the major league tryout, get up extra early and fuel up your system. Try to eat three to four hours before (figure on starting at 10:00 AM). Keep your breakfast fairly light; stick with fruits, cereal, breads, and fruit juice. You may need a coffee to get your engine started in the morning, but try to limit your caffeine intake as it will require you to urinate more frequently and possibly cause dehydration. Also try to avoid a lot of fat, protein, and foods that give you gas. Cutting an air biscuit in the batter’s box will not help your bid to secure a contract.
8) Dude, be on time. If you’re rolling in at 9:30 you’d better throw 95, hit 500 foot bombs at will, or have time in the big leagues. Period.
9) Look like a professional. I know you think the Camaro-mullet and porn ‘stache (a simple yet tacky looking moustache commonly showcased in adult films of the 1970s and 80s) make you look like Dennis Eckersley, but they really make you look like a Tijuana gas station attendant. Leave the jewelry at home too. Once you break into The Show, you can grow the hair back, pierce your nose and start your own metal band. But while you’re looking for a job in baseball, try to keep it clean.
10) Along those lines, make sure your uniform is washed and neat, wear a belt that matches your socks, and a hat and shirt that don’t completely clash with the rest of the ensemble.
Follow these tips, and you’ll be fully prepared to get the job done at a major league tryout.
Bear in mind that there are a number of steps an aspiring pro player can take in order to maximize his chances of playing professional baseball—both in the U.S. AND overseas (order "Live The Dream: Get Paid to Play Baseball
" to learn how to make it happen!). A major league tryout is just one of them. If you do decide to go this route, preparing yourself to be at your best brings you one step closer to the goal of cashing a baseball paycheck.
Major League Tryout Survival Guide:
15 Tips you Need to Know to Thrive at a Major League Tryout
You show up to a major league tryout in shape, fueled up, and dressed like a pro. Registration’s over and the time has come to separate the men from the boys. What now? First of all, be aware of your registration number and keep track of how many players are up before you. That’ll give you a general idea of when it will be your turn in the spotlight. Aside from that, take a deep breath, relax, and heed the following advice that pertains to your position at a major league tryout. It’s go time, baby!
- The 60 yard dash goes quickly, so take a warm up run (either a couple of poles or a few practice sprints at 50%) before the first heat.
- After your warm up running and some stretching, it’s also a good idea to take one dry run at the 60 (off to the side) at close to 100%. This will wake up those fast-twitch muscle fibers before you go on the clock at a major league tryout. Just make sure it’s not right before the scout calls your number to take the line. If you’re still winded from the practice run, that’s obviously a detriment.
- When you run it for real at a major league tryout, run as hard as you can through the line! Don’t even think about slowing down until you’re at least five feet past the finish line. You’d be surprised at how many players subconsciously let up on those last few steps. When you’re dealing with hundredths of a second, it can make a big difference.
- You’ll be given time to loosen up at a major league tryout before taking your position for the arm evaluation. If, however, your number is near the end of the line, you might get cold again waiting for your turn. Bring a ball out to the field with you and try to get a little light toss in with one of the other guys before your number gets called. In most cases, the scouts won’t mind if you warm up off to the side again. They don’t want anyone to get hurt at their workout.
- Always throw the baseball with a four-seam grip at a major league tryout. That means across the horseshoe pattern made by the seams. This grip generates the most backspin, which will keep the ball up on an even plane and provide the straightest trajectory possible for your throws.
- If you get a chance to hit at a major league tryout—whether batting practice or live—do your best to keep your weight back, get your front foot down early and keep your hands loose and quick. If a scout sees you lunge, drop your hands or some other major flaw in your swing, it doesn’t matter how well you hit. He’ll just ascertain that you don’t have a professional swing.
- Stay within yourself. Yes, it’s an overused cliché in baseball, but it really just means know what type of player you are and don’t try to change your game to be something you’re not. If you don’t possess big league power, work on spraying hard line drives at a major league tryout, as opposed to trying to crank every pitch you see into the bleachers.
- Convey a positive attitude on the field, look like you’re having fun out there, and bust your butt at all times!
- If you’re one of the first pitchers to take the mound at a major league tryout, you should be given ample time to get the wing loose. After the first group though, you’re typically on your own to warm up before you get to the hill. Know your body and how long it takes you to get ready.
- Run a couple of poles or sprints to get the blood flowing before you start your warm up toss at a major league tryout.
- Start throwing light and work your way back to some long toss for around 10 throws. Long toss will prepare you to unleash that good fastball when you finally get to show it off on the gun at a major league tryout.
- Stay within yourself (yes, the cliché is universal). Know what type of pitcher you are and demonstrate your strengths. Don’t try to throw like Brian Wilson if you top out at 84. If you’re not a power pitcher, show all of those other pitches at a major league tryout as opposed to uncorking 15 four-seam fastballs in a row.
- When you show the scout your breaking ball, try to visualize a batter in the box. It takes focus, but if you can force yourself to see the batter in your mind, you should be able to get that hammer over the plate with more consistency. Your ability to control “Uncle Charlie” in the bullpen just might get you on the mound to go live in the afternoon.
- Don’t overthrow! It’s an ingrained trait in us pitchers that we feel the need to heave the baseball as hard as we possibly can whenever there’s a radar gun pointed in our direction. Don’t do it! Believe me, you’ll end up rushing your delivery, your mechanics will be crap, and you’ll lose velocity as well as control. Keep your delivery smooth and composed, and throw as if the gun wasn’t there.
- Did I mention stay within yourself?
As an aspiring pro player, there are numerous courses of action you can take to get your foot in the door of pro baseball—both inside and outside the realm of MLB. (Order "Live The Dream: Get Paid to Play Baseball
" to make it happen!) A major league tryout is just one of them. If you do opt for the tryout route, now you’re fully prepared to kick some tail and take names once you get there. A solid performance at a major league tryout gets you one step closer to achieving the dream of cashing a baseball paycheck.