Baseball player development doesn't just happen when a player takes the field. What if I said that player development happens even inside the team dugout? Meet Baseball's 10th Man; a position that some parents that have a youth baseball player may not properly value. Let's talk about what makes dugout development an important aspect of baseball learning and player development.
Developing into a Great Teammate: It can often be a cliche, but there's no "I" in TEAM. For a youth baseball player that is on the bench or in the dugout, this cannot be more true. The time spent in the dugout can be made into one of two things: 1) the player sulks because they are sitting on the bench and they lose sight of how they can support their teammates or 2) the player sits or stands on the fence in full attention to look out for their teammates while studying each opposing hitter, surveying the field on each play, and supporting & challenging their teammates by being vocal. The vantage point from the dugout gives the 10th Man a unique perspective of the entire field, learning the game from the dugout is vital to a player's development so that when they enter the game to play they can apply what they've learned. As CorrectMyPlay.com shares, "If you do your job right as a sub, keeping spirits high and challenging your teammates, the team will do better, your teammates will improve, and you will also improve on the field. Being in a team environment is also a big contributor to your emotional well-being. You can build bonds and share stories with teammates that lead to meaningful memories long after you have forgotten the scores of games."
Developing a Player's Mental Muscle: Baseball is a cerebral game; it rewards players who "outsmart" their opponent and learn how to observe the opponent's tendencies to capitalize on them when the time is right. As JuniorBaseball.com states, "It’s difficult to overstate the importance of a strong mind in our sport because controlling the activity of your body has a direct relationship to your ability to control your mind." Players can develop their mental muscle in the dugout in several different ways:
First, baseball players that are engaged in learning from the dugout will develop a strong mental muscle and increase their Baseball IQ (so when they are on the field, they can use what they've learned to play "inside baseball" and make plays with their mental prowess). Observing from the dugout doesn't make you a fan, being in the dugout makes players still very much a part of the game as they can observe and learn situational baseball plays. Unlike past generations also, many young players today do not watch 3 hour long MLB baseball games and pick up Baseball IQ that way. They often watch short baseball highlights in YouTube Shorts or media that doesn't unpack situational awareness or help develop their Baseball IQ. Being in the dugout helps the player immensely, please don't think anything otherwise!
Second, baseball players can develop a better sense of baseball strategy when they are in the dugout. As FungoMan.com says it, "The smartest player in the dugout thinks four moves ahead. He tries to anticipate what the coach might do on offense and defense. After the game, he respectfully asks the coach his motivations and strategy behind decisions. His baseball IQ improves all the while. Even though he's on the bench, he's absorbing knowledge just by sitting next to the coach. And he wins the coach's trust."
Third, baseball players can improve their self-discipline in the dugout, it's not a punishment...being in the dugout is a necessary aspect of youth baseball development and players must learn to stay engaged in the game in the dugout. Let me say it again, self-discipline is improved by pulling for your teammates, watching the field for baseball signs, and being engaged in learning and watching.
Developing a Player's Competitive Will to Win: Baseball player development comes with time and in most cases team winning takes time to develop as well. However, many youth baseball players aren't redirected to "keep working and competing so they can improve next time" when their team loses the game or when they pout after striking out in their at-bat. Some may think that when they see an upset youth player that the player's will to compete and win is high because they were upset over losing or failing. Quite the contrary, the competitive will to win in baseball kicks in when met with failure and it will fight (not flight). It turns a negative into a positive. It defies failure by running on and off the field every time (never walking), by hustling back to the dugout when they strike out, by hustling to first base if they are beaned, and so on. As it's been said, if you get a hit in baseball 3 out of 10 at-bats then you're a Hall of Famer (70% you will be out). The game of baseball is steeped in facing your failures because there are so many variables that a player cannot control, but what a player can control is competing to win and not just win the game, but winning each pitch, each at-bat, or each opportunity to lift up a teammate. Those are qualities that being a great dugout teammate can help to develop as a competitive will to win.
In conclusion, it can be said that Baseball's 10th Man is the player or players in the team dugout. Their role on the team doesn't get diminished by sitting on the bench; rather, their development is heightened and they can learn so much about this great game as it teaches them more than just the game of baseball, they get to learn about the game of life and how to handle and overcome any adversity. The hope is that parents allow their youth players to be developed in the dugout and don't view it as detention hall. Being in the dugout can develop a player in so many ways, the best players in the game of baseball and life have learned many lessons from that same dugout seat.