Half-yearly Elite Training Programme Evaluation Report
(Stage 1: January – June 2018)
Reported on 12 June 2018 | Tom Valcke
Played a total of 14 intersquad games in as formal a format as possible (e.g., uniforms, umpires, game-like settings). Used “Intructional League” (MLB term, coaches stop games and identify in-the-moment areas needing improvement). Finished games to work on one of the traditional weaknesses of this program, which is the ability to close out wins. We also played an internal best-of-seven “World Series” in order to amp up the style of play. Large focus on stretching out pitchers, attempting new roles for pitchers and defensive positions. Pre-game emphasis on being 100% ready beginning first pitch, and doing the extras to gain advantages, advance scout opposition, share tips and strategies, communicate more between the white lines, buy into coaching strategies/approaches. Big emphasis this year on aggressive play on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. We are known to be passive and other countries taking from us. We are attempting to combat this with the theory of the best defense being a strong offense. We have incorporated a much more aggressive baserunning game, hit & runs, stolen bases, delayed steals, steals of third base at unconventional times, taking extra bases when the opposition expects us to be content with 90 feet, running hard every step of the way from home to first base, in the name of our country and the privilege and responsibilities that come with wearing this prestigious uniform.
Played two May weekends in China. Finished 3-1 in games, including two shutout wins. Worked on jumping out into leads and trying to not look back, while keeping the foot on the gas versus letting up, trying to prevent setting up ourselves for breakdowns. Our opponents went out of their way to compliment our approach, something different than they apparently were used to. We are pushing the limits in all regards to learn the boundary of our stepped-up approach, failing along the way frequently (to learn how far we can push ourselves, to learn which players can and will buy into the mechanics of new techniques and thus be successful, and who remains stuck in their old ways when in the midst of a game, so that we know who to give the green light to in the upcoming 2018 Asian Cup and 2018 Asian Games. We’re trying to take Einstein’s definition of insanity, which is trying the same thing but expecting different results, to heart, and implement changes to hopefully push our evolution into landing in the top handful of teams in the BFA (Baseball Federation of Asia). Starting pitching has been very good (our depth in pitching, and our lack of a true Number 1 stopper type pitcher would be our biggest weakness), as has the bullpen. Our infield defense is arguably our best quality, when talking about tools. Talking about actual performance can result in a different place, as we lack in game experience. There are some areas of baseball that can only be learned and improved by playing hundreds of ball games. The lack of financial resources we have access to, not to mention the lack of vacation or leave of absence time for ¾ of our team who are in the workforce is tremendously stifling and disappointing. Even if the HKBA had the money, these guys generally get two weeks of vacation per year, and this year, will not use one day of it for normal life purposes, but rather, a week to partake in the 2018 Asian Cup (being hosted here in HK at the end of June/2018), and another week, well, ten days, to partake in the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta in the end of August. After vacation, it is, according to the players, not even worth trying to approach their bosses/businesses for some extra time off to go and train (BY TRAVELLING ABROAD AND PLAYING A FEW WEEKS OF GAMES NIGHT AFTER NIGHT AFTER NIGHT). That is the only way we are going to get over the hump of frequently failing to close out victories, and to step up our aggressiveness based on quality reads of balls that we hit, when they will land, where they will land, how many bases we should therefore be able to advance, etc. If we were to create a list of what this team needs to do if we truly want to sit atop of “the other twenty” (the 20 BFA teams who sit a large gap behind the big three, Japan, Korea & Taiwan, and then China, who is still behind them but well ahead of the rest of us, that list would start with travelling, getting more used to life on the road, and playing meaningful ballgames every night in front of visiting crowds in different cultures. NOTHING could help this team more than some success with letters/meetings with respective bosses of players and trying to get them to be proud that they employ a potential Olympian!