The following is part of a weekly series I will be doing called "Through the Eyes Of....". In each segment, I will share interviews with or stories about those that I view to be the "Good Guys". I envision "Through the Eyes of..." as a part of my personal crusade to present baseball in all it's beauty, splendor, and goodness, instead of through hashing and rehashing all that is broken with our National treasure.
One such man on the All-Good Guy roster is former major league second baseman and current hitting guru, Jack Perconte. Perconte enjoyed a seven-year major league career from 1980-86, playing for the Dodgers, Indians, Mariners and White Sox.
The diminutive, left-handed hitter had a .270 lifetime average. His most productive seasons were with Seattle in 1984 and 1985, when he hit a combined .281 and stole 60 bases in 68 attempts.
Perconte was a 16th round pick by the Dodgers in the 1976 amateur draft. According to Mike Scioscia, manager of the Anaheim Angels and Perconte's former teammate on the Dodgers, "he had average physical talent but had an incredible ability to learn from experience and incorporate changes into his game to make himself better."
Since his retirement from the majors, Perconte has given over 60,000 lessons to help players of all ages reach their full potential at the Perconte Sports Academy in Naperville, IL.
He is the author of 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" (I will be reviewing each in an upcoming segment).
Perconte was gracious enough to share his thoughts with me on hitting, coaching, leadership, and his love for the game of baseball. I hope you enjoy Jack's experience, insight, and his sense of humor as much as I did.
Civ: I read on Seamheads that you taught your readers how to hit Mark Buerhle, can
Jack: Having watched his perfect game, I wanted to give fans an idea of how hard it is to hit major league pitching—because it looks easy watching on TV. I especially wanted to point out how Mark is a real “pitcher” and not just a thrower who tries to overpower hitters. He is a great example for young ballplayers who like to pitch. Sorry, you have to read the article for my advice.
Civ: It's no secret that you are a fan of hitting. Are you for or against the designated
Jack: For—because I enjoy watching one extra great player per team—but I would
like the same rules for both leagues, whatever they eventually decide on.
Civ: You hit two home runs both in 1985 with Seattle. Were you tested that season?
Jack: When you are an average player like I was, every game is a test and challenge to stay in the big leagues.
Civ: You played in 1984 and 1985 with Gorman Thomas, who was known to launch some long home runs. How far do you think Thomas could hit a ball if he juiced?
Jack: Would be fun to see, although I don’t advocate it and wish we never had to deal
with the issue.
Civ: In the '85 season you also stole 31 bases with the Mariners. Are you the only player you know who was a member of the 2/31 club?
Jack: As far as I know, but that was better than being a member of the 0/31 club
that I was the previous season.
Civ: You played briefly on the '80 Dodgers with Garvey, Lopes, Russell, and
Cey. How cool was that?
Jack: It was bittersweet. They were fun to be around to learn from, but no fun to be stuck behind (in Triple A) for a few years. Also sweet, because they gave me a World Series ring by winning the 1981 championship, which I was also a small part of.
Civ: Who was the toughest pitcher you faced, and conversely, was there any pitcher
that you dominated?
Jack: Jack Morris was consistently the best I faced. He was always tough—some guys were tough on a given day, but the next time they were not nearly so tough. Being a slap-hitting singles hitter, dominated and I were not in the same park, but I
believe there was one pitcher in Little League that I “owned.”
Civ: Do you keep in touch with any of your old teammates?
Jack: Most of my best friends in the game were guys I came up with in the Dodger minor leagues, and those are the guys I have stayed in touch with. The ones people
would know that are easy to stay in touch with are coaches for the LA Angels—Mike Scioscia, Ron Roenicke, Mickey Hatcher and Bobby Mitchell.
Civ: You played with Mike Hargrove. Do you keep in touch with him?
Jack: No, but I was honored to have played with him and had the utmost respect for him for the player and person he was.
Civ: Since your playing days, salaries have skyrocketed. If you had to do it all over
again would you like to play now or when you did?
Jack: Play now because that would be cool to still be playing at 54 years old. Joking aside—it would be better for me then because I'm not sure I would be big enough physically to make it with the size of players today.
Civ: What was it like playing in the Kingdome?
Jack: In my opinion, baseball should be played outdoors, but I actually enjoyed it. Playing on turf helped me as a fielder because of the true hops. I did not have
major league caliber hands as an infielder, so the turf helped.
Civ: I really love to eat. What team had the best food spread in those days?
Jack: With my career—anything in the major leagues—good, anything in the minor
leagues—bad. It had nothing to do with what was served.
Civ: What player were you most awestruck by at meeting?
Jack: Sandy Koufax
Civ: Any teammates in the Hall?
Jack: Carlton Fisk, Steve Carlton, Don Sutton are a few that come to mind and one that should be in—Bert Blyleven.
Civ: You have your own blogs that tie in with your books, is that correct?
Jack: Yes, one is called Hitting Tips - Baseball Swing Advice with Jack Perconte, and it offers hitting tips for players of every level, from t-ball to professional. The other is Positive Parenting in Sports – Raising an Athlete. It shares parenting advice when raising an athlete.
Civ: During my high school career, I probably hit .083 over four years. Could your
book even help me hit?
Jack: I’m sure it would. My book, The Making of a Hitter, is mainly for parents and
coaches of baseball players so they not only learn the correct fundamentals to
teach, but just as important, to give them methods on “how to teach” hitting in a
fun, practical way.
One of my favorite sayings as a coach is that “no one who is willing to work at it, is beyond hope, except Todd Civin.” (Civ: Very funny, Jack) Forget that last part. You would be amazed with how kids want to work at hitting and how their mental game (confidence) improves when they learn the correct fundamentals.
Civ: I'm left-handed in everything I do, except swinging a bat. The reason I bat righty is because everyone in my neighborhood did. I've always felt that I see better left-handed. Is there any credence to that? Does a hitter see better from one side of the plate than the other?
Jack: Are you trying to make an excuse for hitting .083? You hit the nail on the head—players should hit from the side they see the ball best from—hitting begins with seeing the ball. A swing can be developed, but vision issues are tougher to overcome.
Civ: You had 11 sacrifice bunts in '85...Why can't today's MLB players bunt? Can a manager force them to learn?
Jack: Some managers can’t even get some players to look down for the bunt sign, let alone have them bunt. It is unfortunate, and I am not accusing mangers of not doing their job with that previous statement. In this regard, maybe the money has changed the game. Many major leaguers do not know how to bunt, and I assume they don’t put their mind to improving that part of their game.
I am not one of those ex-players who believe everything was better back in the day, but in regards to bunting, the general fundamentals today are not as good as they once were. I wrote an article recently on Seamheads that addressed the bunting issue and how major league bunters should learn how to do it from little league players.
Civ: What made you decide to write your leadership book?
Jack: There were so many concerns that parents of athletes would state to me over my years of instructing baseball and softball that I thought I could contribute some concrete solutions to their concerns. And the ironic thing was that when I looked at their concerns as an outside observer, I realized that often they (parents) were creating the problem.
So I thought I would address the issues that come up in a family’s sports life with the idea of helping parents so that kids can have the athletic experiences they deserve. So I combined all of my playing, coaching, and parenting experiences to write "Raising an Athlete – How to Instill Confidence, Build Skills, and Inspire a Love of Sport."
Civ: Do you coach your own children, and how do they take to you as a coach?
Jack: They seemed to respect me, but that is another reason I wrote Raising an Athlete. I had the experiences of working with my own kids. Obviously, by raising three sports-minded kids, I learned a lot about working with young players and
especially about the struggles involved with working with one’s own kids. I was such a great hitting coach that my one son became a pitcher, currently playing in the Cubs organization. Ha, ha.
Civ: And lastly, how would you like to be remembered in life?
Jack: Loving father, husband, and son.
Both Jack Perconte and Todd Civin are supporters of "A Glove of Their Own," the award winning children's story that is capturing the heart of the nation by teaching sharing through baseball. Please visit www.aglovefotheirown.com and purchase under today's donor code GSB133 Good Sports Boston.