A lot has been written in recent months (myself included) about PEDs and cheating athletes, particularly MLB players. Yet we know, of course, that not everyone cheats.
So for a change, how about a story of a pro player who is doing things right? That he is an obscure minor leaguer at this point makes the story even better, in my mind. If anyone has some incentive to cheat, it's a minor league baseball player. But this story is about one guy who will never cheat.
The player? Mike Hinckley. I first learned of Mike in a book I read a few years ago, "License to Deal" by Jerry Crasnick, published in 2005. I originally wanted to read it because I know little about the agent and representative side of pro sports, baseball in particular. An interesting, entertaining read, by the way.
Hinckley, a 2001 third round draft pick of the Montreal Expos - now the Washington Nationals - chose one of the agencies covered in the book, Sosnick-Cobbe, to represent him. As it turns out, Mike is from Oklahoma, where I currently reside. Of course, I never expected to meet him.
Hinckley's career got off to a promising start, but I don't want to cover all of that in this article. You can read more on his pro career here. Let's just say that Hinckley went from being considered by Baseball America as the National's #1 minor league prospect in 2005 to being out of a job and struggling with arm problems by the time we met in 2007.
Mike found my web site and contacted me last September (2007) with two goals in mind: 1) To increase his throwing velocity, and 2) To get bigger and stronger.
For 4+ months, Mike followed the program I designed for him. He put on 23 lbs, increasing his weight from 178 to 201 lbs. Training with weighted baseballs, his fastball increased from 87 to 91+ mph. Hinckley also worked diligently on his pitching mechanics under the watchful eye of his father, David Hinckley, the head baseball coach at Moore High School near OK City.
Over the course of the winter, Mike considered several offers, eventually re-signing with the Nationals and receiving an invitation to major league spring training. Rather than playing winter ball, as the Nationals suggested, Mike chose to stay home and work on his strength and conditioning in preparation for the upcoming season.
Given his struggles of the past few years, this was a very important decision for the young pitcher, and staying home and not playing turned out to be the right thing for him to do.
Mike performed well enough at spring camp to be assigned to the Nationals AA affiliate in Harrisburg, PA. After posting a 5-3 record there, he was promoted to their AAA team in Columbus, OH. Thus far, after 16 games, Hinckley has a sparkling 2.95 ERA as a LH relief specialist. Talk now is about his receiving a September call up to the Nationals. It couldn't happen to a nicer guy!
I especially like this comment from the National's GM, Jim Bowden, from the article referenced above:
"Since we've been here the last four years, (Hinckley) had no velocity, never got it to 90," Bowden said. "And now he's consistently back there. So it's a funny game."
Well, yes, funny things do happen in baseball. But Hinckley's success thus far is the result of a good plan and a lot of hard work on his part - PEDS not required. This is the lesson for ball players at every level!