Ep. #009: Jason Michaels- 10 Year MLB Veteran/ Owner of “The Big League Approach”
Join Evan and Jason Michaels as Jason shares his baseball journey, his decision to stay in college versus going pro, hitting tips and the value of staying within yourself. Jason also talks mental toughness and “The Big League Approach” Philosophy.
What You’ll Learn:
01:30- Jason’s baseball journey
05:00- Choosing JUCO after being selected in the Draft
06:45- Playing in the College World Series
10:20- How college helped him mature as a player
13:08- Drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies
14:18- Getting called up to the Big Leagues
23:12- Advice on overcoming challenges
24:43- Mental approach in the game
26:12- Mentor Roving Coach experience
27:52- “The Big League Approach” Philosophy
Thank you for being here with us! Evan and the Born To Baseball Team are looking forward to celebrating your success and sharing this journey together.
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Read show notes here.
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Episode 009_JASON MICHAELS 10 YEAR MLB VETERAN AND OWNER THE BIG LEAGUE APPROACH
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Calling all ball players. Are you ready to take your game to the next level? Were you born to baseball? Then bring it in it's game time.
What's up guys, welcome to the Born To Baseball Podcast. Today we have Jason Michaels. Jason is based in Tampa, Florida. Some quick highlights Jason hit over .420 in Juco was a fourth round draft pick in 1998 and played 10 years in the majors with the Phillies, Indians Astros and pirates. He's the founder and CEO of the big league approach a training facility in Tampa, Florida, with a heavy focus on both skill and mindset development. I recently had a chance to train with Jason and I took away so much from the lessons. Jason, thank you so much for coming on.
Well, thanks for having me. Evan.
I'd love to start with you sharing some of your baseball journey. So you grew up in Tampa, Florida. Did you play on travel teams or just a local Little League teams?
Yeah, so I grew up in Tampa, Florida, where you could play baseball year round. Unlike New York, and, but no, I grew up in Tampa played soccer and baseball. And when I got to high school, I focused more on baseball. Because I was wasn't big enough in football and I was getting my butt kicked. So other than that, I focused on baseball and got a chance chance to play at the next level. Actually I was drafted out of high school in the 49th round which they don't have that anymore. I think it goes up to 40 rounds. But out high school I got a chance to play college ball I end up going to junior college which I wasn't really good enough to play D1, I mean to go to a school but I really made I think that decision of me going to junior college, really getting a chance to play and not sit the bench if like if I would have went to a four year school or a big D1 school. I know I wanted to go to Florida, University of Florida out of High School and they told me I wasn't good enough. So I kind of use that little chip on my shoulder as motivation. Got got a chance to go to junior college, played two years there and really came down between it was going to be LSU or Miami, where I was going to go and ended up ended up choosing Miami and want to stay in state and wanted to see my wonder Have my parents be able to come watch me play? You know, being in Tampa to Miami. It's not too long plus my dad had his private pilot's license. So they were able to get a plane and get out there quicker than driving. So yeah, that's and then going to Miami into continue to excel in my career and was fortunate enough to get drafted by the Phillies and play my career start my career in the minor leagues with the Phillies.
Yeah. So that that's an amazing first like first part of your baseball journey and being able to go to Juco and excel there and knowing that I want to be able to play instead of saying I went to a big school but didn't get as much playing time.
You attended Jesuit High School and hit over 400 each year, which is pretty impressive. What are some of the things that contributed to your success there? Did you have strong mentors along the way?
I tell you, I'd be honest with you. You know, there wasn't anybody around like me as far as in that, you know, my the focus of the big league approach. What I own is a lot to do with the focus is on the mental side, not only in the physical side, but the mental side. And, you know, I had a lot of good coaches along the way. In high school. Honestly, I stayed simple see ball hit ball, I didn't try to overthink the situation. And I just saw ball hit ball and I end up getting lucky and the ball ends up falling in a little bit more times, you know, then you had some other people so i don't think i don't think i was the best player on the team. And but I was you know, I was I was a good player. You know, I was I was consistent had like consistent defense and had consistent at bats, like I said, just you know, see ball
So after high school, like you said, you were drafted by the Padres and chose to go to Juco instead. So what was behind that decision?
Well, we had drafted. Yeah, being drafted that Lee 49th round again, they don't have that those rounds. Again, remember, we have 30 teams at the time picking, you know, so if you do the math, 49 rounds times 30 teams, that's, that's around, you know, 1400 player chosen in the country, which is an exciting and it was incredible just to get the call to find out I was that I was drafted that a professional organization wanted me. Um, you know, I was getting a bigger scholarship than what they were offering me money to sign and I didn't feel like I was mentally ready enough to go in to start my professional career. I, you know, I end up it wasn't it was kind of a no brainer for me. I was gonna go to college. wanted to go to college? A my parents wanted me to go to college. And I needed more time to grow and and mentally and physically. Before I felt I was ready to go to the next step to the professional level.
That's a really mature smart decision. You averaged for 20 while at Juco. You were drafted in the 44th. Round by Tampa, your hometown team, and still chose not to sign and instead went to the University of Miami like you said. You competed in two consecutive College World Series. And what was it like to play with the hurricanes in the College World Series not once, but twice.
That's a it was what a great experience. I wish every college baseball player would get to experience something like that, you know, maybe down at Miami, I think we probably averaged three or 4000 fans a game, which was really good, you know, especially on a weekend. And next thing you know, getting a chance to get through the regionals and then go to the College World Series where you're one of eight teams, the top eight teams in the country that season. And play, you know, I was playing on ABC, ESPN, you know, national, national TV. And it was like 25,000 people there it was, it was just an incredible experience.
We had we had a great team, great. Our team was was really good. We were very competitive. And it was just a great experience that I wish everybody else could experience as well.
That really does sound amazing. Wow. 25,000 people.
Yeah. It's literally well, right. I mean, nothing prepares you for that. But yeah, man, you stay focused in the game. You don't even hear.
Now, after two years with the hurricanes, you have a 396 average, you hit 34 dingers. 154 RBI's and you set multiple single season records. Now you're selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 15th round of the draft. Why did you again choose to decline and go to your last year eligibility?
Again, I that was my junior year that was probably my best years to statistically playing. Physically, I was ready to go to the next level, but still mentally I didn't feel like I was I was fully there. Again, another great organization drafted me or want me to play for the organization. And again, I was getting a bigger scholarship at Miami than I was what they were offering me to go away from from school. So, you know, the way I looked at it is hey, I have another I get another year closer to graduation here for education. Before I go, play professional Ball. I mean, and you know, you probably know just as much as everybody else they the odds are the percentages of making it to the big leagues are right around 1%, if not less. It's a tremendous third, these are just tremendous numbers out there. With that, showing that so knowing that I needed to get I need to get closer to getting my degree, and I needed another year mentally to get ready.
And was there any fear that since you turned it down, it might have been your last chance to get drafted?
no I knew that I could. There was one more year I was a little disheartened because I really felt I that I would, that I should have got drafted higher or in a lower round. But you know, it is what it is. It's I think there's always a plan. You know, in life, maybe you you follow the plan and sometimes you always don't Like it, but I got a chance to, again to get another year of school, which was a great institution, University of Miami private institution, great school. And I can still get drafted again.
What were some of the biggest lessons you learned playing college baseball? And is there anything you would have done differently?
Well, you know, I think with college baseball, it's almost like a pyramid. I don't think I explained this to you. But you know, as you started out in youth baseball, you know, there's, it's a big pool of people. And then as you get, you know, to high school, some of those people weed out and yet the bet a little bit better ones get the chance to go on. Same thing you go to college. Now there's even more players that are weeded out a little bit. And then if you're lucky enough to go to professional and continues to keep going, and then we get up to the big leagues. That's, that's the pinnacle of the of your profession. And, you know, that's been my my dream. You know, since I was probably a little bit younger than you and get a fort Fortunately, I was able to play my dream. But you know, playing going from high school to college, the intensity level stepped up, you know, I felt I thought I saw more guys becoming more focused, being longer focused on working, you know, on baseball, trying to get better at what they're doing really starting to try to perfect their craft. And as I got a chance to go to D1, it was even better talent. You know, I'm facing guys, you know, pitchers that a little bit better arms. Guys are getting bigger and stronger. And I need to make those adjustments as as I went on.
The competition level was way different. In JUCO, and D1.
You know, it wasn't that bad. I didn't know much about Juco baseball coming out of high school and when I got a chance to go and look into playing with these guys on my team before we even started to play I was like man we got some some really talented guys here. I know they one of the scouts talked about our pitching staff as being comparable to LSU's.
But yeah, I think we had we had or three top pitchers where guys were low to mid 90s. One of our pitchers was actually about to go in the first round and he went second pick in the second round. When you're so yeah, he was mean, so I got a chance to really face some good pitching. I did which helped me out to go the next level.
You finish your final year at Miami and you're drafted in the fourth round by the Philadelphia Phillies finally sign your first professional contract. This is a moment that youth baseball players all over The world dream about, and that's a place that they all want to get to. So how did you celebrate that big moment in your career?
I mean, it was. Me, I celebrated with my family. It was it was an honor. I mean, one to be drafted four out of the possible five times that I could get drafted, which is I mean, you don't really hear about that anymore. It was a tremendous honor that of that team, again, wanted me to play for their organization and get a chance to start my professional career and it was it was very exciting. Nervous as well, not knowing what the next step brought. I didn't know what kind of competition I was going to be seeing, but it was definitely very exciting. That
that has to be feel amazing. Being able to relief, like I finally got here, but I still have more work to do.
Absolutely, absolutely each you know, each organization has what six levels? you know that you need to go through that as with anything I think in the business world, you got to work your way up.
Yep. Do you remember how it felt playing your first big league game in 2001?
Yes, I was. I was on my way to my I was in AAA in Scranton, Pennsylvania at that time. Scranton was triple A, which is right underneath the big leagues. And they were the Phillies, a triple A affiliate. Then I got called up before a Sunday game. So we had a Sunday game in Scranton at one o'clock. And I got called in I think about eight or nine o'clock that morning. I usually get there early anyways to the field. And my coach sat me down and say we're, calling up to the Big League playing field a big you're getting called up. So all this wave emotions, took over a jumped in my car, whatever I can gather and I ended up speeding Down to Philly ended up getting a ticket, a speeding ticket on my way. It was about about a two hour drive, I think and ended up getting to in about the sixth inning. And when I walked in the locker room, we were playing the Cubs when I walked in the locker room, it was such a surreal moment because I saw my locker I saw my jersey hanging with with my number, my name and my number, you know, on the back and it just it was just a wave of emotion. So I hustled up, got dressed real quick, went down to the dugout. You know, met my coaches and whoever was there, you know, we I think we were on defense at that time and ended up hit I ended up pitch hitting the next I think it was the next inning. So I got there in the six either in the pinch hitting in the seventh or the eighth. I think it might have been in the seventh and the bottom of the seventh and face Todd Van popple With the Cubs, and the end up, striking me out. And I don't really remember a lot because everything was such a blur thing happens really fast. My anxiety level was really high. But to get that first at bat out of the way was I mean it was I didn't mean I cared that I struck out, but it was again such a surreal moment.
That sounds amazing. Just finally getting to your dream and knowing that it worked. The work you did when you were younger, it pays off. And now you're in the show. So one highlight I saw was your walk off Homer and 2008 against the Cardinals while you're with the pirates. So it was the bottom of the 10th inning, you hit that home run. final score 12-11 bucks win what was your approach going up to that at bat and big moments like that?
No, it was I ended up looking messing around and looking up that it was like a top 10 and pirates history or at a by by one reporter which I thought was Wow. I mean such a huge history or a long history for the Pittsburgh Pirates. My dad grew up watching the pirates and the reds. And so at that particular game, we know I ended up I didn't start that game I ended up coming in about the eighth inning, we were down 10 to four and the eighth and the bottom of the eighth you know, and just tell them my teammates, I said, Guys, you know, we can't nobody can hit a six run home run. We need to get guys on base. Okay, that's very important. When you're to have a good at bat not to swing at a pitch that's way out of the zone, you got to be very disciplined. I end up walking that at bat and end up scoring that inning and then we end up tying it up in the 10th. And then St. Louis went ahead by one in the room sorry, we ended up tying in ninth st Lewis went up one in the 10th 11 to 10. And guy good guy end up getting on and ended up facing their closer Chris Perez, who matter of fact, went to University of Miami. And he lives here ended up facing him. I didn't know him before. I knew that he threw hard. threw a first pitch ball, which helped me even more to zone in on that fastball and getting a fastball in the zone. I don't really remember swinging and I just remember rounding third base that's that's that's about it. It was all kind of a blur, but whatever an exciting moment that was.
That sounds great. That must be really great memory. when you were on deck Did you were you almost like praying that you were gonna get up with a man on base. So you had a chance or was it more of just like I want to get on base
be honest with you. I was trying to control my anxiety level. You know? I think that we did a great job coming back, you know to tie up this game 10 to 10. And here we are down by one you know, hey, we just need to get guys on base try to get a guy in scoring position you know, there was just a guy on first and you know the coach, let me swing away you know, instead of instead of butting them over which you know, I mean here where you were at home you want to play for the win, you don't want to play for the tie. So it just you know, when I was on deck just trying to stay within myself not to not to overthink the situation. Keep it simple. Get a good pitch to hit. And don't over swing.
Yeah, so eight runs in three innings. It's, it's crazy.
I might have went in in the 7th.
That's good. That's crazy. So..
that was a great team win.
For the youth baseball listening. Can you share some tips on things they could do to generate more power in their swings.
So, power power is going to come now, That's funny. So my high school career, okay, even I was drafted. I had one home run my high school career. One.
And what I tell some of my high school players that I haven't really told the youth players as I say, guys, you're not strong enough yet. And anytime a boy gets on the field, it doesn't matter if it's if he's six years old, or if he's my age 43 we see a fence we want to go over it. It's one of the questions I asked you when we got together.
And to me I bite by doing that. I think it creates lift. I don't want to create lift in my swing. We already do that already. To me is hit line drives. That's what that's what the major league Hall of Famers talk about these talk about hitting line drives, line drives will go but when you try to hit a home run, it doesn't really work. It just nobody's really Good to sit there say I'm gonna go up and hit a home run and then go up and hit a home run that just doesn't happen
either one or two things that you learned from hitting coaches or other great players that you played with in the major leagues that really helped you succeed
you know as as a baseball player and you know your age and even younger as you guys are going to be around a lot of coaches some good some bad and it's a tough thing I was right I was into what do you not listen to always be coachable? No matter what always be coachable? Whether it's the information is good or not. Most of the time, you don't know if it's good or not always be coachable. You know, they're learning from I take tips from all kinds of coaches. I really do a lot of them. I was learning from my teammates as well too. I would, I would, you know, talk to my teammates after somebody got a good hit. You know, such as you know, Let's say somebody just had a good hit one of your teammates had a good hit, you know, in a crucial situation in the game, you know, maybe after the game or during the game, I go up and ask him say, hey, what was your thought process there? What are you thinking about? So, you know, one thing is always keep learning, always keep learning and nobody's gonna hit 1000 this game and no pitcher is going to strike everybody out or get everybody out. So there's always something there learned in this game. You know, swing hard swing it strikes, take the balls, you know, it's something that we talked about as well. keep it simple swing hard to, you know, swing it strikes, take the balls. That's probably one of the best pieces of advice. And, you know, the fact that, you know, I told you this, too, is that there's negative results happen all the time on that baseball. Okay, you got it, you get it, you get you get the negative result and you throw it in the trash, you have to move on and focus on that next pitch, that next play whatever it is,
Speaking of throwing in the trash, one of the things that stuck with me when I trained with you, was when you said if something doesn't go your way, learn from it, then throw it away. What other pieces of advice would you share with us baseball players on overcoming challenges and keeping our heads in the game?
And then that's the thing. I think it's tougher when you're younger, as far as trying to figure out how to focus how to stay calm, how to concentrate during the game, there's there's a lot of moments in the game where there's nothing really going on in the big leagues, and sometimes I would find myself drifting as well in the outfield, especially if our pitcher was doing really well. There's not really much going on. But I'd like to say guys, when you get into that, that chain link fence or you start pulling that field, keep your middle keep your your your thoughts there. wouldn't really messes it up is that we try to overthink the situation or we distract ourselves. So when you get in that fence when you get in those that chain link fence and get on that field focus on that focus in their focus take that as as as your reminder getting away from the day, whether it's schoolwork or you're in trouble at home, with your parents or whatever, or your maybe some friends or wherever it is, stay focused on when you're there because when you're in school, you need to stay focused on school, you're on baseball field, you stay focused there.
How did you mentally prepare for a game? I know you talk a lot about the mental side when you train people. And just in really, in general, when you played so how did you mentally prepare for a game and did you have any mental cues that you'd use?
I wanted to stay within myself. I didn't want to try to do something that I'm that's not me. You know, I had a I did have a hitting coach in the big leagues or actually a manager. Tell me like you know, stay in your lane. And you know, me it was kind of referring to you know, like a like a running track and You got to stay in your lane. Don't try to get out, hey, if you're a home if you're if you're a double hitter, it doubles if you're a home run hitter, hit home runs, you know if you're, if you're if you're a double hitter, don't try to hit home runs, it's not my lane. You know, stay in your lane do what you could control. I'd say I just stay focused, try to you know, not distract myself, it's so easy for you to start for, for us to start distracting ourselves. Want to keep it simple. I want to stay motivated. You know, knowing that hey, a negative result is possible to happen today. I need to throw that in the trash as soon as as soon as I can. So I don't waste my a bad or take that bad bad out to the field. And you possibly make an error or hurt my team. But say stay simple, stay simple, stay motivated and stay hungry.
Yeah, that's, that's really valuable. So after you retired in 2012 he became a mentor roving coach in the national minor league system. That is the first time I've ever heard that term used and sounds pretty cool. So can you share what the job of a mentor and coach was? And
so I was with the nationals and AAA in 2013. And it was it was I was on I was, I was on my way out, I was starting to lose it in my heart a little bit as far as I'm playing. But I still enjoyed talking with my teammates and tell them about different situations in the game. And you know why they would handle it this way I thought about this way. So it was it was a way that the coaching staff ended up seeing me and like, you know, they end up relaying it to the to the front office with the with the nationals and say, hey, look, I think we need to have this guy around. And so they end up offering me a coaching position and then my minor leagues, and I was really mostly with the rookie ball guys. Now these are guys that are right out of high school, or guys that come over from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, wherever. And it's really the young guys to get their feet wet and to get going in into their professional career. So a lot of what I did was was my was helping them with their approach and how they approach the game, whether it was hitting, whether it was defense, or whether it was bass running. That's that's what they wanted me to do. And I ended up going around to all six of the minor league teams and talking with a lot of the players. And they were asking me questions as well as far as it may. What would you do here? What would you think of this and I really enjoyed I really enjoyed what I did.
Now you bring all your experience to training players at the big league approach. Can you share more about the mission Philosophy there.
Absolutely. And that's, you know, probably the main goal, or the main focus is the the mental side. You know, and like I was telling you, I'm not here to revamp your swing, your swing is your swing now we can tweak it here a little bit here and there and it's a lot of it has to do with up here. What's in between your ears. And what helped me be able to do that is become a student. Just like I was a student in school, I had to be a student at baseball. There's so much to learn. It's I mean, it's it looks like and it it really is an easy game, throw the ball, hit the ball, catch the ball, but there's so many factors that go into it. And that's what I help with I help with helping players develop their mental approach to hitting to defense as well. At there and to enhance their their their swing to make their swing path. More online in the in the hitting zone or stay longer in the hitting zone. And just to focus on hitting line drives and really mentor mentor the younger guys, these players Not me, not me again, my I've been teaching kids from four years old all the way up to 55. And it's it's really enjoyable. I'm getting some great feedback. I'm I'm also learning from my clients too.
Now I want to move into the rapid fire questions. You're ready. Okay. Know, what did you major in in college and why?
So sports management, that's. And it was business management. I decided to do sports management. Why? Don't know.
What was your favorite Major League stadium to play in?
Well, Baltimore, Camden Yards, or Oriole park? I don't know what they're calling it now.
Yeah, Camden Yards. What was your favorite memory of playing in the big leagues?
Probably the walk off home Well, between the walk off home run and then 2007. I was with the Indians, we went to we, we end up going in the playoffs, we end up going to play the Yankees and beat the Yankees in Yankee Stadium, which we were one of three teams to do. end up having a couple at bats and having a double. And that just that season was very memorable. 2007 we were one game away from going to World Series. That's the year Boston beat Colorado. we'll serious but that in my walk off.
Wow. That sounds like a really cool memory. Being able to stay in the playoffs and be one of the better teams in baseball.
In inches. Tell us what's the longest length that your hair has ever been?
Oh man. It's got It'd be 12 inches maybe I got a couple of photos that I saw. Wow, my hair was that long. Yeah, just some Phase I was going through, like I was just, I didn't want to get cut, just being lazy.
Would you like to share any projects that you're working on and the best place for people to reach out to you and learn more about you
just, you know, continue to teach. And, you know, help and mentor, mentor younger players, not just baseball players, but softball players as well. And just trying to get the best out of each client. It's, I mean, I'm really fortunate. I've been fortunate enough to have some really good clients and great parents as well. And which really, which really helps. So the name of my company, again, is the Big League Approach. You can find me at www.thebigleagueapproach.com my cell numbers on there, and there's a way to sign up for lessons. As well as in the Tampa area. That's probably the best way.
Okay, thank you so much for coming on, and sharing some great information with the Born To Baseball community.
You got it. Thanks for having me on, Evan.
Thank you all for listening in. We really hope you enjoyed this episode. Be sure to hit the subscribe button and be the first to know when new episodes launch. Check us out at borntobaseball.com for free resources and new gear. Download the born to baseball app to have real time conversations, share your game and video highlights and be celebrated by our BTB team and of course on social media @borntobaseball where we can connect live. Now, let's play ball.
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