Robert Arato is the Founder and Director of the Brooklyn Braves Travel Baseball Club. The Braves, which are based in Bay Ridge, have teams for ages 14 to 22. In addition to the travel/tournament teams, the Braves offer year-round instruction and this Summer and Fall will provide an opportunity for younger players to train on the 60/90 fields in preparation for when they move-up next year.
Tell us a little about your background
I grew up in Brooklyn, a true proving ground for athletes and a place where competition and sportsmanship led to my love of sports. I attended catholic and private schools through college – Holy Innocents, Nazareth, Brooklyn Prep, and St Francis. The Brooklyn Braves Baseball Club was created in 2010. Although the Braves is a relatively young organization, its creation had been in development for several years before that. I had been a part of several large church-based sports organizations, but in 2006 I developed a baseball-specific training system B.A.S.E.S. (Baseball Analysis Skills Evaluation System) it was borne out of the desire to close the gap between well-meaning coaching and the frustrations that young baseball players experience trying to learn the more technical aspects of baseball. I am a fiduciary tax accountant, and former foreign currency trader.
What was the youth sports scene like when you grew up?
In short, youth sports were street/schoolyard-based. “Travel Baseball,” let alone travel sports, didn’t exist, at least not at the level we see today. There were competitive teams in all sports, but “playing ball” in the street or schoolyard was a rite of passage. I am by no means locked into the past. My coaching DNA does have old-school remnants, but the current youth/sports eco-system requires agility and multi-faceted organizational skills in order to coach. There are so many demands put on kids to excel whether in the classroom, on the field, or socially, that not only is it difficult to specialize in a particular sport, but it’s actually discouraged.
What in your background prepared you to coach baseball?
I guess part of my answer would be an extension to the prior question regarding specialization in sports. While many of us grew up playing more than one sport, and perhaps thrived in more than one, many excelled at a particular sport – mine being baseball. Playing meant playing one’s sport all the time. This approach allowed for “playing-up” with older kids, and on older teams. This competition was the crude psychological method to conflict resolution. On the field you made your bones; I was nurtured as a baseball player when it was apparent I had not only the talent to play, but the passion and love for the game. I had great teachers and coaches, who without the benefit of technological advances, like we do today, instilled in me the skills not only to teach kids HOW to play the game, but to simply teach them THE GAME.
Tell us about your family.
I’m married with three children. Our two sons are baseball players, and our daughter sings and dances. As passionate as I am about baseball, I knew the rigors of coaching the sport to young children, especially if the instruction is well meaning but misplaced – or the level of commitment is not there, can be disastrous. I waited until my sons had experienced formative athletics (meaning just kicking or throwing a ball around), before I introduced baseball, or any other competitive sport. I have often been complimented for applying as much of an even-handed approach to coaching my own kids, as possible. That being said, in fairness, both my sons are talented enough where it was not necessarily an issue. We do of course, have disagreements, but there are reciprocity of expectation. Also, they have been surrounded by different coaches and heard more than one voice in their baseball development
What do you think of parents coaching their own kids?
A parent coaching their own child can potentially have many pitfalls. The problem is a parent might attempt to coach their own child through the prism of their own successes and failures as an athlete. The experience can be volatile, alienating, and lead to the unwillingness of the child, to continue. This, as many of us see, is sadly apparent regarding baseball. Of course a special bond can also grow out of this relationship. My experience, though, is it generally doesn’t work out – in baseball, especially if the father/coach, does not understand the game well enough
Tell us about the Brooklyn Braves.
At present, we have teams in 3 age groups: 16U, 18u, and college (19-22). We will be expanding to add fall baseball, specifically for those players who by age or talent will be playing 60/90 baseball next year. In addition to playing in tournaments sponsored by Grand Slam America, Perfect Game, Baseball Heaven, and Future Stars, the Braves are committed to having a local league presence. We are affiliated with Kiwanis Baseball as our primary league, which has affiliations with National Amateur Baseball Federation and American Amateur Baseball Congress.
We are one of the only TRAVEL/TOURNAMENT programs to incorporate extensive year-round video-analysis to assist in fixing pitching and hitting faults, and to help develop strengths. We employ scientific and bio-mechanical approaches to our baseball instruction. Our purpose with the Brooklyn Braves is fulfilling the promise of developing our players to succeed at each level of competitive baseball, while embedding in their world-view the importance of being a true student-athlete-citizen. We provide the tools necessary for our student-athletes to compete in a competitive travel/tournament environment as well as in high school. We assist in creating the skills for not only becoming a college baseball player, but the actual processes of getting recruited. We help develop interview skills, write recommendation letters, contact colleges, and provide the video profiles, which are sent to all our college coaches and recruiters.
Why the name Braves?
I became an Atlanta Braves fan in the late 1970s and early 80s when the Mets were an afterthought. Bob Horner was one of my favorite players. I started to follow the team and the love affair started.
What do you look for when you hire a coach to work with kids?
When any promising coach gets vetted the baseball knowledge and skill can be apparent, but the wildcard is the individual’s alertness to signs and signals that the triangle (parent/player/coach) has a break in it. As long as the coaches, players, and parents, within the confines of the player/parent contract, adhere to the Braves principles, we can solve any issues. On-field issues relating to how the player performs, are the singular domain of the coach and his staff. Patience, quiet assertiveness, and respect for the game, while understanding and accepting the axiom that practice is for coach and the game is for the player, are solid attributes we look for and encourage.
What are the particular challenges of doing what you do in NYC?
LOL! How about actually downloading weather apps on our smart phones? With all the snow we have had, it reminds us of how unique baseball is in the northeast and how there should be a push for more batting cages. I think it was 2008 or 2009, the entire month of June, was practically rained-out. Almost every day would be perfect until the 5PM thunderstorm!
You must have lots of great stories from your years working with kids. Tell us about one that inspired you.
I think every kid that remembers me as “coach” reminds me that ALL coaches have done something right.
What was the best advice you got from a coach?
“Your talent got you here, your attitude is gunna keep you here”
What is your most treasured sports possession?
A shadow box of a dugout given to me as a gift from my team of eight year-olds.
What is your favorite sports venue in New York City?
Any field where there is a sandlot game being played.
Favorite sports book? The Last Days of Summer, by Steve Kluger
Favorite sports movie? The Sandlot
Best sports memory? I have two: when the Atlanta Braves won the 1995 Series and watching my oldest son pitch his Prep School Championship game at MCU Park in Brooklyn.See more New York Sports Connection articles
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