June 16, 2010 — TIPS FROM THE COACH
“Ideally, travel is the way to go (if the roster is small,if the team is carrying more than 12, I would look elsewhere).”
I read this quote on the Infosports youth baseball discussion board in response to an inquiry as to what would be best for his 10 year old son. I gather from this mentality that 9 is the ideal number on a squad so that his son would never have (get) to sit on the bench. I remember when I coached an 18U “travel” team that we carried 14 if possible and could pick up players after each level of play in the Connie Mack tournament! We NEVER played more than 2 games in a day.
I watched a team of 11 year olds play their 4th game in one day recently. They had played 2 the previous day. They would play again the next day and play as many as 4 games assuming they keep winning. They have 11 on the squad. One is limited because he is returning from a broken wrist! That’s 10 games in 3 days!!! I don’t want to even get into the workload on the pitchers. I just wonder how many would give up Santa for an opportunity to sit on the bench for a few games?
It seems to be a consensus that if you play travel ball, that 70 games is about the right number to play. Assuming that a kid plays for his local Little League and All Star team, that’s say, 20 games. That leaves 50 games to be played with the travel team. Assuming he starts travel after the Little League All Star run ends in say Mid June and ends Labor Day Weekend , that’s 10 weeks, 5 games per week most crammed into weekends. That’s almost as many games as THE KID plays and he is a pro!
How many catchers should a team as I have described previously carry? BTW the temp is about 95 here during the day. Do you think it would hurt any of the catchers’ feelings to grab some pine time in the shade?
The watershed summer in THE KID’S baseball career was the summer before his FR. year in HS. He was 14. He was on the Bombers, the top 18U travel team in Houston. I said ‘on’ not ‘played on’. He probably averaged 3-4 ABs per weekend. Prior to the Bombers, he was slotted on the Soph/FR ‘B’ team. But he ended up starting on the Varsity as a FR. How did he improve so much in one summer when he basically just sat on the bench? He learned a whole lot. He listened to the coaches. He listened to how the players approached the game. He learned that ‘dippin’ is foul and nasty. He learned to sleep anywhere because the big boys made him sleep in the closet. He learned that you suck it up when hurt and play. A player slammed his hand in the car door prior to the first game in a tourney. The fingertips’ swole up’ like light bulbs. While other players held his hand down on the hood of the car, the coach jammed a needle down through the fingernails, squeezed the blood out and said ‘lets go play ball’. The kid batted .700 and pitched a shutout in the tourney!
One of the hardest problems confronting a Fr. in college is how to deal with never having sat the bench. It wasn’t a problem in Youth League. He understood there were ridiculous ‘Must Play Rules’. But now for the first time in his life he is sitting because the coach deemed him to not be the best player! This is a major problem! Does he mope and bitch? Does he accept sitting? Does he take it as a challenge to learn what he needs to do to get PT? The wrong approach dooms this player not because he doesn’t have the ability to become a successful player but because he hasn’t learn in the past how to deal with ‘pine time’.
I guarantee, it does not bother kids to sit on the bench. It bothers PARENTS! They are sitting up in the stands complaining and second guessing. They have traveled all this way and spent all this money and Little Bobby is sitting! Little Bobby is not unhappy (unless prodded by Mom and Dad and he thinks he is letting them down). Little Bobby is learning to be a better ballplayer. It is Mom and Dad that need to learn a few things! Playing 4 games in a day does not make you a better baseball player. It makes you TIRED! If you’re the only one on the bench, it is boring. If there are 4 or more, it’s a party. Parents, if you can’t deal with pulling for the TEAM when your son is on the bench, STAY HOME . He probably will enjoy himself more and be a better ballplayer.
Yours In Baseball,
May 20, 2010 — TIPS FROM THE COACH
“He is a HEADCASE”. How often have you heard a player described with that dreaded term? I know at least 3 players that were not drafted by professional teams largely because they were thought to be “ headcases”. What is a headcase? If a player hits a shot that is caught by an opponent making a great play and throws a fit, he might be a headcase. If a player loses it because he thinks an umpire has made a bad call, he might be a headcase. If a player pops up in the infield and slings his bat while screaming an obscenity and loafing to first, he might be a headcase. If a pitcher loses composure because a fielder makes an error, he might be a headcase. But as a coach or parent how do we change this behavior?
The player must be taught to realize that he must only concern himself with that over which he has control!
Once the ball leaves the bat, he has no control over whether the defensive player catches it. The only things as a hitter over which he has control are whether he has prepared such that he can execute a proper swing and at which pitch he chooses to swing. He has no control over human errors on the umpire’s part and may just have a difference of opinion as to what is the strike zone and the opinion of the umpire is the only one that counts. The irony is that hitters swing at many more pitches out of the strike zone than umpires call out of the strike zone. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
A pitcher can only execute a quality delivery of the ball. From the moment it leaves his fingertips, he has no control over whether the batter smacks it out of the yard, the umpire calls it a ball, or a defensive player boots it. At some point someone will throw him another ball and he must focus on making the adjustments necessary to throw another quality pitch. Any other thoughts and he is a “headcase”.
Baseball is a game of failure. Fielders will on occasion make errors. It’s done! Its over! If the player can’t make a mental note about any adjustment that must be made to successfully execute the play the next time and put the error behind him he is doomed to make more not because he can not make the play but is a “headcase”.
Players have no control over the decisions of coaches. How often have you seen a player moved from what he deems to be “his” place in the batting order, hit miserably, and blame the coach!
Unless and until a player learns that he can concern himself only with those things over which he has control, he is doomed to never reach his full potential but will fall short because he is a “headcase”!
PS: Work on his own in a “home training” program is empowering. Not only will he improve his skills but in his head he will have EARNED the right to succeed. A Hands Back Hitter and Insider Bat will allow your young ballplayer to work on his hitting by himself and give him a HUGE advantage. You can throw quality BP to him in the front yard using Pickleballs and not worry about breaking the neighbor’s windows. With Tips From The Coach-HOME TRAINING he will have dozens of drills he can do at home to improve his game.
Yours in Baseball
April 27, 2010 — TIPS FROM THE COACH
I was recently asked what is the most important thing in hitting. After thinking a while I have decided that there are 3 vital elements to successful hitting.
1.SEE THE BALL
This might seem obvious as there are no blind players in the Major Leagues. (They all go into umpiring). But as the ball travels from the pitcher to the plate in approximately .4 of a second and the hitter must determine the speed, spin and location and whether to swing in approximately .2 seconds, the sooner he can pick up the ball the better. When hitters are hitting well they speak of “seeing the ball well” and when they are slumping they are not “seeing the ball well”. What is the difference? Those that are “seeing it well” are picking it up right off the pitchers fingertips. Those that are not, have not narrowed their focus from including the outfielders, the birds in the trees behind the fence or even the moon. By the time they pick up the ball it may have traveled 3 feet and they have lost precious hundredths of a second in the critical decision making process. There are excellent drills in the FUNDAMENTALS OF HITTING from the BASEBALL SKILLS AND DRILLS video series or Tips From The Coach-HITTING from the TIPS FROM THE COACH video series to sharpen the hitter’s focus on the release point.
2.KEEP YOUR WEIGHT BACK
Hitting is timing and pitching is destroying timing. If the pitcher can get a hitter out on his front foot, he can own him with off speed stuff. The longer the hitter can keep his weight coiled on his back side the longer he gets to see the ball before making the critical swing/take decision. Work with THE HANDS BACK HITTER will help immensely with learning to stay back, not blend your stride and swing and execute a proper rotational swing. When you order the HANDS BACK HITTER , I will send you the FUNdamentals Of Hitting , a $24.95 value for FREE!
3.YOU ARE NO BETTER HITTER THAN THE PITCH AT WHICH YOU CHOSE TO SWING
I have previously written a TIPS FROM THE COACH concerning the importance of selectivity when hitting. It is archived at http://www.tipsfromthecoach.com/tip.php?item=9 . Suffice it to say that even on pitches in the strike zone, the hitters will have a higher percentage of success on a fastball down the middle than a breaking ball on the black. He should be selective and swing only at those pitches with which he can expect a high degree of success early in the count and lay off those strikes that he can not expect to have great success until later in the count. How often do you hear a slumping hitter complain of “just not getting any good pitches to hit”, after swinging and making an out on a first pitch breaking ball on the black. He never gave the pitcher a chance to make a mistake. He got himself out by his inability to see the ball off the pitchers fingers, costing him valuable decision making time, then he committed his weight onto his front foot and swung weakly at an off speed pitch out of his “hitting zone”
It all sounds so simple. But these three elements are the crux of the on going struggle hitters face.
Yours in Baseball
April 23, 2010 — TIPS FROM THE COACH
I watched as the coach gave his rousing “pep talk” to his team. “A winner never quits and a quitter never wins”. “This is the big game. I want each of you to give 110%”. “ Leave it all on the field. Physical toughness isn’t enough. You must be mentally tough”
Nice bunch of cliches but you shouldn’t play at 110%. Just make the play as you have 1000 times before. You don’t play better by trying harder, you play worse! Mental toughness is, believing that you will make the play without heroic effort. I refer to it as “inner arrogance”.
Mental toughness is not concerning yourself with those things over which you have no control. Understanding everyone makes errors and putting a misplay behind you and not letting it effect the next play. Mental toughness is, understanding you can’t control the coach’s decisions but that when you get a chance to perform you will be successful because you have the inner arrogance that believes that you don’t have to make an heroic effort to succeed.
Mental toughness is being disciplined enough to go 0-4 but realize that you had 3 quality ABS and that is all you can control and that you are not in a slump. Mental toughness is understanding that if the stud makes his pitches you will not be very successful but that eventually he will make a mistake and that you must not try to do too much with it but just execute a quality swing.
Baseball is a game of failure. Just fail 2 out of 3 times at the plate for your career and you will end up in the Hall Of Fame but you failed 2 out of 3 times, can you deal with it? ARod is arguably the greatest player to ever play the game. He had an off year by his standards (.290, 33 HRs, 117 RBIs) a couple of yrs ago and an even worse post season. The brutal NY media and un-knowledgeable fans were piling on pressure. Is he mentally tough enough to withstand the pressure? Can he find that “inner arrogance”? Well look at his stats last year.
Your young ballplayer isn’t ARod but he knows when he booted it. He knows when he failed at the plate. Will he develop that “inner arrogance” to know that he doesn’t have to fall victim to attempting to use heroic effort to succeed? If he participates in a “home training program”, the effort he puts in will help him to develop that “inner arrogance”. He will have EARNED the right to succeed. With my Tips From The Coach-HOMETRAINING DVD he will have a multitude of FUN drills he can do at home to hone his skills.
Yours In Baseball
April 14, 2010 — TIPS FROM THE COACH
Baseball is a game of failure. It is how well you handle the failures not the successes that will be the determining factor in how well and how long a player plays the game. Stats are an integral part of the game but if used as a measure of how well one is performing can be a heavy burden and not a valid indicator of how well one is performing. A more valid and helpful measurement is Quality At Bats.
I define a quality at bat as:
1. The batter goes to the plate with a plan. He should know what pitch he can hit with expectation of having the highest degree of success. Ted Williams knew that he hit .135 on back door sliders down and away but over .500 on fast balls belt high, down the middle. We would never have heard of Ted Williams if he swung at many down and away sliders!
2. The batter swings only at high success expectation pitches early in the count. For most young hitters that means not swinging at breaking balls early in the count. With no strikes he will swing at fast balls “zoned” say middle- in and thigh to waist high. The batter’s hitting zone as opposed to strike zone is not static but changes with each count. Great “hitter’s counts” are 2-0 and 3-1. The pitcher must challenge the batter and the odds of him getting a pitch that he can expect to hit with a high degree of success are much higher. Undisciplined hitters often never get to 3-1 because they won’t lay off that pitch that is in the strike zone but not a quality hitter’s pitch. They already made an out not because they aren’t a good hitter but because they weren’t disciplined enough to wait for a good pitch.
3. Several other good things occur because a hitter is disciplined. The pitcher must throw more pitches. The batter “sees” more of the pitcher’s stuff. The pitcher will tire sooner and when he tires he will make more mistakes and then he is more hittable.
4. The batter must take pitches to ever draw a walk. All walks are “quality at bats”.
5. A strike out can be a quality at bat! If the batter makes the pitcher throw an inordinate number of pitches, he has helped his team much more than the hitter that swung at the first pitch and made an out.
It is vital that a hitter learn that the only thing he has control of at the plate is at which particular pitch he chooses to swing.!!! If he swings at a quality pitch, hits the ball sharply, and it is caught by a fielder, he has had a quality at bat!!!!
If he can at the end of a game know he had 3 of 4 quality AB’s, even if he was 0 fer, he must realize he had a good game at the plate. A byproduct of this emphasis on quality AB’s will be that he will find not only his BA rising but his slugging pct. as he gets more balls that he can drive. His mental well being will improve and if the whole team adopts this approach, they will WIN more games.
During live BP, it is a good idea to give the batter count situations and encouraging him to “zone” pitches depending upon the count. Never try to coach swing mechanics during live BP. Swing mechanics should only be stressed during work at the Tee station.. When working on the HANDS BACK HITTER , they MUST develop a short and consistent stride on the ball of the foot, keeping the weight back and executing proper rotational swing mechanics. With an InsiderBat he will learn to “stay inside the ball” and to have his hands in the proper “palm up, palm down” position at contact. To master all the skills necessary to have the most success/ FUN playing baseball, he must participate in a Hometraining program. With the Tips From The Coach-HOMETRAINING DVD he will have dozens of FUN drill he can do around your house to improve his game and drag him away from the video games.
With the BASEBALL SKILLS AND DRILLS video series, you will have all the knowledge necessary to assist your young ballplayers to perform the skills of baseball correctly and have FUN. All 6 videos in the BASEBALL SKILLS AND DRILLS series on one DVD is on sale this month for just $89.95 and I will toss my Tips From The Coach- HOW TO CONDUCT A PRACTICE DVD for FREE! This is a savings of $120.00!
Yours in Baseball’
February 23, 2010 — TIPS FROM THE COACH
Recently, I was in a big chain sporting goods store. I encountered a woman close to tears. She was there with her son shopping for equipment for the upcoming youth baseball season. She was so frustrated because she didn t know what to buy. Did he need a $300.00 bat? A $185.00 glove? She had heard that she needed to send her kid to a Private Hitting Instructor for lessons. Of course, there was no knowledgeable sales person to help her, so I did, like I try to help you guys.
Her kid was 9. I told her that he didn’t need an expensive pro line glove. A cheaper model like the Akadema Prodigy would serve him just fine plus at that age he would probably leave it out in the yard in the rain and the dog would eat it. That pricey feather lite bat wouldn’t make him a better hitter but might enable him to get away with faulty swing mechanics, which will retard his development. She didn’t need to spend big bucks for a hitting instructor. She and he could get all the knowledge necessary by getting my Tips From The Coach-HITTING video or FUNdamentals Of Hitting video from the Baseball Skills And Drills video series for a lot less.
You can t buy success in baseball. You must earn it. It isn’t pricey equipment and private lessons. Success comes from having invested considerable sweat equity . But to kids, WORK is a dirty four letter word. With my newest instructional video, Tips From The Coach-HOMETRAINING, he will have a multitude of FUN drills which he can do on his own at home and keep him off the video games. I suggested that she get a HANDS BACK HITTER . With this marvelous training aid he will develop a short and consistent stride on the ball of his foot, learn to not blend his stride and swing, keep his weight back and use proper rotational swing mechanics when hitting the ball AND ITS FUN! Work with an INSIDERBAT will ensure that he “stays inside the ball” and doesn t “bow out and swing around the ball”. Then with some Pickleballs, he can take quality batting practice right in the backyard and not worry about breaking windows.
With the TOTAL PACKAGE SALE you can get everything you need to train your young ballplayer for the price of four private hitting lessons and save about $200.00 from what it would cost were you to purchase each item separately. The TOTAL PACKAGE includes all 6 Baseball Skills And Drills videos on one DVD, all 3 Tips From The Coach videos on one DVD, a HANDS BACK HITTER , and a dozen Pickleballs.
Yours In Baseball
November 18, 2009 — TIPS FROM THE COACH
I have a friend that has twin boys that are incoming HS FR. I decided to form a team of similar kids to play in a 16U HS Fall League. This is a watershed year in a ballplayer’s career. From here on playing baseball is a matter of earning the right to play. No more showing up and getting on a team. No more multitudes of “select” teams willing to take anyone with the bucks. If a kid doesn’t make the HS team it is over.
I got 13 players. The day before the first game one kid broke his arm playing basketball. Another fell on his skateboard scraping himself from wrist to ankle. He didn’t show up for the first game. I guess he figured there was nothing he could learn by being there. I’m sure were he to sustain an injury during HS ball, his HS coach wouldn’t expect him to come to practices and games. Two others quit at the behest of their HS coach because we were not going to practice, only play 2 games a week. My team was made up of players from a 50 mile radius and practice was impossible. Plus it is Fall Ball. They have a multitude of other activities they need to attend to more than practice. There is not going to be any carry over to Spring from reps in the Fall.
Down to 9 players, we played the first game. I told them ‘how the cow ate the cabbage’. Congratulations, they would all make the HS Soph/Fr team the next year. But players that are very good make the JV. Studs make the Varsity as FR!. You have earned one more year to play ball. Look around ½ of you will not be playing after this year. Then Daddy is going to suggest you find another activity to fill your spare time and help pay for that car you are going to want next year and you will learn to say “ do you want ketchup with those fries”. From here on it is a sprint to excellence, the reward being the opportunity to play baseball one more year.
After the game, one Momma complained that I had hurt her son’s feelings by intimating that there was a chance at failure. Another Momma, complained that there was no 1st base coach. I told them I wanted them to learn to think for themselves on the bases and push the envelope without fear of an overbearing base coach chastising them for mistakes (IT’S FALL BALL). Another Momma complained that we had no signs. I told them this wasn’t about me flashing signs and strategizing to win games but the players learning to recognize game situations and implementing the correct play. Further I could teach them more in the dugout where the players are than standing in the coach’s box patting my head and rubbing my stomach. Another momma was upset because I didn’t take them out to ‘stretch’ before the game. (The team stretches on their own in HS) Another Momma, wanted to know if I was going to get another catcher because her son couldn’t be expected to catch every game! We play 2 games a week. Heaven forbid, a 15 year old should have to catch two games a week. I’m sure his HS coach won’t torture him so.
My assistant (a pro scout) and I pointed out numerous mistakes they made in coverages and execution during the games. I, in particular pointed out that they difference in throwing 78 and 74 means nothing to batters but if you can’t control 78 and walk a batter, you just turned him into Babe Ruth.
The next game, 5 showed up, the opposition loaned us 4 players and we played.
After the game, two Mommas gave me their son’s unis and said THEY were quitting the team. I pointed out that THEY were not members of the TEAM and that if the young men who were members of the team were desirous of quitting THEY should do so and that Mommy need to butt out. Interestingly, not one Dad spoke to me. The Dads lurked in the background staring at their shoes.
I placed the remaining members of the team with another team and walked away.
The only regret that I have is that I did not get to make my speech to the parents.( I was waiting until I had all of them in attendance). (For my preseason speech to parents get the COACHING PSYCHOLOGY video. It is a shame that no previous coach had taken the time to teach these Mommas their proper role. In putting the team together, I had spoken to several HS coaches who are friends of mine. They had warned me of a new phenomenon of Mommas barging into their offices to act as agents for their sons. One coach told me of cutting a kid (the worst player at the tryouts) and the next day, his Momma burst into his office and informed him what an incompetent idiot he was. Her son had played for the Toros, Mudcats, etc. He had even played at Cooperstown. He had taken lessons from 3 of the top instructors in town. The coach told her he knew 2 of the instructors and they would give lesson to a quadriplegic if he had $50 and her son was NOT good enough to be on the HS team. End of conversation.
There is a chapter (Loose Lips Sink Ships) in my book, A PARENTS GUIDE TO BASEBALL-Surviving And Thriving Youth League To College that covers parent’s behavior in HS baseball and some of the ramifications. I guess when Mommas attend 100 games a year for 8 years and act as agents with their son’s select team coaches they think they know the game and that they can continue their agenting with HS coaches. They can’t. The coach gets paid the same, win or lose, whether your son is on the team or not. Why would he put up with crap from parents? He won’t.
Be sure YOUR actions don’t hurt your son’s baseball experience.
Yours in Baseball,
October 26, 2009 — TIPS FROM THE COACH
The most frequently asked question I get concerns young pitchers and curveballs. Will young pitchers hurt their arms throwing curves? At what age should a pitcher be allowed to throw curves etc! First off, if you think young baseball players don’t mess around with throwing different pitches, curves, splitters, knuckleballs, screwgies, you are very naïve. So the point is somewhat moot. Does a properly thrown place more strain on the arm than a fastball? The doctors at ASMI did a study on the subject and decided that IT DOES NOT! But still the myth persists. For a more detailed explanation of why a properly thrown curveball does not place more strain on the young players arm and how to throw a curveball correctly, I suggest that you get my FUNdamentals Of Pitching and Tips From The Coach-PITCHING
The better question might be, why are so many young ballplayers coming up with sore arms? I think the answer must be attributed to today’s lifestyle. When I was a kid, we ate breakfast and were out the door. Where ever we went we were throwing something, a ball, a rock at a critter, a pinecone at each other. We probably threw something a hundred times a day, every day. At dusk, when it was getting too dark to see we would throw the ball high into the air so the person catching it could see it against the waning light still in the sky. Sometimes we would throw curves 150 feet to see how big a break we could achieve. Big, roundhouse, palms up. Little League curveballs! I nor any of my friends ever had an arm injury or sore arm!
What does the modern day young player do during the day? He spends all day in air conditioning, playing video games, or watching MTV. He goes to practice or a game where he doesn’t even know how to warm up correctly.( I have found an excellent warm up program The Ultimate 7 Minute Warm Up). Pitchers are limited in the number of innings they throw so they probably only pitch once a week. Imagine the shock to his muscles and tendons when once a week they are asked to perform with max effort! These kids are babied and pampered. Heaven forbid they should sweat. Parents are warned in the most dire terms of all the dangers that await outside the air conditioned confines. Don’t let them get overheated. Avoid the sunlight. Bicycles without armour, Mosquitos, Perverts, Gangs etc. I actually know kids that go to aerobics classes. I know 12 year olds with strength trainers! I heard of an 11 year old that pulled a hamstring. You would not believe how many times I have been approached about giving private lessons to 6 year olds! I tell their Dads to give them a tennis ball and a wall and let them learn to catch just like thousands before them or even better play with your kid. Now there is a novel idea. If you take advantage of the FALL 08 SALE, you can get all six of the BASEBALL SKILLS AND DRILLS videos on one DVD and the TIPS FROM THE COACH video series on one DVD for the low price of $99.95. That’s a saving of $170.00 from what it these 9 videos would cost were they purchased individually and you will have all the knowledge necessary to help your young ballplayers.
There is nothing you can do to protect you kids from all the ills in the world. Wrap them in an air conditioned cocoon and don’t be surprised when their soft little bodies break when exposed to the rigors of athletic competition. But don’t blame the curveball.
Yours in Baseball
September 27, 2009 — TIPS FROM THE COACH
The key to quality swing mechanics is quality work on the TEE. A player should groove his swing with hundred of quality reps on the TEE before he ever steps foot outside and hits live pitching. A Tee Station can easily be constructed in the garage or basement by attaching a tarp to the ceiling. Attach a pole to the bottom and it can be rolled up to the ceiling and secured with a chain when not in use.
The hitter should take his stance with his belt buckle in the center of the plate. The tee should be moved around to three different contact points. Contact point 1 is placed on the inside 1/3 of the plate, about 2 feet in front of the plate. This pitch should be pulled. Contact point 2 is placed down the middle and about one foot in front of the plate and hit up the middle. Contact point 3 is placed on the outside corner, back into the plate and driven to the opposite field.
1/3 of the swings should be lead hand cuts, 1/3 follow hand cuts and 1/3 two hand cuts. When swinging with the lead or follow hand the hitter should choke up for bat control and place the bat flat at the tip of his shoulder. Lead hands cuts will emphasize that the swing is powered by the rotation of the hips and body not by the arms and shoulders. I place a lot of emphasis on lead hand cuts at contact point 3 because this emphasizes letting the ball get deep, staying closed and driving the ball the other way. It is easy to learn to pull the ball but hard to learn to stay back, let the ball get deep, and drive it the other way.
TEE work is BORING for younger players. I told my sons to envision a MLB pitcher in the tarp like say Randy Johnson and pretend to be their favorite hitter, Chipper Jones. Then they were to also be the radio announcer, Harry Carey and announce the game. “The Big Unit toes the rubber, kicks and throws, just a little outside, he doesn’t want to challenge the Chipmeister. Johnson brings it again, Chipper swings, its deep, back, back, it’s out of here!” Then THE KID would “Cadillac Trot” around the garage. It wasn’t work. It was an imaginary game. I can’t tell you how many times I went out to call them in to dinner to hear, “ Just a minute, Dad, we’ve got the Rocket on the ropes”.
Work, done now will lay a solid foundation for success in the upcoming season.
Yours In Baseball
September 23, 2009 — TIPS FROM THE COACH
See the ball. Hit the ball.
This is the most basic of hitting concepts. We all spend a great deal of time and resources on the mechanics of executing a quality swing. But none of that matters if you don’t see the ball! That is why there are no blind baseball players. They all go into umpiring, LOL
THE KID (a pro AAA player) was tearing up the ball last season, hitting .350. Then his supply of contact lens ran out. He had already received a new batch but hadn’t checked them. The next thing you know he was 2 for his last 24 and hitting .300. What happened? His new batch of contacts were filled off an old prescription (.5) instead of his newest prescription (.75). By the time he figured it out and got a new, correct batch shipped to him, he had lost 50 precious points from his BA!
Your kid doesn’t know if there is something wrong with his vision. He doesn’t know if his contacts are too weak. He assumes what he sees is the way it’s supposed to look. Before you hustle him off to another pricey session with a Hitting Instructor, get his eyes checked.
THE ELDEST was nine and learning to shoot his new BB gun. I noticed he was leaning his head way over the barrel and sighting with his left eye. Only then did it occur to me to have his eyes checked. I found out he had amleopia. or “lazy eye”. He could see out of both eyes but only his left eye registered on his brain. If caught at an early enough age it is correctable by “patching” the good eye and making the weak eye work but we were too late. The biggest problem with this condition is a lack of depth perception. This makes hitting a moving ball a challenge. I told my wife I didn’t think he would be able to play baseball for very long. I was wrong. Because he is the single most competitive person I have ever met, he found a way to out work and out compete everyone and he played through college when finally everyone worked hard and competed but everyone else had depth perception and moved ahead. I wish I had had his eyes checked earlier.
It takes the ball approximately .4 seconds from the pitcher’s release for the ball to hit the catcher’s mitt. The hitter has approximately .2 seconds to determine speed, spin, and location and decide to swing and when and where. Seeing the ball off the pitcher’s hand is crucial.
See the ball. Hit the ball. It’s that simple.
Yours In Baseball,
September 13, 2009 — TIPS FROM THE COACH
What motivates players to excel? In some instances they are playing to please Dad. There is nothing wrong with that reason in the short term. In most cases, this baseball experience is a short and precious period of time during which a father and son can bond with a mutual love for the game. Heck, Kevin Costner made a movie about the phenomenon. “Field Of Dreams”. When a boy becomes a teenager, baseball may be the only subject about which a father and son can converse civilly. But in the long run, playing to just please Dad’s expectations will seldom provide sufficient drive to truly excel and resentment may be the final result.
Then there are the immediate goals such as making the All Star team, making the HS team, varsity, getting a college scholarship or signing pro. These are often fueled by delusions and if not attained can result in reactions of failure and hostility towards the game. Woulda, coulda, shoulda. If only that coach/scout had appreciated my ability. The problem is that all those goals are a product of something over which he has no control. As I have said many times, players must learn to not concern themselves with things over which they have no control. If a players lifelong motivation is to get a ‘ship to the University Of (insert favorite school) and the coach at that school doesn’t happen to need someone at the position he plays or has already used up his ‘ships, he may feel he has failed not because he hasn’t worked and developed skills sufficient to play college baseball but because he doesn’t happen to fit into his favorite school’s needs.
So what is the answer? What should motivate a player to excel? He must want to strive to be the best that he can be because he loves playing the game and because he will enjoy the game more by playing better. Sure, my son had goals and he attained many and surpassed even those he had but he was not recruited by his favorite school out of HS. In fact, despite all the acclaim and honors for reasons we do not understand even today, he didn’t get offers from big schools and played two years at a JUCO. He today says he wouldn’t have traded those two years for anything. But when you get past the delusions and those things over which you have no control, what should motivate a player to excel is the desire to work to improve his ability to enjoy the game and get to play one more day. That he can control until the game tells you that it’s over.
Yours In Baseball
September 3, 2009 — TIPS FROM THE COACH
It has been pointed out to me that there is a vast difference in coaching post pubescent players and kids. Duh?!
Sometimes older more experienced coaches look down on youth baseball coaches. They are wrong. It is much more challenging to coach youngsters. When coaching High School and 18U players, you pretty much try to not screw them up It is much harder to coach kids than prospect big boys. The big boys pretty much know how to play. They know how to swing a bat. Only if they are slumping and they ask, do you ever offer swing mechanics advice. In most instances, they know if they made a mistake. You just need to make sure they understand what they did and what to do about it. The vast majority of the time, you are dealing with mental approach problems.
With kids, it is axiomatic that, that which you don’t teach them they won’t know. Think about it. You are dealing with a vacuum. You must teach them quality swing mechanics, drills to be used in a home training program to ingrain those mechanics into their muscle memory. Plate discipline. How to deal with failure. Fielding mechanics and drills to do in a home training program and what and where to throw it and how to deal with the failure. Pitching mechanics and strategy and a home training program to ingrain those mechanics into a quality delivery and how to deal with failure. Boy, you have your hands full. Never coach down. Challenge them to learn to play beyond what most people think someone their age can accomplish. You are likely to be teaching entirely different levels of skills to members of the same team. On the one hand, you are teaching everything to the newbie, how to and where to throw, how to swing it, and base running but with a “stud” who has been playing a few years, you may be teaching very advanced strategies and disciplines.
August 31, 2009 — Like no other team sport, baseball teaches individual responsibility for one’s actions. You booted it. YOU made the error. You K’d, YOU make the long walk back to the dugout. A player must EARN the right to have success playing baseball. No one ever just walked out onto the field possessing the skills to play the game well.
Recently, a young man introduced himself to me and reminded me he had played for me when he was 9. He had been new to the community. He had never played baseball. He just wanted to make new friends. I had challenged him to work to develop skills to be able to help the team. He realized that he didn’t want to let down his new friends and teammates so he worked hard to uphold his responsibilities to the TEAM. He only played a few years but wanted to thank me for helping him to become the man he is today. Although, 17 players that have played for me have gone one to make it to THE SHOW, I could not have been more proud of them than of the young Marine captain who was standing in front of me.
We are not just teaching kids baseball skills. We are not just about winning trophies. We are not supervising an aerobic playground activity. We should be challenging young players to strive to develop skills that will allow them to help the TEAM to be successful. We are teaching lessons in life from a little boy’s games that hopefully will help them to become successful doctors, or lawyers, or cab drivers or plumbers or MARINE CAPTAINS. Sempre Fi!
Yours In Baseball