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Sunday, November 30, 2008

How to Become a Complete Baseball Player

By Bob Hines

This is the ultimate goal for a ball player right? Developing the "five tools". It takes commitment and dedication of course, but it also takes a positive attitude towards improvement.

I read a quote yesterday from a college coach that really stuck with me...
"you will never improve a skill or ability if you start out thinking you know everything about it."

Sounds simple enough. Some would say "keep an opened mind" says the same thing but I think there's more to it. My interpretation of this statement is... in order for a person to reach their goals they must be open to learning from others who have been down the road before them. In relationship to baseball it means listening to all advice and finding the good in it.

A baseball player will work with many coaches throughout their career. Youth players generally have different coaches every season. Some more experienced and knowledgeable than others. If you are lucky enough to play for a coach who really knows his or her stuff you will do yourself a great service by opening up, paying attention and taking in everything they want to teach you. You may not agree with everything, but take it in. Then you can balance that knowledge with what you have learned from others. This is how players improve... take the best lessons from the best coaches and put it all together. That's how you become a "complete" player.

For example, my friend's son has played for a coach the past 3 seasons who is VERY knowledgeable about hitting.. he played Div1 ball, was a powerhitter, taught him a lot. This coach also thought he knew a lot about baserunning. He knew some, but another coach this player worked with privately was a base stealing phemon who taught him things that the hitting coach had never learned. However, when the hitting coach gave him baserunning instruction he listened and took it in. Yet he practiced and used most of what the baserunning coach taught him. One day he had a game where he stole 3 bases. After the game the hitting coach said "say, great game today, you seem to have come up with a baserunning technique that really works for you, stay with it". Get the picture?

There are very few absolutes in baseball. While there are general guidelines on how to do things, every player is different. Players learn baseball skills in a way that fits them. That's why when you look at college and pro players, they all have similar elements in their swings, yet every swing is different.

Good coaches know that not all players have the same batting stance or the same load/stride technique, or the same stance when leading off 1st base. A good coach wants a player to get the most of their mental and physical ability.

The best advice to you, the player, is listen to all your coaches and take in the best parts from each. If you do this you will be well on your way to meeting your baseball goals and becoming a "complete player".

Coach Bob
Visit Coach Bob's Youth Baseball Blog @
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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Does It Help, Does It Hurt? A Look At Training For Baseball And Common Shoulder Injuries

By Ethan Bowlin

Is your training increasing or decreasing your risk of injury? Our goal is to function at the highest level possible while reducing the risk of injury. Baseball is a sport that involves strength, speed, endurance, flexibility, and mobility to name a few. What I have been seeing with baseball players from little league, early adolescence into their adult lives is the widely accepted notion that to become a better athlete you have to train for form, not so much function. What is the difference?

Form is what can be termed bodybuilding, building the body with focus on big muscles or prime movers of the body. The chest, shoulders, abdominals, arms and quads, also known as mirror muscles, what we can see in the mirror, are most commonly developed using machines and free weights. Bench press, crunches, biceps curls and knee extensions are the exercises of choice. What is wrong with that, you may say? I thought that to be involved in athletics, I have to become stronger and condition the body for that sport? Yes and no. Let me explain, let’s look at function.
Function is what is useful, how the body is utilized throughout different planes of movement for a desired action. Baseball for example, involves throwing, hitting and running and must deal with forces that cause rotation, forces that distract a joint during acceleration, and forces that must be decelerated, stabilized and transferred to produce the desired action. So you ask, I thought that building my muscles stronger would accomplish that? When we focus on form or bodybuilding only, you are creating an unbalanced environment.

Let’s take look at one of the most problematic issues regarding baseball players, shoulder injuries. When an athlete throws a baseball, force is generated from the lower body and transferred through the core into the upper body through the shoulder, elbow and wrist providing the “speed” of the baseball. However, the force does not stop there. Once the ball is released, that force does not disappear, it must be decelerated back through the wrist, elbow, shoulder, upper body, core and lower body. Simply stated, what you speed up, you must slow down.

The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body, however, what we gain in mobility we sacrifice stability. Picture the shoulder as a ball sitting on a plate, very mobile but not very stable. For the shoulder, or any joint for that matter, must be stable before moving. Stability of the shoulder is heavily reliant on the rotator cuff muscles. The rotator cuff muscles originate from the shoulder blade and its goal is to keep the ball centered on the plate so the big muscles can produce the accelerating, decelerating and rotational forces while throwing. Muscles surrounding the shoulder blade that provide stability for the shoulder joint include the lower trapezius, serratus anterior and rhomboid muscles. All these muscles not only provide support for the shoulder but also are crucial in holding your posture.

Weakness in these muscles and focusing on strength training for the chest, arms and abdominals will create an imbalance between the front and back of the shoulder girdle (upper body) possibly creating a rounded upper back, forward head appearance (slouching). This imbalance places the upper back muscles in a lengthened position, which will create greater stress on the rotator cuff during deceleration phase (follow through) of throwing and altered throwing mechanics. Many times it can manifest as soreness and pain in the shoulder, down into the upper arm, elbow and forearm. So how do I avoid this? Build your body like building a house. You wouldn’t start with the roof and windows before having a solid foundation. Then don’t just jump into strength training, start with a strong stable foundation and proper alignment before packing on the muscle!

First use a foam roller to loosen tight muscles and stretch the muscles around your shoulder for optimal range of motion (For more information the foam roller, look at Relieve Pain with Foam). Stretching the muscles in the front (chest, shoulders, and internal rotators) and strengthening the muscles in the back (lower trapezius, rhomboids, and external rotators) will help to balance your shoulder girdle. Next, because we transfer force from the lower body to the upper body while throwing and vice versa we target core stability and strength. The core involves more than just your abdominals and low back; it includes the deep muscles along your spine down through your pelvis and hips. Most people think of core exercises as movements such as crunches, twists and back extensions to name a few, however that is only one part of it. Core exercises can be split into stabilizing and movement exercises. When we attempt to develop core strength without core stability, we are forcing our bodies to rely on the prime movers, such as the chest, abdominals and shoulders to do the stabilizing. We must be stable before we can move; otherwise energy is wasted while throwing, running and hitting, all baseball movements. For a small range of exercises with a variety of uses from improving posture to sport specific exercises for throwing go to Does It Help Does It Hurt on the fuel page at

Ethan Bowlin is a fitness professional and co-founder of Performance 4 Life. Ethan coaches baseball and specializes in rehabilitation and strength and conditioning and can be reached at
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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Do You Let Your Kids Steal? by By Chip Lemin

Many Youth Baseball Coaches often overlook base running. The coaches are usually busy enough trying to keep kids focused during practice. Smart base running by all your players regardless of speed or talent will help make your team a winner. This article is an advanced article on stealing bases. Be sure to read it, even if you players are not stealing bases yet. Keep it filed away with your notes, this is very good stuff. A good base running team puts the other team on notice right away; we came here to play!

Stealing Second Base

Too many kids are picked off because they are looking at their coach give signals while standing off of the bag. The Cardinal rule as a base runner when not on the bag is Keep your eye on the ball. Instruct your runners to get signs from the coaches with their foot on the bag, always!

Your players should always watch the pitcher when taking a lead. Why? Because they have the ball. Coaches have taught that your lead should be a body length and a step and this became the standard. Now this is a good reference point, but there are plenty of kids out there who have never ventured beyond this point! Do this with all your base runners, go with the body length and a step, wait for a pick-off attempt, and evaluate your lead. Encourage your slower players to try this in practice or scrimmages to show them they can steal bases too. You may have to tweak their lead length, but keep pushing them to get as big of a lead as their talent allows. Some pitchers have quick moves, while others are rather slow. Good base running teams take advantage of every opportunity. Show your players how to begin watching pitchers right away to find out their tendencies.

Keep your players taking shuffle steps when leading off at 1st base Your more advanced, faster players can employ a cross over step with left foot behind the right, then 2 shuffle steps. The player should take their lead at the front edge of the bag. In other words, the runner should be as close to the pitcher as possible while still being even with the base. Pitchers who aren't concerned about the base runner will soon find the base runner no longer on first base! This will give the perception to the pitcher that your runner is closer to bag that they really are. Try it it works! Good base running techniques also train your pitchers what to look for when they are on the mound.

Getting a good jump is absolutely the most important aspect of stealing a base. If a player does not get a good jump, they will be out most of the time. Players who are aggressive with their jumps will have far more success. When you give the steal sign, too many youth base ball players think they have to go on the next pitch. Tell your players to steal only if they get a good jump. Here are several options to getting a good jump no matter what your player's speed or talent level.

For right-handed pitchers only, focus on their feet.

This is a basic technique used in stealing second base. Pitchers have three options once they are in the set position. They can pitch, pick, or step off. When the pitcher delivers to the plate, the first part to move will be the left heel. When a pitcher is not going home with the ball, the first part to move will be his right heel. A well-coached base runner is able to focus on both feet. They must learn to react instantly. Left foot go, right foot back. Good pitchers will have ways to disguise this. So start studying your opposing pitcher from the 1st pitch.

Look at the front shoulder.

Another basic tactic to show your players is to watch the front shoulder. When a pitcher delivers to the plate, the front shoulder will "close" towards third base. If they are not going home, it will open towards first. Well-coached youth baseball pitchers will have tricks to disguise this.

Possible pitcher tendencies to look for.

The tendencies listed below, as well as numerous others, are things a youth base runner should look for. Remember to tell your players that well-coached runners does not have to wait until they are on base to pick up on tendencies. Good base runners study the pitcher as soon as there is a base runner. That is your job as a youth baseball coach, to keep your players focused. This technique is for the aggressive style coach and player; not everyone will be able to use it.

Most youth baseball pitchers will be prone to some of the following.
- May take a deep breath before delivering to plate.
- They only try to pick when set- They only throw to base as they come down to set.
- Pitcher always goes to base on a certain time count.
- They only try to pick one time.
- They will not throw over after being set for more 1 or 2 seconds.
- Only throws over on way up to the set position.

Here is a method can be used at all levels of youth baseball that allow stealing. Timing the pitcher. It is directly tied to pitcher habits. Say your coach's notice that a pitcher will come set for the same amount of time on every pitch. Relay that information to your runner. A well-coached, focused youth baseball player is ready to use this.

Hopefully your base runner is storing this information from the dugout. Will your runners get thrown out sometimes? Of course they will. Your players will not improve if they are not taking risks and trying to reach the next level. This method used properly, will be successful far more than not. It must be practiced a lot however. Use it at scrimmages to polish it.

Have a sign that allows coaches to relay timing information to runners such as tapping the brim of the cap 2 times to signify pitcher has a two second delay at set position. Coaches can touch their shoulder to alert runner to watch shoulder of pitcher. Be creative and have fun with it.

How to get back to the base.

When the runner has the stealing on their agenda, the base runner should always be "diving" back to the bag. If your runner can get back standing up, then the lead was not big enough. The dive back is a simple crossover and a headfirst slide to the bag. It important to note that when going back to the bag, the runner isn't actually diving. The goal is to get as low as possible as soon as possible to avoid the tag. Instruct your players to stay low and not launch themselves up into the air as they get back. This only gives the defense a better target to tag them out with.

As soon as the runner gets back, they should get up right away, walking up the bag, that is, not breaking contact with the base. Some pitchers are taught to get the ball and quick pitch if your runner lies on the ground too long. Furthermore, they should always be looking for an overthrown ball.
When your runner is not "diving" back to the bag, their movement should be a crossover, followed by a step to the left side of the bag. The runner should continue their momentum and open the shoulder out towards the right field foul line. Always be on the look out for an overthrown ball.

Here is an advanced base-running tip for your heads up players who really want to make something happen. Oftentimes, a pitcher will make a lazy lob pick to first base. When your smart, well-coached base runner realizes that the pitcher is making this sort of pick, teach your base runner go straight to the bag, in front of the first baseman and pop up tall to obstruct the 1st baseman's vision and create an overthrow. Your runner should use a cross over step so they have their back to the pitcher to protect their face, and make it far easier to see an over throw.

Get your youth baseball team moving on the bases with these tips. This good way to jump-starts your offense and gets some excitement going for your players. You might get thrown out once in awhile, don't let slow you down. If you practice, and plan your running game using some of these tips, your youth baseball team can't help but get better. Thanks for your time. Coach Chip

About Coach Chip

Hello My name is Chip Lemin. I'm a long time youth baseball coach who loves to promote this great game of youth baseball. Promoting sportsmanship in this game of youth baseball is something that really needs I feel. I have a free e-course that will give you some solid coaching information along with great help on the inter-personal relationships we must have to be good youth baseball coaches.Things such as parents, travel baseball, getting parents to help out, how to communicate better to parents and players, just to touch on a few. This course will help to organize practices like an elite coach. How to motivate players and other coaches with your positive attitude. It really is not very hard to be a great coach when you know what to do.Best of all you will learn how to have fun with these great kids that you have the privilege of coaching. Do yourself a favor and check it out, it's free,you will get 1 part every couple of days in your e-mail. Coaching can be fun and rewarding if you have a plan in place first, and you have an idea what you are doing.
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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Baseball Hitting - Getting the Hands to the Launch Position

Baseball Hitting - Getting the Hands to the Launch Position

"Baseball Hitting - Getting the Hands to the Launch Position"Hitting a baseball is a skill that can be learned and improved with proper coaching and instruction.It may be a difficult task, but with the correct fundamentals and techniques hitting can be one of the most rewarding activities in all of sports. There is nothing that is more satisfing and rewarding than hitting a line-drive in the left-center gap to help your team score the go-ahead run.

Many kids often experience cush a great sense of accomplishment while others suffer the embarrasment, disappointment, and despair of with striking out time after time. They feel that they let their team down and they often feel that they embarrass their coach and parents. The quickest way to achieving hitting success is to identify bad mechanics and correct them as soon as possible.I will now give a brief overview of 3 aspects of a solid batting stance, swing and finish.

1. The GRIP - knocking knuckles, (not fighting knuckles) should be aligned. This positions the bat's handle in the fingers and out of the palm. This allows maximum wrist quickness and hand speed.Coaching Tip: Have kids check their grip by raising and pointing their index fingers. If they point in the same direction, they are aligned, if the point across each other, the grip is incorrect.

2. The BAT ANGLE at the start position. Keep in mind that the hands will move slightly back and away from the pitcher when the batter loads to the launch position. The bat's angle will not change during the loading process. The bat should be at a 45 degree angle over the shoulder. The bat should not be wrapped or tucked behind the head, this slows bat speed. The bat schoul be no more that 2 to 3 inches off the top of the shoulder.

3. The LOADING PROCESS is a simple and slight movement of the hands away from the pitcher. This is a movement that is so slight that many people do not notice it. The hands are the only things that move. If the batter is noticably shifting weight, moving feet, and moving other body parts, too much movement is occurring. Most times this movement is no move than 2 to 4 inches. It may be more for larger players.

LOADING is getting the hands to the launch position from which the forward swing motion starts. Different players use different loading actions. Some batters simply move the hands straight back and batters move the hands back and up at the same time. The loading process adds power, developes important timing and rhythmn, and allows the batter's body to achieve a comfortable ready position from which to launch swing.

COACHING POINT: Make sure that players do not line their knuckles up when you are looking and then move their hands to an "ax grip" when you walk away. One way to teach the benefits of the "finger grip position" is to have the two batters take several swing from shoulder-to-shoulder very quickly using the two grips. Take two batter's of similiar ability levels and with similiar hand speed and do this demonstration. Have one player use the "correct grip" and one use the "ax or incorrect grip".

Have the batters take 10 shoulder-to-shoulder swings. See which batter completes the 10 swings first. This shows the kids how much faster the hands move when the correct grip is used. Note: Make sure to move the batters at a safe distance from each other and from other players when performing this illustration.

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