Think you could hit off major league pitcher Yu Darvish?
Keep practicing and seeing live pitches, then you may get the chance.
Every pitch, inning, season and game starts at Dick’s Sporting Goods.
I really like this commercial!
I am always perplexed when I see kids in the dugout or warming up on the field chatting non-stop with each other about a hundred different things. Then, when they go out on the field during a game they don’t say a word to each other. They stand there quietly and you hear coaches say “talk it up”. You may then hear an occasional word from one of them to comply with the coach.
Maybe they don’t know what to communicate. Maybe they don’t know there IS talking in baseball.
This commercial shows the communication that goes on before every pitch. I don’t think young players realize the importance of communication. Maybe even us parents don’t realize the amount of communication that goes on before every pitch at higher levels of baseball. Some of it is verbal, some if it is non-verbal. This is a great ad for any young player or parent to see what actually gets communicated on the field.
Talk it up!
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Last night, Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish was one out away from throwing a perfect game. An amazing and rare feat that only 23 pitchers have accomplished in MLB history. When Lefty and I have a chance to watch a performance like this, we do.
I called Lefty down from his room to watch Darvish throw the 9th inning. We were hanging on every pitch and rooting for Darvish. With two outs in the 9th inning, Darvish gave up a single right through his legs to lose the perfect game. Lefty and I groaned with disappointment for Darvish. Although this was unfortunate for Darvish, I liked what happened after the hit.
After the ball went through Darvish’s legs, he smiled and grinned.
What a teaching moment for young Lefty. He saw how a major league ball player handles disappointment. No tantrums on the mound, no tears, no throwing his glove. Darvish did what a professional should, grinned and was prepared to move on.
I took this opportunity to point out to Lefty that there will be many disappointments while playing baseball, but the most important thing is to keep it in perspective, grin and move on to the next play.
Thank you Yu Darvish! And congrats on showing Lefty How To Be Almost Perfect.
To me, the sound of the ball coming off a wood bat is the essence of baseball. Get to a pro ball game early for batting practice and sit in the stands and just listen. I think you will agree with me.
Lefty played in a wood bat tournament this past weekend. He was excited to use a wood bat for the first time in a game. He was thrilled to emulate the pros he sees on TV. I was excited for him. I like wood bats. Not only for the sound but maybe because I was a pitcher for most of my playing time. During that time, I was not a fan of the aluminum bat as I was standing sixty feet six inches away from a huge batter as he grasped the highest technology aluminum bat money could buy and wanted rip a line drive right at me. Gulp!
I like the fact that a wood bat has a smaller sweet spot. If you hit it off the fists it will most likely break or trickle in front of the plate. Not bloop over short like it could with an aluminum bat. Does the aluminum bat create better hitters or hinder them in the long run?
I do understand the benefits of aluminum or composite bats. I know offense is exciting in baseball. Who besides me and a few other old guys like to see a 0 – 0 pitching battle through 7 innings? I also know probably the biggest reason is cost. Even in Lefty’s tournament, we had one kid break his bat. Although he thought it was the coolest thing in the world, I am sure if his parents thought they would have to run out and buy another bat for the next game, they may not be too thrilled. But maybe that little guy would think twice about hitting the ball of the end of the bat next time and try to drive the ball to the opposite field
I am curious to know what you think. Would you prefer your young ball player use a wood bat? Or would you rather buy one bat a season or two and let them use wood when they get paid to play?
If you have never kept score, you have no idea what it entails, what to expect and you may feel too much responsibility. But, if you are a baseball fan and/or parent, I really think you would get a kick out of knowing how to score a baseball game. It is not as difficult as you may think. It is a great way to learn baseball and keep track of the game.
The scorekeeper knows every count, every out, every player, the lineup and of course the score. Heck, even the umpire needs the scorekeeper to verify the count, outs, and sometimes just to chat. Umpires need friends too, you know. How important would you feel then?! You can even say “Hey, Blue” without getting a stern look and being thrown out of the park if you were one of the “ordinary just sitting in the stands” parents. How many times have you been in the stands and have to ask, how many outs are there? What is the score? Didn’t this kid have a hit last time? If you keep score you will know this and just about everything else related to the game before anyone else and I promise, you will enjoy the game more because you are involved. I know, it will require you to actually pay attention to every pitch and every play in a 2+ hour marathon game. But you can also use the excuse of keeping the score-book to have someone else run and get you nachos and a soda…yes! Maybe they would even pay for the grub to thank you for your work (if they were a cool “ordinary just sitting in the stands” parent).
One of the mom’s from my team does a great job score-keeping Because of her, Mrs. RustyArm is inspired to give it a shot. She is excited to learn the game and be more involved. Needless to say, this is thrilling to me and Lefty. We will be able to say the count was full and she will know what me mean..how fun will dinner conversations be now!?
Okay, so it will take a little bit of work and time to learn. But honestly, if you sit with someone who knows how to score for a game, you will have it down. I found this video from MikeScottBaseball.com to help you and Mrs. Rusty Arm get to know the basics. Mike Scott has a two-part series on Keeping A Scorebook on YouTube you can checkout.
What size bat should I buy? Great question! I get asked this question often and I by no means consider myself an expert. I know the size bat Lefty uses but when it comes to this big purchase and choosing a baseball bat, I think we could all use some help.
I prefer not to spend a car payment on a bat for Lefty, but I also want him to have decent bat. I also like to compare multiple bats before I make a purchasing decision.
I found a really cool tool called Bat Coach on www.baseballbats.com. This tool walks you through about 8 questions ranging from Do you know the player’s approximate height and weight?, Do you have a manufacturer(s) preference? and Do you have a price preference? Then it provides suggestions for you to consider. It is a quick and easy way to start your search for the correct size bat for your young ball player.
I have not purchased a bat from Baseballbats.com but I did run through the tool and it gave me the size bat Lefty is currently using (sorry Lefty… no new bat for you!) Pricing seems reasonable and I did contact their Support email to inform about this post and they responded quickly which was nice to see.
Give it a try.
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HOW IT WORKS
TheRustyArm: How many kids usually try out each year? And for how many spots?
Coach Dufek: Typically we get anywhere from 25-30 freshman tryout each year. We will get anywhere from 5-10 upperclassman tryout. This does not count the returning players from the previous season. I usually keep anywhere from 16-18 players on each team. We have three levels at which a player can compete at, Varsity, Junior Varsity and Freshman. Our returning players do not go through the week-long tryout that the newcomers do. They are evaluated throughout winter all, some will continue on in the program and some will be cut from the program because they do not have the ability to play at this level anymore.
TheRustyArm: What’s the timing/process for tryouts? For example, is there a baseball “class” that starts in the fall, then tryouts, then the season?
Coach Dufek: We have a baseball class that is only for returning players. We have a winter all season and our tryouts for that are in December. The winter all season lasts until the middle of February. In the middle of February we have another tryout for the spring season. Once that is over the teams are set and the regular season begins.
What do you think? I hope you enjoyed Coach Dufek’s comments as much as I did. The two biggest takeaways for me are 1. “Good coaching is key – for private lessons or team sports. In my opinion that’s most important. Help their player become as fundamentally sound as possible. Focus on their coaching.” I will be sure to provide Lefty with a solid foundation by seeking out the most qualified and nurturing coaches I can find.
And 2. “I think the biggest mistake parents make today is overdoing things. As a result, a player’s excitement for the game can sometimes taper off by the time they get to me. Parents mean well. But, too much intensity around the sport too early on can wear a young player down.” I will be sure to continue to be Lefty’s biggest fan and not his critic. I want him to continue playing baseball because he wants to, not because I want him to.
If Lefty gets the chance to put on the stirrups for his high school team (I know, I know…sadly, stirrups are a thing of the past) I hope he has the same great experience that I remember it to be. AND, I hope he wants me there cheering him on!
My conversation with Coach Dufek continues.
Getting a Spot on the Team
TheRustyArm: How many players do you normally carry on a team? What percentage of them are pitchers?
Coach Dufek: I will carry any where from 16-18 players on each team. Some years we have a couple more or less. I will carry as many quality pitchers as I can. Ideally I would like to have 6 to 7 pitchers on our team. Some of those players will just pitch and some will play another position.
TheRustyArm: Are there academic requirements for playing high school baseball? If so, what are they?
Coach Dufek: Each player is required to have a 2.0 GPA to participate in any sport.
TheRustyArm: What would parents or players be most surprised to learn about high school baseball?
Coach Dufek: Some parents will be surprised to learn that their opinion on their child’s playing time is not up for discussion. In my case, I am going to chose the most talented players to be on the team. On that team the players that produce the most will play the most. This philosophy does not always work for parents. They players have to learn that they are evaluated on everything. What they do on the field and off the field could affect their future in my program.
TheRustyArm: What would you say the biggest change/most surprising difference is between high school baseball then (back when I was playing) and now?
Coach Dufek: There are a lot of players who are specializing in their one sport. The fear of not making their high school team or not getting a college scholarship or not being drafted has changed the game
Today there are numerous associations who have formed to help provide exposure for players. They are either showcases or teams kids can play on. I believe this has prevented kids from playing other sports as young players.
It’s been a (real) long time since I tried out for my high school baseball team. Makes me wonder what has and hasn’t changed about the steps players take to get there. And if my son, Lefty, wants to play high school ball like I did, is he on the right track for today’s game?
Questions like these led me to talk with San Marcos High School’s varsity baseball coach, Jeff Dufek. I thought it would be cool to get insight straight from a guy with 10 years of experience coaching at the high school level. And it was.
Because we covered so much, I’m dividing our conversation into three posts — The Early Years (youth baseball to high school), Getting a Spot on the Team (what a coach looks for) and How It Works (tryouts and the team makeup).
I hope you find it as informative as I did. A big thanks to Coach Dufek for taking his time to give us parents a glimpse into today’s world of high school baseball.
THE EARLY YEARS
TheRustyArm: What youth baseball experience do most of your players have in common? Rec ball? Travel ball? Specialized coaching? Other? Here’s what I’m getting at … is there a prescribed path that the majority of your players follow from youth on?
Coach Dufek: Most of our players played rec ball and some form of travel ball. I’m not sure how many of them also get lessons but I know some do. I look for players who’ve played at the highest level possible before getting to me. Those players understand what good competition is. Kids who come to us without that background often struggle.
TheRustyArm: Do you think youth baseball players should specialize early? Or participate in other sports or conditioning programs? If you suggest the latter, which ones and why?
Coach Dufek: I think young players should play as many sports as they want. The more athletic the player is, the better. The skill sets of other sports will translate to baseball. Any sport that involves quick movements, quick decision-making, physical strength and a high level of competitiveness is a benefit.
TheRustyArm: What’s your best advice for parents who would like to see their child play high school baseball someday?
Coach Dufek: Help their player become as fundamentally sound as possible. Focus on their coaching. Good coaching is key – for private lessons or team sports. In my opinion that’s most important. Down the road, it might be a good idea to make contact with their future high school coach and have them participate in camps run by that organization.
TheRustyArm: What are the most common mistakes you see families making with respect to their player’s development?
Coach Dufek: I think the biggest mistake parents make today is overdoing things. Some kids are playing so much baseball they have no time for other sports or activities. As a result, a player’s excitement for the game can sometimes taper off by the time they get to me. Parents mean well. But, too much intensity around the sport too early on can wear a young player down. When burnout happens, I don’t even mind seeing a player take a season off to come back recharged. They can still hit and throw, but it doesn’t have to be regimented with games and practices all the time. There is a fine line between helping a young player get better and taking the fun out of baseball.
Good food for thought.
Come back Tuesday for Getting a Spot on the Team – part two of my conversation with Coach Dufek. Find out what his best advice to today’s youth player is. What the top three things he looks for in a player are. And a lot more.
Lefty is now playing kid pitch baseball. He has been waiting for kid pitch for a few years now because he has always wanted to pitch. He is getting his chance and enjoying it. Now that he is pitching, I started to wonder if I should consider icing his arm and shoulder after he throws. I was then asked by a couple of parents if they should do the same. I remember icing my elbow and shoulder a lot after I pitched but that was not until high school and college. I contacted Dr. Alexander Espinoza, Board Certified in Family Medicine and Sports Medicine, with Medicine-In-Motion and posed the question, should young pitchers ice their arms?
“Icing in a young thrower has not been shown to prevent injuries. We tend to use heat for muscles and ice for joints/ligaments/tendons. That is why a pitcher puts on a jacket when he gets on base when it is cold to keep his muscles nice and loose. On the other hand, he will ice his shoulder or elbow after the game to reduce swelling or treat an injury. Most of what we see on T.V. when players ice is because they are on a specific treatment protocol for a specific injury, and not necessarily to prevent an injury.
I would suggest icing a young thrower’s elbow and shoulder if treating a specific injury rather than for prevention. The focus for injury prevention in a young thrower should be limited pitch counts, stretching and strengthening the throwing joints and proper warm ups and cool downs.”
This helped clear things up for me. I hope it helps you as well. Thanks Dr. Alex!Dr. Alexander Espinoza attended medical school at UCLA. Finishing Family Medicine Residency at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles in 2003 and a Sports Medicine Fellowship at UCSD in 2006, he is Board Certified in Family Medicine and Sports Medicine. His interests are Family Medicine with a strong focus on disease prevention and Sports Medicine injuries and keeping a healthy life style. Medicine-In-Motion Family & Sports Medicine http://www.medicine-in-motion.com
I have coached Lefty a lot in baseball. I could spend all day and night coaching him. Sometimes I wonder if he would rather have me as a coach or just a Dad. After, and I admit sometimes during, each practice or game, I have to fight back the temptation to keep coaching (a.k.a correcting). I sometimes bring a book to his practices to divert my complete attention away from every little detail of Lefty’s performance. Luckily, my wife gives me a good reminder to only praise Lefty after a practice or game and don’t bring up the negative. It can’t be fun to have your parents pointing out your faults after each practice and game.
Bruce Brown has spent 35 years as a teacher, coach and an athletic administrator at the junior high, high school, junior college and collegiate level. He as is the Director of Proactive Coaching and speaks nationally with athletes, coaches and parents. Bruce asked college athletes “What is your worst memory from playing youth and high school sports?” Their overwhelming response: “The ride home from games with my parents.” Those same college athletes were asked what their parents said that made them feel great, that amplified their joy during and after a ballgame. Their overwhelming response: “I love to watch you play.”
Bruce put together Five Signs of an Ideal Parent. Here is your mission if you choose to accept it:
• Cheer everybody on the team, not just your child: Parents should attend as many games as possible and be supportive, yet allow young athletes to find their own solutions. Don’t feel the need to come to their rescue at every crisis (I am raising my hand in the air on this one, like I said, I am always fighting the urge to coach Lefty). Continue to make positive comments even when the team is struggling.
• Model appropriate behavior: When a parent projects poise, control and confidence, the young athlete is likely to do the same. And when a parent doesn’t dwell on a tough loss, the young athlete will be enormously appreciative.
• Know what is suitable to discuss with the coach: The mental and physical treatment of your child is absolutely appropriate. So is seeking advice on ways to help your child improve. And if you are concerned about your child’s behavior in the team setting, bring that up with the coach. Taboo topics: Playing time, team strategy, and discussing team members other than your child (I expect a thank you letter from Lefty’s coaches on this one).
• Know your role: Everyone at a game is either a player, a coach, an official or a spectator. “It’s wise to choose only one of those roles at a time,” Brown says (C’mon! I know I can do them all at the same time!). “Some adults have the false impression that by being in a crowd, they become anonymous. People behaving poorly cannot hide.” Here’s a clue: If your child seems embarrassed by you, clean up your act.
• Be a good listener and a great encourager: When your child is ready to talk about a game or has a question about the sport, be all ears. Then provide answers while being mindful of avoiding becoming a nightmare sports parent. Above all, be positive. Be your child’s biggest fan. ”Good athletes learn better when they seek their own answers,” Brown says.
I will continue to take my wife’s and Bruce’s advise and “be my child’s biggest fan”. He is going to have plenty of coaches in his life, but he will only have one dad.
One of my favorite things to watch at a big league game is the players playing long toss. Does that make me strange? Whether it is the starting pitcher beginning his warm-ups in the outfield or the position players in front of the dug out. I enjoy watching this part of their pregame ritual.
Besides being a pregame warm-up fan, I believe long toss is the best way to develop arm strength especially in young ball players. When I play catch with Lefty, I incorporate long toss at least a couple of times a week. We begin at a close distance and play normal catch. Once we are warmed up, I continue to take a few steps back to increase the distance between us. We use a relaxed motion and crow-hop to get the ball back and forth. We focus on stretching out our arms instead of firing missiles back to each other. A little air underneath the ball is fine. Once we get to a distance to where Lefty’s is throwing comfortably and the ball may bounce once or twice before getting to me, I know we are at a good distance. We do about a dozen throws at that distance and then slowly close the distance back to each other.
I am not sure if Lefty knows how much I enjoy doing this drill with him. It is kind of calming and therapeutic for me. Now that must definitely make me strange, right? Long toss anyone?
One of my wife and my goals this summer as parents of a soon to be third grader was to have him memorize his multiplication tables. No summer slacking for him, enrichment must continue, right! Here are the facts about him. He loves baseball. He loves playing catch with me or with his mom. If he could play family catch with both me and his mom at the same time, he has hit the jackpot. He likes math but he does not love sitting inside at a table during summer memorizing multiplication problems.
Yesterday, I got a text from my wife, “Where is the small baseball glove I like? We are heading out to play catch.” Not unusual for our household, actually pretty routine. When I arrived home later that day, I was greeted by my son saying he had memorized his first set of multiplication problems. I was shocked. My wife asked, “Do you want to see? Grab your glove.” My son and I began to play catch outside as mom shouted out multiplication problems. He got them all correct. My wife spent the time playing catch with him earlier casually saying multiplication problems. He was thrilled to be outside playing catch with his mom. My wife was happy that the summer enrichment program was keeping on schedule. My wife also mentioned that she can get a lot of information out of him while playing catch. For example, “How is school going? How are your friends? How do you like your teacher? Did Dad give you any candy yesterday?” She says he is an open book while he is throwing the ball around. I was tempted to tell my wife that would probably work with me as well. Knowing my wife, she will probably figure that out soon.
Way to go mom!
Break out the gloves moms!