Baseball Training Tips ~ Sponsored by SKLZ®

  Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Hitting: Where should I try to hit the ball?

Always approach the inside & top part of the baseball. This will help keep your bat on the correct swing plane and help you hit the baseball where it is supposed to be hit. If it's inside you'll pull the baseball, and if it's away, you'll hit the baseball to the opposite field.

With this approach, you'll hit a lot more line drives and ground balls - instead of line drives and fly balls. If your focus is to try to hit homeruns you will contact the bottom of the ball and hit a lot of pop ups and fly balls.

Important! Make sure when you make contact that you have your top hand palm facing the sky! Remember "Palm up, Palm down." This ensures you are maintaining a level swing which will produce more line drives and hard ground balls.


Hitting: How can I increase my batting average?

Try to hit the baseball through the fence, instead of over the fence. A good point of reference is that where ever the baseball comes from, the baseball should go back to. You should always work line drives to down instead of line drive to up. You need to understand that 80% of the balls hit into the air are outs.

Don't worry so much about your average, think about how many times you hit the baseball hard out of 10. The hits and the average will take care of themselves.


Throwing: How do I increase my arm strength?

Throw, throw & then throw some more. You're born with some of your arm strength, but most people have to work very hard to get their strength.

Pro baseball players work out almost every day, even in the off season. They know that long toss is the key! Depending on your age you should long toss during the season about 2 to 3 times a week.

Our general suggestions would be:

Ages 7 to 12 - throw 30, 60 & 90 feet for about 3 to 4 minutes at each distance 3 times a week during the season.

Ages 13 to 20 - throw 30, 60, 90 & 120 feet about 3 to 4 minutes at each distance 3 times a week during the season.

Make sure you are not throwing rainbows (high arcing throws), if they bounce once or twice before they hit your partner that is ok. Keep your throws at a nice 45 degree angle once you start heading back to the longer distances. You want your throws to maintain a pretty nice line. Not as hard as you can, just working on good arm speed and getting it to your partner. You will see some great changes in your arm strength over a short time.


Fielding: When fielding a groundball what are some tips that I need to remember?

Treat the baseball like an egg, meaning stay "soft" with your hands. Try to field the baseball like an airplane by moving into fielding position smoothly, not like a helicopter by dropping into fielding position.

Field the baseball on the inside part of your left leg which will help you to come through the ball moving toward the base you are going to be throwing to.

Did you know that many pro infielders count how many hops the baseball takes off of the bat as the baseball comes toward them. This helps them react to the baseball instead of trying to get that perfect hop, which can cause you to get the bad hop!


Baseball Player: What are some tips I can use in choosing a new glove?

There are lots of baseball gloves to choose from - but it's easier than you might think. Consider this;

When picking out a baseball glove, you first need to decide where you are going to play - not always easy because most of the time you'll play more than one position. One suggestion is to get a glove that is a little larger so you can use it at multiple positions and allow for some room to grow into it.

If you have a fake signature inside the pocket, you are looking at an inexpensive glove - probably not what you're looking for for competitive play.

Outfielders usually have the largest gloves. Infielders tend to have smaller gloves with a smaller pocket - makes sense huh!

If you are a pitcher, you'll want to make sure you have a closed web so the other team can't see your pitches!


Baseball Player: What are some tips I can use to break in my baseball glove?

Baseball player should put a small amount (small handful) of shaving cream in your hand. Rub the entire amount into the pocket of the glove until the white foam is gone. Do this about once a week for about a month (that's 4 or 5 times).

Once you've rubbed in the cream, place the baseball in the pocket of the glove and tie the rope or sock around the glove. Keep it in a dry place. Don't let the glove close flat - close it at an angle so that the pinky finger shows a little.

You're going to need the following items;

- A new baseball glove

- Some shaving cream

- A baseball

- Some rope or a long sock

Play catch with the new baseball glove! Playing catch is the best way to break in a new glove (besides, it's more fun). You can also put your hand in your new glove and lightly tap the bat into the pocket of the glove. You're working to form the inside pocket to your hand as well as soften the leather for a completely custom fit.

Be patient! Breaking in a good baseball glove will take at least 2 or 3 weeks depending on how much you use and work with it.


Hitting: How do you hit an off-speed pitch?

Off speed pitches are designed to get you to commit your weight too soon. To get you off-balance and take your body out of the swing. In essence, an off-speed pitch makes you become an "arms only" hitter and your power and effectiveness can be severely hampered.

Aggressive hitters are generally very good at hitting the fastball, but struggle with the off speed pitch. Hitting the off speed pitch requires discipline.

Become great at recognizing the off-speed pitch and learning to react appropriately.

When trying to judge off speed pitches. Make most off -speed pitches be up in the zone. They will always look like a ball and then fall back into the strike zone.

Focus on the ball out of the pitcher's hand and determine if its an off speed pitch or straight. If you recognize its an off-speed pitch, and it looks like a strike from the start, then its probably going to fall out of the zone for a ball.


Hitting: Where should my focus be when I prepare to hit?

Never look at the pitcher eyes or try to follow the baseball when it's in his glove. Look at the logo on his baseball hat or at his waist and once he starts to seperate his hands in preparation to throw focus on where his release point is going to be (where his hand lets go of the baseball). The baseball isn't going to come out of his eyes!

Pick out a spot where his hand will come out of the sky and focus on that spot. It could be a branch or a cloud in the background. You should determine his release point and figure out how high his arm angle or arm slot is when on the bench or in the on deck circle so that when you are at the plate you have already determined the right spot. You can always ask a teammate that hits before you in the lineup.

Many of our younger baseball players have trouble with pitchers that throw hard and this tip helps. The harder they throw the more you need to focus on the release point!


Pitching: What Pitchers Should Know

Teach pitchers to have confidence in their mechanics prior to game time situations. During the baseball game is not the time that a pitcher should have to think about how their mechanics are. They should be focusing on getting the batter out and hitting their spots. Keep in mind that if your pitcher is missing high or low it is their posture (they are collapsing on their back leg or under or over striding). If they are missing left or right, it is their front side and glove (they must stay closed and control the glove arm).


Catching: What is a very important part of catching?

Catchers need to be a wall, pitcher's need to feel comfortable that they can throw any pitch at anytime to any location and it will be caught, framed or blocked succesfully. >br>
Catchers must also have "soft" hands and catch the ball with good form while being able to frame pitches at the same time.

When there are runners on base catchers need to be in a good and balanced ready position ready to throw runners out that are trying to advance.

Most importantly, the catcher must be the "quarterback" of the team (always reminding other players of their responsibilities, especially the pitcher). He see's the entire field and must lead accordingly.

Remember, communication is a vital part for any catcher as is with all players, coaches, and even the umpire.

If you put a good pitching staff with an average catcher, your staff will soon become average. Put an average pitching staff with a good catcher and your staff will be much more successful.


Outfield: How should I catch the ball as a outfielder?

Teach your outfielders to be aggressive and to keep the baseball in front of them at all costs. It is important that your outfielders come through the baseball with good momentum whenever it is possible (this will aid with producing a more powerful throw into the infield).

When outfielders are going back on a flyball teach them to run to the spot where they think the ball will land and not to drift to the ball.

When chasing baseballs into the gap remind outfielders to take good angles to cut off balls. It's imperative to cut off balls before they reach the fence when at all possible. Practice excellent routes to the baseball at all times.


Fielding: What should I do as a infielder before I field the ball?

Teach your infielders to always come through a ground ball when possible (never sit back and wait for the baseball to come to you). You want your infielders to be fluid with one full motion through fielding and throwing across the baseball diamond.


Coaching: What is one of my most important jobs as a baseball coach?

Most of the time it's a confidence issue when baseball players fail. Every success should be highlighted and failure learned from. "If you think you can, you're right, if you think you can't, you're still right"


Coaching: Team Unity Always Wins

Team unity is where average teams become championship baseball teams. Having pizza parties and doing things together as a team are a must. Hold as many events as possible.


Coaching: How come my son will not listen to my instruction anymore?

Once your child and/or players hit 10 to 12 years old, maybe sooner, they don't think you know anything anymore. This is the way of life and that's the way it's going to be. Get them into baseball camps to get them around other good baseball coaches. Have fun & enjoy the experience!


Coaching: As a coach, what should be my goal for running practices?

The goal for any baseball practice is to make sure that there is never any player on the baseball team with nothing to do. Although it is important to try and stick to the practice plan as close as possible, quick modifications and adjustments are sometimes necessary to keep it fun.

When you only have the baseball field for a short period of time, you need to keep all players as active as possible for the entire practice. You may need to get creative depending on the baseball equipment you have and/or the number of kids at practice.


Coaching: What is the key to not losing a players attention for practices?

Make sure to vary your practice plan by selecting different baseball skills to work on each practice. Example: One baseball practice work on pitching & catching along with hitting, a team drill and game, another practice work on infield & outfield along with hitting, a team drill and a baseball game.


Coaching: How can I help build team unity?

Pick a leader (new one every practice) and have them lead the baseball team around the field going wherever they want for approximately 2-3 minutes. Make sure they keep the movements at a jogging pace. They can skip, hop, jump, lunge, squat, low walk, turn, etc. (You may want to lead the first couple of times to give the kids ideas). Complete warm up with the General Mobility.


Baseball Player: How can I work on agility training during baseball practice?

Baseball coach should set up cones, gloves, tennis balls, etc. in different patterns and locations on the baseball field. Have the kids perform different movement over and around the obstacles for approximately 2-3 minutes. Example: Zig Zag through the cones, jump over the gloves, skip around second base, do five push ups in front of the dugout, hop around the pitchers mound, etc


Baseball Player: How can I help get more mobility in baseball?

Keep in baseball shape daily with these simple and effective exercises.

Neck Clocks (Roll head 5-7 times in each direction)

Shoulder Circles (Roll shoulders 5-7 times in each direction)

Arm Circles (keep palms up and arms straight, draw circles with arms 7-10 times in each direction, start small and get progressively bigger)

Arm Hugs (keep hands at shoulder height and using full range of motion, swing arms back then immediately forward wrapping arms around torso 7-10 times)

Trunk Twists (keep arms straight, palms down, and rotate upper body side to side turning head w/ shoulders 7-10 times)

Trunk Circles (place hands on hips and bend torso forward, to the side, back, and then the other side 5-7 times in each direction)

Lunges (take 5-7 large steps forward with each leg, keep front knee behind toes and keep back knee above ground)

Heel Toe Raises (raise up as high as possible on the ball of foot and toes, then immediately drop down to a flat foot position and then lift the toes as high as possible)


Pitching: Here are some real basic tips to pitching

Follow these steps for proper pitching

Location, location, location! You need to teach your pitchers that location is the key to being a succesful pitcher. Get ahead of the hitter with a first pitch strike and from there locate your pitches to good locations. Pitchers who get ahead, locate and throw strikes will see large amounts of success.

Starting position - (Wind up and Stretch)

Rocker Step - (Coming "set" when in "Stretch")

Pivot - (Foot is square or toe slightly in front of heel)

Balance Point - (Eyes locked on target)

Power Position - Arm, head, chest, lower half positions

Throw - Release out front, proper direction

Ready Position - Become fielder after release


Pitching: As a pitcher, what is my most important pitch?

Strike one to every baseball hitter, that is your most important pitch. Hitters hit .078 after a 1st pitch strike


Pitching: When pitching, I have a hard time following through. What drill would help me fix that?

This pitching drill can be used for all players having a hard time following through out over the front side. Have the player stand on the back of the pitcher's mound and step uphill while throwing down to the target. The player's hand will have to stay on top of the ball and follow through over the front foot. You can have them throw 3 to 5 pitches uphill and then address the rubber and throw 3 to 5 pitches normally. They will develop a new feeling of throwing downhill.


Pitching: I miss high often when I pitch, what drill would help me fix that?

This is probably the best drill there is for pitchers. Have your pitchers pack a towel about 18 inches long in their bags at all times. In order to ensure proper set up for this drill you want to have the pitcher go through a game like wind up and hold their landing foot or stride position at the end. From there, the player needs to step off heel to toe about 4 to 5 steps from the point where their stride foot landed. This is where the coach will kneel down and hold out heir hand or a glove (you can also place a chair or bucket here if a partner or coach is not available). The player will then hold the towel around their middle finger and go through their motion trying to slap the baseball coach's hand or glove with the towel.

The point of the drill is to simulate releasing the ball out in front as far as possible. Reaching out is a key to pitching, your pitchers throwing hand should be as close to their target as possible when they release the baseball.


Coaching: Discipline. The sword of success

ABC-Catcher's Practice

Mark Johnson is the head baseball coach at Cherry Creek High School in Denver, Colorado. He has sent many players to the major leagues and has won several state championships including a run of 5 consecutive titles, I believe.

His son is a good friend of mine and I heard him say one time that his dad would always say, "Discipline is the sword of success." I don't really understand the sword thing, but I do understand that when kids become discipline in whatever they do, they get better.

Tonight my catcher dropped 3 or 4 easy balls. I said what position do you play? He replied, "catcher." I asked him if I would put someone in that position that couldn't catch. He replied, "No." I told him that I put him back there because he can catch, but then asked him why he missed those balls. He replied "I wasn't focused." Good answer. I then told him that the next ball that he dropped would earn him 10 push-ups. He didn't miss another ball for the rest of the practice.

My advice: The key to healthy, effective discipline is disciplining out of love. If you discipline the kids when you are angry at something they did, I believe the kids take it more personal and miss the point of why you are giving them push-ups or making them run. To get your team to become disciplined, you should explain in a calm disposition that you cannot let them get away with something that is going to make them a ...bad teammate, bad base runner, bad infielder, bad player, etc.. I think the kids start to appreciate the fact that you are making them do push-ups or run a lap. More advice: Be careful about disciplining kids for physical errors. For mental errors, goofing off, missing signs, or not working hard I immediately send them running. If it is a physical error I approach it more like a challenge. I tell them that the only way I can get them to focus is to make them do push-ups if they drop balls, make bad throws, etc.. For example, sometimes I will say during a drill something like, "If you don't get this bunt down, you will run and touch the pole." I'm challenging the kid and I'm locking him into a good focus that will help him succeed because he doesn't want to touch the pole. Written by Brian Berger- Past ABC Holiday Baseball Camp Director, Youth Baseball Edge


Coaching: The "Before & After" Speach

Baserunning Practice at ABC Camp

Tonight's baseball practice was great. It was our first time going through a lot of things. We took a pre-game infield/outfield. It was putrid. Players dropped balls, we had a gazillion bad throws, and we just looked terrible. I brought the guys in. I think they knew I was displeased. I told the guys that they looked putrid. We discussed the meaning. I told them, in the kindest way possible that it made me want to puke. I said it with a smile. Then I said, "This was the before picture. I'm so glad you guys looked so bad tonight because a before and after picture is only good if the before picture looks bad and the after picture looks awesome."

I told them that I was so excited for them to see just how much better they are going to get over the next couple of months. I told them to remember how bad we were tonight, to remember the word putrid. Now the challenge for me is making them into something that is not putrid.

My advice: It can be OK to come down on kids for not performing. It is good to give them both negative and positive feedback. I believe in being honest with them, but never let the kids leave the yard discouraged. Motivate them to go home and work on some things. Motivate them to come back and try harder the next time. You can only do this once you've established a positive relationship.

"Bobby, you may stink today but you are one small adjustment away from hitting the crud out of the ball. If we really dedicate ourselves to making some adjustments with that swing, you are really going to turn some heads." If you are a coach that is always coming down on kids and never building them up, you can't get away with telling a kid he stunk today. If you are a coach that has established that you care about the kids and that you genuinely want to see them get better you can smile at the kid and tell him he stunk. Remember to tell him that you've had many days where you've stunk. Then teach him the proper response (work harder, don't give up, don't feel sorry for yourself, think positive). Written by Brian Berger: ABC Holiday Baseball Camp Director and Owner Youth Baseball Edge


Coaching: Selfishness

The single biggest thing that can disrupt the positive environment of a baseball team is selfishness. Baseball coaches, work hard to create an atmosphere where baseball players that serve the needs of the team are honored and players that fail to do this are corrected.

Here is a suggestion: Instead of coming up with a list of rules or a code of conduct for your team, try making one rule. "Don't be selfish." Now kids aren't going to "get it" so you are going to have to take some time to teach them what this means. Failing to hustle out a ground ball is selfish. You are feeling sorry for yourself and you are doing what is easiest rather than putting your team in a better situation by trying to beat out a throw and putting pressure on the defense. Throwing a temper tantrum in the dugout is selfish. You are destroying the positive environment in the dugout by pouting and causing a scene. You don't care about spreading negativity that can effect the team, because you are too busy worrying about yourself. What the team needs is for you to get pissed off but root on your teammate to do the job that you failed to do.

Failing a class is selfish. You made decisions not to study, not to do homework, or not to get extra help during lunch. You would rather watch TV, eat lunch with your friends, or sleep rather than put in the extra work that it takes to pass the class. Your team needed you to put in the extra work, but you chose to be selfish and do what you wanted to do. Getting in trouble at school or off campus is selfish. If you were thinking of your teammates and how it would affect them if you got in trouble, you wouldn't have made that poor decision. You were being selfish because you didn't consider how your actions would effect the team, you just did what you wanted to do. Not working hard at practice is selfish. You are choosing to slack off at practice instead of doing what your team needs you to do for them to be successful. You are taking it easy because you are feeling sorry for yourself or because it is uncomfortable to push yourself too hard. If you were thinking of your team, you would work hard to get better and to help create a positive atmosphere where players were pushed to improve.

I think you get the point. Now, what about the player who doesn't care about the team. Tell them that it is not an option. Don't keep them around. Send them home. Don't let them play on game day. expel them from the program. You decide, but I suggest making this rule non-negotiable. Brian Berger- ABC Holiday Camp Director, Owner Youth Baseball Edge


Coaching: S.P.E.E.C.H.

ABC Camp Hitting Discussion

Words we strive to live by between the lines. The following is the six characteristics of "team" that I implemented at my high school baseball program. Baseball coaches, feel free to use them if you like them. Baseball players, feel free to live them out. Implementing and teaching these points lead to the most gratifying season I have ever been a part of, and we barely went .500.

1. Self-Control. Emotions will not get the best of us. Temptations will not distract us. We will make decisions on and off the field that are in the best interest of the people that depend on us. 2. Perseverance. We will never give up. We will never stop giving our best effort. Success means getting up one more time than you were knocked down. 3. Edification. We will build each other up. We will consider how our attitude contributes to the building a positive team environment. Individually we will focus on making everyone else around us better. 4. Empathy. We will treat people like we want to be treated. We will put ourselves in the shoes of others to try to experience what they are experiencing. We will empathize with our opponent, with each other, and with people that surround us in our daily lives. 5. Cause. We will live for a cause that is greater than ourselves. We will identify causes that are worthy of our focus and live to support them. Our team is a cause. Contributing to an environment where players forget about themselves and live to meet the needs of others is a cause worthy of our devotion.

6. Humility. We are no better than our opponent. We are no worse than our opponent. We are people born with certain abilities that allow us to play a game that we love. We will work hard to sharpen our skills and get the most out of our abilities, but realizing, that there is nothing that we have done to deserve this privilege. We will treat each win or loss as a privilege for having been able to put our cleats on and compete along side people that we care about. We will win and lose with class.


Coaching: Adversity

Coach Billy Teaching Baserunning

What movies inspire you? Take a second to think of a movie that makes you want to accomplish something great. I've been asking my baseball students this question for 6 years now and with no exceptions all of the movies have had one thing in common. Adversity.

Rudy, Braveheart, Remember the Titans, Patriot, Coach Carter, Miracle, The Pursuit of Happiness, and Grid Iron Gang. All of these movies get me emotional. All of these movies make me want to do better. All of these movies are stories of overcoming adversity. They don't make movies about the Dream Team that was as loaded with talent as any other sports team in the history of competition. Nobody would watch it. Nobody would be inspired. Here's why I bring this up. My observation of "club" sports in the little time I have been around it is that there is very little "stick with it" or "get through it" or "perseverance through the tough times." If things aren't going the way you like it, pull your kid out of there and go play for someone else.

What a crappy movie! What if Rudy got declined the first time and said screw it, I'm going somewhere else. What if William Wallace ran for the hills and fled the country to find sanctuary somewhere else? What if Will Smiths character in the Pursuit of Happiness gave up and started selling crack?!?! Let's teach our kids better. When my kid is on a team where he is the best kid and everyone else is struggling, I hope I can teach my son a few things about being a leader, about making the other kids better, about controlling what he can control, and about how to deal with adversity. "Son, things are going to go bad out there. I want you to be the guy that keeps the team going. you be the kid that pats the guy on the back and tells him to stick with it. You be the guy that hustles out the ground ball when you're down 10. You know why son? Because that is the right way to play the game. The score should not determine how hard we try. We play as hard as we can if we are up ten runs or down ten runs. Remember, when things are going bad, this is your opportunity to stand out, to be a leader, to make a great movie."

I got chills the other day when Rocky, my player with a prosthetic leg got a big hit with two outs to score a run. It has been a while since a 14 year old gave me chills by hitting a bleeding fly ball into the outfield. Brian Berger, Past ABC Holiday Baseball Camp Director, Owner Youth Baseball Edge


Coaching: Making the Team

ABC Camp Team

You have to draw the eye of the baseball coach. I hear the word Politics a lot when people are talking about making the team. I think more often than not what the parents are referring to is familiarity. If baseball coaches know certain kids, or they know kids play for a certain organization, they have some background information to go off of. If you don't have those luxuries, you need to stand out. You are just one of a dozen or so faces that coach doesn't know what to expect from. You have to make coach look at you.

Immediately when kids show up that I've never seen before, I start to assume who are the better players by how they dress, how they carry themselves, and how they move.

If these two players walked into my tryout. My eye would automatically be drawn to one of them. If he made on good play during the tryout it would just confirm my assumption that he can play. The other kid, I assume that he's awkward on the field. It is going to take more than just one play to prove to me that he can actually play the game well. One mistake and he might be done in my book. Why? What is it about these two kids? Do you see it?

Here are some suggestions that come to my head. I bet I could pick a pretty good team just based on the following indicators. If I never saw a kid play, but I just focused on the 10 suggestions listed below, I think I could pick a winning team.

#1 Dress like a baseball player.

You shouldn't have hair hanging out from all sides of the hat. You should have your shirt tucked in and a belt that matches your hat, socks, or shirt. You should not wear grey pants with a white shirt. Just don't do it. Trust me. You should have clean shoes. You should have a well-taken-care -of glove. Batting gloves, wrist bands, eye black can compliment the look. Just don't over-do it.

#2 Look Coach in the eyes.

When coach speaks, you hang on his every word.

#3 Carry yourself like a ball player.

Stick your chest out. Don't slouch. Keep your head up. Don't always look at the ground. Spit. It makes you look comfortable on the field. Don't ask me why. I just like kids that spit well. Walk from the on-deck circle like you are going to go fight someone that picked on your little brother. In the field, don't walk. Move with a bounce in your step. When you make an error, don't let it change your body language. Force yourself to hold it together and look like the mistake doesn't faze you.

#4 Communicate on the field

Don't chatter! Just don't. No more, "heewego-nowhumnow-whadayasaynowkid-comekid-comeonnow." This does no good. Communicate in-between every pitch. Don't just yell, "two down" look at your outfielder and show him until he looks at you and shows you the outs. When you talk about situations call your teammates by their name, wait 'til you get their attention, then share a reminder about the situation. As a coach, my eye is drawn to a kid who communicates on the field, not chatter.

#5 Be on time.

10 min. early is on time for a player.

#6 Welcome instruction.

Nod your head yes when coach gives you something to work on. Don't be afraid to mix in a "yes sir."

#7 Look for opportunities to show off your athleticism.

In-between innings when your pitcher is warming up, don't go through the motions. You might only get one ball hit to you the entire game, so show off your skills while fielding balls from the first baseman. Catchers, work on your exchange and footwork every pitch. Outfielders, get behind the ball and come through it when you play catch. First basemen, get low and use good feet on every throw. Hustle on the field. Some kids go on and off the field like they are a senior citizen. Look young, bounce a little

#8 Encourage your teammates.

When they do good, let them know. When they fail, tell them that they'll get him next time. When they screw up, tell them to learn from. When they slack, tell them that they are better than that. Don't get down on a teammate for making a mistake. Don't be fake about it. Don't do it just to be noticed. Be genuine.

#9 Don't show up out of shape or rusty

Do whatever you have to do to make sure that you are not rusty when tryouts come. This might mean training, fungoes, running, throwing, or playing. Whatever gets you ready to show your stuff.

#10 Tell your parents to stay away from you during practice.

Coach doesn't want to deal with parents who over-step boundaries. PARENTS CAN SCARE COACHES INTO NOT KEEPING KIDS. "Dad, I love you, and I want to hear what you have to say, but right now I need to focus on my team and I will listen to whatever you have to say on our way home tonight."

Brian Berger, ABC Holiday Camp Director, Owner Youth Baseball Edge


Coaching: Sod

Coach Brad and San Diego Campers

I just put the finishing touches on my new front yard. We built a new home, and I decided to tackle the landscaping on my own with help from my father. We have been at it for months. Tonight the sod arrived. I got home at 9:30pm, ate some dinner, talked with my wife for a while and then headed out to lay down the sod. In a matter of minutes I had the nicest lawn in the neighborhood.

had to pay a hefty price (actually it was a gift from my parents), but the result was immediate satisfaction. I only had to take a few minutes to lay down these rolls of grass and soil and wallah! green grass. I wish I had some sort of "sod-like" solution that would immediately make kids super stars at baseball. Unfortunately their is no "quick fix." The only recipe for improvement is a consistent concentrated effort over a period of time. This means preparing the soil, sewing the seed, watering it consistently over a period of time, and then eventually... whalla! Green grass.

INo one baseball camp, one lesson, or one practice is going to make anyone an instant superstar. Encourage your son to take home the knowledge he gained from the camp, lesson, or practice. Try to get him to pick up a bat or glove and just go through the correct motions for a few minutes each night. The more consistent he can do this, the faster you will see him progress.

Brian Berger, ABC Holiday Camp director, owner Youth Baseball Edge


Hitting: Hand Eye Progression Drill

Bunting Practice at ABC Camp

Throw whiffle balls at the kid and let him hit with the huge red whiffle ball bat. When that gets easy, switch to a normal size whiffle ball bat. When that gets easy switch to those skinny long whiffle ball bats. When that gets easy use golf whiffle balls. When that gets easy, throw sunflower seeds or macaroni at him.

The whiffle ball bat takes the weight of the bat out of the equation. It becomes strictly a hand-eye coordination drill. It is fun and challenging as well. Don't do the progression all in the same day or week. Take your time.

Remember to make a point system for hits. Hit it past the bush, 2 pts., over the driveway is 3 pts., etc.. He'll be having so much fun, he won't even know that this is a drill to improve his hand-eye coordination. You want your players or son to be begging you to go outside and work on things? Don't make up drills, make up drills, but call them games, and make up a point system.

Brian Berger, ABC Holiday Camp Director and Owner Youth Baseball Edge


Coaching: The greatest drill I can remember

I talked with a parent the other day who was discouraged about his son's performance on the baseball field. The kid is 13, and he is good at other sports. He couldn't understand why his athletic son was having trouble hitting, catching, and throwing the baseball in the games.

I explained: Baseball is different than most sports in that it takes more than just athleticism and aggression to play. There is a great amount of hand-eye coordination that is required and a certain level of fearlessness necessary in order to be successful.

What drills should I be doing with him? My suggestion: Don't ask your son to come outside with you so you guys can work on some drills. Ask him to play catch. Just play some father-son catch. As he gains confidence and he's catching the ball, start to challenge him with some pop flies. Start out easy to let him experience success and gain confidence. Gradually throw the ball higher and higher. Also try throwing some wiffle balls at him and let him crank away. Give him different points for hitting the ball different places (past the tree, over the bush, to the sidewalk, etc.). I remember my dad teaching my brother and me how to dive for balls. He didn't give us any pointers or explain any drill, he taught us a game. He wet down the grass in the back yard and created the game called "NEVER". He'd throw us challenging pop flies that might require a dive. Every ball we caught, we got a point. Right before he'd throw the ball up he'd look at us and say, "You'll never get this one." Oh yes we did, and we could have made the web gem defensive highlights on ESPN at the age of 7 if there were cameras filming us sliding across that wet grass. My brother and I would beg my dad to play NEVER. We were diving maniacs. That was the greatest "drill" I ever did with my dad. My second favorite drill was home run derby on the tennis courts with tennis balls.

Note: If you want your kid to have success on the field, it is more important for him to fall in love with the game than it is for him to go do drills when you tell him to. If you can get him to love baseball, you won't be able to keep him from going outside and practicing or playing. Find a way to make it fun. Brian Berger, ABC Holiday Camp Director, Owner of Youth Baseball Edge


Fielding: Taking a Tag

If Randy Johnson threw a 100 mph fastball at your shins, it would be difficult to catch, agreed? The easiest baseballs for kids to catch are baseballs at their chest. The reason: it is easiest to see the baseball into the glove. I see many young first baseman and middle infielders cover bases for a tag standing up tall. Not good. It is more difficult to go down and catch something than it is to go up and catch something.

Baseball coaches, have your infielders get to the bag and get almost into a catching position. I sometimes take my infielders into the cage and turn up the pitching machine to "very fast" and lower the aim to the ground so the guys have to work on picking balls in the dirt. I don't have to tell the to get low, they fear for their lives so they get into a position that is going to best keep them from getting hurt. They get low, then they find that the ball doesn't look as fast from down there.

First basemen should be in a pseudo-catcher position as the ball is being thrown by the infielders. They will be ready for bad balls, in the dirt or side to side. You should see immediate improvement in kids that are having a hard time catching balls by getting them to get their butt down and get their eyes behind the ball as they catch it.

Brian Berger, ABC Holiday Camp Director, Owner Youth Baseball Edge


Hitting: Loading on the back side

Before you jump up as high as you can, you squat down. Before you throw the baseball ball forward, you bring your arm backward. Before you hit, you get loaded on your back side.

The belly button is a good point of reference for where a player's weight is. In the picture of Derek Jeter above, notice that his belly button is directly over the inside of his back knee. This is completely loaded. The player below is another example. Although his belly button may not be directly over the inside of the back knee, it is close enough.

Getting into this position should be rhythmic and smooth. Most young players are anxious at the plate and as a result, do what I call a "violent load." The load should be slow, smooth, and early. I would always watch the pitchers hands, and when he broke his hands to come home with the pitch, I would start my slow load.

When the load is slow and early the head stays still during the flight of the ball. When the head stays still, the eyes see the ball better. Now the ball looks like a softball instead of an aspirin. When players quickly load, stride, and swing all in the same violent motion, the ball appears faster than it really should. Brian Berger- ABC Holiday Camp Director, Owner Youth Baseball Edge


Fielding: The Backhand

Have your baseball players get on one knee like you see Jimmy Rollins in this picture. Toss a ball underhanded at their right foot. They will most likely lean over the foot and reach out to catch it (like Rollins). Keep tossing them baseballs. Then start giving them balls that they can't catch in the air. Don't tell them what to do, just let them reach out and pick it off the ground.

If a baseball player approaches a backhand play with the back knee up off the ground, he has to reach down to get the baseball. When he reaches down his eyes will tilt an he'll be watching the ball with his eyes at an angle. Go play catch and see how much harder it is to catch a baseball when your head is tilted sideways.

Teaching point: When the back knee goes down, three good things happen... 1) Your center of gravity lowers and it is easy to stop and change directions to throw to first base. 2) Your eyes can stay level and you will see the ball better. You are also lower so the ground ball is easier to see. 3) When you are lower, it makes it easier to reach further out with the glove hand to get the right hop. (catching the ball right after it has taken a bounce off of the ground)

Teaching point: When you position your right foot in front of the ball (right-handers), three good things happen... 1) Your eyes can stay level. 2) You can reach further out to grab the right hop. 3) You can stand up and immediately be in a position to throw the ball. You can see in this last picture, that when the knee doesn't go down as far, the eyes are not as level. Also, if this player was running to this ball at full speed, he would probably catch the ball and fall slightly to his right before stopping his momentum and changing directions to throw. Brian Berger, ABC Holiday Baseball Camp director, Owner Youth Baseball Edge


Coaching: Preventing Burn Out

Baserunning Practice at ABC Camp

How do you prevent the day when your son regrets playing baseball? I get asked this question many times every week. It is a great question for parents to be asking. What will prevent baseball burn-out?

My answer: (just my opinion, not gospel) Fun, time away from the game, friends, supportive parents (not pressure parents), autonomy (when the kid knows that it is his decision to play and not anyone else's decision), basketball, football, or soccer. Let your son decide if he wants to play the next season or not. Let him know that it is his decision and mom and dad will support him either way. Don't let your son's or your family's identity be wrapped up in baseball. Make your son take a mandatory break every once in a while. If he really loves baseball it will make him even more hungry to play when the next season rolls around. Don't live vicariously through your son. He will feel the pressure of not wanting to ruin your baseball dreams for him. When talking about baseball, focus more on "control-able" actions and not results. Did he play hard? Did he try his best? Did he hustle? Teach your son how to be a good teammate. A team that learns to care about how everyone else is doing, is a fun team to be on. A fun team is going to prevent burn-out.

Brian Berger, ABC Holiday Camp Director, Owner Youth Baseball Edge


Coaching: Autonomy

According to the self-determination theory of motivation, one of the key elements to motivation is autonomy. What in the world is that?

The capacity to make an uncoerced decision. It turns out, we are most motivated to do something when it is our decision to do it. That makes complete sense to me. When I was a teacher they would tell us to lead the students in a discussion where they got to choose the classroom rules. The idea is that kids are more motivated to follow the rules if they decided what the rules are.

Here's what it might look like on the baseball field. Here is how I get the team to "buy in" to a high level of accountability. I am naming this trick: Coercing them to make an uncoerced decision. Example - Team Meeting: "Hey guys, my name is Coach Brian and I'm going to be your coach for the next few months. I've played a lot of baseball, and I've coached a lot of teams. I've seen what works and what doesn't. I've seen teams that have had rotten seasons and I've seen teams have unbelievable seasons. I want to help you guys have a great season this year. First, I need you guys to decide what a "great season" is. Does a "great season" mean we just have a good time, we laugh a lot, do a little goofing around, and we don't make practices too tough on anyone. We probably won't win many games, but at least we get to goof off. ...or is a "great season" working real hard to get better? I can show you guys some great drills that are going to help you hit the ball harder, strike out less, and score more runs. I'll show our pitchers how to make the other teams' batters look silly. The practices aren't always going to be easy, but it sure is going to be fun when we start to get better and beat up on those other teams. What do you guys want me to do for you? Do you want me to take it easy and let you guys just do whatever you want, or do you guys want me to help you guys get better and see if we can win the championship this year?"

I wouldn't recommend this for a T-ball team. They might choose the first option. Most kids will decide "on their own" to have coach work them harder. Now when the team starts to goof off or they are complaining about practice being too hard you call the kids into a hudle and remind them of their choice. Example - Refocusing the troups: "Remember guys, we decided that we didn't want to take the easy road. We said we wanted to get better, and getting better means we have to work harder than everyone else. I'm going to push you a little to keep us working hard because you told me that is what you guys wanted. Let's save the goofing around for after the game when we've beat those other guys. Right now is not the time to take it easy. It's work time. Let's get better today." Brian Berger, ABC Holiday Camp Baseball Director, Owner Youth Baseball Edge

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