This blog is dedicated to bringing players, coaches, parents, and fans the finer points of the game of baseball.

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Have a question or recommendation for a future post? Email me at baseballbytheyard@gmail.com



Monday, February 28, 2011

3-6-3 double play

Starting a 3-6-3 double play
(Photo by LakeCountyCaptains)
One of the many pet-peeves of mine when I watch games is on a 3-6-3 double play when either the shortstop or the first baseman yells "Inside!" or "Outside!" before the throw to second base.  Saying anything is unnecessary.  Whether the first baseman throws to the inner side or to the outer side of the bag simply depends on where the first baseman is when he catches the ground ball.  If he is on the infield side of the base path (photo at right), he should always throw to the shortstop who positions himself on the infield side of the bag - again like the photo.  If the first baseman is playing deeper and catches the ball on the outfield side of the base path, he should always throw the ball to a shortstop who has positioned himself on the outfield side of second base.  In both cases, if done properly, the ball stays out of the path of the runner and will not hit him.  As I said in this previous post on common mistakes by first basemen, great players know where they are at all times on the field and should not have to be directed by others, in this case telling a shortstop where to be.  The shortstop should already know where to be based on where the first baseman caught the ball.
The only tricky part about this play is when the first baseman catches the ball directly in the base path.  To avoid throwing the ball in line with the runner, the first baseman should continue forward after catching the ball to get on the infield side of the base path before throwing.  That is a more natural movement as opposed to trying to back up to the outfield side of the base path after catching.  

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Positive deviance

Cows are boring.  A purple cow
gets noticed.  What are you
doing to get noticed?
One of my favorite topics to teach in my sociology classes is the concept of positive deviance.  Most people think of deviance in the negative sense but deviance has enormous value to individuals and our society.  Deviance simply means "different from the norm." Negative behaviors are certainly part of deviance but it involves a whole lot more.  Learning about positive deviance can be very instructive to any baseball player looking to go from good to great.  The desire to be unique and not follow the crowd might bring you some criticism but the rewards are usually high in the long run.  Ask any person who is "great" in their field and I bet they didn't act like everyone else on their journey to the top.   They probably dealt with a lot of criticism too.  They took a risk no one else took.  They worked longer than everyone else did on a project.  In effect, they were deviant.


A favorite book of mine is The Purple Cow by Seth Godin.  In the book, Godin states that "very good" is the new "average."  Basically, good isn't good enough any more.  "Good" is now boring.  To stand out, you have to be "remarkable."  Remarkable is Apple Computers.  Remarkable is Chocolate By The Bald Man.


One big way a player or coach can apply the Purple Cow to baseball is to ...


Practice differently.  


Most teams/players practice the same way, at the same time, using the same type of drills.  Most teams also don't come in first place.  Most baseball players don't play beyond high school.  They have to be better in every area.  The amount of time spent practicing.  Their thought process during workouts.  Their focus.  Their attention to detail in everything they do.  Their drive to get better everyday.  It all has to be better than everyone.  Practicing like other teams/players will result in you being like most everyone else ... average.  Average is fine as long as that's what you're shooting for.


If you want to be the best, you can't act like everyone else.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Anatomy of a control problem

I found this article the other day and thought I'd share it with everyone.  It's for any player who has experienced control issues and how aspects of sports psychology can be applied to address the problem.  Great for coaches and parents as well!


Anatomy of a control problem




I confirm the subscription of this blog to the Paperblog service under the username meachrm

Friday, February 25, 2011

How do coaches judge potential?

I received a great question from a reader related to a post a few days ago called Tryouts: Current ability vs Potential.  The question was “How does a coach assess potential in a one-week tryout?”   If you were to ask a professional scout that question, he probably would say something that on the surface would sound very arrogant.  He probably would say “One week?  I can tell in 10 minutes whether the kid has potential.”  Although that may sound arrogant, in most cases it happens to be true.  The point is, it’s their job to judge and rate players’ current abilities and potential and do it quickly. 

An analogy of this in the entertainment world would be the show American Idol.  The judges on the show size up and evaluate a singer’s ability and potential based on 30 seconds worth of singing.  Based on their experience, they see and hear things the average fan does not.  They can do it so quickly and accurately because it’s their job to.

That being said, when evaluating potential, coaches and scouts first are going to look at skills and attributes that cannot be taught.  Body type, running speed, arm strength, bat speed, hand-eye coordination, and power at the plate.  Although good training and instruction can improve on all of these slightly, a player is most likely going to be limited in the amount of improvement they can make.  Instruction itself will never turn a 75 mph thrower into a 95 mph thrower no matter what an advertisement may say.  Genetics tends to take care of that.

Here's an example.  Say two kids both throw 78mph.  Player A has good, sound mechanics and is always around the plate.  He is  5’9” and comes from a family in which nobody is above 5’9”.  Player B is also 5’9” with horrible mechanics and very little accuracy.  He comes from a family of people above 6’0”.  My guess is that Player A has had a better career up to this point.  A coach may end up keeping both players but most scouts would say that Player B has more potential.  Why?  First, you can’t teach a kid to be 6’0” and the family background gives every indication that Player B will continue to grow.  Second, if Player A is throwing 78mph with sound mechanics he most likely will not get much better.  He probably has reached his ceiling of velocity because his good mechanics are currently getting the most out of his arm and body.  Player B on the other hand has a “better upside” because when you combine a future (probable) 6’0”+ frame with better mechanics that can be taught, chances are good his velocity, control, and overall success will improve fairly quickly.  The same principle applies to hitting and every other position on the field as well.  A coach and scout will determine if the player has a strong enough foundation of physical skills in which to build upon.  It's very much like the building of a house.  If you want to build a large house with many stories you have to first see if the foundation is strong enough to support the weight and eventual stress of the elements.  You can't build a 4 story house on a foundation that will only support one story.  To play at the high school, college, or professional level, a player must show that they have the foundation to support that level of competition.  Of course, a foundation is underground and cannot be seen by the average person.  Unfortunately, some kids and their parents dream of a huge house/career but fail to see that their foundation isn't strong enough.

All players want the big, beautiful "house" (career).
Scouts and coaches need to see the foundation first.
Of course, sometimes this all blows up in a coach or scout’s face when Player A  continues to grow and throw harder and Player B goes nowhere even with better mechanics.  Making projections about how a kid will develop and grow are all judgment calls.  It all comes down to whether the school, parent, player, and/or organization trust the judgment of the person making the call. 

During a one-day or week long tryout, coaches and scouts will try to put the players in situations or drills where they can gauge their natural skills quickly.  60 yard dash, a few swings, a few long throws, etc.  Usually an intersquad game is set up eventually so that the evaluators can see some of the finer points, technique, character, and make-up of the players.  Overall aggression, command of pitches, situational hitting, handling adversity, hustle, and enthusiasm are some of the things to be seen once the games begins.

It takes some pre-planning and some consistency on the part of the coaching staff to make sure all the evaluators are looking for the same thing.  If that's done, a whole lot can be seen by a coach or scout in a short period of time.


Hopefully, this answered the question.  If not, let's continue the discussion!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The power of a routine

Most players at the major league level have rituals or some sort of routine they go through prior to games.  Some might put on their uniform the same way everyday.  Others might eat at the same times on game days.  Hall of Famer Wade Boggs was famous for his pre-game rituals.  Although some might scoff at these rituals and call them mere superstitions, sports psychologists have long advocated the use of rituals to help players prepare both physically and mentally prior to competition.  For players just starting out with this type of strategy, it can be benefitial to create a chart like the one below in order to map out a game plan with regards to rituals and help improve the mental side of the game.  Having it written down can allow the player to follow it more easily and then tweak it over time to find the right pattern that feels right and gets results.  The example below comes from the book The Psychology of Coaching Team Sports by Larry Leith.  I highly recommend it.  The chart below has three columns.  The first is the ritual.  The second is what the player hopes to accomplish by doing the activity and the third provides a player with an alternative plan in case the original activity doesn't work.  All three columns are important parts to the process so don't skip any.  Plotting information that has been personalized by the player provides a feeling of control for those that might struggle with negative thoughts and a lack of confidence.  Without a plan of attack, some players' thinking starts to spiral downward rapidly when pressure arrives or anxiety sets in.  Having something to look at and follow allows the player to do something productive to relieve this pre-competition stress and stop the downward spiral.  I know at times in my career I would have benefited from something like this.  Give it a try!


Baseball Pitcher Before a Saturday Game
Ritual / Activity
Desired Effect
Plan B
Night before – listen to CD of relaxing music
Relaxed, at ease, no worries
Watch a movie; play a video game
Morning – wake up late, smile, repeat positive statements, such as “I feel good, I’m ready to go.”
Maintain relaxation, feel good, feel awake, not thinking too much about the game
Read morning comics, listen to “pump up” CD
Check equipment bag one last time
Put mind at ease
Build sense of preparedness
List things practiced since last start.
List improvements since last start.
20 minutes alone for positive imagery and mental rehearsal of specific pitches
Confident, clear about pitching strategy for each batter, mental practice of pitches
“STOP” spiraling and TIC-TAC to regain positive focus
Rewind and adjust as needed
After arriving at competition site, start slow warm-up routine in OF 30 minutes prior
No stiffness, feel loose, feel strong, getting prepared
Find other suitable location as needed; Adjust routine to focus on unexpected stiffness, long toss
Complete bullpen routine
Develop feel for every pitch in wind-up and stretch; command
Positive self-statements, Nobody wins in the bullpen
Put jacket on, drink water, sit in dugout, visualize pitches to opposing lineup, breathing exercises
Short rest, relax heart rate, mentally rehearse first batter, inhale positive energy- exhale negative energy
Adjust breathing technique
Pre-inning warm-ups:
Feel for the mound
Adjust mound as needed, Positive self-statements
During game – use positive self-statements
“Throw low strikes”
“Way to pitch” “You’re doing fine”
Maintain focus, maintain confidence, stay in the zone, adjust
“STOP” spiraling 
 “TIC-TAC” when needed


* STOP & TIC-TAC are strategies to address spiraling

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A dog and her ball

The past week has been a tough one for my family.  Our 11 year old Golden Retriever (Cassie) passed away unexpectedly last Monday morning.  So why would I mention this on a baseball blog?  Because she was a great role model for any young person who wishes to become a great baseball player.  If they spent time with her, here's what they would have learned:


Focus.  When she played ball, cats and squirrels could have run across her path and they would not have altered her focus.  It was 100% focus, 100% of the time when a ball was involved.  Great players do not allow irrelevant things to distract them from their game.


Show up everyday.  Rain, sleet, snow, heat, cold, wind, ... it didn't matter.  Pick up a ball and she was ready.  No complaints.  Anytime, anyplace.  She was always ready and willing to play.  Great players show up both physically and mentally when many players are thinking about somewhere else they'd rather be.  The elements don't bother them because they don't allow them to.  The greater the pressure, the more great players show up..


Effort.  When playing ball, Cassie had two speeds - all out sprint or standing still.  There was no in-between.  She may have lost a step or two as she got older but her effort stayed constant.  Great players play every game as if someone very important is watching.  A reporter once asked Joe DiMaggio about why he continued to hustle even though his career was winding down and people would understand.  He responded by saying "There is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first or last time, I owe him my best."  Wouldn't it be great to hear that from a few more modern day athletes?


Passion for the game itself.  Our lawn, the driveway, a parking lot, the beach, the living room, the local creek.  Once again, it didn't matter.  She didn't need perfectly manicured fields to play on.  It wasn't about the field.  It was about the game.  Is it any wonder why so many great players come from the Dominican Republic?


Want to get noticed?  Stop wishing and start playing the game like my dog did.


Goodbye Cassie.  We'll always miss you.
(2000-2011)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Baseball Tryouts: Current Ability vs Potential

Probably the worst part about coaching is tryouts.  Telling a player that there is not room for him is not a fun conversation.  Coaches love the game and sometimes they have to tell a player, who also loves the game, that their abilities will not allow them to be successful at our level.  That news can be hard to accept by players and their parents.  


Click HERE for information I give to players and parents at the end of tryouts. 

Nobody likes to be told they aren't good enough.  However, explaining to a player or parent that the player's running speed or ability to make a play on a ground ball falls short is easier because you can use actual times using a stopwatch.  But what happens when your decision to keep a player is based on subjective information and not numbers?  Opinion not fact?   Here's an example of what I mean.


Player
Ability Rating (out of 10)
A
6
B
5


Which player do you keep?  Obviously, you keep Player A because he is a better player.  The numbers during tryouts prove it, right?
Not so fast.  Now let's add "potential" to the mix.  

Player
Ability
Potential
A
6
7
B
5
9

Now who do you keep?  Not so easy now is it.  Everything else being equal (grade, position, throwing arm, etc.) most coaches would keep Player B.  But if they do, here's what's coming ... 
"Everyone knows that my son is a little faster, throws a little harder, and had a better batting average last year than Player B, yet Player B made the team and my kid didn't!"
"There must be some kind of favoritism or nepotism going on here!"  
The hard part is that players and parents have a valid point about which one is a better player.  But that's only if they look at current ability levels.  Parents and players naturally focus on past performance and current ability.  As coaches, we look at current ability, future potential, and not so much what they've done in the past.  We are not looking at the same thing.  Coaches have to take the big picture into account for the good of the program's future.  Sure, I want to be good today but I also want to be good two or three years down the road as well.  Therefore, we can't avoid potential even if there is no objective numbers to prove it.







Monday, February 21, 2011

Learning from baseball photos

There are probably a thousand reason why this time of year is great for baseball fans, players, and coaches. One of the things I look forward to is all the great photos from spring training.  These pictures showing warm, sunny skies and terrific fields let you know that warmer days and baseball games are right around the corner.  But there's another reason why I like them.  As a teacher and a coach, I know some people are visual learners and benefit from seeing concepts and techniques in action instead of just being told or reading about them.  ESPN.com (MLB page) has a photo link that I check every day.  There are tons of photos showing major leaguers doing the things that we coaches teach.  I highly recommend checking out these photos to study what you are seeing.  Click HERE for the photo link.  Check back every day because they add quite a few daily.  Below are a few from a recent gallery and what I notice in each.


Big triangle with feet and glove, both hands out front
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Fingers across the seams when infielders throw.
(AP Photo/Matt York)
Lead with your left foot on a backhand you have to
travel farther for or when you have a lot of momentum
going away from first base and have to field it outside
your foot.

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Eyes level, tricep facing the batter, glove chest high,
fingers between the ball and the head.

(Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)


Lead with your right foot on a backhand you don't
have to travel more than a step or two to get
and field it inside your foot.

(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)




So don't just look at the photos you see.  Study them!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I bet you can't guess!

One of the many cool things about a blog is that behind the scenes I can see statistics like what posts people are reading, what sites refer people to the blog, and various other numbers.  One such number is what country the reader comes from.  The overwhelming winner concerning what country my readers come from is, not surprisingly, the United States.  You'll never guess what country comes in 2nd Place though.  Never in a million years!  Not Canada - they're in 3rd.  Not Mexico, Australia, England, or Japan either.  Give up?  
It's Pakistan!  I'm not kidding.  Either a new sport has been introduced to the Pakistani people or some American business/government/military personnel are fans.  Either way, I want to hear from anyone in Pakistan who is a reader!  Email me and tell me your story.  My curiosity is killing me!  I'd love to turn it into a future post!  
And thanks to all of you for reading!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Hitting and making adjustments

Yesterday (Feb. 18) in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Phillies second baseman Chase Utley was interviewed and asked a number of questions about last season as well as the one that’s approaching.  A few things he said can be very informative to hitters.  In my opinion, what he said especially applies to those who work with private instructors.  In the article, Utley says the following:
“Every year is a game of adjustments.  You try to figure out what works best for you at that time.”  He went on to add “I think everyone handles themselves differently.  You do whatever makes you feel comfortable.”
So, in what way are these words instructive and why would they apply to some kids with private instructors? 
Chase Utley
I would answer that by saying that some hitters make the mistake of completely buying into a particular way of hitting and reject or ignore others who wish to pass on a different style or set of suggestions that might help them.  I see this every now and then with kids who have gone to the same private instructor for long periods of time.  I certainly don't mean to imply that private instruction is a bad thing.  It's one of the better things the game has created in the past 15 years.  However, here is a problem that can develop in some kids. The player is batting barely over .200 but refuses to make adjustments because he has been sold on one style of hitting and thinks that way is the only way.  In the words from Chase Utley above, it is clear he is not locked into one way of hitting.  He is open to all adjustments and pulls various ones out as needed and gives them a try.  That’s what major league hitters do all the time.  He also makes the point of saying that what works today might not work tomorrow or the next.  You have to continually make adjustments until you find something that works.  Buying completely into one way of doing something prevents a player from going through this much needed process over the course of a long season.  Chase Utley’s focus or key is on being “comfortable.”  The mechanics that put him into his comfort zone are less important than him getting to this comfort zone.  Of course, if he is not succeeding at the plate, he won’t be comfortable anymore and will then search for something different.  It doesn't mean completely reconstructing his swing.  It could mean holding his hands an inch higher, opening his stance a little, taking a little shorter of a stride, or just focusing on hitting the ball up the middle more.  Players who do this well usually avoid lengthy slumps.  As soon as they feel something is not working, they make adjustments until they get back on track.  Many players who are locked into one way of doing something have to hit rock bottom before they realize they better try something different.  Often it's the end of the bench that usually gets them to wake up.
So my advice to hitters is this.  Listen to everyone but know yourself.  Store everything they say in your adjustment “bank,” take away what feels right and works for you, and go back to your bank when adjustments are necessary.  
A former coach of mine who was a long time major league player and coach named Jim Lemon once told me that a hitter might learn just as much about hitting from a cab driver than from any hitting coach they ever work with.  You never know so be open minded. Listen to everyone and take bits and pieces from each to create a style that works for you.  If you’re not succeeding, be willing to go back and make some adjustments.

Friday, February 18, 2011

How to wear a baseball uniform

Now that players and coaches are gearing up for the approaching season, I thought it appropriate to write about something I find to be very important with regards to treating the game with respect.  There are many ways players and coaches can disrespect the game without most people even noticing.  That's not the case when it comes to how someone wears a uniform.  Below are the uniform Do's and Don'ts I've demanded from players in order to show the proper respect for the game of baseball.

  • The hat is worn straight forward with a slightly curved brim at all times unless you are a catcher with your helmet/mask worn over top.
  • Which is worse...the
    player wearing his cap this
    way or the organization
    allowing him to?
  • If sleeves are worn under jerseys, all members of the team and staff will wear the same exact color.  Navy blue and Royal blue are not the same color.  White and gray sleeves are never an option in baseball.
  • The team can choose whether they want to wear the bottom of their pants up high (Old School style) or all the way down.  Either way is fine but everyone on the team does it the same way.
  • Spikes are the same color.  Brands are a matter of choice.  Color is not.
  • Shoe laces are tied.
  • Jackets, hoodies, pullovers, etc. are not to be worn during pre-game infield-outfield practice.  You don't wear them in the game so they are not worn in practice.  Practice or game jerseys only.
  • If Old School stirrups are worn, the higher part of the sock goes in the back.
  • Base coaches do not wear jackets, hoodies, pullovers, etc. when in the coaches box.  (On the high school and college level, I know I'm in the minority on this one but you'll never see a Major League base coach wearing one while on the field no matter how bad the weather is.  I follow their lead.  Also, it becomes tougher for players to complain about the weather when their coaches don't appear to be impacted by it.)
  • All jerseys are tucked in at all times.
  • Wristbands are to be in team colors.  Keep the "lucky" pink wristband your girlfriend wants you to wear in your pocket. 
  • If a belt is part of the uniform, everyone has it on.
The basic principle of the uniform is that all players wear it the same way.  The prefix "uni" means one.  One way to wear it as a team.  It's not called a "multi-form."

Talent levels for individual players and teams will vary from year to year.  The respect programs demand and show for the game should not.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Pick-offs and holding runners at 1st base

First of all, it needs to be said that picking off runners at first and holding runners close are not necessarily the same thing.  When a pitcher picks a runner off first base it clearly sends a message to future runners to be more cautious.  Obviously this is a good thing.  However, holding runners close involves a lot more than having a good pick-off move.  Follow these tips and you will hold more runners close and might just pick a runner off once in a while, even with an average move.  Note: These tips are primarily for right handed pitchers.  Tips for left handers will be a future post.


Holding runners is much more than
a great pick-off move to first.
(Photo by
Markjrebilas)
Be patient. One common mistake by pitchers is that they are too quick to throw to first base after coming set.  Many don't even come set before turning to throw.  Occasionally this can be effective but not if done all the time.  Coming set and holding there for a second or two allows the runner to get his full lead and get comfortable out there.  Be patient and give him time to get off the bag.

Mix up your timing.  One thing great base stealers look for is patterns with regards to timing after the pitcher comes set.  If you consistently come set, look once, look at home, and then throw the pitch, the runner will take off as soon as you look home because you established a pattern of never looking twice.  Mix it up.  Give two looks one time and one the next.  Throw to home after coming set for a second and on the next pitch, wait three seconds.  The point is, don't let the runner time you.

Vary your leg kick.  Every pitcher should have three different leg kicks to home plate.  A slow one, a medium speed one, and a slide step.  I'll dedicate a future post on how to do all three.  Again, the point is to not get into any predictable patterns in your delivery.

Come set low.  This is a very easy and often overlooked tip that can greatly benefit pitchers in a couple very important ways.  Another post will deal more extensively with this as well.  Coming to the set position with your glove at belly button level helps with pick-off throws.  If you come set too high - chest or chin - the ball has a longer distance to travel in the throw to first.  The ball has to exit the glove, procede downward, and then come up and around to throw.  If you start with the glove/ball lower, the ball does not have to come down.  It's already down.  One less step and less wasted time.

Short arm it to first.  First base is just a short toss from the mound.  There is no need to wind-up with a big arm circle to throw to first on pick-offs.  This long arm action takes more time.  Short arm the ball to first base as if you are a shortstop catching and throwing a double play feed.  Small arm circles are quicker.

Great runners watch for
patterns and predictable habits.
Keep them guessing!

(Photo by Getty Images)
Work both sides of the pitching rubber.  This is another overlooked tip for pitchers especially if they don't have a tremendous move.  It will also make a good move even better.  Start by setting up as far as you possibly can on the thrid base side of the pitching rubber.  Come set, hold a second, and then give your best move to first base.  Safe.  Get the ball back and now set up as far as you possibly can on the first base side of the rubber.  Give him the same exact move.  Out.  Why?  Because you just decreased your throw by almost three feet compared to the first one.  The first move makes the batter think his lead is a safe one.  The second move gets the ball there three feet sooner.  There's that ByTheYard thing again!

Save your best move.  Don't use your best tricks and pick-off moves until you really need them.  If you show your best in the first inning, the other team knows what you have the rest of the game.  Mix your times up throughout the game but bring out your best with the game on the line and when you really need an out.


Know the situation.  There is no sense wasting time trying to hold a runner close who is not going to steal.  Runners with no speed do not require the same attention as fast ones.  Even fast runners probably won't steal if their team is down by a number of runs.  When you do all of the above to runners that are not going anywhere, you give more information to future runners who are watching from the bench.  All this requires a pitcher to be aware of the situation - who is running, the score, the inning, etc. You don't ignore any runner at first base but you do adjust your strategy depending on the situation.    

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A parent talks to a child before the first game

I don't remember where I found this and still don't know who wrote it but I always get the chills when I read it.  Great players usually are supported by great parents who have a good perspective on the game.

This is your first game, my child.  I hope you win.
I hope you win for your sake, not mine.
Because winning’s nice.
It’s a good feeling.
Like the whole world is yours.
But, it passes, this feeling.
And what lasts is what you’ve learned.

And what you learn about is life.
That’s what sports is all about.  Life.
The whole thing is played out in an afternoon.
The happiness of life.
The miseries.
The joys.
The heartbreaks.

There’s no telling what’ll turn up.
There’s no telling whether they’ll toss you out in the first five minutes or whether you’ll stay for the long haul.

There’s no telling how you’ll do.
You might be a hero or you might be absolutely nothing.
There’s just no telling.
Too much depends on chance.
On how the ball bounces.

I’m not talking about the game, my child.
I’m talking about life.
But, it’s life that the game is all about.
Just as I said.

Because every game is life.
And life is a game.
A serious game.
Dead serious.

But that’s what you do with serious things.
You do your best.
You take what comes.
You take what comes
And you run with it.

Winning is fun.
Sure.
But winning is not the point.

Wanting to win is the point.
Not giving up is the point.
Never being satisfied with what you’ve done is the point.
Never letting up is the point.
Never letting anyone down is the point.

Play to win.
Sure.
But lose like a champion.
Because it’s not winning that counts.
What counts is trying.

-         Author unknown

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cardinal sins of baseball (part 3) - Pitching

Cardinal Sins Part 1 and Part 2 were on Defense and Offense respectively.  Here's a separate one for pitching.
Click HERE for a site that sells
a t-shirt for this design.
  • A come-backer to the pitcher and he does not know who he's throwing it to at second base on a double-play.  The middle infielders and pitcher work that out before the batter even gets a chance to hit.
  • Failing to cover first base on a ball hit to his left.  You're worthless standing on the mound.
  • A four pitch walk.  Great pitchers make the adjustment after the first bad pitch, not after the 6th or 7th one. 
  • Two quick outs and walks the next batter.  You just shifted the momentum back to the offensive team.
  • A lead off walk.  Asking for trouble.
  • Failing to back up bases.  Sheer laziness.  There is always a place to be.
  • An 0-2 pitch down the middle.  Lack of concentration or a gameplan.
  • Getting visibly angry at fielders after errors.  Saying "Don't worry, shake it off, this next one's coming right back to you" would be much better.  Never show-up your teammates.
  • Allowing questionable calls by umpires effect your performance.  The mark of a great player is handling adversity better than the average one.
  • Not warming up properly and being less than full strength at the first pitch of the game.  The first pitch you throw might very well be the pitch the determines the outcome of the game.  Be 100% the moment you step on the mound.



Monday, February 14, 2011

Cardinal Sins of Baseball (Part 2) - Offense

Yesterday it was Cardinal Sins on defense.  Today it's offense!


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  • Taking a called third strike, especially with runners in scoring position.  Probably the thing that aggravates me the most as a coach.
  • Missing a sign from a coach.
  • Swinging at the first pitch when the previous batter walked on four pitches.  Poor awareness of what is happening around you.
  • Getting picked off when the steal sign is not on.  Where are you going?
  • Getting picked off on a hit-and-run play.  The priority is for the batter to put the ball in play, not for you to steal the base.
  • Missing a base.  Inexcusable at any level.
  • Taking a fast ball down the middle with runners in scoring position.  The next top thing that aggravates me the most.
  • Taking a first pitch strike on a fat fastball down the middle with runners on.  You send a very clear message that you were not ready to hit when you walk into the batter's box.
  • Trying to base-hit bunt after getting the sacrifice bunt sign.  This will get you a quick trip down the end of the bench.  It's called a "sacrifice" for a reason.
  • Just reaching first base on a dropped fly ball in the outfield. This will get you a quicker trip down the end of the bench.
  • Forgetting how many outs there are on the bases.  Ask an ump or a coach if you don't know.
  • Trying to get to third base and getting thrown out on a ball hit to the shortstop.  Force him to make that long throw to first base.  If you stay at second base, you're still in scoring position.
  • Running into a tag with two outs instead of forcing the fielder to throw to first base.  Stop and make him throw the ball!  An accurate throw is much tougher than simply tagging you.
  • Two outs on two pitches and the next batter swings at the first pitch.  The coach should tell you to take at least one pitch but if not, you do it.
  • Down by a bunch of runs and the batter swings at the first strike.  There is no such thing as a six-run homerun.
Tomorrow:  Cardinal sins of pitching

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cardinal Sins of Baseball (Part 1) - Defense

A "Cardinal Sin" refers to the most important behaviors people should avoid.  In baseball, cardinal sins involve the worst mistakes players can make on the field.  Old Timers probably have a more extensive list than today's players which is why it is tough for some in the older baseball generation to watch today's modern game.  More players seem to not care or have never been taught things that were standard years ago.  At least that's what my father says!
Today's list involves the cardinal sins on the defensive side of the ball that I grew up hearing.

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  • A 1st baseman letting a routine ground ball get past him.  He's 10 feet from the bag and has the pitcher to help over there as well.
  • An outfielder losing a ball in the sun and then asking for sunglasses.  Should have had them prior to missing the ball.
  • Failing to make sure of one out on a double-play attempt.  Now you have the start of a rally.
  • Not knowing (or forgetting) how fast a base runner is.  If you don't know, assume he's fast.
  • "Olay-ing" a thrown or batted ball in the dirt and allowing it to go into the outfield.  You don't have to make the out but you do have to keep the ball in the infield.
  • An infielder not diving for a ground ball with runner(s) in scoring position.  The pitcher will not be happy.  Remember, he'd rather not have numbers added to his ERA.
  • An infielder not diving for a ground ball with runner(s) in scoring position when a pitcher has a shutout.  Now the whole pitching staff hates you.  
  • Not diving for a ball when a pitcher has a no-hitter/perfect game going.  Congratulations.  Now the whole team hates you.
  • A catcher who tries to "catch" a ball in the dirt as opposed to "blocking" it.  That's why they call it blocking drill and not catching drill.
  • Walking out to your position.  There is no walking in baseball.
  • Allowing poor at-bats to impact your performance on defense.  Get over it and do your job on defense.
  • An outfielder missing the cut-off man allowing other runners to move up.  A ball that slips out is excusable.  Forgetting how important it is to hit the cut-off man is not.
  • Failing to get an out on a sacrifice bunt.  The other team is giving you an out.  You have to take it.
  • Forgetting how many outs there are.  Somebody paid good money for that scoreboard.  Look at it once in awhile.

    Know any more?  There are many!

    The next two cardinal sin posts will cover offense and pitching.  Stay tuned.