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Archive for the ‘Baseball Training Tips’ Category

Guest Blog – Catching: Partly Physical, but Mostly Mental

Monday, April 13th, 2009

This is a guest blog entry - blog.baseballrampage.com Admin.

Have you ever wondered why some teams keep week-hitting catchers in the lineup and yet these teams seem to win the majority of their games. The answer is not found in batting statistics nor in throwing out base runners nor in preventing wild pitches and passed balls. The answer is in the way these “good” catchers develop and use game strategy and tactics.

Preparing for a game begins long before the first batter stands in the box. It begins by studying what your opponent has done in the past. A catcher should review the scorebook of what each opponent player did against his team. Because teams within a league play each other several times, the best intelligence is the past. The good catchers keep book on every player in the league. Collecting and filing this information is vitally important. Recalling it is a must. It’s the difference between winning and losing. Start by using a small 3″x5″ spiral notebook, even one with a little loop to hold a stubby pencil. Divide the notebook into as many teams as there are in your league plus one extra for general information; a small tab can separate each team. Keep this notebook tucked within your chest protector or your back pocket when you’re playing your position. Refer to it between batters if necessary, but work hard to recall the details without having to “thumb through your guide.” Bench time, when the other team is out on the field, is great for reviewing the upcoming batters information.

Calling a Game

Some catchers are allowed to do this while others await the coaches signals. Calling your own game begins with understanding the batters and the game situation tactics. Calling your own game requires you to pay attention to details. Keep notes on hitters, runners, pitchers, as well as opposing team tendencies. Before attempting to call your own game, pay attention to how your pitching coach calls pitches during other games. Why is he calling for certain pitches in certain counts? What is he trying to accomplish? What is the game situation? If you don’t understand something, ask the coach after the inning why he is calling that pitch in that situation. Once, you understand the reasoning for calling certain pitches; incorporate this knowledge into your Catcher’s Notebook.

After your defensive half-inning is over enter data on each player that just came to bat. What stance did each use. What was the position of his hands or what were his warm-up swings like. Did he chase certain “bad” pitches or ignore others? Did he get fooled by certain set-up pitches? Was he bothered by base runners seemingly about to steal? Has he changed anything since the last time you met or when runners are on or off base? All of these things should be noted in the Catcher’s Notebook.

A batter with an open stance will probably be strong on inside pitches (his hips are already pointing toward the pitch and he will tend to be weaker on outside pitches). From a closed stance, the batter will probably hit the ball well into right field because he hits the outside pitch well. So, the pitcher should throw inside to him so he can jam him with good fastballs. A batter with a straightaway stance is capable of hitting to all fields. So, you should pitch to him low and favor the inside of the strike zone until you know more about him.

Besides the stance there are many other mannerisms used by the batter that might reveal his weaknesses. The position of his hands will often expose his weaknesses and his strengths. For example, if he holds his hands high with the bat in a perpendicular position, the batter seems to be indicating that he prefers low pitches. One who holds the bat in a horizontal position shows that he favors high pitches. If he holds his hands tight against the knob he probably is trying to reach out for those outside pitches, usually down low, that he can punch into right-center over the second baseman. Verify these tendencies by noting what he did on a pitch.

Warm-up swings can tell a lot. A level swing may indicate that the batter’s best zone is the one that he is practicing. Practice swings in the high part of the strike zone show a preference for high pitches while swings in the low strike zone may reveal low pitch preferences. But, observations during each pitch will reveal more pertinent information that these general warm-up swing tendencies.

Going after out of the strike zone or bad pitches, especially those that the batter misses or hardly makes contact with, are one of the most important notes that a catcher can keep. This little fact can turn a bad Catcher’s Notebook pitch into a strikeout pitch if the batter has been setup right. If, on the other hand, the batter simply ignores a certain pitch out of the strike zone (i.e. a low outside fastball near the plate) then it probably can’t be used for a strikeout pitch down the road. Knowing what doesn’t work is just as important in knowing what works for each batter to your advantage.

Knowing Your Pitchers

Working with every pitcher on your team, over and over during practice and in games, will let the catcher learn all of their strengths and weaknesses. All game strategies must be based on the pitcher’s abilities and strengths. The one cardinal rule for catchers game calling is that pitcher’s strengths must be exploited rather than a batter’s weaknesses. It does no good to know that a specific batter will chase an outside sinker ball for a strikeout if the pitcher can’t throw one or is not in good enough control that day.

If the catcher is faced with a crucial situation he must rely on the pitcher’s strength, even if it means putting this strength against the batter’s strength. If your hurler’s best pitch is a low fastball and one that he has the most confidence with, then go with the fastball even if that’s the batter’s best pitch to hit. If the pitcher’s best pitch fails, then know that the battery put forth their best effort.

When the pitcher and catcher disagree on what to throw and where, then the catcher should go with the pitcher’s desires. After all, the pitcher has to have confidence that what he wants to throw will succeed. If the pitcher agrees to the catcher’s call but doesn’t feel good about it because he doesn’t want to irritate the catcher, then the two should have a mound conference to discuss why each feels the way that they do. Confidence in getting the job done is key to success. Usually good catchers have their notebook that reveals all of the little facts that works to the pitcher’s advantage. Sometimes the pitchers forget or never learned what tendencies or preferences that certain batters have. But, the Catcher’s Notebook will quite often convince the pitcher that he can be confident in what the catcher called and what the pitcher can throw in these situations. The “notebook” becomes the key in crucial situations more often than not.

Know the pitcher and his capabilities. What are his strengths and weaknesses? What is his best pitch? Is he having trouble throwing a certain pitch for a strike? Is he locating his pitches? Has he faced this team or these hitters before? How did he do and what did he do to get each hitter out? Does he get more ground ball outs than fly outs? How fast is your pitcher to the plate with runners on base? Does he hold the runners well? Does he have an out pitch and is it on today? How does he field his position? All of these things should be a part of the Catcher’s Notebook.

Physical or Mental Notebook

In time the Catcher’s Notebook is something that is referred to only in pre-game discussions between the catcher and the pitcher. The good catchers develop their memory recall and it becomes one of their invaluable assets. Later in their progression from Little League through High School through College and into the Professional Leagues, backstops file the Catcher’s Notebook entries entirely in their heads and there is no need to keep an actual little spiral-bound book.

So, now that you have purchased your mask, chest protector, shin guards and mitt from Baseball Rampage and you have practiced, through extensive drills, all of skills required of the job and you have conditioned yourself to the rigors of the position, it’s time to go out and buy that little notebook and stubby pencil. Having done that you’re ready to start the long journey of becoming a “good catcher.”

Chuck Rosciam
Encyclopedia of Baseball Catchers
http://www.baseballcatchers.com

Youth Hitting Mechanics: Keep It Simple

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

After observing countless young hitters in our demo-batting cage I have noticed several trends that seem to be the main problems why many kids struggle with hitting. There are many aspects involved with hitting. I am going to concentrate on the bad mechanics I have observed.

The first problem is the stride. Kids get in there and immediately want to kill the ball leading to a huge stride planting their front foot 16-18″ from it’s original position. The next problem is initial hand positioning being too low. If the hands are too low at the start, critical time is wasted getting them up into the loaded position. Then comes dropping the barrel and dragging the bat through the zone with a painfully long swing. Each of these problems compounds each other starting with the long stride. The stride is in sync with the loading phase of the swing, the long stride and low hands struggling to get into position leads to problems with timing and takes away any chance to adjust to the ball. When you combine the dropping of the barrel and being completely extended by the time the ball arrives, the hitter is usually behind and under the pitch.

The mechanics of a baseball swing are a controversial and complicated topic. Thousands of books have been written and millions of arguments/discussion have taken place. For young player’s I feel that simplicity is the key. A shortened stride, and less movement in the hands will almost always help a struggling young hitter. These are simply observations I have noticed and may not work for all players. I have had many coaches which all have a different philosophy on the swing, but one thing all of them agree on is a short, quick swing is the way to go. Young players have enough to worry about, including being cool, looking good in front of friends, and keeping dad happy. Keep it simple and let them have fun.

Two Ball Soft Toss Drill

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

This drill will teach the hitter to concentrate and keep their weight back.

  1. The coach will toss two balls
  2. The coach will then call out top or bottom after the balls are released
  3. The hitter will hit the called ball into the fence or screen

Two ball soft toss is a great way to help a player who is getting out on their front foot, and will also help develop bat control, and hand-eye coordination.

Long Toss to Strengthen Your Arm

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Long toss is a great way to get your arm in shape, increase your throwing power, distance, and accuracy. With a teammate throw at a normal distance until you are loose then every toss you make step back two steps so the distance becomes greater between you and your teammate. Don’t over do it; the whole point is to condition your arm and it will take time. Use good form and throw the ball on a line, over time you will be able to increase the length and accuracy of your throws with more power.

Taking Care of Your Baseball Glove

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

Taking care of your glove is important at all levels and there are some important facts to know when it comes to taking care of your glove and making it last. Leather is similar to your own skin, so treat it like you would your own. There are all kinds of crazy ways you’ll hear about how to break in your glove. Don’t put a baseball glove in the oven, and don’t run over it with your car.

The first step is to soften your leather, any number of oils, creams, and foams will do the job. Most pros prefer Neatsfoot oil, but no matter what you use don’t over do it. Nokona Leather Treatment is an outstanding leather conditioner that will protect and help break in your glove.

The next step is to form the pocket. The key to this is stick a ball in there, wrap it up, and let it sit for a couple of days. Patience and dedication is important when it comes to a new glove, so get out there play some catch, take some grounders and slowly work your glove in and make it your own for years to come.

Oh yeah, and don’t be the kid to leave it in your dugout after the game!

How to Choose the Right Baseball Bat

Monday, August 18th, 2008

Choosing the right baseball bat can be a very confusing process.
Today with all of the different options and technologies being offered what seems like an
easy process can become a daunting task. With some key knowledge and a little research,
buying the right bat can be an easy and rewarding experience. We have created a “bat buying guide”
to help you find the bat that fits your needs.

Starting with the basics: Different Types of Baseball Bats

High School/College/Adult Bats

Otherwise known as adult, these baseball bats are designed for players
age 13 and up. Specifically for high school and college players, the sizes of the bats will range from 30″ to 34″.
The barrel diameter is 2 5/8” and a – 3 weight drop (for example is you have a 32” bat the weight will be 29 ounces).
All of these bats will have the size and barrel diameter stamped somewhere on the bat and needs to have
a BESR (Bat Exit Speed Rating) certification to be legal for most leagues.


Shop for High School/College/Adult Bats

Senior League/Big Barrel Bats
Senior league bats are those designed for the intermediate youth players generally 10 to
13 years old. The lengths of these bats can range from 27″ to 32″ and will either have a barrel diameter of 2 5/8″ or 2 3/4″
known as the big barrel. The weight drop in these bats will vary from -5 all the way up to -11. Baseball leagues will
vary in rules whether they allow the 2 5/8″ or 2 3/4″ barrels, so make sure you check with your league rules before you
decide on your bat.


Shop for Senior League/Big Barrel Bats

Youth/Little League Bats

Little league bats are geared for players approximately age 7 through 12. All of these bats
will have 2 1/4″ barrel diameters; the lengths will range from 27″ to 32″. Youth league bats will have the largest
weight drop of any bats available, -7 to -13.5. Generally the bats will be labeled with the leagues in which they
are used, Little League, Dixie Youth, Babe Ruth, Pony, and AABC.


Shop for Little League/Youth Bats

Weight:
As a general rule, bigger, stronger players usually prefer a heavier bat for maximum power.
Smaller players usually benefit from a lighter bat that allows greater bat speed. To determine the weight that’s
right for you, swing a variety of bats and see how much weight you’re comfortable with.

Length:
Length and weight combine for peak performance. A longer bat gives you greater reach, allowing you to hit balls on the other side of the plate. But remember that a longer bat may be heavier, and the extra weight could slow you down. Like checking the weight, you need to swing bats of different lengths to decide what length best suits you.

Little League (8-10 yrs)
Player Height Bat Weight
48-50″ 16-17 oz.
51-54″ 17-18 oz.
55-59″ 18-19 oz.
60+” 19-20 oz.
Senior Youth League (11-12 yrs)
Player Weight Bat Weight
70-80 lbs. 18-19 oz.
81-100 lbs. 19-20 oz.
101-120 lbs. 20-21 oz.
121-140 lbs. 21-22 oz.
141+ lbs. 22-23 oz.
High School & College
Player Height Bat Weight
66-68″ 27-28 oz.
69-72″ 28-29 oz.
73-76″ 29-30 oz.
77+” 30-31 oz.

Different Bat Materials

Today almost all bats are either made of High grade aircraft alloys, or recently
composite bats have emerged. This is where things start to get confusing, in the last 5 – 10 years high
grade alloys have always been used in the construction of these bats, recently composite and hybrid technology
have changed the way the leading manufacturers are making their bats.

The options available:

  1. 100% Alloy bats – made completely of aircraft grade alloys
  2. 100% Composite bats – made of composite fibers
  3. Half & Half bats – bats that have a composite handle, and aluminum, alloy, or hybrid barrel
  4. Hybrid Bats – Bats that have combined two different materials, such as alloy with carbon

Composite Baseball Bats
The new composite bats on the market are different from the alloy bats.
A composite bat has different features, which require a “break in” period before the bat reaches
its optimal performance. With composite bats a player will need to hit approximately 200-300 real
leather baseballs while rotating the barrel to completely break in the surface area of the barrel.
The composite bats will also sound more like you are hitting a wood bat than an alloy one. Once the
composite bats are broken in they will greatly increase the sweet spot and durability, which some
studies have shown surpass the ability of standard alloy bats. The composite bats will carry a higher
price tag, but with the correct break in and care will be worth the price.

Hitters Tip – Pitcher’s Body Language

Monday, August 18th, 2008

To be a good hitter it is always a good idea to watch the pitcher and try to pick up small changes in body language when different pitches are being thrown (curveball, fastball, changeup). In high school there usually are small signs that can tip off what pitch is coming. A common one is the angle that the pitcher holds the glove at.

Bunting Drill

Monday, August 18th, 2008
  1. Place two cones, one 20 feet out from home plate and 10 feet from the left foul line.
  2. Do the same with the other cone from the right foul line
  3. Work on bunting the ball towards the line so that it rests in fair territory between the foul line and the cone
  4. Do this for both sides of the field
  5. Bunting many times is the difference between winning and losing games. This drill will help you determine the bat angle and technique required to bunt down the lines

Great Short Hop Drill

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

This drill is very helpful in teaching you to field short hops cleanly.

  • Grab a partner and stand 40 feet apart
  • One partner will throw short hops so the ball is hitting within three feet of the other partner. Do twenty then switch
  • When you’re fielding, concentrate on having your hands out in front of you and accepting the ball with soft hands using your top hand as well.
  • Field the ball then use good footwork and make the throw back to your partner who will be presenting a target.
  • Once you master the short hop in front, work on moving the ball around using your backhand and forward hand.

Why Should You Swing a Wood Bat?

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Woods bats are generally thought to be used by Major League players only, but woods bats can be very useful to youth players, high school players, and college players as well.

Wood bats or wood composite bats are great for batting practice and taking reps in a batting cage. Wood bats are ideal because they are a lot cheaper than aluminum and will save you the wear and tear on your aluminum bats. Batting cage balls are hard on your aluminum bat because they are dense and heavy which will take the life and pop out of your bat. Wood bats don’t loose their pop and will take the punishment of the batting cage balls.

Another advantage of using wood bats is bat control. Wood baseball bats are heavier and have a smaller length to weight ratio, which is in a scaled down way like weight training. Once you have been in a cage and practiced with wood, it will be make a world of difference when you get on the field and hit your aluminum bat. The ball will fly off the barrel and your confidence will be sky high.

Take a look at wood bats as an excellent training option, and you will be happy with the results. Check out these wood baseball bats at Baseball Rampage.

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