Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Why is Tendonitis Such a Danger For Baseball Pitchers?

By Joshua Tucker
Read through baseball sports news, blogs, fantasy baseball sites, etc, and if you aren't already aware of how dangerous pitching is to baseball players, you quickly will.
Why exactly is Tendonitis such a problem for Baseball Pitchers?

Managing a pitcher and how active he is major strategy in baseball, especially in Major League Baseball.

Every day I see news reports of various pitchers getting benched, being placed on the injured list, and sent off to surgery and weeks and months of recovery.

It's too bad. All that could be avoided.

Tendonitis is an occupational hazard for major league baseball pitchers, and young men that work hard to join the ranks of a big league team.

Most of this kind of injury shows up in the arm anywhere from shoulder to fingers. Watch a pitcher throw a few times, it's no surprise. Even then pitching efficiently and effortlessly, there is A LOT of force, torque, internal movement of tendons, and muscle contraction happening over and over.

Over time after hundreds or thousands of throws, after muscles firing powerfully and pulling forcefully on their tendons, the muscles get set tighter and tighter. This starts a long Downward Spiral of increasing tightness, then increasing pain and tightness.

Whether a tendon gets irritated or actually has some micro tear to the tissue, the body kicks in an Inflammation process. This enhances the Downward Spiral by making things hurt more, which makes muscles get tighter....which makes things hurt more.

If treated the usual way, injury comes and goes, players lose time and stats to time resting and recovering from surgery. Look at all the players that have had surgery. How many of them are back to 100%, months or years later? How many of them aren't still dealing with tendonitis issues?

Tendonitis can end careers. It is a serious threat to a pitcher and his career. Whether it is Tennis Elbow, Wrist Tendonitis, a problem in the hand, Shoulder Cuff Tendonitis, or something similar, teams work hard to keep their pitchers healthy and able to play.

The problem really isn't pitching.

The problem is that the pitchers aren't doing the RIGHT self care to keep their bodies happy and healthy, as opposed to their bodies getting slowly more and more unhappy, until the pain is enough to stop them from pitching.

Rest, anti-inflammatory drugs like Ibuprofen, corticosteroid shots, and splints and braces really are not preventative measures. They just don't work. Want proof? Watch sports news for a while.

Tendonitis is a threat to baseball pitchers because it is a natural result of how they use their bodies, how their bodies naturally respond to that kind of ongoing stress, and because pitchers don't do the right kind of self care that successfully reverses the first two factors.
Joshua Tucker, B.A, C.M.T is The Tendonitis Expert. He educates, leads workshops, and trains individuals how to ELIMINATE their Tendonitis related issues like Tennis Elbow, Carpal Tunnel, Plantar Fasciitis, and Wrist Tendonitis. Joshua says "When you have tried all the usual options and they have failed, it's still not to late to become pain free. It's also never too early to start."

For more of the RIGHT information about how to Eliminate your Tendonitis, no matter how bad it is or how long you've had it, visit http://www.tendonitisexpert.com/
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Joshua_Tucker

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Baseball Practice Drills

By Frank LaMorte
There is nothing worse than having a baseball practice and players are standing around waiting their turn to field a pop up or ground ball or even take batting practice. During practice it is essential to introduce drills that will provide repetition necessary to improve players skills. The only way to get better at a sport is to practice and repeat the proper behaviors to learn.
A critical component to any successful baseball practice is repetition, repetition and more repetition. As such I would like to introduce several drills that I have used that improved all my players' skills while having a fun time.

Head to Head Ground Ball Drill

First,break the players down into four groups. For purpose of this example let's say there are 20 players. Put players in groups of 5 making 4 distinct groups. A group of 5 will face another group of 5 at 11 to 15 yards apart depending on the skill level. Set the width of play at no more than 4 yards and expand the area as skill levels increase. Have the lead player on one side throw ground balls to the player on the other side. Once the player throws the ball he rotates to the back of the line. The player receiving the ball will throw to the next player in line. Repeat this for as long as you like. Each player in a short period of time can easily field 100 ground balls or more.

Pop Up Drill

This is one of my favorite drills that has the added advantage of increasing endurance. Once again break players down into 4 groups of 5 players. You can use other players or coaches to help. Designate two areas of play that is anywhere from 10 to 15 yards away and at least 4 to 6 yards in width. These areas should be opposite of each other. These areas can be expanded depending on the skill level of the athletes.

Have at least a dozen balls handy and have the player enter the field of play as you toss a fly ball to him, over his right shoulder, left shoulder, left side, right side and as he runs toward you. Toss the balls at a brisk pace to keep the player running and concentrating on making the play. This will allow him to work on technique while increasing range over time. When the dozen balls are used have the player retrieve them and return to your bucket. Then turn to field two and repeat with a new player. Keep doing this and in less than a half hour each player would have fielded at least 100 fly balls. You will be amazed at how effective this drill is and no one will be standing around for long.

Dirt Lines Ground Ball Drill

This drill is used to teach young players to get their hands and glove out front when fielding a grounder. The young player often gets in the habit of catching grounders close to his or her feet or slightly in front of the toes. As coaches, we want infielders to extend their arms and get the glove out in front so that they can see the ball into it. The player should "lay" the glove on the ground out in front of his body . Each players distance will vary. However, a good rule of thumb is to try and extend the length from the players arm or from the tip of the fingers to the armpit. Another good measuring scale is they should be able to extend the length of the the bat they use. This distance is measured on the ground from the back of his heel outward. For this drill we pair two players. The players will roll grounders to each other from about 6 to 8 feet. The coach draws two lines in the dirt about 8 feet apart. The players must catch the ball out in front of this line. The coach will then draw a second line for each player - this is the "feet" line. The players feet must stay behind this line. The players roll the ball and catch it while making sure to:

1. Get extension.
2. Keep the elbows off the ribs.
3. Funnel the ball in using the top "bare" hand.
4. Work their feet as they bring the ball up to the correct "T" throwing position.
5. Roll the ball back to your partner.
6. Repeat the process 50 to 100 times.

There are many drills to be used in baseball for pitching, hitting, fielding, running, bunting, etc. There are more drills then one could imagine. Employ a few new drills with each practice and watch your players enthusiasm and desire to return to practice. More importantly watch the development of your athletes, while they have lots of fun.

Keep the practices exciting and games stimulating and players will wait with excitement for the next opportunity to be with their team.

Coaching sports requires a set of skills acquired over time. Regardless of ones natural talents and instincts in dealing with the athlete there is much to learn in terms of how to become an effective coach. Learning how to run practice, use drills, techniques, and much more is an important part of coaching and learning any sport. For more information on coaching sports visit http://www.sportsnest.com

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Frank_LaMorte

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Become a Better Hitter - Have a Hitting Philosophy

By Scott M. Thompson

The best way to increase your average happens before you even step in the batters box. I am not talking about your swing either. It would be way to difficult to teach somebody to swing over the internet, so this article is assuming that your coach has taught you the fundamentals of a good swing.

What I am talking about are things you can do before the game. Watch the opposing pitcher warm up. How many pitches does he throw? How hard is his fastball, curve ball, etc? Is he around the plate, up or down? Is his curve ball a 12 to 6 or more like a slider? These are the things that will help you prepare for your upcoming at bat.

The game has started, watch how the pitcher holds his glove, moves his fingers, changes his arm speed. Does he dig in his glove every time he throws a curve? Look for the slight differences between his motion and demeanor depending on the pitch he is about to throw.

Be aware of the other players in the field also, especially the catcher. Do infielders move over a step or two on off speed pitches? Does the catcher change his stance when a curve ball is coming? Do not turn your head and look where the catcher is. You can though sneak a quick peek through your peripheral vision to see if he is set up inside or outside. If the catcher is giving away the off speed pitch, come up with verbal code words with your on deck batter. First name, last name, number, something not to obvious.

Pick out the tendencies of the pitcher. Pitchers and catchers have patterns. Notice what his go to pitch is when he needs a strike, when he is going for a strikeout, when he is ahead in the count. Does he like to throw inside, outside, high, low, all these things you can pick up before you even step into the batters box.

The bottom line is, if you want to be a better hitter pay attention to details that may give you an advantage. There will be plenty of time to catch up with your buddies or play grab ass with your buddies after the game.

It's your turn to bat, you know how hard he throws, the shape of his curve, when he likes to throw the curve, and what he likes to throw on the first pitch to a new batter. The exception to this situation is if you are the lead off hitter. If you are lead off, you have a job to do. Get the pitcher to throw as many pitches as you can. Hopefully you can get him to throw them all. But at least the fastball and curve. This method should not only help you, but your teammates as well, if they pay attention.

Another key is not to think too much, but know the situation. Is there a runner on first, no outs. Look for something to hit to the right side to advance your teammate into scoring position. I can't go over every situation, but I think you get the picture. Do what works best for your coach and team philosophy.

So how do you increase your average? I believe you look for the situation that gives you the best chance for success. You have studied the pitcher, but do you know yourself?

What pitches do you hit the best? Do you like the ball inside, outside, up a little, down in the zone? Do you hit fastballs better than curve balls? I hope 95% of you said yes with the other 5% lying. Well that is the pitch you are waiting for until you have a strike. Let's say you hit the outside fastball the best. The pitcher throws a curve ball, don't swing. If it is a ball you are still looking for the outside fastball on the next pitch. The pitcher throws a fastball inside, don't swing. Cut the plate into thirds and make the ball be in your favorite third before you swing.
Something to avoid is what I call players pride. Players pride is when a batter wants to show the pitcher he can hit the pitchers best pitch. For what reason you ask, stupid pride. Yes a hitter will make contact with the ball, but is it solid contact, usually not. Along the same lines are the hitters that are so afraid to strike out they swing at anything they can reach with their bat. If you are a coach, nip both of these problems in the bud as soon as you can.

Let's say that the second pitch the pitcher threw, the fastball inside, was a strike. The count is now 1-1. Expand the zone you are going to swing at to 2/3 to 3/4 of the plate, the outside part since that was where we hit the best according to our scenario. Now you can add the hanging curve to swing at. It must be in the zone and you must be in a position to put a good swing on it, otherwise let it go. Never guess curve ball, always be ready for the fastball and adjust to the off speed stuff. Use this mentality whenever you have 1 strike and 2 balls or less. This is also the perfect time to go back to studying his tendencies. What does he usually throw with a 0-1, 1-1, or 2-1 count. Did I mention to always be ready for the fastball.

With a 3-1 count, a hitters dream count because of the percentages of knowing a fastball is coming, you are in the drivers seat. Go back to the 0 strike approach, maybe increasing the zone to half because of the probability of getting a fastball. Do NOT over swing. Do NOT be late. Put a good aggressive swing on the pitch, one that is in your ability. When you over swing you get long, slow, and probably jammed on the best pitch in baseball.

Just because it is 3-1 don't assume it is automatic you are getting a fastball. Go back to knowing the situation. What point of the game are you in, the score, runners on base, a base open, and how is the hitter behind you hitting today. The pitcher may want to avoid pitching to you and take his chances with the next batter. The opposite holds true, are there base runners on? Does the pitcher have to throw a strike? What are the tendencies?

With two strikes, your job is to put the ball in play. Do not swing at anything and everything. Stay calm, you hopefully have prepared yourself in practice. All those swings off the tee, all the batting practice swings, you know where the head of your bat is. Have confidence in your abilities. You can put the bat on the ball.

Always be ready for the fastball, I don't know how many times I have said that already, but if you only go away with one thing, you guessed it, always be ready for the fastball. What are the tendencies with 0-2. Does he waste a pitch to see if you will chase? Does he set you up with up and in before he goes low and away? You should already know these things and expect them.
With 2 strikes we go to a defensive mode. We expand the plate 2-3 inches on each side as well as up and down. Cut your swing down to a more controllable swing. Whatever it takes to foul off pitches or put the ball in play. It is a good idea to practice this zone in batting practice for about 8-10 pitches. The idea is to protect the plate. Anything close to the plate, you need to swing. Do not leave it up to the umpire, he gets paid by the out not the hour.

That is a good point to bring up when we talk about umpires. You need to know the umpire's zone that day. Does he love to ring people up? Does he reward the pitcher for making good pitches just off the plate but not in the strike zone? Is he consistent? If any of these answers give you doubt, swing at anything close.

Don't give in. Be what they call a tough out. Somebody that battles and wears a pitcher down. Take pride in not striking out. Anything can happen when the ball is in play. At the very least make the pitcher throw as many pitches as you can.

In the event the pitcher does get the better of you and strikes you out. Tip your hat and say you got me this time. I may not have won the battle but I am going to win the war. I know how you pitch, I've seen you before, you got me once it won't happen again. Keep your confidence. Don't let 1 at bat change your philosophy or your approach to hitting.

In closing I would just like to stress the importance of self evaluation. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Look for opportunities to use your strengths. Know the situation you are in at all times. Have a keen sense for details. Anything that may give you an edge. Prepare yourself in practice. Challenge yourself, don't just go through the motions and think you are going to get better. The harder you work the more confidence you acquire. The more confidence you acquire, the better player you will become. The saying goes baseball is 90% mental.

Have faith in your philosophy. And last but not least be ready for the fastball !!!

Good Luck

Find other baseball topics from equipment to tee-ball drills at http://baseball-depot.webs.com/
The Season Starts HERE

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Scott_M._Thompson

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sports Psychology and Hitting - How to Survive a Hitting Slump - Eight Simple Tips

By Jay Granat
A hitting slump has physical, psychological, emotional components to it. For the professional baseball player or the player seeking a scholarship, a slump can have significant financial and career implications.

Players, coaches, parents and agents can become quite frustrated by prolonged hitting slumps. Here are a few suggestions for managing hitting slumps.

1. Make sure you are technically and mechanically sound in the cage and in front of live pitching.

2. Keep accurate diaries and spreadsheets about pitchers who you face. Record all relevant data. Knowing what they threw you in specific situations is very helpful. Similarly, knowing how they like to pitch and how you did against them is essential information for a hitter who wants to excel at the sport of baseball. I know this record keeping seems laborious, but it will pay off with a shorter slump and a higher batting average.

3. Determine if you hit best with an empty mind or with one mental thought or idea at the plate. Most hitters do best with a simple thought or with a mind which is crystal clear and ready to allow the body to do what it is capable of doing at the plate.

4. Go back to some important basics: Keep your head very still. Don't grip the bat too tightly. Hit the ball into the gaps. Focus on the path of the ball. Utilize a ritual which allows you to feel comfortable in the batter's box. Know the strike zone very well.

5. Watch yourself on video when you are in a slump and compare this tape with a video of you when you were hitting well. You will be amazed at what you will learn from this exercise.

6. Use a new hitting coach to get a fresh outlook and a few new tips.

7. Consider a sports psychologist to help you master the mental aspects of hitting.

8. Learn how to use self-hypnosis to get your mind into a confident, focused, relaxed and optimistic state in the dugout, in the on deck circle and at the plate.

Jay P. Granat, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist and the founder of http://www.stayinthezone.com He has written several books and developed several programs to help people perform to their fullest potential at sports, at work and at school. Dr. Granat, a former university professor, has appeared in The New York Times, Good Morning America, AP, ESPN, Golf Digest, The BBC and The CBC. His books include Zone Tennis and Get Into The Zone In Just One Minute. He is also the author of How To Get Into The Zone With Sport Psychology And Self-Hypnosis, How To Lower Your Golf Score With Sport Psychology And Self-Hypnosis, 101 Ways To Break Out Of A Hitting Slump and Bed Time Stories For Young Athletes. Golf Digest named Dr. Granat one of America's Top Ten Mental Gurus. He was recently featured in a documentary film on long distance running. Dr. Granat writes a weekly column for three newspapers.

Baseball players, coaches and parents who want learn more about the psychology of hitting and breaking batting slumps should visit http://www.stayinthezone.com/baseball.htm
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Jay_Granat

Monday, April 6, 2009

Outfielders Get Good Jumps Through Footwork

By Steven Michael
Amazing catches from outfielders are really fun to watch. Highlights on evening sports shows are filled with outfielders and their spectacular plays. Most times the grabs made by outfielders defy logic. People say, "How did he make that catch?" "That looked like a sure triple didn't it?" "That guy wasn't anywhere near that ball -- he seemed to come out of nowhere."

So how is it done? Almost all great outfield catches are done by getting a great jump, reading the ball, and taking perfect angles to get to the catch. And while the great outfielders are also really good athletes, athletic prowess alone doesn't make them great outfielders. Effectively working on their jumps, reads and angles makes the catches possible -- nothing more, nothing less.

360 Degree Footwork

An outfielder has 360 degrees of area to cover. When the outfielder starts from an athletic ready position, he is facing home plate. So, he is facing one direction -- forward. Assuming he can run forward to easily cover 30 degrees of field, that leaves 330 degrees of possible field to cover he is not facing. That's a lot of ground to cover, and a lot of different directions. To get a good jump, he must move as efficiently as possible to the ball. The outfielder must quickly change direction at the start. To do this, he must use footwork.

Cross-Over vs. Jab Step

The steps described in this section are for balls hit in front of, or directly to the side of, the outfielder. We will discuss the correct footwork for balls hit behind, or over the head, of the outfielder later. For a long time in my college career, and all through high school, I used the jab step. And it was wrong.

The jab step is just like it sounds. If the ball is hit to the outfielder's right, he moves his right foot first -- a jab step that only covers about half a stride. And when he wants to go left, he jab steps with his left foot first, again only about half-stride. The player's upper body is not yet completely turned toward his target. This will not allow him to get to the ball as quickly. In contrast, the cross-over step is more efficient. Why? Because more ground can be covered with practically the same time and effort.

Let's use the same example: ball hit to the player's right. In the cross-over step, the outfielder crosses his left foot in front of his right foot and strides normally. At least an additional half-step is gained in covering ground. To quickly use the cross-over step, the upper body must turn as well. The only way, and the best way, to accomplish this quickly is to use the arms, specifically the elbows. When used properly, the arms and elbows will turn the torso toward the catch target and help clear the hip. Just as in golf, getting the hip out of the way so the body can turn completely is critically important.

When the hip clears and the shoulders are facing the intended direction, it is much easier to move the left foot past the right foot in our example. The outfielder pulls his right elbow back behind him, and thrusts his bent left arm across his body, to turn his shoulders and clear his right hip. His left foot is easily moved in front of, and past, his right foot. This is the classic Cross-Over Step.

An important point to remember is the outfielder's elbows are used to turn the torso. His arms are not straight. Why? Well, we're back to physics again -- with arms bent, it takes less time to swing the arms to the proper turning position. Think about it like this: when ice skaters want to turn slowly in a spin, they keep their arms straight and away from their bodies. Then, when they want to spin faster, they bring their arms closer to their bodies. The same principle applies to outfielders.

In these examples, the player is always moving to his right. The same principles will be executed if he has to go to his left. The left elbow is thrust backward behind him at the same time his bent right arm punches across his body. This turns his shoulders left and clears his left hip. His right foot crosses over his left foot and he is off to the races.

It is vital that the player get his upper body and hip turned in the direction he wishes to go. Without the violent use of his elbows, in either direction, the upper body would stay fixed and he would not be able to properly use the cross-over step.Cross-over steps are the best use of an outfielder's limited time when he moves toward the baseball. And they should always be used when the direction he needs to go is directly right or left, or any degrees of that in front of him.

Drop Steps

But that leaves another 180 degrees of outfield to cover. The other half of outfield coverage is behind the outfielder. And correct footwork will play a huge role here as well. Drop steps are used to quickly get the outfielder headed in the right direction -- somewhere behind him. In the drop step, footwork and upper body movements are crucial. As much as pitchers don't like to admit it, some batted balls are actually hit over an outfielder's head.

We will use an example of a center fielder. The ball is hit very well and to his left. He has no chance of catching this ball, but he is determined to cut it off before it gets to the wall. If the outfielder uses the cross-over step, he will not be able to cut the ball off. This is because his right foot can't cross-over and get behind his left foot far enough to start on the correct angle to the ball. Therefore, he must use the drop step. His left foot turns back behind his body. Essentially, he is opening up his stride by expanding the distance between his feet -- and his left foot moves behind him. When his left foot hits the ground, it is aimed in the direction he will run.
It is vitally important the player not close his dropped foot to the direction intended. Closing the foot stops the hip turning process and prevents the player's body from completely opening. Almost simultaneously as he drop steps his left foot backward, he must thrust his left elbow behind him while punching his bent right arm in front of him. Again, clearing his left hip is very important here.

This two segment process (drop step left while arms turn the torso) gets the outfielder's upper body set in the direction he wishes to run. By dropping his left foot back behind his body, the outfielder is creating an angle of attack to go get the ball. The further back the outfielder needs to run, the deeper his drop step should be, and the more violently he should use his elbows to turn his torso. Thanks for reading!

Steven E. Michael played seven years of professional baseball in the Montreal Expos, Detroit Tigers and Milwaukee Brewers organizations. He played collegiate at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona earning All-Western Athletic Conference, All-College World Series, and Sporting News All-America honors.

Figures cited in this article and Mr. Michael's new book, "How To Play Baseball Outfield: Techniques, Tips, and Drills to Learn the Outfield Position" is available at http://www.stevenemichael.com

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Steven_Michael