Saturday, July 30, 2011

Tips On Handling Baseball Try Outs

By Jim Bain

I was driving past the junior college the other day when I noticed the parking lots were filled to the maximum, which would not have been strange if school was in session, but it wasn't. As I slowed, being nosey, I saw the baseball field was swarming with baseball players of all sizes and dress and realized what was going on.

Either the college or a professional ball club was holding tryouts, and based on the amount of participation, I was betting a major league team. I actually became nauseous to my stomach, sympathy pains for the players, as visions of my first try out flooded my mind. I know it sounds silly, but I actually pulled the truck over to the side of the road to allow my hands to quit trembling.

Try out sessions are either by invitation or a general open session which any one can attend, which an open session may seem crazy as every Tom, Dick and Harry could show up, but believe me, they weed out the impostors incredibly fast.

A player, who is very honest with himself, knows if he actually feels he can play at this level, but that does absolutely nothing to calm the nerves. The saying " A big fish in a little pond... is now a small fish in a big pond," definitely applies in this situation.

For the most part, even on traveling teams, you've seen most of the competition you'll be up against, but suddenly there are literally a hundred unfamiliar faces with unknown talents in which to compete against. If your stomach is not in knots by this time, you may be dead, because no matter how good you are, there's always the doubt someone's better.

As I said earlier, they weed out the want-to-be and other non-qualified contestants rather quickly. The very first measure they use to evaluate you is your size. Too short, too fat, small frame and whatever criteria they may have gets you a polite " Thanks, but no thanks." You've been cut without ever having an opportunity to show your skills.

You'll then be herded like cattle into different groups and put through physical tests, such as a 40 or 60 yard dash, timed from home to first, home to home, left field to center field, the list goes on and on. This cuts the field down dramatically, again without seeing any baseball skills.

I won't go any further with the try out explanation, because from what I experienced they are all a little different. Maybe one coach puts more emphasis on a physical requirement than another, or they want to keep everyone guessing as to what they'll be tested on, doesn't matter why, just know they are.

There are four tips I can give you if you're contemplating going to a try out.

1. Come prepared. Glove, bat, spikes, hat and sunglasses are the minimum requirement. I guarantee you nobody will lend you their sunglasses to help cope with a sun field you're going to be trying to catch fungos in.

2. Prepare mentally. Use positive thinking techniques and meditation to calm your nerves and keep self doubt from creeping in. Don't wait until the try out date. Perform these tasks religiously weeks ahead.

3. Pray. With the intense competition, if you truly want to be a professional ball player, a little Devine intervention is required.

4. Don't give up. Some players who were quickly cut because of their size eventually became major league ball players. David Eckstein is a prime example. He was too small, too slow and didn't have the arm to play shortstop at the professional level, yet he became a star doing just that.

Jim Bain, former Minor league baseball player, who since retiring has dedicated his life to teaching baseball to youth, shares his advice on running baseball drills on his exciting info packed website:

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Coaching Infield Basics

By Jim Bain

As coaches, we stress fundamentals as well as advanced skills while we teach our players, but sometimes in our quest to be the best, we may push our players too far and too fast.

I have seen coaches who have their 8 and 9 year old players practice performing double plays. I'm sure it's happened somewhere at sometime, but in my many years of coaching I've never witnessed a shortstop to second to first double play turned by 8 or 9 year olds. I'm not saying don't expose them to the fundamentals of turning a double play, but don't use half the infield practice time trying to perfect it.

Based on the premise we may push too hard, too fast, let's exam two very basic infield drills which must be mastered.

1. For young players, 6 through 10, at this stage of the game neither you nor the players know for sure where they will eventually find the position they are best suited for, therefore it's important to include All your players in infield practice. Position them as you determine their talents. In other words I wouldn't put a player with a rocket for an arm at second base, but rather at third or shortstop.

2. The Most important skill you can teach an infielder is proper fielding position, because without this skill they'll never become a good infielder.

3. It may sound silly, but it's important you stress to your players a ground ball is just that... it's on the ground. Once they fully comprehend that, the reasoning for the proper fielding position becomes clearer.

A. Player should place feet at shoulder width apart....
B. Knees are bent, upper body leaning forward....
C. Arms are extended, glove in front of the body and visible...
D. As the ball approaches the fielder he should be moving forward to meet the ball, maintaining his low posture...
E. Watch ball all the way into the glove.

These are the basic positions required for a good fielding stance. Drill these into your players no matter how old or how good they think they are.

The second suggestion, which goes along with the fielding stance, is the importance of keeping the ball in front of you. Demonstrate, then practice, that if the ball is kept in front of them, they are still quite capable of throwing the batter out. This teaches two skills.

1. It teaches the player, if possible, to always get in front of the ball when trying to catch it. This will increase his fielding ability a 100% over trying to field the ball on his side.

2. It teaches the fielder to not give up on a booted ball, but to continue the play in an attempt to throw the batter out. How many times have you seen a player quit on a ball, conceding the runner the base, because he didn't field it cleanly?

Sometimes returning to basics is the best way to move forward.

Jim Bain, former Minor league baseball player, who since retiring has dedicated his life to teaching baseball to youth, shares his advice on running baseball drills on his exciting info packed website:

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