Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Pointers For Communicating


When we think of communicating, we normally think of verbal communication, however there are many forms of communication we utilize on a daily basis, and some we do a very poor job of implementing.

Other than the traditional friendly face to face conversation, where communication resembles babbling, mixed with hand and face gestures with no accompanying structure or purpose other than entertainment, Communication within a larger audience must have a structure to succeed.

Pointer Number One: Structure

In an organizational or business environment a two-way structured system of communication is essential for success. It must be established who is in ultimate command, but there must be a positive avenue for replying back up the communication ladder to the "Boss" without fear of retribution.
The manager of a baseball team is the "Boss" on the playing field. There must be a structure for him to communicate to his coaches how or what he wants his players to perform. This is accomplished in a pre-determined set of signals, either physical or verbal, which the manager indicates to his coach.
Very structured, manager to coach through established signals. However, the coach requires an avenue to reply to the manager. For instance, the manager may call for the runner on first base to attempt to steal second base, but the coach saw the runner twist his ankle getting back to first base on the last pitch which would greatly hinder his chances of a successful steal.

Being better informed than the manager, the coach must have an avenue to rebuke the called steal, most likely with pre-determined signals, without repercussions from the manager. Obviously this requires trust within the organization, believing everyone has the same goal, success of the team.
The business world should adopt many of the principles which guide baseball teams, which would result in more successfully operated companies. I have personally witnessed the Facility Engineer, imitating pulling his hair out while holding a phone conversation with a vice-president in management, who in spite of his impression of himself, was quite ignorant of the particular subject being discussed.

This is an everyday scenario in the business world and reflects a lack of trust and understanding which baseball takes for granted.

Pointer Two: Flexibility

Any command communication structure must retain a certain amount of flexibility, which can be very difficult to determine to what extent this flexibility goes.

For instance, a manager on a professional baseball team may have designated Pitcher A to begin the weekend series, but the pitching coach notices the Pitcher has developed a nauseas stomach during warm ups which would prevent him from pitching effectively. Time is of the essence in this particular situation, so there must be enough flexibility in the communication system for the pitching coach to make an instant decision to get Pitcher B up and throwing before asking the manager's permission.

This built-in flexibility in the communication structure allowed Pitcher B the opportunity to adequately warm up and mentally compose himself before the manager even knew the problem.
Again, business would bode well to take baseball's lead in flexible communication. For example, 40 years ago GM (General Motors) had such a rigid, uncompromising communication system within their engineering department, it greatly contributed to GM's troubles and near collapse.

If an engineering design flaw, such as a hole drilled off center by a machine in the former assembly area and was creating major problems, but was easily and quickly rectifiable, had to be communicated and approved by the engineering department Vice-President before corrective action could be taken. An in-house production issue, which should have taken perhaps 4 to 5 hours to correct, required an 8 month communication scenario and then it may be denied for lack of information.

The ability to properly Communicate is a basic human need which when performed by 2 or 3 people face to face, is normally not a problem. However, when the need to Properly Communicate expands into a larger arena there must be structure with built in flexibility in order for it to succeed.
Jim Bain, former Minor league baseball player and member of "Baseball Coaches of America" shares his advice on baseball coaching baseball drills on his exciting info packed website: http://www.learn-youth-baseball-coaching.com
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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Catcher's Gear - Finding the Best Fit


With so many options on the market today, how do you find the best catcher's gear? Many things go into this selection, the level of baseball the catcher is playing is a good start, next how committed are they to staying with the game since there is quite a price range for catcher's gear and what are the rules regarding face masks in the league they are playing in? The chest guard will come in all colors and sizes and range of thickness in the padding. Some offer a lining that promotes air circulation as well. While a specific color may be cool or fun, it is the least important in the decision-making process. The best place to start is deciding on the appropriate size needed. Take a good measurement on the distance between the collar-bone and the hip bone. It is important to remember you will be in a squatting position most of the time and comfort is #1 on your list. Range of motion for a good catcher is an absolute must. After you have the correct measurement, then you can look at the features different manufacturers offer: memory foam, adjustable shoulder pads and removable groin protector. And last if you can find the specifications you need in your favorite color, go for it.

When choosing a face mask, you need to know the specifications your league has for a catcher's face mask. Most baseball leagues require a one piece face mask (hockey style). You don't want to spend $50 to $60 on a mask you can't use in the end. Another thing to keep in mind is that the mask will be thrown off during a game many, many times. A good fit is a must.

Finally you have your leg guards. Some catchers use knee savers, some chose not to. The guards are very important; you will stop a lot of wild pitches with your legs. Along with the hard front cover, there is a padded lining in the shin guard that should from the knee cap to the top of your ankle. You will want to make sure that the ankles are very well protected. In the end your cost for a complete set of catcher's gear will range anywhere from $150 to $350. Youth sets can be found for a little less. Some of the big chain stores will offer sets for even less but they may be harder to get a good fit from.

In addition to all the above remember you will need a catcher's mitt.
S. Kemmerling is owner of My Baseball Usa, I am a baseball fan of several teams in the middle Michigan Area, Mt Pleasant High School Baseball, Central Michigan University Baseball, The Great Lakes Loons and The Detroit Tigers. Stop by our store to find quality baseball gear. You can find us at http://www.mybaseballusa.com
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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Perfectionism - The New Bane Of Youth Baseball?


Ben Franklin once said "Make All the Mistakes You Can as Soon as You Can," and true to form, the remark was a tongue in cheek lesson from a great teacher and statesman.

Of course what Franklin was referring to is the natural and normal process of learning from our mistakes. Ben was inferring the more mistakes we make the more knowledgeable we become, and while we're at it, do it as quickly as possible. Why wait until you're old to become smart?

The philosophy Ben preached is fantastic if you're the type of person who can learn from a mistake and not repeat the same mistake, but there are people who can not tolerate making a single mistake, which we know as a perfectionist.

Perfectionism, obviously not an unheard of human trait, is increasingly creeping into our young baseball players at what I consider an alarming rate and we're not giving it the serious consideration it requires. I believe there are numerous reasons for this increase in anxiety.

1. Pressure from parents to excel....
2. Pressure from Coaches, some who are more concerned about their record than the player's welfare...
3. Pressure of becoming one of the "elite" or "popular" people....
4. And of course, some people are just born perfectionist.

Allow me to back up a second. I am not inferring there's anything wrong with wanting to become a perfectionist, as striving for perfection is the driving motivator for spending hours in the batting cages, or fielding hundreds of ground balls, attempting to be the best you can be.

However, we as adults know perfection can never be achieved in baseball, or any other sport for that matter, as there are no 1000% hitters nor pitchers who record 27 strike outs every game. The issue arises when we preach and teach perfection, but never mention it's OK to fail while we're attempting to reach the unobtainable.

Coaches must be aware of the possible signs of a player developing too much of a perfectionist attitude, whether through peer pressure, parent pressure or take a self examination of your coaching techniques.

1. Does the player become angry or frustrated quickly...
2. Does the player console a teammate who misses a ground ball, but slams his glove to the ground in disgust if he makes the same error...
3. Is the player not quite as happy about a team win if he was 0-4 or is not quite as despondent of a loss if he was 4-4.

Coaching youth baseball is not an easy task. We are charged with teaching the game of baseball and how to skillfully play the game, as well as instilling high morals and work ethics which the players will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

A quick guess is 99.9% of all baseball players never even make the minor leagues much alone the Show, so baseball, with the exception of pleasure or entertainment, will not be a major factor in their adult lives. Let the players have fond memories of the ball field as youth, not an anguishing grind of never being at peace with the results of your labor.
Jim Bain, former Minor league baseball player and member of "Baseball Coaches of America" shares his advice on baseball coaching baseball drills on his exciting info packed website: http://www.learn-youth-baseball-coaching.com
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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Learn to Throw Harder Through Hard Work Over Years


Anyone Can Gain Velocity Through Hard Work
Gaining velocity is the most sought after improvement pitchers would like to make. Learning how to throw harder will definitely help pitchers gain this velocity. Most people assume you can't be taught to throw harder but you can. There are a lot of factors that go into the generation of velocity. Some of it is pitching mechanics. Pitching mechanics take a lot of time and hard work to change. If you are truly motivated you will be able to see an increase in velocity. Another, and one of the main factors, is how the pitcher's body is currently maturing. At around 15-17 years old you're at the beginning stages where your body and your velocity can begin to really benefit from a good strength and conditioning. At this point, heavy lower body lifting and plyometrics will contribute to increased velocity.

Different people's bodies mature at different rates and some start much earlier than others. In any case, whether you're 12 or 17, over the next few years your body is going to change a lot physically and even without a strength and conditioning program, you will get much stronger. However, a strength and conditioning program will magnify and multiply these strength gains.

Some pitching coaches tend to take credit for any velocity gains made through maturing. Most of these velocity gains however would have come naturally. While some say velocity can't be taught; I say otherwise. Certain changes to pitching mechanics that result in increased efficiency will help you throw harder and more accurately too. That being said; there really is no substitute for hard work.
A current Major Leaguer, Tim Collins, wasn't always destined for success. In his junior year of high school, he was only 5'5". While he was still effective, he only threw 84 MPH. Over that summer he grew two inches and enrolled in a great strength and conditioning program. He gained 21 pounds of muscle and 8 MPH to his fastball. He is a great example of how maturing combined with a great strength and conditioning program can lead to throwing harder and great velocity gains. Tim Collins made it to the big leagues as a Kansas City Royal against all odds. Use him as your inspiration as he didn't throw hard and he was also 5'5". Most people only have one of those problems.

Don't worry, you CAN and will improve. Just how much is the big question.
My Story
After I learned to throw harder in baseball and a long career, I hung up my cleats to help other players do the same. My main goal is to continue pitchers careers longer than they thought possible! Visit my bio: Here!

Until my junior year, I was not the best pitcher on my high school baseball. But when I learned How To throw Harder and Faster, I became the best pitcher in the league.
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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Develop Proper Hitting Mechanics in the Batting Cage

By James J Lathon

You can improve your hitting by using the batting cage. The advantages are you can work on your timing, and develop good habits. It is important to know when you are getting good quality hits. A quality hit is not only hitting the ball hard but the type of hits you are getting.

The focus should be on hitting line drives and hitting the ball on the ground. With time, these types of hits will translate into higher hitting average, and there is less chance of these balls being caught as opposed to fly balls. Here are some techniques that have helped many hitters and are practiced by many big leaguers.

The strategy on hitting a baseball to help keep you focus and meeting you goal is scoring your batting cage practice. All that is needed is a person to keep tracking of your hitting performance as you are batting in the batting cage.

To accomplish this follow these simple steps:

1. Use the three-point hitting system. This point system awards 3 points for line drives, 2 points for balls hit on the ground or low to the ground, and 1 point for fly balls.

2. Create the three hitting zones. For the hitting cage as well as the practice field, by use of arbitrary markers for each zone. The Zones are to be separated by about 6 yards. The ground ball hitting should have a horizontal zone from the ground to six (6) yards straight up in the air. The line drive hitting zone should be the zone between 6 and 12 yards in the air. Finally the fly ball zone should be the hitting zone between 12 and 18 yards in the air.

3. Using the Arbitrary markers in the batting cage. In the hitting cages, you can use arbitrary markers such as the top of the pitching machine to mark off each section. Regardless of your arbitrary markers, you want to star scoring each session in the batting cage.

4. Record your results after each session. It's important to get in the habit of recording each of your sessions. As you keep this record try to outdo your previous best scores. This will turn batting practice into a game and you will benefit and get more enjoyment out of your practices
5. If at the batting cage by yourself, use the memory technique. At times you will be along at the batting cage, in these instances focus on your scoring by seeing how many times you hit 6 in this target zones. Your goal for the next round should be to get at least 7 hits in this area. This type of concentrated thinking will not require you to see how you scored in the other areas, and still get the maximum benefit and encouraging you to hit in these main zones.

Like most everything in life, you get better at things the more times you do them. Hitting a baseball is no different. The best advice for baseball hitting is practice, practice, and I repeat PRACTICE YOUR SWING. This is the strategy that work for the PROS.
James Lathon is the owner of ProHittingCages.com. Visit his website for more baseball tips and to see various batting cages that hitters around the country are using to train with today.
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