Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sandlot Wisdom


If eleven boys all gathered at the sandlot twice a week to play baseball, they would work out their own relationships. It wouldn't take long for them to figure out who was going to play first base and who was going to be the catcher. The guy who was the best pitcher would pitch. The best fielder would be at short. The younger kids would be in the outfield or maybe at second base. And when the boys from the next block came over for a game, there would be very few questions about the line-up. The big hitters would be at the top and the younger guys would bat at the bottom. This would all be easy for them to establish because they would all have the same goal, to win.

Every kid on the team wants to go home and tell his mother that he won. Every kid on the team wants to go to school the next day and tell his teacher that he won. Every kid on the team wants to sit at the lunch table with his buddies and say he won. That's what we do. That's who we are. We strive to win and we're proud when we do.

I see a lot of little league coaches now that are trying to change the game by changing the natural order of things, by making certain things more important than winning. I know there are things more important than winning, but not very many.

Baseball is a team sport. And the team is the most important thing. The team winning is the ultimate goal. The kids all want to be part of a team, that's why they're there. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves. That's what the experience is. When we change the order of things as coaches, we take that away from them. They're no longer part of a team, because the team would serve itself. They are now part of some made-up hierarchy of adult concepts that they don't understand or want to participate in.

I heard a statistic the other day that most kids quit organized sports by the time they're 13 years old. At 13 you're just starting to put the pieces together, you're just starting to get an idea of what you're capable of. We parents and coaches are responsible for this statistic. We make them quit before they even get a chance to experience these changes, before they experience growing up in a sport and all that comes with that. We take something that is easy for them to understand, and make it complicated, baseless and confusing.

If Louie Little Kid gets on base the team is just as proud as if Billy Big Kid rips a double. They know their differences, they understand their challenges, and they respect them. They're learning about themselves, they're inventing themselves the way they want to be. They're trying to improve themselves. You can't do this for them. They have to do it for themselves. They don't have a problem with the way things are until we tell them they should have a problem with the way things are. Right field is a pretty good place to be when you're a little guy and you're on a winning team. To be at short stop scares the hell out of you. The possibility of losing your teeth to a rip roaring line drive at third is almost as scary as the thought of losing the game for the team. His responsibility is to the team. He wants to fill his responsibility. Help him be successful. Don't get me wrong, he wants to play third base, but only if he can do it without it costing the team a win.

Second game of the season, the score is tied. The coach puts Louie Little kid in at short. Why, because he thinks everyone should get a chance to play short no matter what the consequences, he puts that above winning. Louie Little kid bobbles the ball and they lose the game. What purpose did that serve? Who learned something? Who improved or felt good about themselves? The other team, the other team, that's it. They're the winners. Now what is Louie Little Kid going to say in the lunch room tomorrow?

The kids aren't crazy gamblers. They wouldn't make it a regular practice to gamble on Louie Little Kid at short when the game is tied. They're more conservative than that. They want to win. Louie Little Kid can play short when the game's in the bag. Or maybe he'll practice harder and get there next year. Who knows? All they know is that they want to win this game.

My boys have a lot of trophies, too many trophies, but when Grandpa comes to visit, the two they pull down to show him are the two championship trophies they have. When they were on those two championship teams they were the smallest, littlest kids on the team, they sat out most the time and probably didn't get a hit all season. I'm sure they never played in the infield unless the team was way ahead, but they won by God. They know that. They were part of those teams. They had those experiences.

Winning is a building block experience. The more you do it, the better you get at it. At what age do you want them to start this process? When do you want to turn them loose so they can start striving to win and building on those experiences? How about now coaches? How about we let them strive to win now? And tomorrow, we let them do it again. They'll figure it out. And this way, if they quit baseball, it will only be to go find something they're really good at. Not because we took it away from them. Not because we confused them with what we thought the game should be about.
K.M. Pickel
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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

4 Reasons Why Arm Injuries Have Increased in Youth Pitchers


As some may or may not know, arm injuries in youth pitchers has become an epidemic in the last few years. Some of these arm injuries are so extreme that many of these young baseball pitchers may never get the opportunity to pitch at the high school or college level.

There are several reasons why these young pitchers are suffering arm injuries. I'm going to explain five different reasons why youth pitchers are most likely developing arm injuries.

1. Improper and Ineffective Warm-Ups

This is an issue at all the competitive levels of baseball, but especially prevalent at the youth level. You have probably seen it. A young pitcher will go out to the foul line, do a couple arm circles, and then immediately start throwing.
Baseball pitchers must focus on developing a complete warm-up routine that consists of dynamic, not static stretching. Static stretching does not properly prepare the muscles and joints for strenuous activity.

Throwing a baseball is one of the most strenuous activities in any sport, so it is important that pitcher utilize dynamic stretching before any type of throwing routine. Most importantly, focus on warming up the entire body including the legs, core, and then eventually the rotator cuff and forearm.
Properly throwing a baseball requires a full body kinetic chain of energy, and this is why your entire body must be prepared.

2. Way Too Much Throwing

How many times have you seen an entire baseball team "warming up" their arms on the foul line for what seems to be almost an eternity? This is only the first problem. The biggest issue is that youth pitchers are pitching on three to four days rest after throwing 80-100 pitches in their previous appearance.

This type of irresponsible coaching is largely responsible for the increase in future arm injures due to overuse.

3. No Post-Game or Recovery Routine

Along with ineffective warm-ups, youth pitchers also disregard any type of post-throwing recovery. A pitcher's recovery period usually consists of full body static stretching, especially in the rotator cuff. This is a necessary component of any pitchers routine because it increase the blood flow to the muscles, and allows for quicker recovery between throwing sessions.

Unfortunately, most youth pitchers will not take the time and coaches will not enforce this post-game stretching regime.

4. Inefficient Mechanics

Proper pitching mechanics are essential for prevent arm injury, and for increasing velocity. However, in most instances, youth pitchers have very inefficient mechanics that rely heavily on the throwing arm. These pitchers simply have not learned how to utilize their entire body to deliver a baseball.
For more reasons why these injuries occur to youth pitchers, I recommend you read how to prevent arm injuries in youth pitchers.
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Monday, February 25, 2013

Coaching Baseball: How To Hit To The Opposite Field


Hitting to the opposite field is a real and a very valuable skill for baseball players at every level.
Over the years, there have been some players who were quite proficient at hitting to the opposite field.

The great ones include: Derek Jeter, Tony Gwynn, George Brett, Wade Boggs, Tony Oliva and Rod Carew.

Don Mueller, who played in the forties and fifties and who recently died, was known as Mandrake The Magician because of his ability to generate hits to any part of the field.

So what does it really take to hit the ball to the opposite field?

Mark Gola, the author of eight books on hitting and the former hitting coach at Princeton University and Rider College and the current Direct Of Athletic Communications at The College of New Jersey, described five keys to hitting to the opposite field.

1) Commit to it

Most young, talented hitters like to turn on or drive balls to the pull-side. It's where the hardest and longest balls are hit. But the pitch dictates where the ball is hit (with the exception of situational hitting). To hit the ball with authority to the opposite field, a hitter must commit to hitting ball that is located middle-away to the opposite field. 'Wanting' to pull the ball inhibits the hitters' ability to drive the ball the other way.

2) Let the ball get deep

To hit the ball to the opposite field, the hitter must let the ball get deep in the hitting zone. "Let the ball travel" is another commonly used phrase. This allows the batter to hit the ball with strength, maintain balance throughout the swing, and keep the hands in a palm-up, palm-down position at contact. When a hitter recognizes a pitch is away, he can think opposite field all he wants, but if his timing is too early, he will reach extension prematurely. Either the top hand will 'roll' prior to contact and hit a 'rollover groundball' or when he reaches the barrel will dip and pop the ball up weakly to the opposite field. To hit the ball the other way, you have to let it get deep.

3) Minimize hip rotation

A hitter needs to 'quiet' his hips when hitting the ball to the opposite field. They should not fully rotate. To turn on or pull a ball effectively, a hitter must fully rotate his hips. On a pitch over the outer half of the plate, the hips do not turn as much. This enables the hitter to keep the force of his swing on the ball and keep his head down. If the hips fully rotate, the force of the swing will begin to pull away from the ball and take the head with it.

4) Keep the top hand strong

The hitter must keep the top hand strong and keep the barrel of the bat above, and then at the middle of the baseball. Because outside strikes are farther away from the hitter, the tendency is for the top hand to 'lay off' a bit and the barrel slides beneath the middle of the ball. This often garners the description of the hitter "dragging his barrel". The top hand needs to stay strong to deliver the barrel of the bat to the middle of the ball with authority.

5) Finish the swing

A hitter needs to finish his swing when driving the ball to the opposite field. This allows the hitter to maintain bat speed to and through the ball. A mistake hitters make is that they resign themselves to a modified or less aggressive swing when hitting the ball to the opposite field. Yes, there is less time to generate bat speed from the load position to contact since the ball is traveling deeper in the hitting zone. But the objective is to "drive" the ball, not "serve it" the other way. Finishing the swing enables the hitter to maintain bat speed.

Claudio Reilsono, the head baseball coach at Carnegie Mellon, noted that most coaches would say to hit the " inside of the baseball" which I think is a good idea. This mental approach will enable you to bring your hands out in front of your body a bit more and the angle of the bat will be such that you will hit the inner half of the ball and drive it the other way."
"I also think that moving up in the box a little is quite helpful in learning to hit to the opposite field," says Reilsono.

Learning to hit to the opposite field can also help some hitters to break out of a hitting slump. It can also help players to feel more versatile at the plate.
Jay P. Granat, Ph.D., Psychotherapist, Author, Columnist And Founder of

 Dr. Granat has developed peak performance programs for top athletes from every sport from around the world. He has appeared in many major media outlets including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Good Morning America, USA Today, ESPN,The Chicago Tribune, The CBC and The BBC. Golf Digest named him one of America's Top Mental Gurus. For more tips on hitting get 101 Ways To Break A Hitting Slump. He recently produced a new video called How To Avoid Choking, Get Mentally Tough And Stay In The Zone. These programs are available at Dr. Granat is available for counseling and for seminars and can be reached at 888 580-ZONE or at
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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

6 Bad Habits That Affect Baseball and Softball Hitters


One of the most common complaints from players is the lack of power behind the plate. No matter what philosophy of hitting you believe in, none of them will help you reach your greatest potential if these top 6 bad habits are not stopped in their tracks. This is true for baseball and girls' softball. If you have any of these bad habits, ridding yourself of them will automatically increase power and bat speed.

Smushing the Bug

If you were taught to smush the bug, you have dug yourself into a hole. Smushing the Bug involves a small muscle movement that reduces power and bat speed. Some hitters are taught to twist or turn their back foot to create more bat speed and power in the swing. Nothing can be farther than the truth. Additionally, it is nearly impossible for you to hit middle or outside pitches with the sweet spot of the bat if you have a spinning back foot problem. A sure pop out! This is the most major of these six diseases because it also throws off your balance. This bad habit needs to be fixed right away, but it's not easy.

Correction: Try swinging the bat while your back foot is planted flat on the ground. See if you can swing without moving your back heel off the ground. Also, it may be helpful to work on hitting outside pitches off of the tee. This will help you hit from your heels and keep that foot from spinning too soon.

Bat Wrapper

This common bad habit affects batters who were trained in the "back elbow up" theory. If your back elbow goes up when getting your weight back, the bat will start to wrap around your head and throw off the timing of the swing, ultimately adversely effecting power and bat speed.

Correction: In your stance, bring the elbow down right away. If this doesn't work and your elbow keeps popping up, lay the bat back in your top hand when you move your hands and weight back. This should help prevent the bat from wrapping around your head. You should iron this out by practicing this correction technique until you're confident that the habit is broken. This disease is most likely going to keep coming back, so monitor it and drill it out of your system!
Back leg collapse

This disease is pretty serious and must be addressed. When that back leg collapses, you lose all of the power in your big muscles, and your eyes and head do too much bobbing. This type of batter pops out a lot!

Correction: Stay as tall as possible in your stance and when swinging the bat for power.
If that doesn't work, do some swinging drills where you swing off your back leg only. If it collapses, you'll fall down swinging. Remember, stay tall and hit the ball!

Head Diver

This player was led to believe that if he dives his head near the contact zone, he'll see the ball better. This action causes your eyes to move off the ball path and throws you off balance. It also locks up the large muscles and prevents power and bat speed production.

Correction: Concentrate on thrusting your back muscles. If you're a head diver, you're trying too hard to hit the ball with your eyes instead of letting your body bring your hands to the ball. "Crack your back" and keep your head behind the ball. It is nearly impossible to have any kind of power or bat speed when you are off balance. Once you contact the ball, remember that it's OK to let your head come off of the ball for a complete follow-through!

Bent Lead Arm

If hitters' are swinging slightly up and popping up often, you can look to see if their lead arm is bending too much at the start of their swing. This problem is rare, but easy to fix.

Correction: All you need to do is concentrate on keeping the lead arm straighter when starting your swing. Most advanced or experienced hitters will not have this problem, but it's something to be aware of. Remember; only make adjustments when the ball is not flying like it should in batting practice. If you're hitting rockets and your lead arm bends a little, then who cares? In the swing, the lead arm will usually straighten at first and then possibly bend at contact depending on pitch location (Especially the low pitch).


The hitter who twists his upper torso while getting his weight back before he swings will have problems hitting the ball. There is way too much eye movement and upper body movement when the hitter has this problem. This throws your timing and swing path out of synch.

Correction: This is a rare disease that can be cured by religiously practicing getting your weight back without turning your shoulders. Your hands should move straight back without the shoulder turning much. It makes a big difference!
There are 25 bad habits that inflict baseball and softball players when they are up to bat. Most of these bad habits are old swing techniques that were actually taught to them by coaches, parents or other players on the team. You can learn how to quickly spot the 25 bad habits and how to correct them by visiting When you visit the site, you can also read about the discovery and development of the first perfect swing that works for both baseball and softball.
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Friday, February 15, 2013

Sports Psychology And Baseball: How To Be A Mentally Tough Pitcher


This year's baseball playoffs and the World Series are approaching rapidly. As always, pitching will play a key role in determining which teams will do well in post season play.

Pitchers who can perform well at this crucial time of the year require a special kind of physical toughness and mental toughness.

Where physical toughness is concerned, pitchers who play well at the end of the year need to have energy and strength to continue to pitch well after spring training and after a one hundred and sixty two game regular season schedule.

Where mental toughness is concerned, the best pitchers know how to remain relaxed, confident and focused when the pitch in these tense, post season games. They benefit from having control over their range of pitches. They also benefit from being able to get ahead of hitters and from knowing hitters strengths and weaknesses. Previous playoff experience also seems to help pitchers to adjust to the special kind of pressure that is a part of championship baseball.

But, how do pitchers develop mental toughness?

Some pitchers use traditional sport psychology techniques like relaxation training, meditation, self-hypnosis, visualization, guided imagery and pre-pitch routines in order to perform to their fullest potential on the mound. I teach these kinds of techniques to pitchers all the time.

A recent study by my colleague, Anthony Cinelli at Boston University, sheds some interesting insight into how pitchers develop mental toughness.

Mr. Cinelli, who pitched in college and who has studied the psychology of pitching, approached me several months ago because he wanted to collaborate with me on some research about mental toughness, choking and staying in the zone.

We decided to interview pitchers about these issues.

Interestingly, ten of the nineteen college pitchers who were interviewed, stated that their father played an essential role in their development of mental toughness. That is,
fifty two percent of these pitchers attributed the early learning of mental toughness to contact with and coaching from their dads.

Many young baseball players are first introduced to this sport by their fathers. So, their dad t is often their first coach. Therefore, fathers often play a crucial role in how an a pitcher develops physically and mentally.

Some of the pitchers interviewed also attributed the learning of mental toughness was function of watching their fathers behavior in their careers and in their businesses.

Apparently, the young pitchers started to model some of the behaviors, attitudes and actions that were demonstrated by their fathers in the world of work. In short, they took what they observed their dad's doing in their lives and brought some of these attitudes and behaviors to the baseball field.
Others pitchers stated that fathers taught them valuable lessons about being accountable, taking responsibility and learning to accept good and bad performances.

While this study has a small sample, it does seem to reinforce the importance that early learning, relationships between parents and kids and early coaching can have on the development of mental toughness among pitchers.
Jay P. Granat, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist and the founder of Dr. Granat has appeared in major media outlets including Good Morning America, The New York, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The BBC, The CBC, Sports Illustrated, Tennis View Magazine, ESPN and The Chicago Tribune, Golf Digest named him one of America's Top Mental Gurus. He has created many self help programs for athletes, parents of athletes and coaches including 101 Ways To Break A Hitting Slump, How To Get Mentally Tough, Avoid Choking And Stay In The Zone, How To Get Into The Zone With Sport Psychology And Self-Hypnois and Bedtime Stories For Young Athletes. He can be reached at 888 580-Zone or at
Article Source:,_Ph.D.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Youth Baseball Coaches: Squishing the Bug Is a Bad Habit


If you coach youth baseball hitters to squash the bug, you have only dug them into a hole. Squashing the bug involves a small muscle movement that reduces power and bat speed. Some youth baseball hitters are taught to twist or turn their back foot to create more bat speed and power in the swing. Nothing can be farther than the truth. Additionally, it is nearly impossible to hit middle or outside pitches with the sweet spot of the bat if you have a spinning back foot problem. A sure pop out!

Why is the swing technique called squishing the bug still being taught to youth baseball hitters?

Some coaches believe that it is necessary that hitters be on the balls of their feet at the point of contact. This is commonly known and taught as "squishing the bug", "squish the bug", "squashing the bug", and "squash the bug". Coaches who advocate this swing technique are typically coaches in the youth leagues. This swing technique is not what great hitters do in the minor and major leagues.
Coaches who still advocate the squishing the bug swing technique typically do so for one of the following reasons:

1. Coaches often have large egos and believe that their methods are better than others.
2. The coach is underestimating the potential and abilities of youth baseball hitters.
3. They have never watched a video of pro hitters, in slow motion, frame by frame.

When viewing live speed videos or still images, you will probably see what looks like squishing the bug. But when viewed frame by frame, you will see that the bug doesn't get squished until well after the point of contact. The heel coming up off the ground and the ball of the foot twisting is actually a result of the body rotating on its center of mass or axis.

One other reason that a few coaches still advocate squishing the bug.

They believe it is a simple way to teach hip rotation to youth baseball hitters.

Some people contend that many coaches underestimate what youth baseball hitters can do. No matter how you look at it, or what the reasons are, teaching little league players the wrong swing techniques only sets them up for failure as they progress into higher leagues of baseball.

Youth baseball hitters need to learn the right way to swing the bat from the beginning so what they learn doesn't have to be unlearned later. Most adults know how hard it is to break bad habits.

In case you have been taught an incorrect way of hitting, here are a few tips for unlearning the squishing of the bug swing technique.

Try swinging the bat while your back foot is planted flat on the ground. See if you can swing without moving your back heel off the ground. Keep practicing until you can. Also, it may be helpful to work on hitting outside pitches off of the tee. This will help you hit from your heels and keep that foot from spinning too soon. Spinning the foot before the point of contact greatly reduces bat speed and power.
When players of any age learn the correct rotational swing technique, he or she will be able to hit balls over the outfield fence, even if they are the smallest kid on the team.
As a player moves up in the ranks, to high school, college and travel teams, he may not realize that his swing contains bad habits. Even the smallest of wrong movements can greatly reduce the power of your swing. Have your swing analyzed by a hitting specialist. Go to to learn more.
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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Where to Find a Good Hitting Coach


If only finding a good hitting coach was as easy as looking in the yellow pages. Unfortunately, things just aren't that easy when it comes to baseball and softball hitting coaches. It can be difficult to find a good hitting coach for youth baseball and softball programs.

Think about it. Pro teams hire specialized coaches for anything and everything, even a bench coach who specializes in, I don't know, spitting? Just kidding, a bench coach is responsible for keeping the team motivated and focused and probably some other stuff, like bathroom breaks. On a more serious note, youth league teams typically have one general coach and an assistant coach. These coaches are volunteers and rarely specialize in any one area of the game.

Coaches of youth baseball and softball are often a parent of one of the players on the team. These coaches can be great at teaching the basics of the game but when a player has trouble with hitting, he/she is probably not the best person to ask for advice. The youth players and coach tend to bond, creating a sense of loyalty that can actually prevent a player from reaching his or her full potential as a hitter. How? The sense of loyalty often prevents the parents of the player from seeking outside help. Hitting a ball with a bat is the toughest part of the game to get a grip on. Most youth players either suck at it or they are naturally gifted hitters. Without a good hitting coach, the youth players that suck at it probably always will and, more often than not, quit playing the game before they reach high school.

Can you imagine how many kids quit the game because they didn't have a good hitting coach to bring out their full potential and hidden natural talents?

A good hitting coach has an arsenal of tips and tricks that help players hone their abilities and reach their own, individual best performance behind the plate. Before we discuss where to find a good hitting coach, we first need to know what makes a coach a good hitting coach.

Characteristics of a good hitting coach:
  • Has a proven track record
  • Has a stack of positive testimonials from previous clients
  • Can explain their approach to hitting and why it works, in simple terms
  • Can explain to the player(s) the what, when, why and how of each step
  • Can show the player proof of their improvement after a number of lessons
  • Can identify and solve problems quickly and efficiently
  • Builds confidence and mental toughness along with skills (mental toughness doesn't mean military style training)

Where to find a good hitting coach.

Despite the bonding that may have taken place between the volunteer coach and his youth players, a good coach will be the first one to suggest that parents hire a good hitting coach for their child. He is also the first one a parent should ask for suggestions. You won't find a coach in the yellow pages, usually, but instead, by asking around. Ask the other parents, coaches of opposing teams, schools, and so on. Word of mouth is a good hitting coach's best advertising and all you have to do to find one is ask. Before hiring a coach that specializes in hitting, make sure they meet all of the above list of characteristics. Otherwise, you will be wasting your time and money.

Every coach has their own ideas of what works and what doesn't. If what they are preaching works, then they shouldn't have a problem with showing you proof that their approach to hitting works. Hitting philosophies are abundant and comparable to religion in the fact that each one claims truth, but unlike religion, the proof is tangible.
Mike Huber is a team hitting specialist for baseball and softball, who has 10 years of solid evidence that his hitting system, called Hubie Magic, works. He meets and exceeds the list of characteristics of a good hitting coach and his hitting system has a plus 90 percent success rate. You can read about the Hubie Magic Hitting System at or his main site at
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