Does The Away Team Get The Ball First In Football Five More Things Youth Baseball Coaches Should Practice But Don’t

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Five More Things Youth Baseball Coaches Should Practice But Don’t

In my first Baseball Chronicles book, one of my most popular articles in terms of feedback was “Four Things Coaches Should Practice But Shouldn’t.”

The four things I mentioned were: pitchers don’t practice fielding from the mound, don’t catch a foul ball near the fence, players don’t slide, and don’t field wild pitches or passed balls. Reading some of the responses I received, many readers seemed to misunderstand my point a bit. There are hundreds of things that we coaches should practice, but don’t. I just picked four of them that have been coming to me for years. So in the spirit of practicing rather than just telling your players, here are five more things that come up frequently that most coaches don’t practice or pass on.

1) Calling timeout. Every couple of years I see a runner slip to second and either get up without a time out or call a time out and the umpire doesn’t accept it. A smart infielder places his glove with the ball on the baserunner after rising from his slide. And if he slips off the base for a moment or assuming he has time, he is called. We must teach our young athletes that playing time in organized sports is very different from playing time in one’s own backyard. Coaches should practice sliding their players into the base, then call a “time out” with the coach playing the umpire. A coach should not knowingly call a time out immediately by placing the baserunner on the ground. Every player should go through this at least once.

The same is the case when the batter asks for time. Coaches should also practice players not leaving the batter’s box until time is given by the umpire.

2) Rundowns with too many throws. I’m obsessed with it. We practice rundowns about once a week. Many youth baseball coaches teach runners to run back to the base they came from. I take the pro-active approach that the rundown is a gift to the defensive team and you have to get out and out. The ideal number of throws is none. And then, I teach my players not to throw the ball more than once. I use the term “sprint mode” and teach my players that once you get a runner in this sprint mode, it’s hard to stop and change direction, and that’s when we take our single throw. It has to be practiced.

3) Baserunners are stopping at first. We see it all the time. A player who hits a slow grounder and runs to first base only to stop at the base, slowing himself down as if the base is a wall, is called out when he would have beaten him for a base hit if he ran through the base. We tell our team to run from first base but how many of us take the time to practice this? This is the simplest thing and when you practice it, it will stick in the player’s head. Create a cone ten feet in front of first base and have your team line up. On the “go” command they run one at a time and run from base to cone. Simple but it works and needs to be practiced even with your best baserunner.

4) Covering the 1st to the right from the grounder. Another obsession of mine. Ever watch a youth baseball game when the ball is hit to the right side of the infield and the pitcher is frozen on the mound? This can make a manager gray during the day. We practice this by giving each pitcher a chance from the mound. He mimics the pitch and I throw a grounder between the first and second basemen. The pitcher has to run over the mound to cover first. The key here is to make sure the pitcher hits the first base line 6-10 feet before the base and then swing it toward the base. Whoever fields the baseball must lead the first baseman with the baseball. This should be practiced with a baserunner simulating game conditions.

5) Bunting on high pitches. Every player that plays for me in our league knows that we bunt a lot. Every player should become a proficient punter during the season. We also practice bunting with two strikes, a strategy that will tempt most baseball purists. We are always changing our bunt signs to make sure the opposition doesn’t pick them up. Even with all that practice, it drives me nuts when a player is given the bunt sign and on the next pitch, it’s over his shoulder and he still offers. So now the batter is putting himself in the hole with a strike on a ball outside the strike zone and the other team knows we’re bunting. Coaches should tell these young ballplayers that when they are given the bunt sign, it does not mean they have to bunt under any circumstances. We want them to bunt on balls in the strike zone. This should be communicated to the players and practiced. We practice bunting a lot in batting practice, and whoever the coach is throwing, I tell them to throw the ball out of the strike zone. So we are training my players to recognize buntable balls and pull their bat back if the ball is out of the strike zone. Coaches need to practice this.

I mentioned in my first baseball chronicles that practice is the place to teach and the game is the place to reinforce what is taught. I know of no formula that is most effective for the majority of young baseball players. Even with practice, many of these errors come up again and again, reminding us that these players are still twelve years old or younger.

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