Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Stay Tuned

I wanted to let everyone know that I am sorry I haven't posted in a while. End of the year school stuff and sick kids have made it hard to find time to write. I will be back posting again soon. Please bear with me!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Is Lidge OK?

Just curious how the rest of the Phillies fans are feeling about Brad Lidge and the 5 blown saves so far. As for me I am OK with him struggling a bit. I heard him interviewed today and he was talking about how he felt physically good but was frustrated with his performance.
I feel good as long as he is healthy. In Major League baseball scouting is obviously a huge deal. I think they have the book on him a little more this year and I believe he will make the necessary adjustments by play-off time. He is a smart player and I believe last years Lidge will surface sometime soon.

To go along with that idea, I am concerned with the Phillies staff as a whole. I know they are winning but they need to get consistent pitching from both the starters and the pen to repeat. Hitting the crap out of the ball will win games now but come play-off time it's the pitching the dominates.

I know this is all premature as we still have a long way to go. I have the up most faith in the Phillies (been a while since you could say that) players and coaches and look for them repeat. Yeah I know, I am a homer and it certainly affected my judgment in that last statement.

I am throwing the question out to you now. Is Lidge OK?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Art Of Communication: Part 2 Pre-Pitch

In part 2 we will discuss pre-pitch communication. It is vital to your teams success that you communicate things before they happen. We want our players to talk to one another before each new batter. We want our players reminded of what to do before they have to do it. We want a constant stream of communication flowing around a ball club at all times.

I want to give you examples of a few of the the pre-pitch communication that's goes on with our team. I will not cover everything in this post but should hit a few ideas to give the jist. Again what you decide to communicate is your decision but this is what we do.

Before each new batter the catcher will start the communication process by stepping out in front of home plate, with his helmet off, and make his calls. It is extremely important to me that the catcher step out in front of the plate and command the field. Some players will try and half you know what it from behind the plate without capturing every ones attention. Must be a general here!

At this point the catcher will go through whatever calls are necessary for that particular situation. Basically, what he is communicating here is how many outs and what the infield with do with the ball. He may also at this point say some encouraging words or make first and third calls.

Some examples of situational calls may sound like this. Let's say bases are loaded with one out and corners up. Our catcher in this situation would step in front of home plate and say, " One out, pitcher you and me, third base you and me, first base you and me, spin in the middle, on your bellies keep it in!"

While he is communicating his process, the infielders are also communicating their processes. The pitcher, third, and first baseman are communicating, "me and you" back to the catcher and the middle infielders are communicating, "me and you" with each other. Infielders are also communicating with the outfielders at this point reminding them about outs and possibly things such as balls into second or whatever that situation might call for.

Another example would be runners on 1st and 2nd and no outs. The catcher would step out and communicate, "No outs, spin the middle, third base which ever way it takes you, pitcher spin it, on your bellies." On your bellies simply means to get off your feet if necessary and keep ground balls in the infield.

Our infielders would be communicating for example: Our shortstop would be reminding the pitcher that ball back to him to spin the double play at second. A simple you and me call will do the trick. The entire infield will be reminding each other be ready I'll be coming to you. Again we usually will give a you and me call with a thumb and little finger shake between us.

Another example of communication would be anytime a left handed batter comes to their plate. Our catcher and first baseman will tell the pitcher, "Ball right side gotta get over." Because the likely hood that a pitcher will have to cover first goes up with a left handed hitter we remind him to do so. Truth is eventually your entire team will do same and in fact, you'll begin to hear parents making the same calls from the stand. It becomes habit for everyone!

In Conclusion

There is not enough time to go through every situation in baseball but the point remains the same. The more you get your players talking and communicating situations there better they will handle them and make plays. The more of a complete ball player they will become and the more their confidence grows.

This can be accomplished through constant repetition on a daily basis. Set up a practice routines where communication is must and your players will eventually know no other way. I will post a drill later on that we use to accomplish most of our communication habits.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

It's Official! I Am Old!

I will finish the next parts soon on the Art Of Communication. Tonight I blew out my hammy in an over 35 softball game. Spent half the night in the emergency room and can't even walk to the bathroom right now. It's tough getting older, I mean I have never even pulled a muscle before that I can remember. Anyway talk to you all soon. By the way keep yourself in shape!!!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Four Changes That Would Improve Youth Baseball

I have a few people who like to give me a hard time if I do not put a post up for them to read each day. So while I am working on Part 2 of The Art Of Communication I will give you another question you can comment on. This is yet another passage from Bob Cluck's Think Better Baseball: Secrets From Major League Coaches And Players For Mastering The Mental Game.

He suggests that four changes would improve youth baseball.

The 4 Changes

1. Using a pitching machine below the major league level.

2. Do away with All-Star teams. Instead, play a month longer for all of the kids. Then we don't have to tell 90 percent of the kids in June, "You're not good enough, see you next year."

3. Give rewards for attitudes, not athletic ability. Have an "all-attitude team" instead of an All-Star team. Reward nice kids who are team players and improve the most because they listen to coaches.

4. Rotate positions in games so every player gets to play his favorite position. This way, players would learn to play baseball with a better understanding of game situations, coaches would be responsible for teaching baseball to all their kids, and players would enjoy the experience so much more.

When I read this I knew it would be a controversial topic so have at it everyone. Leave a comment and make your argument. I am very curious to hear all your responses.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Art of Communication: Part One An Introduction

Number three on my list of things I want to establish in my program behind trust and processes is communication. Now in implementing communication you have to build processes for it so I guess it all ties together.

I believe very strongly in team building. I believe coaches should put the majority of their time in building team related concepts. I do believe you can make players better and that is important but over the course of the two and a half months you spend with them there is only so far you will take them.

However, you can build the team aspect much further in that short period of time. One of these team aspects that is critical to us is the art of communication. We want everything verbally communicated before it happens. Then we want strong verbal communication while it is happening. The combination of these two concepts can elevate a teams play as quick as anything !

In part one I am going to explain why it is important to communicate as a team.

Pre-Pitch Communication

As I said earlier we want everything verbally communicated before each batter. Even though players should know where to be without being reminded communicating this way does four things to improve your ball club.

First, it's a check and balance system like the government only it works much better. It reminds players what they need to do. They are either saying what to do to someone else or someone is saying it to them.

Second, when mistakes happen. A ball is kicked, a batter is hit, whatever the case may be, they have a process they must follow before the next hitter. It actually does help the eye rolling, dirt kicking, feel bad for me type behaviors.

If they are not communicating because they are feeling bad or being a baby then you have grounds to take them out of the game. Your not even sitting them because they blew the ground ball but because they didn't follow protocol.

Instead of all that nonsense and self-defeating behavior they have a job to do! Because they are talking more, your players will also do a better job of picking each other up after mistakes!

Third, because players are communicating they get a sense of playing the game the right way. Their knowledge of the game goes way up. They begin to think about what they are going to do with the ball before it is hit to them. They have to because they need to communicate it before the pitchers first pitch.

When they know what they are going to do with the ball then their confidence level goes way up. If they are indecisive about what they are gonna do then the chance of them fielding the ball goes down.

This is what you will begin to see in your players. They will begin to build an air about themselves. They will take pride in themselves and their ball club because they are playing the game the right way. They will know it, feel it, and most importantly learn to love it.

Fourth, it is extremely intimidating to opposing teams. All teams constantly watch their opponent. You know whether or not the opposing team is any good by the way they take infield/outfield.

Communicate and let them hear you communicate. Let them see you have your act together. Baseball is as mental a sport as anything on earth. As human beings were are always judging those around us. This is no more true then in baseball. Let them hear you play the game the right way and put a chink in their armour.

After The Ball Is Hit Communication

Once the ball is put in play it is essential that you can communicate where to go with the ball. This usually falls mainly on the catcher but other players need be involved as well. What this allows you to do is eliminate runs.

The catcher communicating where to go with the ball stops you from throwing the ball around and giving up free bases. Free bases will kill your ball club as quick as anything. Even though we want to be aggressive on defense there are many times we need to just concede the run and stop other base runners from moving up.

Another serious part of communication is between the players themselves. We do not want balls dropping between players because they are unsure of who has it or if they will get run into. We don't want players missing balls near fences because they are worried about getting hurt.

We can eliminate those situations if we can communicate effectively so the player catching the ball can focus only on the ball without any other fear factors going through their mind.

In conclusion

By verbally communicating we will be able to eliminate runs. It has never been our goal to shut teams out only to eliminate as many runs as possible. We were very successful in doing just that and it led to some great baseball.

In part two we will discuss the system we used for pre-pitch communication. I will give examples of how we called everything and how we practiced it.

In part three we will cover after the ball is hit communication.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Why Players Can't Throw Anymore

This is another passage from Bob Cluck's book Think Better Baseball: Secrets From Major League Coaches And Players For Mastering The Mental Game. This is a great read to get you thinking. I do encourage you check it out.

This passage is entitled Why Players Can't Throw Anymore. Basically what he is saying is, although there are more guy's throwing 90 MPH the average high school players ability to throw has gone downhill. He credits the decline with kids throwing ability to batting cages.

His point is that because of all the batting cages of today's world that players don't throw enough so they don't develop their throwing arm. He gives an example of the way it used to be to illustrate his point.

"Three kids went to the park with one or two baseballs. Player one was the shagger, player two was the hitter, and player three was the pitcher. The pitcher threw a pitch, the hitter hit it, and the player way out by the fence caught it and threw it all the way back to the pitcher if he could."

- Bob Cluck Major League Coach and Scout

Basically what he was saying is a lot more fielding and throwing by players improving their throwing. He is saying that in today's world of batting cages players are not throwing nearly as much. He also goes on to add that to much emphasis is being placed on hitting and not enough on throwing and fielding.

Before I open it up to your opinion let me throw in my two cents. I am not one of those guys who always talks about how the past is better then the present. I am not a back in my day we did things better kinda of baseball guy.

I do have to agree with his idea however. Now I am 37 years old so I don't know way back when so I will base my belief on what seems to make sense to me. I do believe players play more organized baseball now then at any other time in history. But somehow I do suspect they throw less. I do believe the batting cage plays a role in this.

I will also add this to strengthen the idea of not enough throwing. I think our country, as I have mentioned before, has become so organized and at such an early age that players aren't throwing enough. Think about it, even though they play more organized baseball everything is so controlled that the players really don't throw all that much.

There are so many hitting aids out there that do not require throwing and most batting practice is thrown by a coach. Is that a possible reason in the decline of throwing? I think it makes logical sense. Combine the batting cages with today's organized practices and players are throwing less. Thus it naturally effects their throwing ability.

Which brings me back to my original question: Has players throwing ability declined? Truth is I don't know the answer. I can guess but for sure I can't be absolute. The logic makes sense!

What do you think?