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Baseball Coaching Digest
Coaches Monthly Newsletter
Improve Your Practice!
Improve Your Game!
January 2008

Hello Coach,

Thanks for taking the time to read our Baseball Coaching Newsletter. This month we have several articles that I feel you will find very beneficial as you begin this season's practice.

Look for at least 8 informative issues to come to you in the next 6 months. If you would like to contribute an article or have a comment, please feel free to contact me at nick@hit2win.com. We wish you and your team the very best of luck during this season!

Happy Hitting,
Nick Dixon
President
Nedco Sports

This Month's Lineup Includes....
  • The Perfect Swing For Every Player
  • Basic Facts and Knowledge About Pitching
  • "Sample Practice Plans" by Cal Ripken, Jr., Bill Ripken, Scott Lowe, Ripken Baseball From Coaching Youth Baseball the Ripken Way
  • "Hitting Drills" by Mike Curran, Ross Newhan - From Coaching Baseball Successfully
  • Hands Back Hitter - Innovative Trainer for Teaching Hitters To Keep Their Hands Back

  • Basic Facts and Knowledge About Pitching

    I would like to discuss some of the rules and facts we must remember to help our pitcher get through difficult situations during a game.

    • GET THE LEAD-OFF GUY OUT - 85% of the time a lead-off walk scores n the inning. Throw strikes and give the the lead-off a chance to get himself out. Get ahead in he count.
    • MAKE HITTERS CHASE 0-2 and 1-2 pitches. Basehits with these counts are what starts big innings.
    • KEEP THE BALL DOWN with a runner on first. Give your defense a chance to turn the double play.
    • KEEP THE BALL DOWN and IN with runners on 2nd, 3rd, or 2nd and 3rd with less than 2 outs.
    • KEEP THE BALL DOWN and IN with runners on 3rd with less than 2 outs. No sac flies.
    • GOOD HITTERS LIKE TO SWING - Let them swing the bat...but at bad pitches for them to hit. Keep the ball away from pull hitters. Pitch good contact hitters under their hands.
    • RUNNERS on 1st and 3rd with no outs, unless the game is on the line, Work to get a groundball by keeping the ball low. Help your defense get a double play. BAD FACT: Runner at 3rd with no outs scores 75% of the time.
    • VISUALIZE A SUCCESSFUL PITCH and LOCATION before each pitch. Know where every pitch is going. Have a purpose for every pitch.
    • VARY YOUR LOOKS - With runners on do not get in a trance or habit of being a "one looker" or "two looker". Be unpredictable. Do not let them "know you" or "have definitely reads". Pick over more than three times-in-a-row at least once in the game early. Use the "look back" move to see if the steal is on.
    • DO NOT LET THEM HAVE A BIG INNING - 65% of the time the winning team scores more runs in one inning than the losing teams scores in the whole game. Do your job and prevent their big inning before it happens.

    I have mentioned the big inning several times. A big part of preventing the big inning is making sure the outfielders keep the batter off second and held to a single as much as possible. Another important fact to remember from a coaches standpoint is that 95% of all runs are scored with the pitcher throwing from the stretch. That makes it vitally important to make sure at least 75% of all bull pen work is done out of the stretch.


    "Sample Practice Plans" by Cal Ripken, Jr., Bill Ripken, Scott Lowe, Ripken Baseball From Coaching Youth Baseball the Ripken Way

    Sample Practice Plan-Ages 12 and Under

    10 min. Baserunning
    Big League Baserunning or dynamic warm-up
    20 min. Stretch and throw

    --Stretch around mound or in center field
    --Go over practice plan in detail

    45 min. Practice in stations (small groups),
    15 minutes per station and rotate
    --Hitting station (one player hits on the field, others do tee work and soft toss utilizing fences or backstop)
    --Fielding and throwing station (during live batting practice)
    --Fly ball and throwing station (during live batting practice)

    10 min. Baserunning

    As always, common sense should prevail. For ages 4 to 6, a practice shouldn't last much longer than an hour. Times should be shortened accordingly if kids are struggling and don't seem to want to be there that day. Practice can be extended at this age group, but only if players ask to stay longer.

    Players ages 7 to 9 should be able to handle an hour just about any day and might even be able to maintain interest and concentration for as long as 90 minutes. Try to keep practice to about an hour and 15 minutes for this age group.

    Players in the 10-to-12 age group can probably handle 90 minutes with regularity. Use this framework as a guideline and customize practices to fit your needs. You'll find more-detailed practice plans broken down by age group later on in this book.

    Sample Practice Plan-Ages 13 and Up

    20 min. Stretch, run, throw

    20 min. Ground balls and fly balls
    (use buckets and systems to minimize throws and maximize repetitions)

    --Not taking infield
    --Two infield fungo stations
    --One outfield fungo station

    20 min. Team fundamentals
    --Bunt defenses
    --First-and-third defenses
    --Cutoffs and relays
    --Pickoffs and rundowns
    --Team baserunning plays

    60 min. Team batting practice
    (4 stations, 15 minutes each, or 4 stations, 10 minutes each if you want to do another team fundamental)

    Stations can be rotated daily; always include free hitting

    Once the season has started, coaches should prioritize which issues need to be addressed during team fundamental sessions. Another team fundamental session can be added, reducing batting practice by 20 minutes. Please note that the infield fungo station does not mean taking a full infield. Batting practice provides opportunities for pitchers to throw on the side and do their running.


    "Hitting Drills" by Mike Curran, Ross Newhan - From Coaching Baseball Successfully


    Many hitting drills are available. The key is to identify a specific problem and prescribe the right drill. A coach also needs drills to help his hitters execute skills that they will need in the game. The first three drills are drills used to correct common hitting problems. The next three drills address common hitting skills needed in game situations.



    One-Knee, One-Hand Purpose. The purpose of this drill is to put the hitter in a position where he can focus only on his hands getting into and through the hitting zone with flat wrists.

    Procedure. In this drill, the hitter should have his front leg extended out and his bottom hand on the bat handle. A coach on one knee should soft toss the ball to the hitter, who should try to keep his hand inside the ball with a short swing, with his wrist flat and palm down (see figure 7.8). If the hitter's swing is too long or he rolls his wrist, the coach should spot the problem easily. By having the hitter on one knee, he does not employ the hips or stride and he can focus entirely on using the proper technique with his hands. A good drill to help keep the wrists flat and build strength in the wrists and forearms is to have the hitter, on one knee and using only one hand, swing with a shorter, smaller bat than he normally uses. After 10 swings with the bottom hand, the hitter should do 10 with the top hand.

    Front Inside Soft-Toss

    Purpose. Another soft-toss drill to encourage a fast bat, this drill trains the hitter to increase his hand quickness by shortening his swing. At the same time, this drill will make him use the proper technique of having flat wrists in his swing.

    Procedure. With the hitter standing, both hands on the bat, the coach feeds pitches from behind a screen, trying to keep the ball on the inside half of the plate. This pitch placement forces the hitter to be quick with his hands as he attempts to hit the inside half of the ball. If the hitter drags the barrel of the bat with slow hands, the pitch will jam him. The hitter needs to work not only on having quick hands to hit the inside pitch but also on getting the bat in a power position with flat wrists so that he can hit the ball on the fat part of the bat. The feeder in this drill makes sure that the hitter does not roll his wrists or jam himself with a long swing. A good coaching point for this drill is to hold the ball on every fourth or fifth pitch. By doing this, the coach can observe whether the hitter is on balance and not stepping away or opening up his stride too soon. The swing should be short and powerful to the ball with good technique to achieve good contact on the fat part of the bat.


    Hands Back Hitter - Innovative Trainer for Teaching Hitters To Keep Their Hands Back

    The Hands Back Hitter Pro Model is the simplest, most affordable, yet most instructive training aid on the market. And to insure that you will practice often, it makes you a better hitter while you are having fun.

    The Hands Back Hitter Pro-Model. (Uses ALL type balls real and plastic; baseball or softball). The unique popper design allows the operator to adjust pitch height for any type ball. The same unit assembles for righties and lefties. It comes with an extra string, 12 medium weight plastic balls, and a CD- ROM training disc. This patented pitching machine/ batting tee hybrid controls the swing sequence for teaching rotational hitting and opposite field mechanics . Extremely durable and used from LL to D- 1 Programs. The trainer players love to use.

    The Hands Back Hitter, the affordable, portable, personal batting station that keeps them training and swinging right even when your not there.


    The Perfect Swing For Every Player
    hitter

    When we coach we must remember that there are certain elements of a good swing that must be taught and emphasized over and over. We do not want to clone hitters but we must realize that the perfect swing has 4 basic phases that must be recognized and perfected.

    I am assuming that the batter has a proper stance. The stance I prefer is one with the knees inside the ankles, the bat barrel is at a 45 degree angle, and the hands are shoulder high.

    Thise four phases are the LOAD, the INITIAL MOVEMENT, the SWING PLANE, and the FINISH. The LOAD is the "triggering" of the hands to the "Launch Position". The hands are moved slightly back, and the front side closes slightly. Both elbows should be bent with close attention paid to the front elbow. It must be flexed and not barred. The hands should be at the top of the players strike zone.

    The INITIAL phase of the swing is the first movement of the hands and bat to the hitting zone. The barrel should not be lifted upward or higher during this phase, but rather it should come downward never leaving the shoulder more than 3 or 4 inches. The hands are driven down with the knob going downward. We want to get the bat into a level swing plane as quick as possible. The hands should stay inside the ball.

    The SWING PLANE we want to see is downward and then level through the ball. We want the bat to stay level through the ball. The batter must push the bat out and through the ball to maintaing contact through the ball as long as possible. The batter will attack the balls on the inside third on the front third of the plate, the balls on the middle of the plate on the middle third of the plate, and the away strike and off speed pitches on the back third of the plate.

    The FINISH phase of the swing is long and smooth. The FINISH should be completed with one had only.

    OTHER COACHING POINTS:

    1. GRIP: Knuckles should be aligned. Bat is in fingers; not the palms.
    2. PALM-UP/PALM DOWN - Hands power position should be achived during the swing plane phase. This position should be held as long as possible to push through the ball upon contact.
    3. LACES UP: Should be the movement of the back foot. This should be a quiet effortless movement that frees the back hip.
    4. HEAD DOWN - The eyes should be kept on the ball with the head down throughout the swing.
    5. STRIDE - Front foot stride will vary for different hitters. It should be shorter than longer with a quiet soft step. Longer strides can lead to hitting flaws. The front foot must be down before the INITIAL swing phase begins.
    6. INSIDE STRIKES - Attacked early before the ball gets inside and pulled.
    7. MIDDLE STRIKES - Attacked behind the front foot and driven back through the middle.
    8. AWAY STRIKES - Attacked late in the zone off the back foot's instep. These ball are driven to the opposite field.
    9. OFF-SPEED - Pitches are attacked late and driven to the opposite field.

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