Monday, August 20, 2012
I’ve been watching young boys try to learn how to bat a baseball for the last 5 or 6 years. It started with my eldest grandson who was about 8 when he began. He is now 14, and his younger brother is 11. Down here in south Texas, the little league kids get to play at least two seasons a year, "Fall Ball” and Spring or Summer ball. Sometimes the summer season gets extended by “AllStars”. So the boys have had a number of different adult coaches and teachers offering advice, admonishments and coaching on all aspects of the game. Often, maybe even usually, the various coaches support and reinforce each other, even over time. Coaches from Fall Ball generally do not offer totally different insights into skill attainment than the Summer Coaches do. (And in fact, several coaches are involved in both Fall and Spring ball, anyway.) And even when different coaches suggest somewhat different strategies, these still tend to mesh well into the development of overall skills for the boys. And, of course, the two lads compare notes and evaluate what they are told, discarding what doesn’t work for them unless specific coaches are adamant about certain points. And then I personally end up analyzing all I see and hear through the lens of memory. I was a decent little league player myself. And I compare what I hear to what I recall working for me and what we were told several decades ago. This essay is addressed not at all aspects of hitting, getting on base, and contributing to a team’s offense. It will be limited to one narrow aspect. Both my grandsons have developed a preference for “taking” the first pitch. This is not a 100% tendency, but probably does surpass 67%. That is to say, most of the time, they go to the plate intending to watch the first pitch without swinging at it. They have indicated that even if the first pitch is a called strike that their confidence grows after seeing the first pitch. What I find puzzling is that this approach is apparently the preferred method offered by most of their coaches. On those occasions where I’ve discussed it with the boys one of the answers to “Why do you do that?” has been that that was the sign they got from the coach. They were told at times to “take” certain pitches. And often it is the first pitch. They, therefore, develop little desire to defy the coach. What if after getting a “take” sign they swung at the first pitch and missed it or dribble the ball back to the pitcher? I do not recall ever as a player years ago getting a “take” sign on the first pitch. But it’s been enough years, I could easily be mistaken. Nevertheless, my generally memory is that I was usually empowered to decide on the first pitch on my own. Not to be misinterpreted, I am not offering these thoughts from any position of disappointment in the play of my grandsons. They have both developed into quality members of their teams, good players who get good hits and play the game well and hard. Both have been selected to All Stars, which ranks them in the upper echelon of players in their programs. But to be clear and honest, I now think that the average young ballplayer and my grandsons in particular would be well advised to abandon the mindset or intention to take the first pitch. Most little league players should go to the plate thinking they hope the first pitch is hittable so they can smack it. Coaches should reserve any “take” signs for those games and occasions where they are reasonably certain a pitcher needs to be forced to prove he can throw strikes before we help him out. My reasons are as follows: 1. Most young pitchers intend to make the first pitch a strike. They do not possess the confidence in their abilities sufficient that they will purposefully offer up the first pitch outside the strike zone. That obviously doesn’t mean they will successfully throw a strike. But it probably increases the odds slightly. Not only do they try to throw a strike, they will probably make it their fast ball. Knowing this, a batter can plan on the pitcher being successful. 2. The mathematics of the issue comes into play. Batters are given three strikes. If one deliberately gives away the first strike, that reduces the odds of hitting the ball from three shots to just two. And after having passed on a first strike, the pressure then rises on the next two. Should a batter miss or foul off the second strike, giving him two, both the pitcher and the batter are then in a position of enlarging the strike zone for the last strike. The batter has to swing at anything reachable. And the pitcher, knowing that, can offer pitches that are anything but reachable. So, my belief is that most young little leaguers would be well advised to go to the plate looking for the “First Ball, Fast Ball”. This obviously still allows for batters to exercise their instant judgment and lay off of balls that are not hittable or of the speed they were expecting. But it removes those occasions where the batter withholds a swing on a pitch down the center of the plate simply because coach told him to or he had no intention of swinging regardless. Let me close with this declaration that those men and parents who devote their spare time to coaching these lads are, indeed, saints. Thank you! Thank you!
Monday, August 13, 2012
It appears to me that Americans just didn't quite have 17 days of interest in the Olympics. The first 10 days we hung on every new event, heat, round. By this past weekend we had moved on to the PGA tournament, "Big Brother", and who knows what. I'm guessing the TV ratings on the closing ceremonies will pale in comparison to the opening ceremonies, in spite of the Spice Girls. Much of what we "learned" from this episode of the Olympics is that political & social correctness has progressed so much and is so rampant as to be almost stifling. Don't tell us that Olympic athletes are randy in the village. And don't be allowing silly athletes to Tweet prior to their message being checked by an agent/guardian/spokesman. But now that the games are over, let the wars resume!
Monday, August 6, 2012
"Multiple deaths similar to the Aurora movie house massacre are the price we pay as a society to underwrite the Second Amendment “rights” for “lawful gun owners.” I normally abhor redundancy. But this is posted immediately following news reports of the multiple killings in Wisconsin in the Sikh house of worship. I intend to repeat this declaration following every senseless criminal action that is exacerbated by our toothless laws addressing automatic weapons and ease of obtaining ammunition. Wake up, DEMOCRATS! Ditto, REPUBLICANS! Gun control is not the slippery slope the NRA would have you believe.