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How to Overcome the Fear of Being Hit by the Ball

It can be especially intimidating for a young player to bat against an inexperienced pitcher knowing that if they get hit by the baseball, it will hurt. And this is just one fear. There is also the fear of failure, which is common in sports, especially for something as difficult as hitting a round ball with a round bat, squarely. Even the best hitters in baseball fail seven out of ten times.

It is no surprise that young ballplayers are nervous when batting in a baseball game (it may help lessen the fear a little if they’re distracted over their excitement about getting a new baseball bat). It can be a very frustrating time for the parents also to see their child bat, when the child is too nervous to swing the bat.

Following are some helpful tips that will help these nervous players overcome their fears and, at the same time, help parents and coaches deal with kids who are too nervous to perform well.

How to Help Young Players Get Over the Fear of Getting Hit

1. Instruct players how to correctly get out of the way of a ball coming at them. The correct technique will ensure the player avoids being hit by the ball or gets hit by the ball in an area of the body where a serious injury should not occur. Check with a hitting coach on the correct way, if unsure.

2. Explain to them that the pain (when hit by ball) will go away after a minute or two and that you know they are tough enough to overcome it. (If this doesn’t work, cry with them and that may take there focus off their pain.) Just kidding, but may be worth a try.

3. Also explain that being struck by the ball is part of the game and good players will shake it off and “get them the next time.” Coaches may have to be good salesmen at times.

4. Using a softer ball for batting practice can be helpful before moving up to a hard ball. Less fear of being hurt by the ball can give player confidence.

5. Encourage good at-bats and good swings as opposed to only hits.

6. Encourage players to remember their good at-bats and forget about the bad ones.

7. Coaches and parents should be patient with players who are very nervous and give them time to deal with their fears. Yelling and getting frustrated with with the player will usually make the situation worse.

8. Trying to keep players “in the moment” is a goal of the coach. Having players focus on where the ball is and not where the ball might go is important. Of course, this is easier said than done after a player has been hit a few times by a pitched ball. A good technique in batting practice is to ask the batter where he expects the next ball to be pitched? The batter’s response should be “right down the middle.”

9. Explain players that nervousness is common and necessary to being a good player, but they can concentrate through their nerves to perform.

10. Tell the players how good they will feel when they do overcome their nerves and play up to their capabilities.
11. If all else fails, parents may want to miss a game and see if the player performs better. Parental pressure, real or imagined, is a strong source of fear-of-failure.

12. Finally, grilling a player immediately after a game as to what they did and didn’t do in the game is usually counter-productive for erasing pressure and game nervousness. Parents might want to keep the talk after games about the team effort and only talk about their own performance when the player brings it up. Saving useful advice for a later time, like after dinner, is good.

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How to Pick the Right Baseball Bat

Baseball truly is America’s past-time. It’s a fantastic sport (I’m a little biased, but still). It teaches children to play as a team and leave individual statistics behind, gives great hand to eye coordination skills and keeps them in good physical condition.

But no matter what all the psychiatrists and family book writers say, it is much more fun to win than to lose, and it is way more fun to hit the ball well than to strike out or hit short hoppers every time you get to bat.

Importance of Selecting a Bat

Selecting the right baseball bat is a rather tedious process, as it involves the use of many different bats to get to the one that is best for you. (To all my Harry Potter fans: Choosing a baseball bat is similar to selecting a wand.) You must be prepared to do some research beforehand so you know what to look for. You may even want to consult some bat reviews, something like this site (that specific page is for a type of gymnastics equipment, but you get the idea).

Factors to Consider When Picking Your Bat

Composition

A baseball bat that is made of aluminum, wood or composite metal each have different characteristics and feels to them. One model may feel better to swing with, but when hitting the ball, you may find that it hurts, or does not get as much distance as it should. But, before finding which material you want your bat to be made of, you need to determine the length and weight of the bat.

Length

Picking a baseball bat starts with finding the right weight and length for your swing. A general rule of bat manufacture is that a bat weighs one ounce for every inch in length, and most bats are 30 to 35 inches long. There are shorter bats for the younger children, and at that age, composition does not really matter, just go with the bat that your child likes the best when hitting a ball. For older players in leagues, over 10 years of age with a few year’s experience in league play, then finding the best bat for their swing is more important.

Finding the best baseball bat for yourself may be a measure of going out to the batting cages and trying each of the three types of bats, and finding which one feels better when hitting a hard thrown ball. Once you know your preferred composition — say maple wood — you can try the different lengths, to see which length gives you best coverage of the home plate. Your next step is to find the weight that suits you best.

Weight

There are different weights available for bats, aside from the general rule of one ounce per inch of bat length. You can buy a +3, a -2, or other variations on weights. A plus three, 32 inch bat would weigh 35 ounces, 32 ounces for the 1-to-1 ratio, and 3 extra ounces for the +3. You find your best weight by swinging for home runs in the batting cages, or at practice. Use the bat that you produce best with until you find that “perfect” baseball bat.

Note: If your child is beginning little league, we definitely recommend starting with an aluminum bat. This is pretty much standard nowadays from little league up through college, unless your child’s team plays in a wood-bat league/tournament.

Where to Buy a Baseball Bat

Sporting Goods Store

If you are not in a league or belong to a baseball team, and are simply looking for a baseball bat for yourself or your child, one place you can go to buy a bat is a sporting goods store. Some stores even have hitting cages out back, and you can try the different makes, models, lengths and weights of bats.

The potential downside to sporting goods stores is they can sometimes have a limited selection, depending on the store. If you’d like a wider selection, with more options, colors, styles, lengths and weights, then you can find great bats online at sites like Amazon.

Online

While buying a baseball bat online means you can’t test out the bat before purchase, if you already have an idea of the bat you’re looking for, buying the bat online can be your best option in terms of pricing and convenience. Many online stores — again like Amazon — have great return policies, so you can exchange the bat for a different one if for whatever reason you discovered the bat wasn’t for you.

My Top Baseball Bat Pick

To give you guys an idea of what to look for, I selected my current favorite bat — the Rawlings Raptor (check it out on Amazon).

Rawlings Raptor baseball bat

This is a very high quality bat at an affordable price. Not only does it have a great feel, but your child will love the stylish coloring. I highly recommend it.

Once you decide on and buy the best baseball bat for you (or your child), get out there and start practicing!

Swing batter batter, swing.

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How to Improve Major League Baseball

This opinion piece was written by Dan Gerard, a long-time fan of major league baseball.

Major League Baseball recovered from the strike season of 1994 with the heroics of Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. Since that magical summer of Sosa and McGwire, baseball has been mired in suspicion about steroids and the integrity of the game. Baseball has a lot of catching up to do because the NFL is the new pastime in this country.

Here are a few things the sport could do to help its popularity with America’s sports fans.

Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. That is a common phrase the players use to keep their energy up for the playoff run late in the baseball season. For fans, however, the sport can stretch on and on without enough excitement to sustain their interest. Games themselves need to be shorter. It is pointed out when a game is under three hours these days. That does nothing positive for the sport.

In order to cut out 25% of your average game, these things would be the easiest to change without drastically altering the game itself. Reduce the warm-up pitches prior to each inning. The pitcher has been out there before and doesn’t need seven pitches every time out on the field. A couple of hand-thrown grounders does not help Omar Vizquel or Alex Rodriguez get ready to handle the hits of professional hitters. Cutting 30 seconds from every half inning is around 10 minutes every game.

Baseball needs to shorten the amount of time between pitches. There are over 250 pitches each game. Almost every hitter gets out of the batter’s box on each pitch. Pitchers get off the rubber and walk around. Reducing the time between pitches by even three seconds results in over 12 minutes per game.

Those two things would result in 22 minutes or more, which is 30 minutes with commercials, just by moving with more of a purpose.

In addition to games themselves being long, the season is even longer. Spring training begins when it is still winter and the World Series finishes up in October. That is far too long for the fans, the players, baseball management, television crews, everyone. Days off are seldom during the season, which is hard on the players, their families and the attention of fans.

Cutting the season by 25%, to around 120 games, would do wonders for the sport. Baseball can start later and finish earlier. The end of the season conflicts with the opening of the NFL season, which interests more fans. Start a few weeks later, end a few weeks earlier and add it more days off during the season. The players would be fresher and have longer careers, fans would be more likely to follow games longer during the season and each game would mean more — a reason why the NFL is hammering MLB in popularity right now in this country.

Just my two cents.

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How to Prolong Your Amateur Baseball Career

Note: The following is an article written by Mark Braun, a long-time amateur baseball player.

I’ve been playing baseball since I was 10 years old, and I’m rapidly approaching 30. 2007 marks my 11th year playing in an 18 and over hardball league in Chicago. Over the years, I’ve found some can’t miss tricks that keep me on the field. I’m certainly not the most talented player on my team, but I’ve learned enough over the years to overcome any of my physical shortcomings. Hopefully, this guide will help you continue to play ball.
Get in shape – stay in shape.

My season starts in May and runs through July. By the time mid-July rolls around, I can always tell if I’ve put enough time and effort into my off-season workouts. If I’m tired and sluggish, I know I didn’t do enough. My game pays for it as my bat speed declines and I’m slow around the bases. The best exercise I’ve found to improve my game is running. Your legs are key for almost every aspect of the game. You push off your legs when you pitch or make throws across the infield. When you hit, most of your power is generated from your legs. Keeping your legs strong will keep you on the field longer.

Know the fundamentals

If we hold a tryout for our team, I can tell in a few minutes whether or not we want the person who is trying out. All I have to do is see them take a few ground balls or fly balls and make a few throws in. Most times, we don’t even need to see the person hit. You can make up for a lack of natural talent by knowing the fundamentals. All it takes is practice to improve your skill set, regardless of the position you play.

Learn to play multiple positions

This is one of the easiest ways go from a bench player to a starter. So, your primary position is 1st base. But, the team already has two 1st basemen and you are stuck way back on the depth chart. Learn to play the outfield. If you and a friend spend a few Saturdays hitting fly balls to each other, you can figure it out in no time. Pay attention during your next practice or game, and see what each position’s responsibilities are. After a few rounds of infield / outfield practice, you should have a good grasp of what you need to do. This has been a huge reason why I have spent most of my games starting. I’ve played every position on the field except catcher, and feel extremely comfortable at all infield positions.

Buy a batting tee and spend some time at the batting cages

batting practice

Just getting back to baseball and not sure how to get started? Spend $15 and buy a batting tee. This is the best way to improve your hitting. Work with a friend who can point out any problems in your form, or videotape yourself hitting. Once you feel comfortable with your stance and swing, head to the batting cages to put it all together.

Realize your shortcomings

Not everyone can have the best arm or hit the home runs. Determine where you are lacking talent and find ways to work around it. For example, I don’t have the strongest throwing arm. But, my primary positions are shortstop and third base, both of which require long throws. To make up for my arm, I realized I needed to get rid of the ball as quickly as possible. I don’t have the luxury of bobbling the ball or taking an extra step to throw. I do have decent range, so I can afford to play more shallow than most to make the throw a bit shorter. You can find ways to mask a lot of problems such as these. If you aren’t a great hitter, but have decent speed – try laying down a bunt for a hit. This is a skill you can easily practice and it will earn you a lot of hits.

Put forth your best effort

Regardless of talent, level, speed, etc – give all you have. Hustle onto and off of the field. Run hard on groundouts, charge ground balls, and give your best effort going after fly balls. No one want teammates that are lazy and fail to give their best effort. Play baseball with a passion and you will extend your playing time for as long as you desire.


A special thanks to Mark for contributing this article.