A TRIBUTE TO BASEBALL MOMS — 5 Things I Was Most Thankful For

Apr 12, 2019 by Nick Rotola CEO of American Baseball Camps in  baseball camps Baseball Mom's Youth Baseball Advice

In my 19 years of baseball, I can’t believe I didn’t stop to appreciate my Mom. This tribute is to her, and every Baseball Mom that probably isn’t getting the recognition they deserve.

Really quick back story about myself — Currently a senior at a historic division 1 baseball program. I cannot reveal my name or program for NCAA reasons. I recently got hurt, and started to reflect back on my career. — And so the post begins.

She’s not in any of the pictures, she was always the one taking them… But (Pictured) is me before my first T-Ball game in 1997.



Guys, I really didn’t know what a roller coaster baseball was about to take me on!

#5 A Constant in an Inconsistent Game

One of the things I most appreciated about my baseball Mom over the years was her consistency. This game can beat you down sometimes and my Mom was always there to pick me up. My dad was so up and down with all the highs and lows in baseball, as was I. But that can be hard on a baseball player in an emotional game like baseball. Through the ups and downs of baseball my Mom was happy, thankful, and content to just be with me after the game. You see where dad’s may be upset after an injury or a bad game, Mom’s are just happy to be with you, and happy that you called her to talk about the game. Which leads me to the next thing I was so thankful for, the support.

#4 Moms are Supportive, Dad’s are Expectant

Dad’s expect a lot out of their sons, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But in a game of failure those expectations are going to be let down an awful lot. I never got that feeling with my Mom though. My Mom was at the same amount of games as he was, she was repping our team colors just as much too. Yet, I never get the feeling like she’d be wavered in anyway by an 0 for 20 stretch.

#3 Moms relieve pressure

When a little kid messes up in the game of baseball, think about all the things that are going through his head. He’s mad at himself that he “messed up”, his self talk is probably harsh. His teammates are let down, his coach shakes his head. The other team is saying something to him as he runs back to the dugout.

This is hard on a kid, trust me when I say this, its hard. And what happens from this is an unnecessary pressure that baseball players start to put on themselves. The fear of negative outcomes makes a kid think and expect things of himself he shouldn’t.



That is where my Baseball Mom was huge for me. She was screaming just as loud saying “its okay” after a bad strike out as she was when I hit a home run. (Okay, maybe not quite as loud as a home run cheer but you get the point).

She just took the pressure away. That was so huge for me, I can’t believe I didn’t realize it all that time.

#2 She was Positive in a Negative Game

That overly positive, thinks their kid is the greatest, thing that Mom’s do — that’s actually extremely helpful. Confidence is so big in baseball. This is one thing that makes a naturally good baseball player great, and Mom’s are often times the reason kid’s have confidence in themselves. Baseball is a self-esteem destroying sport, so that boost that my Mom always gave me helped me to find a balance. Sure, the game humbled me, and it was hard to be “proud.” But I always believed in myself, and that was because of you, Mom.

#1 She hugged me when I was sad, and stuck with me when I was mad

Even though I’m a “tough tough hard-nosed college baseball player”, I can admit that I got really sad sometimes playing this game. That hug after the game is what I’m referencing here, man was that huge. Mom’s are nurturing, and mine had the tendency to melt away sadness in those discouraging moments.

I got mad a lot with baseball, I probably was a huge jerk there for a while and took a lot of frustration out on my Mom. Which just sounds horrible to me now, but it happened. I don’t know how my Mom stuck with me and didn’t slap me across the face but she did it! She stuck with me. Rude, thought he knew everything, me.

 

Mom, I love you and I couldn’t have went this far in the game of baseball without you! Even though you had to know that I did, sorry I didn’t tell you how much I appreciated you until I was 23. You were there for me when the game got me down when I was 4. Just as you were when the game knocked me down when I was 23. And I thank you for all the things you did in-between.

Mom — This tribute is for you

 

– Written by Nick Rotola Founder of American Baseball Camps offering Youth Baseball Camps for ballplayers ages 6-12 across the US! Check out the camps page to see if ABC has a camp near you!




How To Steal 2nd Base In Baseball

How To Steal 2nd Base in Baseball – A 10 Step Guide!

Nov 21, 2019

The Major League game is moving toward home runs, but the youth, high school, and the college game is still centered around small ball. This how-to guide is to help you as a player steal bases, and its to help parents teach their kids the proper way to steal bases. Hint: It’s more mental than you think!

 

#1 Have Confidence in Stealing Bases

Your chance of stealing bases goes way up if you have confidence in what you are doing. There is nothing worse (I’ve been there), than second-guessing yourself when trying to steal bases.

So, if you are a player wanting to steal more bases, or a parent wanting to help their kid, start with having confidence as soon as you reach 1st or 2nd base and think about taking the next bag!

 

#2 Get a Base-Stealing Lead

You should never tip that you are trying to steal a base by getting a larger than normal lead, so, if you want to get a good lead to steal – you need to do it every time you take a lead.

Length – Your base stealing lead should be 10-12 feet at first base, and 14-16 feet at second base for HS and College. (Youth Coaches, please adjust accordingly, I’m a Minor Leaguer so I teach what I know).

Again, if you want to steal bases, there should be no difference between your normal lead and your base-stealing lead, so take a big league all the time if you want to steal bases.



 

#3 Think The Right Thoughts

So, you’ve got a big lead, now what? When you aren’t planning on stealing you should be staring at the pitcher and thinking – back. 

You don’t want your weight to be shifted heavily, that should be centered – just think back. When you are planning on stealing, your thoughts should be different for a righty vs. a lefty pitcher.

 

Thoughts For Stealing 2nd Off A Righty

If the pitcher is right-handed you need to have a soft focus at his feet. If his right foot moves, you have to dive back into the base because he’s picking off. 

If his left foot moves – you go – I know, simple!

 

Thoughts For Stealing 2nd Off A Lefty

Go first move. If the pitcher is a lefty you need to go first move. It’s a debate, I know, but I’ve played for 22 years now and I’ve never met a base stealer that didn’t go 1st move most of the time (first move means you go as soon as he lifts his right leg).

You need to have a soft focus at his entire lower half. If his left foot steps back, dive back into the base. When you aren’t stealing and he lifts his right foot you take a hard step back. I’m going to call this a jab step, it’s a hard step back toward first base with your left leg.

When he sees you do this a couple of times as soon as he lifts his right leg, he’ll forget about picking off. I like to even jab back with my left foot when I do steal, I just do it before he lifts his leg altogether.

Remember Pavlov’s Dog? You train a lefty pitcher 2 or 3 times that you jab hard back toward 1st base every time he lifts his right leg, he won’t think you’re doing much base-stealing at all. Then, when you’re ready, you jab early and go when he lifts his leg.

This makes it the same jump you just got off the righty, maybe even a little better because lefties don’t usually slide step.



 

#4 Properly Position Your Feet

Your left foot should be even with the bag, some like to angle it towards second, but I think that makes you too slow getting back to the base on a pick-off.

Your right foot is a big deal when you steal. The best method I’ve learned is to line your right toes up with the middle of your left foot, this opens your hips a little toward second.

Once your hips are positioned, position your foot. Your right foot should be pointing 45 degrees toward 2nd base. 

This opening up method should be used if you’re running a 60 as well for you older players.

 

#5 U.C.L.A.

This is a beautiful timing tactic first formed at UCLA, hence the name. They led D1 the year they developed this, in steals.

How it works is most pitchers come set for 1-4 seconds before they go home. 

We want to know if it’s 1 second, if its 2, or if its 4, on average.

So, when the pitcher comes set, you start your timer: U – C – L – A. Say it in a way where each letter takes about a second. If he’s going on L every time, that’s his tendency, if he goes on C, then you know that too. This helps with timing and anticipation, and with leaning into the steal.

 

#6 Lean Into The Steal

This is an extremely subtle tactic which helps a ton. We talked about your mindset and how we want your weight to be centered so you aren’t suspicious and so you can get back.

An advanced tactic, is to time the pitcher using the U.C.L.A. method above, and then when he is about to go based on his tendancies, start a subtle lean toward 2nd base. This little momentum could save you .2 seconds which could be the difference between out and safe.

 

#7 Take A Big Crossover Step

The first step in stealing a base is crucial. The good news is, you don’t have to run 100-meter sprints to practice it, you only need to sprint about 5 steps to practice your first step.

It starts with your arms, pull your right arm down hard and bring your left knee and arm forward as fast as you can. Your first step should be fast and should gain a lot of ground.

 

#8 Peak-In On Your Third Step

On the third step of stealing the base you need to peak in to see if the batter hits the ball. 

If he misses on a swing, or doesn’t swing, you keep going. 

If he hits the ball on the ground, you keep going.

If he hits the ball on a line, you keep going (not enough time to get back anyway).

If he hits the ball in the air, you freeze, assess whether it can be caught, and get back if it can.

If he hits a base hit, you round the base and pick up the 3rd base coach.

 

#9 Slide Head First

This one is an opinion that certainly has pros and cons. I’ve just been thrown out too many times sliding feet first to ever do it again. Here are the pros and cons for you to decide yourself.

 

Pros

  • It’s proven to be faster (Sports Science – look it up)
  • It’s easier to avoid a tag
  • You get more safe calls on average (umpire perception)

Cons

  • You can hurt your finger sliding in if your fingers are pointed toward the base (see #10)
  • It can be a bit scary for younger kids to get used to
  • If you’re on turf, and it’s really wet, you can easily slide way past the base.



 

#10 Slide With Fingers To Sky And Stay On The Bag

As mentioned in cons above on sliding head first, you can break your fingers if they are pointing straight forward and you slide into a bag. 

This is why it’s important to practice at a young age to slide head first with palms up/fingers up.

At our baseball camps we practice this with a slip n’ slide into a pool, pretty fun way of learning to slide correctly.

Once you’ve slid into the base, and you were safe because you followed all of our steps, you need to stay on the bag.

Smart middle infielders will keep the tag on you for a long time in case you come off the bag for a split second. If you need to shake some dirt off or tie your shoe, call time before you do it.

 

 

We hope you liked our blog helping baseball players and parents on the complexity of stealing 2nd base. We believe that this is the most helpful information you can digest concerning stealing 2nd base in baseball. If you thought this blog was helpful, check out others, or if you’d like to check out our camps – click on your state in the map below!




Nick Rotola
Camp Instructor
How To Call Pitches

How To Call Pitches – A Guide For Youth Coaches & Parents

Oct 22, 2020

The following article was written by Mike Castellani, a current professional pitcher.

Read time: 2 min

 

One of the questions I get asked the most, by parents, is how to call pitches. Calling the “right” pitch consistently can be the difference between a quality start and a start that does not make it out of the first inning. The first way to handle calling pitches is to understand that each arm on your staff is different.  We never want to call pitches based on what the book might say, but rather we call pitches that allow the individual to be placed in a situation where he/she can succeed most often.

 

Here are some steps you, as the coach, should follow:

 

Step 1: Preparation

 

  • First step with your pitchers is to identify what their most accurate pitch is, and what their best “swing and miss” pitch is. For most young pitchers this will be fastball, curveball, respectively, but this is not always the case.
  • The next step is to identify which side of the plate your pitcher feels most comfortable throwing to, and this is done by seeing if their fastball has natural tail (armside run), or natural cut. Most pitchers will favor the side of the plate that is closer to their armside, since most fastballs tail.
  • Talk with both the pitchers and catchers about pitch calling, and allow them to shake off pitches they do not agree with. The best way for young players to learn is by self-calling games, and believe me if they shake off to a pitch that then gets hit hard they will listen and learn much more than if you had called the pitch.  Let the pitchers think for themselves and welcome a dialogue of pitch selection.  Afterall, our goal is to develop talent, by letting them learn how to think critically in pressure situations.

 

Now we get to the actual pitch sequencing.  This can be a challenge for a lot of coaches who tend to get repetitive I.E. throwing fastballs early and curveballs later in counts.  The easiest way to call pitches is to throw what the hitter is least likely to hit HARD. This is an important point. We as coaches are not trying to strike every hitter out, we are trying to throw the least amount of pitches and get our team back on offense.  Throwing a curveball and inducing a swing and miss, is not always the best plan of action, when a fastball would have gotten a ground ball double play.

 

Step 2: Learning to read swings:

 

Reading the Hitter's Swing

 

Hitters give away a ton of information even before they swing the bat.  Identifying individual weaknesses is key to effective pitch calling.  Here is a watch list of common hitter tendencies.

How far does the hitter stand from the plate?

  • Watching the feet of the hitter gives us pitch number one of any sequence. If a hitter is standing too far away from the plate we must throw him a fastball away and force him to move closer exposing the inside part of the plate for future pitches.  If the hitter stands too close the exact opposite is true.

Where does the hitter stride?

  • Watching where the hitter strides is also a huge key to beating him/her. If the hitter strides open or closed we can exploit that with fastballs.  If a righty hitter that strides slightly towards third (open) will struggle hitting fastballs away with any type of conviction, meaning you will get easy contact outs.  If that same hitter strides towards first (closed) they will struggle hitting inside pitches and will jam easily.

How is the hitter’s timing

  • The single easiest way to beat a hitter is by throwing the pitch they are least timed up for. So many young hitters sell out for fastballs that they get out in front of every pitch they see.  If we see a super aggressive hitter we need to think about throwing fastballs in and off-speed down.  Off-speed obviously makes sense, but the inside fastball maybe less so.  If a hitter is early on everything his contact point will be in front of the plate.  This means that with an inside fastball he can only hit the ball foul.  Even if he hits it 300 feet it will always be foul. Winning strikes on fastballs early sets up the breaking ball finale.  Take what the hitter gives you and use his aggression to gain advantage counts.

How does the hitter react to off-speed?

  • Very rarely do I ever throw the same pitcher twice. Mixing speeds is the key to pitching, but sometimes the hitter gives up his hand and we must exploit it. Identify a hitter being fooled versus a hitter just not being capable of hitting off-speed is vital to calling a good game.  Most hitters will be fooled on off-speed if their landing foot strides way too early for the pitch and they will thus swing through the pitch.  But if the hitter is striding on time with the off-speed and still missing then you have identified a weakness.  It is important to watch how the hitter strides on these pitches to pick up on inabilities. If we see a hitter stride early and miss, chances are he was simply fooled and will be sitting on the same pitch, although this time he will not miss.  If a hitter swings early on a curveball it is a good idea to come back with a fastball inside on the next pitch, since most hitters will subconsciously refuse to be beaten by the same pitch twice.  They will slow their timing and you can blow a fastball right by them.

 

Step 3: The right pitch in the right count

 

It is never a good idea to rely on the count to dictate your pitch selection, but here are a few rules of thumb to live by:

 

0-0 : This is a called strike count we are trying to throw our most accurate strike to our most accessible location.  Get ahead and welcome swings.  We will never get beat if every hitter swings first pitch.

 

1-0 : This is a hitters count so we must throw a fastball or changeup here.  Fastballs to locations a hitter does not like or changeups down the middle.  Again, we want swings but more importantly we want a strike. 2-0 is a bad place to be.

 

0-1 : Advantage count, hitters will be desperate to not fall behind further so the zone will increase. Fastballs on the edge of the zone in any direction work here.  Curveballs for strikes are effective as well.

 

1-1 / 2-2 : These are the most important counts in baseball.  The batting average difference from 2-1 versus 1-2 is astronomical.  In all neutral counts we are hunting a strike.  I personally like to throw the opposite fastball to the one I threw 0-0 here.  So if I went inside to start I will go away 1-1, or the opposite. This is a count for your best pitch.  If you have a good curve, use it.  We want to treat this count like it is make-or-break. Throw your best stuff and live with the results.

 

1-2 / 0-2 : Both big advantage counts we want to think fastballs up or away off the plate, or curveballs at the shoetops.  The pressure is on the hitter here, so make him have to take a tough pitch or foul it off.  We want borderline pitches that are a threat and not a waste. Swings in these counts are ideal, make them swing at pitches out of the zone, and if you give up the occasional hit doing so that is fine.  We do not waste pitches, EVER.

 

2-0 / 3-0 : These are disadvantage counts.  We need strikes.  2-0 we throw a fastball to our most accessible location.  For me that is an arm side of the plate fastball.  3-0 we are grooving a fastball.  Let the hitter swing 3-0, 50/50 hit versus out if he does.

 

2-1 / 3-1 : Disadvantage counts that can yield favorable results.  We know that hitters are hunting and swinging big in these counts.  They are expecting fastballs.  Most times they will be early and out in front, trying to pull a pitch.  Throwing inside fastball and change ups are keys in these counts.  If the hitter is aggressive he will foul off inside fastballs and pop changeups up. Use the hitters aggression to win you an easy strike or out.

 

American Baseball Camps writes these articles as part of our mission to help players get better & gain confidence. We also want to be a professional guide for youth baseball parents & coaches. You have a professional to go to for your taxes, finances, b2b needs, we want to be your resources for your ballplayers’ baseball career. Send us an email at americanbaseballcamps@gmail.com at anytime for youth baseball advice. We hope you’ll support our business by buying our book: At Home Baseball Development Guide or by attending one of our baseball camps across the country. You can see this by visiting our camps page.

 

Pregame Routine Of A Professional Pitcher

American Baseball Camps — Three Ways Young Players Can Hit With More Power

Apr 04, 2019

Here is our list of 3 ways for young players to drive more baseballs and hit more Home Runs.

#1 Relax your hands

It’s the 2011 home run derby and Robinson Cano hits 12 home runs in his final round! The reporter asks: “what was going through your head in that final round?” As he was effortlessly hitting balls into the upper deck, the reporter wanted to know what his thought process was. He didn’t say I tried my hardest, or I tried to pull the ball to left field. No, what he said is shocking because it goes against natural hitting/human instincts. He said: “I really just tried to relax my hands and throw the hands.” Wow! here is a guy with some of the greatest power in the game and all he is thinking at the plate is “relax your hands.” That’s why if youre a parent with a young slugger, this is our number one piece of advice for you to give him before an at bat, or when you are working in the cage.

#2 Gain Muscle

 

Power = Mass x Acceleration

Building muscle does both of these things, it gives you more muscle “mass” and adds bat speed “acceleration.”

I’m a D1 baseball player at an Anonymous program (for NCAA reasons) and I can’t tell you how many guys I knew growing up that got so much better at baseball when they started building muscle. This doesn’t mean lifting weights, but for those younger kids it is so big that they are doing things to help give them bat-speed. One of the best ways for a young player to gain bat speed is to swing a heavy bat. That means maybe 50 or 100 times a day go out in the back yard with the heaviest bat you can find and swing as hard as you can. Gene Stevens at Wichita State (a great baseball program) used to tell young players to take 100 dry hacks every single day! It seems like a lot but only takes 5 minutes and could set your kid apart from the pack!

Other recommended ways for young baseball players to gain muscle are: adjustable hand grippers, push ups, wall sits, and planks.



#3 Play More Ball

“Practice makes perfect” – Vince Lombardi

Listen to Bryce Harper when he is in High School talk about how many games he played when he was growing up, the number will shock you. This is one of the greatest guys in the game right now, maybe a future Hall of Famer! And he is saying that he got good because of how often he played! WOW.

As a current D1 baseball player I can tell you that you get better every single time you lace up those cleats. Parents, think about how easy it is to brush your teeth in the morning. That is because you have done it so many times that it starts to become “routine.” This concept is huge in baseball! Get him 100 live ground balls in a game and watch how routine he starts to make it look.

This is why we practice for so long in division 1, and why we play so many games during the offseason!



In football, practice makes perfect. But in baseball practice makes routine. And being able to make things routine is how you become a great baseball player. trust me I play with them every single day!

Routine it, play more baseball.

– Authors: Anonynous 1 & 2 (For NCAA reasons)

American Baseball Camps was created to make baseball fun again! It is ran by Division 1 players who know that having fun will heighten self- esteem and make kids play better on the field. Our camps feature slip n’ slide wiffle ball, pitching dunk tank, and campers’ choice baseball drills! Camps are in Tulsa, Wichita, OKC, KC, Tahlequah, Phoenix, Dallas, and Wilmington.

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