The “X FACTOR” In Youth Baseball

Apr 17, 2019 by Nick Rotola CEO of American Baseball Camps in  baseball camps Youth Baseball Advice Youth Baseball Coach

The Prepared vs. The Unprepared

I was working on hitting with a 6 year old kid the other day. Just as a favor, one of our family friends asked me to work with her boy. This kid plays t-ball in Oklahoma and is a pretty good little player.

But as I was tossing the ball to him he kept swinging and missing. He said with the utmost confidence “I can’t do it”, even though he ended up foul tipping it, and then connecting with one a few tosses later.

It occurred to me that this particular kid, who is a pretty good player, had never attempted to hit a baseball that wasn’t on a tee! In fact, I’m not so sure he had ever practiced outside of baseball practice. This is what we are going to call the under-prepared player, and he is placed in a severe disadvantage.

On my circuit around the state talking with Youth Baseball Coaches about American Baseball Camps, I overheard a certain coach talking to his 7U team. He was cancelling practice for the next day because he didn’t want the kids to get sick with the cold-front (the forecast was 60 degrees).

This encounter helped me realize that the X FACTOR in youth baseball is getting better outside of organized baseball. You cannot rely on your 9 year old kid’s coach to develop him fully as a player. My friends’ kid practices maybe once or twice before the season, and then plays one game a week. I’m telling you, if your kid is only playing baseball when he has his uniform on, and mom is taking pictures, he is going to have a tough time being great.

When I was 3 years old, and this can be proven with video, I asked for & hit in a batting cage throwing 36 miles per hour. What kind of a 3 year old asks to do that on his birthday? This is because I grew up around baseball, I watched my brothers play, I watched my dad coach, and I was hungry to play! I played all the time, I threw the ball up to myself, and threw into a net when I didn’t have anyone to play catch with. I was always playing wiffle ball, and watching my brothers’ games. Do you think by the time I was 6 I didn’t believe in myself that I could hit a ball tossed to me? No I was the kid saying “I’m going to smoke this ball.”

The difference in baseball environments between myself and the aforementioned 6 year old is what I believe to be the X FACTOR in Youth Baseball. It is what can set your kid apart from the pack.

To demonstrate this further lets take two kids and you decide which one will be the dominant player on his team.

Player #1

Signs up for t-ball and is excited for his first practice.

Practices a couple times before his first game and spends approximately 1.5 hours a week playing.

Mom leaves his glove and bat in the car until the next game

Player #2

Signs up for t-ball with a comprehensive understanding of the game and how it works. Including an understanding of the force out rule.

Practices almost if-not everyday with friends or family in the backyard with a bat and a ball, or a broomstick and a tennis ball, anything they can get their hands on.

Sleeps with his glove on his nightstand, loves to play catch and have dad hit him ground balls and fly-balls in the backyard

The Highest Probability of Success

What I am saying is not that player #1 will never be successful, or that parents need to drill their kid to be like player #2. My point is that baseball is a sport that requires “reps.” Why do division 1 shortstops take 100 ground balls a day? Because it makes it so easy by the time they get one in the game that it becomes routine. It takes practice to become a great baseball player, you can’t just show up and rely on athleticism.

Baseball is a beautiful sport because it is proven that a kid that gets more reps outside of baseball will be better than a more athletic kid that doesn’t understand or practice the game.

You can’t make a kid love a sport, and you don’t want to be that baseball parent that is resented for trying to force work-ethic. But you can certainly help cultivate a baseball environment at home. Your kid will never be great if he is only doing baseball things at the field twice a week, with a practice every other.

The kids that have a passion for the game have been and always will be the best.

That is the X FACTOR in youth baseball, getting extra baseball reps outside of baseball practice/games.

“Those that fail to prepare are preparing to fail” – Ben Frankin

 

– Guest Author: Nick Rotola Professional Baseball Player

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American Baseball Camps — Three Reasons Hitters Must Make Adjustments

Apr 01, 2019

Why should baseball players make adjustments?

Let’s start with a story, because stories help people remember things.

Let’s take Jose Bautista for example, he’s not the only one that made a crucial adjustment, but lets just use him as our example.

#3 Jose Bautista’s career changing adjustment

This picture was taken during Joey Batts’ infamous home run and bat flip in game 5 of the ALDS. Now let’s talk about his journey and the adjustments that got him to where he is now.

Between 2004 & 2009 Jose Bautista was traded and moved around and never hit more than 16 home runs in a season. He was never a special player.

Until 2011.

When Jose Bautista went from dud to stud hitting 54 home runs when the next highest in the league was 40. He followed this up the next year by hitting 43 in 2011.

So what was the switch? What did he do to as the New York times put it “start putting up Babe Ruth numbers circa 1927.”

His adjustment was to start his swing earlier and easier. He made a conscious decision to relax more and start his leg kick earlier. He was starting so late that in order for him to be on time he had to be quick. Starting earlier and easier helped him to relax his hands and pick up off speed pitches better. Being quick and late with your swing makes you tend to tense up and struggle picking up off-speed.

He had heard coaches tell him this adjustment lots of times during his career but he said it wants until he actually practically made changes and watched video that he was able to make the change.

#2 Hall-of-Fame advice

Check out this video of three great hitters talking hitting and the importance of adjustments in baseball:

#3 A bad plan/approach will always be a bad plan/approach

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. That is kind of how hitting without adjustments can be. If you are a young player, and you don’t make adjustments to your approach or swing, you just may drive yourself nuts in this game.

It’s not fair to yourself in a game dictated by numbers to not give yourself the best chance for success every time you step up to the plate. There is no reason to just keep going to the plate with the same plan that has been giving you frustrating results.

Your ability to make adjustments can make or break you in this game. And you’ll have a lot more fun playing this beautiful game if you can do it.

 

– Author Anonymous (The NCAA doesn’t allow me to disclose which historic baseball program I play for)

 

Blog posts provided by American Baseball Camps – the first camp with primary instruction from active D1 players. ABC’s mission is to make baseball fun again! They do this by providing the most fun baseball camp in America where they encourage players to have fun and help them to play their best. Summer fun camps are coed, and for kids ages 12 and under. They feature slip n’ slide wiffle ball, pitching dunk tanks, and many many more fun baseball games and drills.

 

 

 

Youth Baseball Tips: 3 Practical Ways to Get Better

Apr 06, 2019

Visualize Yourself Being Successful

According to one of our favorite pieces of research the mind cannot distinguish between real and imaginary in sports. Another study we have found links how you perceive the ball when you hit to success. Those more familiar with success viewed the ball as bigger, and therefore hit better.

We are seeing that perception and reality are often treated the same by the mind. In other words, trick your mind by imagining yourself having success at the plate, then see the ball as bigger because you are familiar with that success, and hit better! You also will become more comfortable in situations that you have “already been in.” Why are older guys so much more comfortable when they play? They’ve played more. You want your kid to be more comfortable at the plate right? Have him hit 3 times more often by imagining himself in the box, and being successful.

I don’t know why more people don’t try this it is easier than it looks. Just have your youth baseball player when he’s laying in bed at night, or right before an at-bat, close his eyes & visualize driving the ball into the gap, or driving the ball the other way, or bunting for a hit. Wherever he needs to improve, teach him to visualize it, and he’ll be able to do it.

Play Up & Play A Lot

For this one we are going to use a well known example and a personal example. The well known is Bryce Harper. Bryce, like many big leaguers, played up growing up. His parents started him in t-ball at age 3 on his older brother Bryan’s team. Bryce continued to develop up to the age he was playing even into HS when he skipped his Junior year of HS, took the GED, and played up with his brother again at the College of Southern Nevada. In a rare interview with ESPN, while in HS, Bryce Harper and his parents attribute much of his success to playing up and to playing hundreds of games a year.

My personal example is Tampa Bay Rays Cather Derek Norris. This guy was coached by my dad in Wichita and played up his entire life. He played two years up with his older brother Nathan. Derek was always a really good player but never really stood out from the bunch, until he got to HS and played with kids his own age. Derek went on to become a HS phenom whom got drafted in the fourth round.

Have More Fun

Many of the guys I’ve played with at the Division 1 level have said that “baseball isn’t fun anymore with their head coach” and almost in the breath they say “we had the talent but had a terrible year.” Compare that to a team like Oral Roberts where I play, with a players coach that encourages fun at the field (as long as you’re still focused) and you see that we have a very successful program. I am telling you players play better when they have fun.

The moment that baseball becomes more about pleasing parents, or pleasing coaches, a kid loses interest. Make his practices fun, make his games fun, and make his tournament experiences fun. We’ve noticed with American Baseball Camps that kids don’t even notice they are getting really quality reps in and getting better when we make the games and drills as fun as possible. Make baseball fun again, and your kid is going to perform a lot better. This is confirmed by research from changing the game project.

 

– Blog written by ABC Founder Nick Rotola. American Baseball Camps offers baseball camps all across the US. View their Baseball Camps Page, or visit their American Baseball Camps Home Page.

5 Things You Must Do To Play Division 1 Baseball

American Baseball Camps — 5 Things You Must Do To Play Division 1 Baseball

Apr 19, 2019

Everyone wants to play D1 baseball; only 1% of high school players will go on to play at D1 programs. Want to be part of that 1%? Below are five things that we have indicated as current D1 baseball players that can set you apart from the pack.

 

1. Staying Even Keel

 

Everybody knows that kid growing up who slams his helmet when he gets out and no matter how the team is doing he is upset if he isn’t playing well. This type of selfishness doesn’t work at the Division 1 level.

Besides your parents and some of your close friends, no one is concerned with the type of game you have, scouts and D1 coaches want winners that stay even keel no matter the situation.

I’ve seen guys who were drafted lower then they were projected or not get drafted at all because they can’t keep their composure when it hits the fan. In D1 baseball you will fail and coaches and recruiters will know that.

So if you want to play at that level, you have to figure out how to be that guy that doesn’t let things spiral out of control after an 0-4 game. Be a gamer and try to be the same guy day in and day out.

 

2. Physicality/ Looking the Part

 

In Junior College, I was putting up ridiculous numbers. When I would ask the scouts what I was doing wrong and why I hadn’t been drafted, they all said that I needed to put on 20-25 pounds.

Size not only tells D1 and pro scouts that you are strong, but it also tells them that you will be durable down the stretch. Don’t let size be the reason you don’t go D1. Don’t say “I can’t put on weight,” I don’t know how many guys (including myself) that said that over their career but are now 200 pounds. Watch the D1 players on TV, if they are 20-30 pounds heavier than you then you need to step up physically and it can be done.

Obviously, this will vary depending on your height, but this is a general weight and body fat percentage that D1 players play at for each position.

Corner INF 200lb-2351b  12-15%

MIF 180lb-195lb  8-11%

Speed OF 180lb-195lb  7-10%

Power OF 200lb-225lb  12-15%

Catcher 205lb-230lb  12-15%

Pitchers Finesse Arm 180lb-205lb 10-13%

Pitchers Power Arm 200lb-230lb  13-17%

 

3. Play to Your Strengths

 

If you are reading this article, then you have expectations of playing D1 baseball. If you think that you can get to that level, then you are doing something right.

You are probably playing well and are one of the best guys on your high school or club team. To play at the D1 level you will have to play to your strengths. Be realistic about the type of player you are and don’t deviate from your strengths.

Think about what your strengths and your weaknesses are; play to your strengths and hide your weaknesses. If your a guy who can really run then work at-bats, get on base and steal bags. Also, teach yourself to bunt.

D1 coaches love a fast guy that can drag; it will boost your average. If you are a power guy, look to strike out less and get your pitch. When you get it, let it eat. If you are good with the glove, don’t big league your ground balls between innings.

D1 coaches are always watching and that could be your one chance to show how good you are with the glove.

 

4. Be a Student of the Game

 

This is one of the best ways to develop what we call in D1 baseball “feel.” You can learn a lot from watching baseball.

Find your guy on YouTube that is at your position or is a similar hitter as your and model your game after them. Watch your teammates at-bats and learn what the pitcher is doing; pick up patterns. Guys think they have four at-bats per game, but they actually 30+ at-bats if they are watching while their buddies are hitting.

You can learn a lot from watching the guys in front of you and finding tendencies. If you can pick up on pitchers tendencies you will steal more bags, you’ll put up better numbers at the plate, and you will stay locked in while other guys are losing focus and giving away at-bats.

 

5. Surround Yourself with The Right People

 

The best way to make good friends in baseball is being a good teammate. Surrounding yourself with good friends that share the same passion for the game will help you through the ups and downs of baseball.

Have a good lifting partner that will encourage you to get better and stronger in the weight room. Have a buddy you can go and hit with if you want to work on your swing.

Have a good throwing partner that takes a simple thing such as playing catch seriously. If you are reading this article you are likely a in the top of your lineup.

Surround yourself with the guys hitting around; this will keep you comfortable during games. Develop accountability partners that will keep you from spiraling out of control.

Surrounding yourself with good people is the best way to better yourself while still having fun at the yard. It won’t be the hits or the home runs that you remember, it will be the people and the relationships you made along the way.

 

Authors: Anonymous 1 and 2 (for NCAA reasons)

 

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Why do we do what we do? With 72% of youth baseball players quitting by age 13 – American Baseball Camps came on to the scene in 2015 to help young players fall in love with the game and to “get better & gain confidence.” We do this with baseball camps all over the US including but not limited to: baseball camps in Benbrook Texas, baseball camps in Oklahoma City/Choctaw Oklahoma, baseball camps in Citrus Heights California, baseball camps in Hackensack New Jersey, baseball camps in Kansas City Missouri, baseball camps in Kissimmee Florida, baseball camps in Norton Massachusetts, baseball camps in Peachtree City Georgia, baseball camps in St Louis Missouri, baseball camps in Topeka Kansas, baseball camps in Tulsa Oklahoma, baseball camps in West Covina California, baseball camps in Wichita Kansas, baseball camps in Phoenix Arizona, baseball camps in Milwaukee Wisconsin, baseball camps in Columbia South Carolina.

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