Youth Baseball Advice — How To Run A Great Practice

Apr 15, 2019 by Nick Rotola CEO of American Baseball Camps in  baseball camps Uncategorized Youth Baseball Advice

How To Run A Great Practice

On our trek across the country with American Baseball Camps we have learned that many kids aren’t getting any better at their practices. Smart baseball parents are seeking out teams that run legitimate practices where their kid can actually get better, and I don’t blame them.

One of the worst practice stories we heard was in Tahlequah Oklahoma. A dad told me that at his kid’s practices the coach would put everyone in a group in the outfield and hit fly-balls and whoever catches it, catches it. This is similar to a game we used to play as kids called “500” but it certainly isn’t an entire practice!

This how-to guide on running a great practice is based on 20 years of good baseball experience, extensive research, and being a veteran player at one of the top D1 Baseball Programs in the country.

The Warmup

About ten years ago sports scientists realized that there is a more efficient way to warm-up than to just static stretch and count to ten. It is recommended to run kids through a “dynamic warmup” before practice and that “static stretch,” that you may be familiar with, after practice.



Here’s a quick example of a good dynamic warmup, it works best in two lines starting on the outfield foul line:

  • jog 45 feet, jog back
  • shuffle 45 feet, shuffle back
  • karaoke 45 feet, karaoke back
  • high knees 45 feet, high knees back
  • butt kicks 45 feet, butt kicks back
  • walking quad stretch 45 feet, walking quad stretch back
  • leg swings 45 feet, leg swings back
  • skipping leg swings 45 feet, skipping leg swings back
  • lunges, side lunges 45 feet, jog back
  • sprint 45 feet, sprint back

Upper Body Stretch:

  • small arm circles forward, big arm circles forward
  • small arm circles backwards, big arm circles backwards
  • shoulder stretch across
  • tricep stretch
  • arm swings high to behind you (bicep stretch)
  • rotator cuff stretch on the ground (lay on your throwing arm side put arm at 90 degree angle and push hand down towards the ground).

Play Catch

When they play catch remind them to take it seriously. You cannot win in baseball if you can’t play catch. Teach them the catch game to keep them locked in. If you hit them in the chest 3 points, hit them in the face 2 points, hit them in the arms or legs 1 point. Front elbow should be up and pointing towards where you want to throw it when you are playing catch.

*Water break*

On Field BP with the Rest of The Teams Taking Live Reps

BP on the field is a great way to see the results of your batting practice. It also gives the fielders a chance to take live reps off the bat if you do it right. Split your team into 4 groups of 3 (lets say you have 12 for the example). When 1 group hits, the other 9 players are in the field taking live reps off their teammates hitting, or fungos from a coach. Coaches stand adjacent to home plate. The coach on the 3rd base side hits fungos to the first baseman and the shortstop. The coach on the 1st base side hits fungos to the 3rd baseman and 2nd baseman. You need to wait and hit them in between pitches so that kids don’t have to field the fungo and the live grounder at the same time. Mix in some fly balls for the outfielders if they aren’t getting much action live off the bat.



*Water break*

Drill Circuit

Don’t have the whole team running one drill at one time, try to have coaches running simultaneous drills and just have the players rotate. It’s important to be efficient with your practice time. Below we have listed some drills to choose from that we like that we think could make young players a lot better:

  • Rundown drill with a baserunner
  • Pitcher fielding practice
  • Double plays
  • Short hops drill for infielders
  • Quarterback drill (over the shoulder catches)
  • 4 corners drill
  • Around the bucket drill (for infielders to take the right path to the ball)
  • Blocking drill
  • Bare handed ground balls
  • Bare handed receiving practice (catchers)
  • Pickoffs
  • Up the middle drill
  • Soft toss
  • Bunt defense
  • Throwing to second (catcher and middle infielders)
  • ESPN top ten drill
  • Double cuts drill
  • Robbing home runs drill

A good practice is all about getting the player a lot of good reps in a short amount of time. Players will get burnt out if they are out there all day so try to keep a practice around an hour and a half to two hours.

Make everything a game – I was doing a hitting lesson with a kid and was telling him to try to hit the back net of the cage and drive the ball up the middle. He kept pulling everything, he didn’t hit the back net once. Then when I created a game where hitting the L-Screen was 1 point and the back net was 2 points – he took off. Next thing I knew he was saying “I’m gonna get to 20”. Kids respond well to games and challenges, so try to use those to your advantage. If anything they just promote focus and induce competition.

Treat them like studs and they’ll start acting like it – My career took off when I found a coach that treated me like I was better than I really was. You’d be surprised, treat a player like he’s better than he’s playing and he’ll rise to the occasion

Encourage & support – This generation can’t be coached the same way that you were coached growing up. The drill sergeant makes them run till they puke stuff just isn’t needed. These kids are smart and if you treat them with respect, they’ll treat you with it in return. Every player isn’t created equal — you have to coach to your team. Know your players and coach them accordingly.

– Blog was written by a group of older D1 Baseball Players that have chosen to remain anonymous for NCAA reasons.




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.

 

 

 




The “X FACTOR” In Youth Baseball

Apr 17, 2019

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

Shop Upcoming Youth Baseball Camps (Ages 6-12)

American Baseball Camps Home Page




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

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment *