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.




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)

 

Though this blog was beneficial? please share on FB and like us on FB & Instagram! Have a younger brother or son ages 6-12? Check out our Youth Baseball Camps!

 

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.




How To Walk To The Plate With Confidence

Youth Baseball Advice: How To Walk To The Plate With Confidence

Apr 17, 2019

 

Confidence. Confidence. Confidence. Many talk about how important it is in youth baseball, but few youth baseball players have it! We lay out in this brief blog a few simple things to instill in your kid to give him tremendous confidence at the plate. Sometimes the smallest mental adjustments can make the biggest difference in youth baseball.

 

“The expert in everything was once a beginner.”

 

Step #1: Remember The Good, Forget The Bad

When a kid is hitting well he usually continues to build confidence as he does so. This is why you should reminisce about great at-bats. Remembering yourself being successful can be a great tool as you are on the on-deck circle.

This is one of the best ways to quickly build a kid’s confidence, just remind him of his last great at-bat. On the contrary, bad at-bats can do the same for a kid negatively.

Those are the at-bats you’ll have to encourage him to forget about. That is such an important thing to teach your kid about his at-bats; remember the good ones, and forget the bad ones.

“You have to have a short memory. Learn from your failures, but don’t sit around worrying about them.”  – Derek Jeter



 

Step #2: Walk To The Plate With Your Chest Out

Confidence is something that a kid can control if he really wanted to. One of the best ways to get him to feel that feeling of confidence is to teach him to walk with it. Have him grab the barrel of the bat and walk to the plate like he’s got the biggest chest on the field.

It is scientifically proven that good posture can boost confidence and that being confident can boost confidence. Have him do both every time he walks to the plate and we guarantee you he’ll hit better!

 

Step #3: Be Fearless

No matter how small or skinny your youth baseball player is, you can teach him to be fearless at the plate. There is no reason you should ever give the opposing pitcher any credit when talking to your son.

If your kid is 8, let him know that he can hit any 8-year old in the country. Look at the worst kids in youth sports, they probably all have one thing in common, fear. Fear can kill a young ballplayers mindset and it should be avoided at all costs.

Speak positive things to your young ballplayer, and never give an opposing pitcher too much credit, your kid can hit him if he’s fearless I promise!

 

Step #4: Have A Routine At The Plate

You’ve seen all the big league guys, they do the same things and they have the same rituals every time they step into the batters box. There is a reason they do this, it builds confidence and adds a level of consistency and comfort.

Baseball players play the best and hit the best when things feel routine. Nothing is more routine than doing the same thing every time you step into the box.

So whether your kids’ thing is to spit on his batting gloves or dig into the back corner of the box, encourage him to do the same thing every time. When things become routine, they become easier.



 

Step #5: Visualize Success

This last one is the best because it can be done at any time of day, even outside of baseball. Teach your kid to visualize positive outcomes in his spare time. Your brain can’t distinguish the “imagined home-runs” for example from the “real home-runs.”

What that means is that eventually it can feel like your kid has done it before and the brain tricks the muscles into feeling like they can do it easily. I remember sitting on the bench before an at-bat, visualizing myself hitting a double in the gap, and then going out there and doing it first pitch.

I’ll tell you what, visualizing success in baseball works! I wish I would have known about it when I was 10 or so like many of your kids!

 

– Guest Author: Nick Rotola Professional Baseball Player

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Youth Baseball Tips — How To Bargain Shop Baseball Gear

Apr 17, 2019

Baseball is expensive, put more of your money into tournaments and camps that will make your kid better and less into gear with these savvy baseball shopping tips.

#1 Dick’s Sporting Goods — Online Clearance Opportunities

In 2016 Dick’s Sporting Goods announced its plan to build additional distribution centers across the US. They’re doing this because sporting goods like baseball equipment only sell in season. When they’re not selling particularly well (like right now for baseball) they are just burning holes in their distrubution center shelves as they are hoping to fill them with more in-season gear (like football right now). They need to get this baseball stuff out, that is why their clearance selection is so large right now during “baseball limbo.”

Here is a screen shot of some of their top bats on clearance:

Here is a direct link to shop Dick’s Clearance Bat Selection

The first one, the Easton Mako Torq for $199, that bat was $399 at one point. I’m telling you buy them clearance.



*Here’s another tip* – The college guys, we get to test these new bats, we velocity test them, bat speed, the whole nine yards. What do we learn? THERE IS NOTHING BETTER ABOUT THE BRAND NEW MODEL. In fact, many of the 3 year old bats have more pop because they’re broken in. If you watch the CWS (which is the best players in the world still swinging medal bats), many of them are using models from 2 and 3 years ago. They aren’t improving year to year, just new branding. So buy one that’s a couple years older, and let him use it for a couple of years so it fully breaks in.

#2 Baseball Savings — A Great Option For Gloves

First of all, don’t get your kid a new glove if he’s comfortable with the one he’s got right now. There’s a famous story about Dustin Pedroia (2nd Baseman for the Red Sox) when he was at Arizona State. Glove company Wilson came in and gave everyone on the team a brand new glove with their name on it and everything with only one stipulation, you had to wear it in games. Dustin wouldn’t do it. He was ASU’s starting SS and he had been using the same glove since he was 11 years old. ASU’s glove contract with Wilson survived, but it tells us something interesting about gloves. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BUY ONE EVERY YEAR. In fact, if you look at the best fielders on your kids’ team, they’re probably all using gloves they feel really comfortable with. Comfort is everything with gloves. Most of the time that means finding one that you like, and sticking with it for a long time.

Below we have selected a cheap an expensive glove option from Baseball Savings. I think they’ll both work great and hopefully your kid sticks with them for 4 or 5 years. After the 2 year mark is when you really fall in love with a glove. If you notice, both of these gloves are Rawlings. We think its the best leather, and if you look at the big league infielders, most of them use Rawlings. The big difference between these two great gloves is the leather. The cheap option here is a nice “I-Web” glove that is going to be good for a long time. The expensive option here is the “Pro Preferred” model and its a “Trapeze-Web”. This is one of the most famous shortstop gloves of all time. A lot of pros like this glove. Both of these gloves are 11.5 inch which is for a shortstop or second baseman. Third baseman traditionally use an 11.75 inch glove, and outfielders a 12.75 inch glove.

Cheap Option                                                                                        Expensive Option

                                                 

Link to this option                                                                               Link to this option



#3 Get New Balance Cleats — Most Comfortable & Last The Longest

Many of the College teams are switching over to New Balance cleats because the players are asking for them. These things are crazy comfortable and they last a long time. Cleats may be something you have to buy every year depending on your kids’ playing style, but these have the best chance to last you 2 or 3 years. Here is a screenshot of a good, low, molded cleat.

Link to these cleats

 

These recommendation were based on several hours of research and years of experience at the D1 level.

– Guest Author: Nick Rotola Professional Baseball Player

Shop Upcoming Youth Baseball Camps (Ages 6-12)

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