Monthly Archives: June 2014

Batting Prowess: What it takes to be a Consistent Major League Hitter.

Ted Williams - Power&SpeedTed Williams' follow throughTedWilliamsShortSwing3

Ted Williams said it best for all of us who have ever played the game of Baseball, as well as participated in other forms of athletics, “hitting a baseball is the single-most difficult thing to do in all of sports.” No other individual sport-skill encompasses the variety of challenging variables that a batter has to “put in order” to be a proficient “hitter.” williams.batIt takes physical strength, flexibility, quickness, and timing, as well as the mental attributes of courage, confidence, determination, fortitude, for even the least skilled professional to “stand-in” against a 95 M.P.H. fastball, or 85+slider. When all the off-speed multiples are added in, one might wonder why the Defense Department doesn’t make “Batting 444” a pre-requisite for the highest combat-training courses.

Now, to become an outstanding hitter, an individual must develop all the aforementioned characteristics, as well as ascribe to a technique of proper mechanics which facilitates the most probable means of making solid contact with a pitched baseball. And, of course solid contact would have to involve more than just striking the ball squarely with the bat! A player could hit the ball squarely off the bat, and merely hit a bouncing ball or even a hard ground ball to an infielder for a sure out. Michael jordan 1michael-jordan 3And sometimes he could hit a ball squarely, and launch a towering “pop-up,” or “hook” a wicked foul-ball.Matt Kemp 16Matt Kemp 10Matt Kemp 2

However, a “good hitter” is not merely one who makes solid contact with the ball. But rather, he is a batter whose body mechanics facilitate the action of the swinging bat to contact and continue through the ball at an angle that provides for a straight (non-hooking or slicing) and ascending “line-drive.” The “Art” of hitting a baseball could certainly be defined in the context of describing the ideal hitter– “He is one whose bat most consistently contacts and drives through the ball in a manner that facilitates a straight and ascending “line-drive.”(To hit the ball in any other manner would be to miss-hit it.)Sporting News MLB Baseball CollectionTedWilliamsShortSwing2

Ted Williams must have been speaking for the Superlative degree when he made his famous, yet arguable, declaration that “Hitting a baseball is the single-most difficult thing to do in all of Sports.” Just hitting the pitched ball is not that difficult to do; hitting it with authority is what is difficult! Because of the myriad challenges a batter has to surmount while encountering the diminutive, ballistic (and frequently volatile), compressed, spherical projectile, most dispassionate and well-rounded athletes would agree that making solid and forceful contact with a bat to a pitched ball takes extraordinary, and nearly uncanny, skill.

The best hitters in Baseball either consciously, or unconsciously, ascribed to sound basics principles in their batting application. But even they should aspire to diminish the substandard quotient for presumable batting excellence, by eliminating those margins for error which plague every erstwhile (but ignorant) proponent for exceeding the 40percentile range of batting efficiency.Joe Morgan1Cincinnati Reds v Houston Astros

Two basic ideas have to be present in the thought of every batter as he contemplates the proper batting technique. First, he must fully realize the fact that every pitch is moving in a downward trajectory.An intelligent approach to the ball would obviously have to incorporate body movement that would facilitate the flight action of the bat to be one in a slightly upward direction as it is contacting the ball on a line as close to 180 degrees as possible. Second, optimal viewing of the pitched baseball is achieved when the batter’s head is still, and eyes remain as close as possible to a parallel level of the ball, as the swing is taking place.Since it is impossible for the batter’s eyes to be at a parallel level with any pitch within the strike zone, maintaining a low stance not only provides a batter with a more advantageous accommodation for the umpire’s strike-zone, but also affords him an optimal viewing angle from which to more accurately detect the nuances (speed and direction) of the incoming ball.

There are three basic components to the practical application of the principle of effective batting: (1) Balance and Stability of Stance; (2) Security for undisturbed visual acuity; (3) Self-contained Power source.

A low center of gravity can be established by spreading the feet to the length of one’s normal stride, and bending the knees as low as can accommodate comfort and quickness. This strong base affords the batter the fastest possible reaction time for a twisting body to respond to any variation of pitched balls. One of the most prominent features of a low stance is the obvious advantage the batter has with the establishment of a smaller strike zone.

With the low-wide stance, the batter is in an “ultra-stationary” position, from which to view the pitched ball with a minimum of distortion. As a tennis player receiving serve, a catcher receiving a pitch, a shortstop receiving a throw from catcher, and a first baseman receiving low throws from infielders are bent over and down as low as they can, to see the speeding ball on as close to a parallel level to the eyes as possible, so the batter, in a low stance, views the pitched ball with most clarity.

Although Mr. Williams was nearly perfect in his understanding and application of the principles governing the absolute definition of batting prominence, he was not altogether unflawed in his actual approach to an impeccable demonstration. The closest exponent of the perfect batting technique was Barry Bonds, who, in obvious ways, superseded the brilliance that Ted Williams embodied.Barry&Ted

Barry Bonds was capable of hitting 100 home runs and batting .400 or more, because he was closer to flawless technique than anyone who has ever played the game. His strength was incontestable, his athletic ability was indisputable, his timing was nearly impeccable, and his stance, approach to the ball, and fluid mechanics were incomparable. In the few areas in which Ted Williams appeared lacking, Mr. Bonds was pronouncedly adept (especially in his adaptability to strike at the low pitch, and hitting the ball with power to the opposite field).

What was it that Barry Bonds did consistently right, that most, if not all, other batters do only sporadically? The answer is 5 separate things. They are the following:Bonds -stanceBarryBonds_bat flatBarry Bonds 11Barry Bonds 12Barry Bonds 8Barry Bonds 9Barry Bonds Follow throughBarry Bonds 1

  1. He established a strong low center of gravity while waiting for the ball.
  2. He greatly diminished the movement of his head and eyes.
  3. He waited patiently for the ball to get to him while he quietly lowered his hands to begin an unobtrusive rhythm of his arms.
  4. When the ball got to his hitting zone, 4 things happened simultaneously:

a. The front foot planted quickly and firmly—front leg straightened

  1. Front shoulder shrugged upward, while back shoulder and elbow drove downward (hands, while staying behind back shoulder, present a flat bat as the body was turning to address the pitched ball).
  2. Back bent knee drove forward and down, as hips turned rapidly
  3. The shoulders followed the hips in rapid succession with arms extending through the contact of the ball.
  4. From contact, through the straightening of arms, through the follow through, the shoulders were continuously flowing, until they (shoulders) had changed position (back to front and vice-versa).


If ever there was an “ideal” to emulate as advised by Aristotle’s Nichomachian Ethics, and to form a generic “designation” for a universal application for batting a baseball, it would have to be Barry Bonds. Consistency of batting effectiveness (efficiency in striking a baseball) had never been more highly demonstrated than by Barry Bonds, in the 2001season, as well as in 2002—2004. Throughout his Major League career, accolades were heaped upon him for what seemed like a remarkable consistency for slugging the ball better than anyone else, at least in the 1990s.barry_bonds_1992_piratesBarry Bonds Pirates 1992 (2)Barry Bonds Pirates 1992Barry Bonds Pirates 1992 (4)

It was neither strength, nor natural ability, which allowed Barry to stand out as the greatest exponent of Batting Excellence the Baseball World had ever seen. It was his masterful application of the basic fundamentals of Principle that afforded him the facility to near impeccable demonstration. He was the only hitter who came to the plate, and looked as though he should get a hit every time he swung the bat. I’m sure that even Shakespeare would exclaim, “O thou, Faithful Consistency, but by any other name, thou art Barry Bonds.” – And Einstein would concur!

Coming Soon: Is a Team Equal, or Greater, than the Sum of Its Parts? Part 1 of 3

Baseball Running

Running in Baseball:

Kid running 5baserunning8 (Baby2)rickey-henderson 6Robinson

Most athletes love to run! It’s the most productive way to get things done in sports. In Baseball, running the bases is one of the most fun and exciting parts of the game. paciorek runningSome runners are faster than others, so you might assume that the fastest are the best base-runners. As is the case in superior outfield-play, exceptional speed is a definite asset, but it doesn’t assure one of being an outstanding base-runner. The “good” or “great” base-runner is he who is determined to make something positive happen when he makes ball-contact at the plate or is already on base. His is a totally “greedy” attitude, from which resonates the obvious message that “to him belongs sole possession of each and every base he makes the effort to encounter.” When he hits a routine grounder which he immediately senses is playable by a fielder, he is already in full-sprint, hoping for even the slightest hint of a miss-play that would afford him the base by default. Fielding 3In some situations, when a fielder knows of the intensity of such runners, his thought becomes preoccupied with that aggressiveness and rushes his own actions with a resultant error. (Pete Rose and Bryce Harper are the finest examples to emulate.)

When players do the same things every day, all day long, throughout a long season, there comes a natural tendency to assume a certain mental posture on issues that seem common-place or routine. On the professional level, every player has been thoroughly “schooled” to appreciate the fact that nothing is routine — anything can happen, so expect the unexpected. When a batter hits a “routine” ground-ball to the short-stop, and just jogs to first-base because he expects the fielder to make the play and throw him out, he will no doubt incur a sharp rebuke from his coach and teammates alike if the fielder momentarily mishandles the ball and the runner is out by “a hair.”

When the “superb” base-runner receives a “base-on-balls,” he sprints to first base! Why? For the purpose of directly warming and readying his body for the new prospective confrontations (especially if he is a base-stealing threat)!

When the “great” base-runner strikes a ball for what is an obvious base-hit (to any outfield position), he automatically assumes there is a chance for two bases, and his first step out of the batter’s box is with that intent. As he is rounding first base at full stride, he is listening for his coach’s direction as well as visually contacting the outfielder and making an immediate judgment as to continue “in flight” or stop and “get-back.” If the outfielder “bobbles” the ball, the “great” runner could advance if he doesn’t lose any momentum in the process.baserunning2(round 2nd)

The “ever-aggressive” base-runner is constantly studying the pitcherRicky 6rickey-henderson 6(for clues to steal bases) as well anticipating the contact point of bat-to-ball, after the pitch, to get the best possible “jump” in order to advance, break up a double-play, or “get-back” on a “pick-off” or “line-drive. When the batter gets a base-hit to left-field with a runner on first base, the runner moves quickly to second, always anticipating an outfielder misplay. Very seldom is there a chance for the runner to advance to third, unless a “giant” mishap occurs. But when “it” occurs the great one capitalizes on it. There is always a greater chance to advance to third when a base-hit occurs to right-field or center-field.

A good base-runner never needs assistance from the third-base coach unless the ball is behind the runner, where he cannot see it. On a ball hit to center-field, the runner moving to second sees the ball in front of him. He therefore needs to decide for himself whether or not he can make it to third. Any hesitation at all will make the difference in “safe” or “out.” If a runner is on second, the runner from first must be sure the other runner is going “home.” On a ball hit to right-field, the runner on first has to be aware of five things before he can intelligently assess his chances of making it to third-base. First, he must know his own running-speed capability. Secondly, he must interpret the speed with which the ball will be getting to the outfielder (based on the quality of the hit– hard line-drive, hard ground-ball, or bouncing ball that just made it through the infield. Also, the position of the outfielder — deep or shallow?) Thirdly, he must recognize if the ball is hit directly at the outfielder, or to his right or left. Fourthly, he must know the strength and accuracy of the fielder’s arm. And finally, he should be familiar with the general disposition of the fielder (does he hustle?). These five calculations must be made at full running speed within a few seconds, but must always be preceded by a conscious thought of their possibilities. Obviously, quick thinking is equally as important as “quick feet,” in base-running of this nature. It is related that Babe Ruth was extremely adept at base-running where precision judgment of this type was required.Ruth_Babe Running1

Scoring from second on a base hit to the outfield involves the same thinking process, but relies more on help from the third-base coach. On a hit, the runner must anticipate being “sent” by the coach, and round the base at full speed, but be ready to stop if the coach abruptly changes his mind. With less than two outs, the runner gets his best “jump” on hard ground balls down the line, ground balls to the second base-man, low line-drives through the middle, and high line-drives over the shortstop or second base-man. The runner has to hesitate, with less than two outs, when the ball is hit on the ground to the third-base side, low line-drives (in the direction of a fielder), and most balls hit in the air directly toward or close to an outfielder.

When a runner is on third base, he is in a prized offensive position, especially with no outs, and can’t afford any mistake that could squander a scoring opportunity. He could score on a base-hit, fly-ball, passed ball, wild-pitch, “suicide-squeeze,” ground ball to “short or second” (if they’re playing back), or “steal-home.” Therefore, the runner must secure a “posture” that will prevent being “doubled-off” on a line-drive, as well as prepare to respond quickly to one of a few unique opportunities to score. With no outs early in the game, the short-stop and second base-man are probably playing back, while the third and first basemen are even with the bag. Any grounder to first or third, the runner will hold unless he’s quick to detect a slow “squibbler” to the far right or left of the pitcher, or a high bouncing ball off the plate, and his walking (side-shuffle) lead would allow the necessary momentum to race “Home.” A routine grounder to short or second almost automatically scores the runner, unless the ball is hit hard in a “low liner” that forces the runner to hesitate momentarily while the fielder catches the ball off the ground. When the runner hesitates, then goes, the fielder could have a play at the plate.

With one out, the runner is more aggressive. His “walking lead” covers more ground as the pitcher releases the ball. At contact, if the ball is hit on the ground, the walking momentum gives him the “jump” that will secure a score if the ball is routinely hit to second or short, or a possible score if hit slowly to first or third. Anything hit hard in the air, his first instinct is to “get-back.” If the ball is hit moderately-to-deep in the outfield, the runner will “tag-up” and score. If hit to “shallow out-field,” the runner should go part-way, anticipating a base-hit (then score quickly) since he couldn’t score on a “tag.” When “tagging,” the best of runners knows that the body doesn’t ever respond as quickly as the mind dictates, so he takes off a split second before he sees the outfielder catch the ball. This way he will be off the bag the instant the catch is actually made, thus getting the best possible “jump” on the throw.

Adept base-running calls for constant alertness, high energy, and masterful judgment. “Base-stealing” entails all three of the preceding qualities, but also includes the additional characteristic of honing the mental and physical reflexes to instantly detect and react to the first impulse that the pitcher expresses which indicates he is throwing either to the plate or to the base.

The runner must first assume the same posture that he normally does when he is leading off the base, or he runs the risk of “telegraphing” his intentions. A low center-of-gravity is requisite in order for the body to be in position to get the quickest possible jump on the pitch. When the moment to respond occurs, the runner’s feet are spread comfortably, with the right foot slightly below the left and toes pointed slightly toward the on-coming base. When the explosive burst of the first step occurs, this position makes it easier for the body to transition into running directly toward the base. It allows the hips to “open” quickly and the sprint to begin.Rickey-Henderson-1

When the runner detects the pitcher’s commitment to the “plate,” his shoulders have just “shrugged” gently upward to brace the arm sockets to facilitate quick arm action as the “burst” begins. Two things happen simultaneously at this point. The bent right leg (from buttocks down to the foot) braces itself for the first power-stride after the initial turn-pivot-thrust of the left side of body. While the right side “braces,” the left side of the body turns forcefully inward, led by a darting left shoulder along with hip and knee rotating inwardly off a pivoting left foot. At this point the body is now in a classic sprinter’s position already taking off.

The initial thrust of the left shoulder puts the bent left arm slightly ahead of the body, ready to be pulled backward as the left leg strides forward from the powerful backward thrust of the right leg. As the first stride is taking place, the body remains low for quick, but short, steps. As the body gradually rises, the strides become longer as momentum facilitates the increase of speed.

With the body now in full flight and the base coming closer into view, the runner has to decide when and how to “slide.” Very seldom does a runner not-slide in a stealing situation. To avoid injury, it is wise to predetermine “I will slide.” Therefore, he needs only to decide when and how he’s going to do it, head-first or leg-first.

bryce-harper-sliding 1sliding 10There is debate over whether it is more effective to slide head-first or legs-first. The answer is determined by the position of body as the runner approaches that critical point when the decision is imminent. When a runner gains momentum rapidly, and his upper body is still leaning forward when he reaches the “critical” stage, he is probably in a better anatomical position to slide head first, since it would take too much effort to transition to a lower body thrust for the feet to go first. The extra effort would slow him down.

However, if the body has gotten to full stride and is upright with the feet ahead of the torso, then the “leg-first” slide seems more efficient. Most people do agree that the head first slide is more hazardous to the runner’s well-being, since head, neck, fingers, arms, shoulders, as well as back come into greater jeopardy as compared to the leg-first technique. So, it is probably wiser to learn to become a proficient “leg-first” slider.sliding 1sliding 7sliding8(Ricky Henderson, Lou Brock, and Joe Morgan are the prime examples from whom all ardent students of the Art of Base-running should learn their trade!)

Coming Soon: Batting Prowess!

Infield Prowess:


infield 18infield 10Rafael+Furcal+Los+Angeles 2infield 9


The three major components in effecting the proper technique for fielding a   baseball on the infield are these: balance, vision, and power. As play is initiated, fielding readiness implies being in a low balanced position, eyes focused on the point where the ball would contact the bat, and the body responding to that instant with preliminary movement to brace himself in anticipation of the ball being hit to “him.” If it becomes evident that the play is “his,” the preliminary action sets the stage for a quick sequence of smooth, rhythmical, ballet-like movements that follow, in preparation for engaging the on-coming ball, as well as completing the play to its entirety.

An infielder establishes stability and balance to perform his task when his center of gravity is low. His ability to see the ball most clearly is determined by the extent to which his eyes are on a parallel level to the ball, and the degree to which the body and head maintain a stable vehicle for proper focus. Power is generated most effectively with the body in a stable, balanced position, from which all movements can be produced most speedily, and with a minimum strain to accompanying body parts.

Fielding 6Furcal 7San Diego Padres v St. Louis CardinalsFurcal 10

If the outfield can be a lonely place to play, the infield is just the opposite in that there is a more heightened sense of camaraderie as well as imminent expectation. Players are in close proximity to each other. They talk to one another. They communicate more easily. They don’t seem to have a great need to be highly creative; they usually have more action than they want or can handle. Rather than having to be “fast” runners, their effectiveness is determined by how “quick” they are in a confined area. They don’t cover vast territory, but must be extremely adept at moving laterally with quick bursts to handle “bullet-like” projectiles with the courage, confidence, and   agility of a “mongoose.”

Furcal 8Furcal 11Fielding 5Furcal 10

“Ballerina-like” footwork and the hand and finger dexterity of a heart surgeon typify the common physical characteristics of a professional infielder. There is one quality that no infielder can be without—Courage! All infielders have it. It’s never a case of one having more than another. It is only a question of whether or not he’ll “muster it up” consistently, on every ball hit, as evidenced in the occasional “Ole.”

The best infielders use every conceivable means to gain an advantage over the ferocious ground-ball that would like to “eat them up.” Fielding ground balls properly involves a physical procedure which runs contrary to every human instinct to self-preservation—to lean forward as low as possible to the turf while a hard hit grounder is approaching your position. It’s like going nose to nose with a rattlesnake. Now, the procedure is sound because it allows the fielder a sure tracking view from ground level.

Fielding 1Fielding 3Furcal 4Fielding 2

A tennis player returning a serve, and a batter attacking a pitched ball, understand the value of seeing the in-coming object on a parallel level. But an infielder has the added dimension of coping with the traumatic possibility that the ball could easily pop up and “bite off his nose,” loosen some teeth, or cause irreparable damage to his prospects for video endorsements.

Third and First basemen hold down positions referred to as the “hot corners.” Playing “even” with their respective bases, these two infielders are closer to the batter than any one besides the pitcher and catcher. But only the pitcher is subject to more hazardous ballistic encounters with a baseball than the third and first basemen. Since there are more right-handed batters in all of Baseball, then presumably a third baseman would be in possession of the hotter of the “hot” corners. But in general, the sense of “imminent responsibility” is the same, especially when the first baseman “holds” the runner.

While the choreography involved in fielding ground-balls amongst infielders is generally the same, there are subtle differences in “prep-time” (stance, as pitch is being delivered) between the “hot-corners” and “middle-infielders.” Time and speed are always of the essence. For obvious reasons, to be able to respond quickly at the “corners,” those fielders assume a “tunnel-vision” mentality, positioning their bodies with a low center of gravity with eyes focused at the point where the bat is likely to strike the ball to force it in their directions. The low positioning of the body is for heightened anticipation that the ball will be hit on the ground where the eyes are able to make more acute visual contact. Anything other than a solidly hit “grounder” is a welcomed sight to any infielder. The adjustment to “lined-drives” and “pop-ups” is minimal, hence nothingmuch to fear. However, much applause is heralded by all onlookers after a leaping or lunging third or first “sacker” spears a wicked “lined-shot.”infield 12jeter 16

The shortstop and second baseman can assume a more relaxed posture as the pitch is being delivered because they are farther away from the batter and have a panoramic view of the entire infield, which facilitates a surer sense of how the ball will come off the bat. If the ball is hit to either player, he quickly assumes the characteristic fielding position, body lowered and “face to the ball,” then glides through the ball while preparing to engage the “throwing mechanics.”infieldplay 3infield play5jeter 8

The rhythm which all infielders develop when learning to “attack” the infamous batted-ball is a defensive-mechanism established to preoccupy thought from petrifying with fear the mind of the inanimate body. It’s like reverse psychology! The more fearful you are, the more you must look to be fearless. Animated body parts unconsciously convey this message. No one is totally fearless, but a sense of confidence does much to deny fear its manifestation—hesitation, misjudgment, over-anxiousness, mental and physical error.

infield 19Confidence is enhanced as one becomes assured of his ability to counteract the undermining element that elicits fear. Quick reflexes of head, neck, and hands are the usual defenders against the perpetrator of fear on the infield—that little bolt of “white lightning.”

Being hit in any part of the body by a thrown or batted baseball is not an experience that most individuals anticipate with relish. In fact, there are many instances where prospective players of the “game,” from “little-league” to “college-ball,” decided to “hang-em-up” after being hit too many times (or even once). An outstanding 250 pound line-backer on a prominent college football team, who never hesitated taking on 300 pound line-men or powerful running-backs (or even a “Mack-Truck”) stopped playing baseball in high-school because he couldn’t get over the thought of being hit by that little white, 5 ounce, leather-bound projectile.infield 14jeter 11No sane person would intentionally subject himself to the continuous prospect of physical abuse unless there was a sense of tangible hope for lessening the chances of undesirable engagement. The only legitimate solution to “the dilemma” is a “skill-development” progression that affords an “inoculatory-effect” by decreasing physical intensity and promoting a build-up of resistance to the initial, overwhelming, mental effect that the image of the “Hard-Ball” projects.

Little-leagues” have increased enrollment recently by prudently affecting the density of the ball used at their lowest levels of play, to protect their youngest prospects from experiencing the debilitating trauma of hard-ball contusions that could curtail their desires to continue to learn the game. This “inoculation period” enables the players to develop the initial skills with less trepidation, and hopefully become proficient enough to counteract the effects of higher intensity in the future. Since “Fear” is what ultimately impedes progress of every sort, any tool that would lessen its effects could only be thought of as positive and promoting a better, more healthful learning environment for any of life’s endeavors (fielding ground-balls and batting included).

Ultimately, if you’re going to play Baseball you have to either overcome or cope with the fear of “ball-contact.” The “Seasoned—Veteran” has learned to “shrug it off” as merely part of the game that his sharply defined reflexes can help him cope with most of the time. The “Metaphysically-astute Veteran” seems to be able to overcome the physical trauma by denying that it has any affect on him by showing his disdain with stoic indifference.

At this point of considering the means to establishing optimal fielding prowess it may become evident that playing the game of Baseball at the highest level may not be for everyone. But the opportunity to get to that point and realize what it really takes to become a “big-leaguer” is a valuable lesson for which to hold enormous pride and appreciation for having gone through one of life’s human gauntlets that will no doubt serve one well in any of the future encounters with never ending elements of conflict.jeter 5

jeter1jeter 2JETERjeter-4


Coming Soon: Baseball Running!

Fielding Prowess: Outfield!


Knowledge of the intricate, and the understanding of elements that sustain a natural order, make it possible to simplify/clarify that which appears complex/difficult. The Principle of Fielding will awaken in every advocate of the game an easy and simple means to facilitate proper mechanics necessary to improve his/her play. Simplicity is the integration and coordination of life’s infinite array of variables within the realm of understanding. By observing, studying, and gaining an understanding of the minute details of the specific movements involved in the specialized aspects of “fielding,” an amateur athlete can gain a greater appreciation for what it takes to possibly emulate the performances of an out –  Rafael+Furcal+Los+Angeles 2Yadier 5Yankees v MarinersIchiro fielding 1standing player.

The only way to describe the best of ball-players at his position is that “he makes it look simple.” Although it is not really simple, abiding by a strict discipline of simple mechanics, the best players have perfected the techniques for their particular positions through arduous, repetitive labor, from which the human physical endeavor eventually appears effortless and instinctive.

Outfield Play

What type of player plays in the outfield? What are the qualifications for being a good outfielder? First of all, if a player is left-handed, and a fast runner, he/she is probably a good prospect for outfield! Fast, right-handed people are also good prospects for outfield positions; but they can also play infield. You don’t usually want to “waste” a speedy person at First Base, unless he has extraordinary skill there, or limited throwing capacity. An outfielder must be able to catch balls that are hit high in the air; and he must also catch them while he is running at full speed. So, if a player is a fast runner, and can catch fly-balls and “line-drives” while running full speed, and has a “good-arm,” he has a chance to become a very good outfielder, maybe a great one.

K. Griffey 3willie-mays 4clemente_fielding 2JOsh Hamilton fielding 1ichiro fielding 3Yankees v MarinersKEN GRIFFEY JR.Josh H.4


Everyone who is a professional ball-player, and is designated as an outfielder, has good speed, a “good arm,” and can catch balls that are hit in the air (as well as potential to hit for average or power). The subtle differences, that distinguish the great outfielders from the good ones, have a lot to do with certain physical attributes, such as arm strength and accuracy, as well as running speed, and a highly productive offensive capability. But, the most subtle characteristic that distinguishes the “greatest” from the “pack” is an intangible element resident in individual “temperament.”

The Outfield can be a lonely, boring place for a mind that lacks a special creativity. A player who always needs to be closer to the “action,” whose sense of alertness can be stimulated only by the prospect of imminent responsibility, would be better suited for “infield,” where fielding opportunities are more profuse. An outfielder doesn’t get that many chances during the course of a nine inning game, so he can’t afford to miss “any” opportunity to help his team. Selflessness is a key component to defining the ideal “outfielder-temperament.” He cannot hesitate to expend his energy, in any situation, even when the play is obviously not within his immediate vicinity. It is naturally expected of infielders to be under constant anticipation, when a ball is played, because of the close proximity to both the ball and the base runners. But the expenditure of energy by infielders is minimal because of the close proximity, as well as the highly motivating “imminent responsibility.”

When a ball is hit to right field, most people would think that there wouldn’t be anything for the left-fielder to do in that situation. Even in a “Big-League” game, a spectator will very seldom see the left-fielder do anything, unless that fielder happens to be one of a small percentage of players classified as “a-great-one.” Then the observer will have the opportunity to witness the creative response that characterizes the unique attitude of a great outfielder. In anticipation of the slightest chance that a mishap could occur, the left-fielder races toward the infield and positions himself in line with the throw coming to second base from the right fielder. Maybe once in 200 chances will he be involved in an errant play, but he still responds in the same manner. It would be unconscionable that a mishap should occur and he didn’t back-up the play. On every ground ball to third base or short-stop, the “great” right-fielder is always racing toward the first base dugout hoping to recover any errant throw that might get by the first base-man, to prevent an extra base for the runner. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does the “great one” is always ready. To the mind of every “great” outfielder there is something important to do on every play. It has been witnessed that, on a drag bunt toward third base with a fast runner on first, while the first and third basemen were charging, and shortstop covering second, that an ever-hustling left-fielder sprinted to third base and received credit for a put-out on the runner racing around second to third base, thinking no one was covering the bag. Anything can happen in Baseball, and the ever-thinking, creative mind of the “great” outfielder is always on the alert that “it” doesn’t happen “on his watch.” The baseball theatre is overflowing with dramatic possibilities for every situation. The “great” impresario of the outfield relishes in new and unrehearsed circumstances while the non-energetic “daisy-picker” wallows in the mental miasma of tacit mediocrity. Thus the Outfield is only a dull place for the dull mind.

To reiterate, selflessness, high energy, and ingenuity characterize the excellent outfielder. Many are called, but few are chosen, or rather willing, to become supreme in that domain. Most would presume that all “that” work would have a detrimental effect on their hitting, so they opt to merely get the job done “well-enough” so as not to embarrass themselves. Every good team has at least one great outfielder. A great team usually has more.

How and where does someone become a great outfielder? The only place to prepare to be “great” is on the practice field, both before the season begins and in pre-game batting practice during the season. Ideally the “Great One” had the good fortune of being trained properly from his youth by a knowledgeable coach. Rare!

Although the primary tool to outfield greatness is one’s mental attitude, he still has to apply himself physically to accomplish the tasks for which he is acclaimed. Two specific and crucial tasks that every outfielder tries to accomplish and for which the “great one” is most consistent in performing are: throwing out runners trying to advance to another base, and making the great running catch that everyone in the ball-park thought was a sure hit. Both situations have a common element that all outfielders aspire to develop, but only the great ones seem to have perfected, that of getting the “jump on the ball.” Some of the fastest runners in Baseball could hardly be classified as “great ones” even though their speed certainly would have qualified them as eligible prospects. “The man who gets to the ball the fastest is not always the fastest runner.” Getting the “jump” is a skill that takes practice. The only way to perfect this sensitive skill is through patient and “perfect” practice. (You can’t do it by having someone hit “fungoes” to you.) The prospective “great one” plays his position and fields balls off the bat that have been pitched, either in batting practice or in games.

Batting practice allows for more chances in shorter time. Simulated games allow for a truer sense of reaction to the pitch thrown and batter’s response. The most astute learner will apply himself with the same intensity in batting practice as in the game until this procedure becomes more than a continuous learning situation, but an established insight and infallible instinct.

What exactly is “getting the jump on the ball”? The answer is, “. . . the quickest-possible physical response by the fielder to the ball hit off the bat.” Such response is heightened by the fielder’s pre-disposed ability to “read” the type and direction of the pitch as well as the disposition of the batter to hit such pitch. The greatest of the “great” have the uncanny knack for “taking off” seemingly before the ball is hit. To catch the ball after having gotten the great jump is a marvelous feat to behold. But the added dimension of running, catching, and then throwing a runner out at second, third, or home-plate livens any arena with gasps and exhilarating chants from awestruck fans and colleagues alike.Ichiro fielding 1Ichiro fielding 2Ichiro 4

When a runner is safe or out “by a hair,” there is usually one reason, the outfielder did or did not get to the ball as fast as he could have. All things being equal (all outfielders having the same speed, strength and accuracy of arm), there is no doubt that the time in which the fielder got to the ball and scooped, positioned himself, and threw within the same continuous motion determined the outcome of the play. An outfielder is not born with this type of talent. He can only acquire it through hard work. In batting practice and game-situations, he must vigorously approach every ball hit to him through the infield as one in which he “must” throw the runner out at the “plate.” He cannot practice starting fast then slowing down as he approaches the ball.

Only “Perfect” practice makes “Perfect.” He must strive to attain the most proficient “knack” for “scooping” at full speed, then manipulate his body to be able to throw powerfully and accurately (he doesn’t have to throw the ball each time—just get the body in position to throw). Half-hearted efforts will never help to attain the full status of “the great one.” It had been witnessed that a “once great” outfielder who, for all extensive purposes, had lost a major portion of his arm strength but was a master at charging ground balls hit through the infield with a runner at second base, was so adept at this facet of his trade that, since he was so close to the infield when he picked up the ball, no third base coach felt confident to send the runner, even though “they” all knew he couldn’t throw. The beauty of Baseball is that anyone can develop any of the specific skills of the game through hard work. And mental adroitness can enhance the sense of greatness even in those individuals without the best of natural ability.

Coming Soon: Infield Prowess!

A Star is “Born” in High School!

Although the Star Athlete (Ball-player) is born in High School, he/she is “conceived” in formative years and is nurtured by parents and preliminary advocates to a point where the germination process is about to be concluded and left in the hands of a supposedly competent  and respectable practitioner of higher mentoring – The High School Coach.Coaching 1Coaching 2jeter18

When the gestation period is over, and the rising star is about to make his illustrious debut into the clamoring “cosmos” of high school sports (baseball),  he’d better be prepared to encounter the visage of either a benevolent and “self-effacing” master of “Allowing,” Coaching - Adams2or a “tyrannical” dictator of inflexible personal intent. coaching 3Or maybe something in between! coaching 9In any case, such prospect’s first characteristic demeanor must be one of “appreciation” for the opportunity to participate on the “team” – if he expects to make a positive mental impression upon the coach he expects to impress with his physical attributes. The High School coach is of great value or he is a detriment to a star athlete’s quest to become a Big League player.

The greatest value of a high school baseball coach is two-fold:

1. To create an environment, physical and mental, that would afford himself and his team the best opportunities to perform at their highest collective level.

2. To allow each player on the team every opportunity  to pursue the course of action best suited to his individual abilities in preparation for exerting his maximum effort in achieving highest acclaim possible for the prospect of eventually becoming a professional ball-player.

I believe that any athlete who is good enough to make his High School Baseball Team has done so because of his love of/for the game. He has dedicated himself thus far without the benefit of expert instruction that could further enhance the achievement of his object of excellence. Such an individual should continue to strive toward his ultimate goal of playing professional baseball.

In the seemingly unified “Field” of Baseball there are a multitude of “field-oriented” designations that comprise the scope of the ultimate baseball experience. These designations are aspects integral to the developing of an individual baseball player as well as defining the quality of the team on which each player performs. The designations for which all prospects to baseball success must apply themselves are the following:

  1. Throwing
  2. Fielding
  3. Batting
  4. Running

For each of the preceding “field-designations” there can be listed specific categories about which certain techniques for applying skills are incorporated relative to the “position” at which the particular player is performing his primary function. When a casual spectator wanders onto, or near, a “sandlot” field or park, and witnesses the action of a group of “ball-players” throwing a baseball, he doesn’t usually think too intensely on the proficiency level of those “throwers” of the ball. But an astute aficionado of the game of Baseball would surely recognize even the mechanical facilitation of a good throwing arm from a poor one, and the relative impact it would have at the fielding position of the thrower.

Each of the nine defensive positions on the baseball field has its own criterion for a range of competency to determine the proficiency of throwing effectiveness by those aspiring to maximum fielding prowess.  A player must be capable of throwing at least at the “minimum” range of competency, in order to marginally succeed at his given position.

But what determines “full-competency” in throwing a baseball?San Diego Padres v St. Louis Cardinalsjeter 13

Beyond strength and natural ability, “mechanics” is the most crucial aspect for all the “field-designations” within the singular Field of Baseball ( It is mechanical correctness that determines maximum proficiency for throwing (including Pitching), batting, fielding, as well as running – to attain one’s own best level). Mechanical understanding of how one’s  body can be manipulated to exact the maximum force necessary to control the throwing, batting, and fielding of the baseball with optimum efficiency and power should be foremost in the mind of any player desiring to achieve his own best effort. And there are aspects of running that take into account the mechanical advantage that understanding and application foster for those who would improve speed and agility. For the purpose of initiating discussion on implementation of a “rationale” for coaching and building a successful baseball team, let’s begin with the mechanical correctness in throwing a baseball.

Throwing a Baseball

Nothing happens in a baseball game until after the first pitch is thrown. Throwing a baseball, then, seems to be a very important part of the game. In fact, Pitchers (and Power-Hitters) are considered the most prominent characters in the game. The ability to throw the ball hard and far evokes a mythical aggrandizement from which legends are made.

What is it that enables one individual to throw harder and farther than another? Are some people blessed with natural ability to throw better than others? It’s hard to say when and how an individual developed certain physical characteristics associated with strength, or whether he acquired some unusual pre-natal condition that facilitated an accentuated leverage point, to produce a greater aptitude for throwing! But two things are certain: it has been observed countless times, that the seemingly “gifted” athlete cannot reach his/her full potential unless the proper body-mechanics are employed; and the “not-so-gifted” sometimes attains a higher level of success with intellectual astuteness and the utilization of proper body-mechanics.

It is common to evaluate a player’s throwing ability by saying, “. . . he/she has a strong or weak arm.” It is incorrect, though, to assume that the power of the throw is determined by the strength of the arm. The main power source for throwing is the “Body.” The arm provides only a fraction of the power.

From the coordinated precision of the movement from the feet to legs, to hips, to torso, to shoulders, to arm(s), wrist, hand, and fingers is the ultimate power registered in the “perfect throw.” Obviously, the player with the stronger body and arm, who applies the mechanics perfectly, will be more effective than the weaker player.Tanaka 4Nolan Ryan 8

The stronger the body the greater the possibility for a strong throw, as long as the application of the proper mechanics for movement of shoulder(s) and arm come into play. Unfortunately, the stronger the body the greater is the vulnerability to injury of the shoulder and elbow if the application of proper mechanics is not enforced.

If the power generated by the body is complete, the torque action of the twisting hips and torso could be too great for a shoulder and arm ill-prepared to deliver the final dimension of the throw. If the shoulder is not locked into a position of stability, to launch the (bent) arm and that (5-ounce) ball forward at the precise time, the strain of having transported the spherical object from the point of origin to destination could have a deleterious effect on the accompanying extremities.

The weight of a 5-ounce object doesn’t seem like it should have any major affect on the throwing apparatus of a strong, well-conditioned athlete. But if you think about the strain one feels in his shoulders, while merely extending the arms outwardly, away from the body, and sustaining that position for a period of time, you could see how any additional weight would accentuate the strain. Even more stress would be added, if you realize the extra force exerted on “those joints,” by the weight of the moving arm and ball.

“The farther the ball moves away from the body, as the arm is preparing to throw it, the heavier the weight will be to the strain of the shoulder (and elbow).” As the ball is being prepared for its launch from the thrower’s hand it should remain as close as possible to the “Body-Proper,” while the arm is “whipping” itself into the forward thrusting position.

(Nolan Ryan and Masahiro Tanaka are the best exponents of this “principle” as pitchers. Ichiro Suzuki is the best example as an outfielder. Raphael Furcal and Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano as infielders! And Yadier Molina, from the catching position!)Ichiro 1Yadier 2

The coordinated action of the entire body (right and left sides) provides the power for the correct arm movements to occur rapidly (and safely), and thus sustain a whip-like action to move through the “throw” like a wave of tremendous force.

On the Major League level of play, very few “Big-Leaguers” throw with flagrantly improper mechanics. Those who do, suffer the consequences. The ill-effects are usually seen in Pitchers (but not exclusively), because of tendencies to improperly apply pressure to the ball in order for it to deviate from the customary “straight-line.”

Outfielders and First – base men, whose primary focus is batting, sometimes relax their attentions to fielding and throwing technique. Throwing skills have been refined to a high level by the time a player makes it to the Major League, so the manager or coach doesn’t usually need to monitor any player’s throwing mechanics, unless a pitcher is finding himself in need, or if a catcher, outfielder, or infielder is frequently on the “D.L.” with a “bad arm.”

Therefore, at any other level of baseball, from sandlot to minor professional leagues, a manager or coach needs to constantly monitor the throwing apparatus of the players he is trying to develop. No young (or old) player can advance to the highest level if he cannot throw properly. In fact Hall-of-Famer, and two-time National League MVP, Joe Morgan, would never have even advanced to the “Big-Leagues” if he hadn’t made a considerably conscious effort to improve his “throwing” in the “Minors.”

The “Coach” at the lower levels (Sand-lots High School, and College) who aspires to lead a high-quality team must institute, establish, and reinforce a teaching/learning framework for individual development that includes a motivational apparatus for self-learning and graduated improvement. He can initiate this self-motivating course of action by first orienting his “students” in what Aristotle referred to in his Nichomachian Ethics.Coaching Adams1Coaching - Adams2

Aristotle pointed out, that, “in order to begin a study of anything that would lead to the highest understanding and demonstration of its universal verity, one must behold an example of a closest facsimile to the ideal estate, study its admirable characteristics, and extrapolate from its obvious functional proficiency a common entity by which a generic standard could be discerned, duplicated, and possibly expanded upon. Excellence in any field of human endeavor is achievable to anyone willing to devote a ‘heart and soul’ effort toward mastering the definable concomitants to successful enterprise.”

Is throwing a baseball composed of a generic component to which all prospective players could and should strictly adhere in order to properly promote the development of the correct mechanics? The most productive “throwers” of the ball, from each outfield and infield position are they whose technique is almost identical in their respective positions (at least in the “Big-Leagues”).

When an infielder is making his toughest play (one that entails his longest possible throw), he will instinctively position his body and administer his arm action in a manner similar to all Big-leaguers under similar circumstances. The most conclusive example of perfect proficiency in throwing from the outfield is that illustrated by Ichiro Suzuki in his “rookie-season” as the Mariners were playing the Oakland As.

On a base hit to Right Field, a speedy runner from first was racing his way to what he thought was going to be an “easy safe at third.” Instead, because of the magnificent display of body-control and mechanical throwing efficiency, Ichiro “gunned-down” the exasperated runner with a perfectly straight, accurate, and powerful throw—the recounting of which has been displayed on T.V. Sports Stations and Videos ever since.Ichiro fielding 1Ichiro 1Ichiro 5

Speed of “range,” competency to receive, quickness to release, strength to deliver, and accuracy to direct the ball (to the intended base) are integral in determining the optimum effectiveness of the fielder – the latter three relative to the precise dynamics of throwing mechanics. For a short-stop to make “that” throw from “deep-in-the-hole”Fielding 6San Diego Padres v St. Louis Cardinalsjeter1jeter 13, or an outfielder from right-field to third base, absolute, correct technique is mandatory. IF he doesn’t come up “throwing over the top,” but rather side-armed, the ball will likely not be there on time (unless for an extremely slow runner). The “closest distance between two points is a straight line.” Therefore, “over-the-top” will facilitate a straight line, while “side-armed” will produce a horizontal/vertical arc that will likely allow the runner to be safe!

From a close distance, a short arc is acceptable only if the infielder has no other recourse when he’s charging a slow hit ball, but to throw immediately from below as his hand touches the ball.

A coach who would portend to all his “students” that they are legitimate prospects with “Big-League” potential is more likely to get their full attention and cooperation. Along with his deployment of a sound system of fundamental skill development such a coach’s motivational proficiency will leave his players with hope and willingness to aspire to other high levels.

Too many players at the High School and College levels “Know” that they have “no chance” of becoming a “Big-Leaguer,” so why are they even on the team? Most often it is because they have always been “pretty-good,” but either never had a “good-coach” to correct their “mechanical deficiencies,” or they were too stubborn to listen to that “good-coach.”

Consequently, some coaches of mediocre teams have “stock-piles” of unmotivated students whose lack-luster performances are due to the fact that they cannot put their hearts and souls into what seem like nothing more than “High-School-Harry” heroics with merely a varsity letter for which to look forward.

In College the only difference is that some of the recruited High School “Blue-chippers” who turned down modest “Bonus-Money” from professional organizations are again the ones blatantly catered to with “pompous” disregard for fringe players who languish in virtual obscurity, left with only the “fallen scraps” from their masters’ table. Once in a while a “gutsy” individual is able to take advantage of limited opportunities and builds his own “resume” of consistent, team-oriented success until he proves to be “no-fluke,” and subsequently rises above the “crème of the crop” and provides a legacy to himself. But he probably would have had to do it himself.

The Best of coaches is he who does not “Cater” to “any one,” but rather to the collective sense of team-oriented “individual” development for all. In most (if not all) High School Programs, there is not found a single individual who looks like a “Big-League” player when he is playing catch to warm-up before practice or game.

Before each inning, while fielding ground balls from the first base-man, hardly ever is the infielder simulating the movement and throws of the professional ball-player. All because he doesn’t have a clear picture of a “Big-leaguer” in his mind! That “amateur” doesn’t see or feel himself as a “Pro”! Why? Because he hasn’t reinforced his skills in the practice of simulating the actions of his “idol”- his “Hero”!

Each aspiring “student-of-the-game” must become an astute observer to Aristotle’s admonition:  “one must behold an example of a closest facsimile to the ideal estate, study its admirable characteristics, and extrapolate from its obvious functional proficiency a common entity by which a generic standard could be discerned, duplicated, and possibly expanded upon. Excellence in any field of human endeavor is achievable to anyone willing to devote ‘a heart and soul’ effort toward mastering the definable concomitants to successful enterprise.” A requirement for all prospective “super-stars” of the “Game” should be to sit-and-watch at least parts of two “big-league” games a week. “The-Coach” can easily tell who would be the dedicated players on his team! Some prospective players that I have encountered never watch baseball games, on T.V. or at the ball-park, yet they want me to help them become “good” ball-players! What or who is their “reference point”?

The “good” coach excites all of his players with the prospect of each becoming a star-performer. Because of their individual drives and determination to be the best they can be, and their innate capacity to develop, along incremental lines of progress, those skills necessary to emulate the “greatest” of players at each his own position, he then challenges them to methodically and arduously simulate every action of that “big-leaguer” when he and his partner are warming up at practice, before a game, and in-between-innings. Eventually, the positive “germinating” effect will “kick-in,” and the player, like a “body-builder” faithfully following his daily-regimented routine, will one day recognize a noticeably enhanced characteristic-attribution.

The ultimate goal in the mind of the “great” Coach would be to establish a realistic sense of “Sameness,” the spiritual essence of which proves the “Truth of Harmony’s Perfect Oneness.” In Spirit we are all the same; the differences in form would be insignificant because they conceal the sameness of content that is found in everyone’s mind.

But, in what would be considered the “present sense” of things, certain individuals seem advanced beyond their teammates, therefore putting themselves in the more noticeable positions of prominence in regard to garnering the more “prestigious” assignments in the field (as well as batting). But those players currently mired in the mediocre stages of development, if faithful (as a “mustard-seed”) to the course of action that soundly promotes a genuine enhancement of technique, will soon supersede their present ineptness with graduating states of comprehensible prowess.

Infinite Patience of an Absolute Faith will produce the “immediate effect” of what Einstein would have wanted to realize in his own goal for his “unified field theory.” To envision for yourself all the attributes of a “big-league” player, even though those traits are not yet evident to “outside” observation, and arduously but hopefully to put forth a “heart and soul” effort to fulfill the destiny of your inner reality with “perfect-practice,” you cannot but raise yourself to new and greater heights of glory.

There is no end to what the mind can imagine. Even Einstein exclaimed, “Imagination is more powerful than Knowledge,” for he knew there was a major difference between the “dream” and one who lives his dream. So put your mind to “Good-use” and see your true potential, and realize its fulfillment. Don’t be merely a “forgetful hearer,” but a “doer” of the Principle – “law of liberty.”

The student who has the dedication and yearning to be the best he can be will gain respect from others for his uncommon “work-ethic,” but he will not be congratulated, acclaimed, and rewarded unless he “proves his worth.”

The Coach can be his “way-shower” and gently guide him along the “Path to Stardom,” but cannot do the work for him. The coach cannot always tell him every little thing to do. After his initial indoctrination into the “Art and Science” of “Perfect Practice” it is up to the student to take the initiative to strengthen and perfect his “enterprise” with tirelessness and consistency as well his own creative ingenuity. The coach may provide venues for promoting individual growth and development, but since there is no limit to what one’s mind can imagine, the student is invited to think “outside the box” and supersede even his Hero’s or his Coach’s expectations.

In Baseball, “Size” is not the determining factor for the success of an individual, whether for throwing or hitting a baseball. It is not a freak accident that Pitchers like 5 foot 8 and 9Billy W. 13 Billy W.13Billy W. 19Kimbrel 4Kimbrel 1inch Billy Wagner and Craig Kimbrel throw the ball as hard as 6 foot 3 inch and 6 foot 10 inch Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson! Randy J.5And 5 foot 8 inch Joe Morgan and Jimmy Wynn could hit balls as far as guys almost twice their size.

Size does not determine strength, but “correct mechanics” and reinforced thought and muscular integration with the synergistic movement of body-parts does produce the most energy for rapid motion as it is converted to power. (A similar analogy would be that of a Karate master applying the “focus” to his punch or strike.)

Aside from the apparent size differential, the four pitchers mentioned above have one   thing in common: When they begin their power thrust with the turning upper body (including the shoulder and arm) after the bent legs have initiated the power drive of the twisting hips, the throwing arm has already been locked into place at a position of at least 90 degrees in order to assure the fastest possible forward rotation of the shoulder to allow a quick moving arm to assist the wrist, hand, and fingers to propel the ball at maximum speed. Therefore, the principle throwing criterion mentioned earlier comes into play, namely: “The farther the ball moves away from the body, as the arm is preparing to throw it, the heavier the weight will be to the strain of the shoulder (and elbow).”

As the ball is being prepared for its launch from the thrower’s hand it should remain as close as possible to the “Body-Proper,” while the arm is “whipping” itself into the forward thrusting position. It is only reasonable to presume that a bent arm throughout the entire action prior to the throw would be the most efficient means of facilitating a rapid, powerful, and “safe” shoulder thrust, since there would be less weight to transport to the “launch.”

It is widely accepted, from the “Big-Leagues” to “Sandlots,” that on the Infield the Third Base-men and Short-stops (I wonder how they got that name?) have to have the stronger arms because of the longer distance they most often throw the ball. Second Base-men and First Base-men don’t usually have to make as long a throw.

But, obviously, it is to a Team’s best interest to have good – arms at all infield positions because of the few (and sometimes critical) times when a strong throw could mean the difference in a “safe” or “out,” win or loss. In the Outfield, the Center-fielder and Right-fielder usually have more long throws than the left fielder, but the best possible outfield would be comprised of equal arm-strength for the same obvious reasons as well as to be able to inter-change positions at any time.

All mental facility and “character” being equal, the “Unified Field Theory-Experience” as applied to Baseball Throwing would essentially mean that all players in all 9 defensive positions would have the “same” ultimate power and accuracy in their throws no matter what their respective sizes are, based primarily on equal understanding and application of the principle of the “infallibly scientific art” of correct throwing mechanics.

This phenomenon, if feasible, would be a comforting delight for any manager or team, for the prospect of interchangeable parts could be practically beneficial. However, the arena in which more differentiation of skill is noticeable is in the “designation” of “Fielding.”

If all the players on a team could throw equally well, that condition may not necessarily transfer over to the “Art of Fielding,” either in the infield or the outfield. There have been infielders who began their Big-Leagues careers playing Short-stop (like Robin Yount), then moved to Center-field. And Center-fielders (like Bill Russell) who moved to Short-stop! Catchers (like Troy Percival and Jason Mott) who became Pitchers, while a catcher (like Craig Biggio) became an All-Star Outfielder and Second Base-man. Correct throwing mechanics (as well as batting skills in some cases) kept them “in the game” until they found the position best suited for them.

Now, is there a “generic” component that would foster the development of all prospective team players to be equally adept in “fielding” all positions with the “same” proficiency?

Coming soon: Fielding Prowess.

Specificity of Movement, Preceded by Specific and Consistent Thought – Key to Successful Endeavor!

What particular attributes are necessary for an ordinary kid to turn himself into a star athlete who might eventually become a big-league baseball player? Most kids, who play in Little League, dream of having the opportunity to play on a Major-League team. Those who are really good in little-league inherently understand why they are good and know that they must continue to get better in order to become a professional ball-player.pony_baseball_3pony_baseball_6Boy swinging baseball bat 2strike-out 6

Undying “love of/for the game” is the first pre-requisite, coupled with a desire for knowing how to get better on the gradual continuum of age and maturity. If you live in Southern California, you can play baseball all year round. Some current “authorities” are now saying that it might not be beneficial to one’s long-range goal of becoming a “Major-Leaguer” to play baseball 12 months a year. Their reasoning for that kind of thinking was initiated after a rash of “Tommy-John” surgeries on young adults and teenagers made the head-lines. These “fear-struck” ‘Guardians of Youth” have suggested that children should simply play other sports like football, basketball, lacrosse, etc. so that the body parts used most vigorously in baseball would have a chance to rest.

Well, the body parts used in others sports are mostly the same as those used in baseball, especially if a person is a quarterback/pitcher. The onslaught of elbow injuries and surgeries has occurred mostly to those who are engaged in incorrect pitching and throwing mechanics. pony_baseball_5IF a person’s arm is hurting at the end of a baseball season, he should definitely rest his arm until it is healed, then, receive proper throwing instruction if he intends to pitch during the up-coming season.

There should never be a reason for not playing baseball all year round unless individuals live in an environment whose inclement weather is not conducive to playing baseball. Not everyone wants to play baseball exclusively, but those who do have the better chances to perfect the skills necessary to eventually become “Big-League” players. You never hear of proficient gymnasts, swimmers, “runners,” cyclists, skate-boarders, boxers, martial-artists, etc. taking time away from their main interests. (When I was ready to sign my first contract in the Fall after my Senior year in High School, I was out playing basketball, to show off my “carry-over” skills. I was driving for the hoop, landed on someone’s foot, and turned my ankle. I thus decreased my “signing leverage” considerably! Jim Longborg 3Remember Jim Longborg’s off-season skiing incident? Jim Longborg 2What about BO Jackson? bo-jackson1He never played football or baseball well again.)

Playing other sports may have good carry-over value, but if an individual has a career in mind, as a long-term goal, more proficiency will be attained by consistent participation in his favorite sport such as baseball, tennis, etc.

When you’re a kid, through 8th grade, it is probably a good idea to play as many sports as possible, to get a feeling about what you would like to pursue when you get into High School.  You can usually find out before ninth grade what sport you are most proficient at, and that which is most logical to pursue.

When you get into High School it makes the most sense to focus on one sport unless you are equally adept at two. But the higher advantage goes to the one sport athlete, unless leverage at “signing-time” is a consideration.

Swimming and running, in general,  are two activities that only enhance the total condition of the body of a baseball player. The most powerful throwing arms of players with whom I played were two individuals who were “swimming champs” from the Bahamas. Swimming 1swimming 2Masahiro+Tanaka 16Nolan-Ryan 1The best runners are they who have run everywhere they went at their earliest ages, to and from school, grocery store, the park, through “bad-neighborhoods,” from bullies, from their parents, etc.Kid running 5Kid running2Kid running 8

Before 9th grade, after a baseball season has concluded, those who want to play more baseball should do so in a moderate way in order to allow the mind and body a release from the tension due to the intensity of the regular competitive season. Now would be a good time to play the game strictly for the fun of “it” (like in the ‘old’ days”).

For those who really love to play baseball, and do not want to play football, basketball, or the myriad other sports to fill the void between baseball seasons, I recommend the forming of informal “choose-up” leagues in which an adult or young adult is the pitcher and throws pitches to players on both teams (according to the batter’s ability) while every one on each team has the opportunity to play a different position each inning. In this way regular baseball skills are reinforced and no kid has the responsibility of Pitching, nor is there an unnecessary risk of shoulder or elbow injury, even while all players are keeping their arms in decent shape for the next “real” baseball season.

Now, here is where “specificity of movement” plays its role for the conscientious devotee. The “Specificity of Motion-Movement” Principle is probably the best policy to practice if any pitcher or fielder (batter as well) would want to train his body and arm(s) properly and condition them to sustain the physical and mental well-being during an entire Baseball career.

Even while “having fun” playing baseball in “informal” sandlot games (as prescribed above) will keep players in relatively good baseball shape, it doesn’t mean that all players will be practicing the rudimentary skills mechanically correctly.  The “off-season” is the best time for parents to hire a trained expert (if parents themselves are not qualified) to instruct their youngster(s) about the proper mechanical techniques that will insure proper development of all aspects of the student’s “Game,” from throwing and hitting a baseball to pitching, fielding, running bases, and applying the skills learned, by practical reinforcement of the movement that the body facilitates, with consistently precise application.

Lack of muscle-conditioning, over-conditioning, inappropriate training techniques, misunderstanding of how to enhance power, strength, endurance, and application of skills of “specificity” regarding the game of baseball all come into play when evaluating the safest way to procure a long and illustrious career, as a pitcher or any fielding position (as well as batter). You can’t have “flabby” muscles and expect them to be able to contract quickly and with power to facilitate movement for optimal proficiency on the professional baseball field, or any field of competitive engagement. But excessive weight-training for baseball seems equally inappropriate to facilitate the quick and natural actions needed on a baseball field. Why would a pitcher need to “Bench-press” in excess of 100 lbs., or “curl” more than 10 or 15 lbs when the ball he is expected to have mastery over weighs but 5 ounces? (The standard for extreme “Pitcher-Workouts” used to be Nolan Ryan, and I never saw a video of him working with more than 6-8 lb. “dumbbells”.)weight training 3Weight-training1weight-training 2Nolan Ryan Pitch formNolan Ryan Pitch form 2

“Weight-lifting” of any kind would not be advised for any student under 9th grade. Hard work such as “scrubbing pots and pans,” yard-work, farm-work, lots of running, climbing, swimming, hanging from bars, tree-limbs would more naturally develop a youngster’s strength without fear of damaging tendons and ligaments. And then he could apply his baseball skills with as much intensity as his body is mandated by his mind. With the right mechanical understanding and application of Principle, this type of student will thrive in his youth, and prosper incrementally on his approach to “star-dom.”

Coming Soon: Most “Stars” are born in HIgh – School!