Author: Theodore Hassinger

Straight Down The Middle Will You stand up for Your Kid?

For many years I have played and coached the sport of fast pitch softball. I have dearly loved the sport and the friendships I have made. My memories are very fond for the simple fact that I had three outstanding coaches in my sport and in my life: the Lord, my mother and my father.

I thank the Lord every day for giving me a talent and most importantly allowing me to give back my gifts to my students. I thank my mother for always standing beside me reassuring me after a tough loss or a negative parent’s comments.

I thank my father for all the time he spent teaching me the sport and most importantly teaching me that working towards a goal is far more important than the outcome.

But most of all, I thank all three of my coaches for the fact that I have learned the skills necessary for a lifetime…how to deal with BOTH success and failure and to have confidence in myself. Isn’t that what life is all about? Only a small percentage of life is what happens to you, but the biggest majority of life is how you deal with what happens to you.

Along the way I have had some disheartening stories come my way about our youth coaches. It frightens me to think that someday my son might play for someone like this.

I was at a clinic discussing practice organization and playing time with some local youth coaches and was astonished at the thought process of some of the coaches.

We were discussing pitching time on the teams due to the fact that there were teams with 4 pitchers. How would they ever come up with a rotation to satisfy all of them? I was going over some options to help out when one of the coaches pointed out the fact that my ideas were good in theory but would never work on his team (an 11-12 A team).

When I asked why, he mentioned that the only way his team would win ballgames would be if he threw his ace every time. I understood his concern, but for the long term benefit of his team, playing 90+ ballgames, it might be wiser to get the other pitchers some time in the circle in a game situation.

I continued to explain that eventually the other pitchers would lose their confidence in their throwing ability and when the time did come when the team finally needed another pitcher, the harder it was going to be for them to go out and throw effectively.

Likewise, the more times a pitcher is put into a game; the easier it was going to be for her to be successful. The coach replied, and I will quote him, “How do you expect me to win the championship if I don’t pitch my ace every game. Every game is a must win situation.”

The coach was obviously more concerned about his own record than the needs of his players. The players need guidance and someone to believe in them. Like it or not, the coach is a role model to his players.

The thoughts and feelings that this one coach puts into his team will remain there for life. They may not surface now or next year, but some where down the road, they will come out.

I usually see this in the pitchers that are great sideline pitchers, but aren’t much in the game. No one has ever had the confidence in them to put them into the game, and when they luck up to find a team that needs them or usually dad starts to coach for them, they freak out and have no confidence whatsoever. And believe me, one year away from their former team only begins to break the ice.

I can tell you from a coach’s point of view that when your daughter is trying out for middle school ball, high school ball, or even college ball there will not be one ounce of faith put into the fact that your daughter played on the 11-12 A Whoever’s and you won 80 ballgames this summer.

What I want to know is how are her skills and if she happens to be a pitcher, how does she throw in game situations. I do not care if you won 5 games or 80 games; YOU are the only thing I am interested in. Can you handle success and failure?

I say that for one reason only. I received a full scholarship based on my academic and athletic ability. I have pitched against the greatest players in our country, but what I remember most about my youth career is not the wins and losses.

I remember the lessons learned from working hard to earn a pitching position and the coaches I played for having faith in my ability even when I didn’t win a game. I have so much confidence in myself because along the way there were a lot of people that had confidence in me.

No I did not always play for the best teams or always win the biggest tournaments. But, we did work every year for a goal. I learned what hard work was about. I also learned that when I worked hard I was given the opportunity to be successful and no matter what the outcome, I was a good sport.

I believe it is time that we stood up for our kids. All any parent can ask for is a fair, ethical, honest coach who possesses a moral structure which gives every player a fair and equal opportunity.

All any player can ask for is someone to believe in her, give them an opportunity and be lead by example. In the long run, a positive experience in sports will help each player to maximize their potential in whatever enterprise they choose to pursue.

View From The Bleachers

 

The wonderful world of ice…..

Why does ice feel so good.? When is it needed? For a pitcher, when do they need to start using ice and where does it go? Physiologically, cold/ice tends to cause a numbing effect to soft tissue such as muscle, ligaments and tendons. It also tends to cause a decrease in the inflammation in the soft tissues.

After a game or after a heavy practice, ICE, not heat, should be applied. Even with no particular injury, it’s best to keep those soft tissues happy. Once my daughter was throwing really forcefully, she was beginning to need to have ice routinely.

I would suggest by the time the fast ball is thrown 40 miles/hour they need ice. I have ordered a shoulder sleeve cold pack for my daughter to use. We just keep it in the freezer or cooler and she puts it on after the game or practice.

It covers the front of the shoulder and back over the shoulder blade as well as down the arm to the just above the elbow. If a specially made cold pack isn’t available, a loose sack of ice can be put over the shoulder and secured with an elastic bandage or with cellophane.

The ice needs to stay on for 10-20 minutes only. Because ice will decrease the muscle’s extensibility (looseness), you shouldn’t use ice in between innings or between games which are only a short time apart.

This would require a longer warm up time again for the pitcher, or she would risk injury from tissues which are not stretched out and ready to throw. If there is discomfort present which is still there or worse by 2 days, it’s time to talk to the trainer, a physical therapist, or the physician for a more thorough evaluation.

Because heat can cause an increase in the circulation initially, it is not good to use after practice. If an injury or overuse has occurred, the heat can make it worse by causing some micro-bleeding into to area. If there is general soreness a day or so after pitching, heat could be used, but not initially.

 

Off the Bench and into the Game A Look at Exercise Induced Asthma

As a coach and physician who treats asthma, I have a unique perspective on exercise induced asthma. As a coach, I frequently see girls who cough while playing softball.

As a physician I am asked to treat children who have asthma. Many parents have been told to withdraw their son/daughter from sports because of the misconception that people with asthma can not participate in these activities. This idea is simply not true. Children with asthma should not “take it easy” or watch from the sidelines.

Asthma affects 5 – 7% of the population and may be increasing in frequency. It should be considered a “inflammatory” condition of the lungs and causes swelling in the breathing tubes, contraction of small muscles in the larger breathing tubes and increased mucus.

Symptoms include cough, wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. There are many “triggers” for these symptoms but exercise is a frequent cause.

Factors leading to exercise induced asthma include cold dry air, insufficient warm-up time, sudden strenuous activity (sprints), and air pollution (including cigarette smoke!).

With exercise symptoms usually begin within 5-10 minutes after exercise begins and persist 15-30 minutes after exercise stops. In many children with exercise induced asthma, the only symptoms may be chest tightness and shortness of breath. When the child can’t keep up with the other players, they may be told they are “out of shape”.

Preventing symptoms of exercise induced asthma is usually not difficult. With proper treatment, your child should not have any limitation in his/her activities.

There are even people who participate in the Olympics who have asthma. A simple way to help prevent these symptoms is to warm up properly. There are also many medications available to both prevent and treat asthma. If you feel your child has the symptoms of exercised induced asthma, I would suggest discussing a treatment plan with your child’s personal physician.

All children should be encouraged to pursue whatever endeavor they wish. Certainly children with asthma should not be asked to alter their activities when asthma is easily treated and prevented. What a shame to keep them out of the game and on the bench. With apologies to John Fogerty “Put me in coach… I’m ready to play…today” (from the song Centerfield).

Why Consider the DeMarini BBCOR Bat?

One of the premier baseball bats on the market today is the DeMarini BBCOR bat. It comes in various models to suit any height or preference. While you might pay more for a DeMarini bat than you would a generic name, you can be sure that you are buying a quality product.

These types of BBCOR bats are enjoyed by both amateurs and pros at all levels of skill. Before buying one of these bats, review the selection to make sure you get the best one for you.

There are a variety of different models when it comes to the Demarini BBCOR bat. For example, one is the DXDMR model which is done in cobalt blue and black. For a bat that is a bit longer check out the Vexxum model of Demarini bat.

They even have new bats that are just released, so this is something to consider also. Before buying a baseball bat, there is some information you will need.

For example, you need to know the right length bat for you. This can be established by a coach, trainer or even a helpful employee at a sporting goods store and considering the used bats or new bats.

Speaking of sporting goods stores, you can sometimes find the DeMarini bat there, however you might want to comparison shop using the Internet. In a few clicks and keystrokes you can find numerous stores that have what you want.

It is possible that you will find a DeMarini BBCOR bat for less online than you would in the store, because the Internet is such a huge shopping resource. At the least you can browse the selection and figure out which bat you prefer.

Whether you are on an amateur or pro league, you really can’t go wrong with a DeMarini bat.

Louisville Youth Bats: A Baseball Classic

The Louisville Slugger has been a legendary bat for 125 years. Since its invention, players have scrambled to own one of these amazing pieces of sporting goods equipment.

This bat is a classic for all ages, even younger players. One thing parents should know right off, (or kids if they are using job money or allowance) is that these bats are rather expensive.

You can expect to pay well for one of the better Louisville youth bat models, but you are paying for quality and a trusted brand name.

For example, you might want to check out the Louisville YBXT Triton Youth Bat. This Little League bat offers amazing performance and smart good looks.

A cheaper model that is the 2019 Louisville Slugger Warrior Bat. This affordable youth bat is made to be durable yet offer good performance for young players. It is crafted from a crack resistant alloy that lasts season after season.

You can locate the best selection of Louisville youth bats on the Internet. There are sporting goods stores, auction sites and other online locations where you can buy these bats, often at a discount price.

You can of course shop at your local retail sporting goods store, which is wise if your young baseball player needs to hold and grip the bat before deciding if he wants it. Or you might just want to window shop, then look for the same bat at a cheaper price online.

You can’t go wrong with Louisville youth bats. The history and quality of the company really says it all.

Every young baseball player should have the opportunity to swing one of these legendary pieces of baseball history. The cheapest Louisville bat is still made with pride and quality.

Drills to increase your pitching speed

Wall throws

Stand as close as you can to a wall and still throw with a full motion. You should use a softie for this drill. It is also good if you use a mound to pitch from. You should do your normal windup and then try to explode the ball through the wall.

Pitching close to the wall will help you remain quick and aggressive. Since you are throwing to a wall, there is no focus on control. When you are working on speed, you should not be concerned with speed. Throw about 5 pitches and back up from the wall.

Throw 5 more pitches as aggressive and hard as you can and then back up. You should continue backing up until you feel that you loose the “quickness.” As soon as you lose the quickness, move back up and work to be faster.

REMEMBER TO GIVE 100% EFFORT ON EVERY PITCH. It is not a race, pace yourself and give everything you have. This drill will also help in the reaction time for balls hit back to the pitcher.

Wall throws with endurance added in: Stand as close as you can to a wall and still throw with a full motion. You should use a softie for this drill. It is also good if you use a mound to pitch from.

You should do your normal windup and then try to explode the ball through the wall. Throw as many pitches as you can in one minute. As soon as you catch the ball, you should be get on the mound and pitch it immediately into the wall.

Throw easy for two minutes and then repeat the drill. REMEMBER TO GIVE 100% EFFORT ON EVERY PITCH. This drill will also help in the reaction time for balls hit back to the pitcher.

Speed circles

The pitcher should get into a stride position (the stride foot out toward the catcher with the front foot at 45 degrees and the back foot at 45 degrees as well.

The feet should be a little wider than shoulder width and both toes should be on the power line – a line drawn from the center of the mound directly toward the target).

The pitcher should make three circles with her arm as fast as she can while keeping the shoulder relaxed and release the ball. The focus is to increase the arm speed.

The glove hand should be up at least shoulder height and in line to the target. The pitcher should do this 10 times and then do 2 circles and release for 10 times and then do 1 circle for 10 times.

If the hand begins to tingle, relax it long enough to recover and then try again. ***Some athletes will have difficulty doing the three circles without pain. STOP IMMEDIATELY IF PAIN IS FELT. There should be no pain in any pitching motion. Try two circles and then only one.

Walking drill

Begin one step behind the mound with the feet together. The pitcher should have the ball separated from the glove of pitcher in the throwing hand. At the same time, the pitcher will take a step and present the ball and then throw hard to the wall or net.

The focus is to take an aggressive step and drive off the mound. The step gets the momentum going for the pitcher. Try the drill for 10 times and then alternate a regular pitch from the mound and then a walking drill.
More drills coming..

Pitching Tips

Pitching workout 1

Mixing speeds and locations: One of the best drills a pitcher can do is to work in practice on mixing speeds and locations.

This is how a typical game will be, so it is advantageous to work like a game in practice. This type of precision and pitch control is going to take a lot of practice.

The pitcher should stay on the pitch until she hits it. For example, she may throw 10 inside fastballs and only one outside fastball. Hopefully as she practices more and more, it will take less and less time for her to hit the pitches.

Mix the sequences up as she becomes more skilled at hitting the target. Only use the pitches that your pitcher throws. You will see quickly what targets or combinations need more work. Here are some examples of throwing opposites in practice:

Inside and Outside
Low inside and Low Outside
High Inside and High Outside
High Middle and Low Middle
Middle Inside and Middle Outside
Low Inside and High outside
Low Outside and High Inside
Change-ups outside and fastball inside
Change-ups inside and fastballs outside
Drop ball inside and Rise ball outside
Drop ball outside and rise ball inside
Curve ball outside and rise ball inside.
Curve ball for a strike and Rise ball in the zone.
Curve ball for a chase pitch and Drop Ball for a strike
Rise ball for a chase pitch and Screw ball for a strike
Drop ball outside for a strike out pitch and Drop ball inside for a strike.

Pitching Workout 2

SPOT WORK

You can do many variations on spot work, however the following are some examples. The 5 spots refers to high in, high out, low in, low out and low middle. It would be helpful to record the number of pitches it takes to hit the spots and see if you can reduce that number each time you do spot work. It helps give a “training manual” that will aid in experience and confidence.

  • a. 10 – 20 pitches at each of the 5 spots.
  • b. 10-20 pitches alternating low out with low in.
  • c. 10-20 pitches alternating high out with high in.
  • d. 10-20 pitches alternating high in with low in.
  • e. 10-20 pitches alternating high out with low out.
  • f. 10-20 pitches alternating high out with low in.
  • g. 10-20 pitches alternating high in with low out.
  • h. 30-50 pitches going around to all 5 spots.
  • i. 30-50 pitches going around to all 5 spots, but you must hit the spot in order to go to the next spot.

Pitching workout 3

COUNTDOWNS: Countdowns is one of my students favorite practice drills. It causes the student to really focus on the ‘purpose’ of pitching and it also challenges the pitcher to become better with each pitch.

It can get tough at times, but that is part of the mental stage a pitcher must learn to work through. Make sure you have the time to finish it and do not give up.

For the more advanced pitcher, the targets must be precise. For the beginner, you may widen the zone slightly to help them gain confidence. Do not “give in” once you start.

Set the boundaries before you begin the workout. You should have note cards with the specific pitches you are going to throw written down before you begin. If you have ample time, you may also count back up the pitches.

The pitcher will begin by throwing 10 pitches of a certain pitch, then 9 of a different pitch, then 8 of a different one, etc. The pitches that actually hit the designated target are counted.

You should keep track of the total number of pitches it takes to reach the required number of pitches. The pitcher will work all the way down to 1 and then back up to 10. The next time the pitcher completes the drill, she should try to throw fewer pitches than the time before.