Saturday, May 30, 2009

Where's the Coverage?


I flipped through the channels today and I saw Women's softball on ESPN 2, Karate on ESPN Classic and Poker on another ESPN channel.

WHAT???? No College baseball??? Come on ESPN, Comcast and CBS. This is ridiculous. Are you program directors saying that Karate is more important and will generate more ratings that college baseball?

I usually don't post on weekends, but this is just plain wrong. Who's in charge of promoting college baseball? Is it someone from the NCAA? That could be the problem. Hire a marketing bulldog to create TV packages with the major networks. Millions of people are missing out on some great baseball this weekend.


Friday, May 29, 2009

Watch The NCAA Baseball Tournament


We are posting a special late weekend post to tell all baseball fans to watch the NCAA baseball tourney this weekend. It is truly the best tournament in all of college sports. Just witnessed a tough Virginia team beat San Diego St. and the number one overall MLB draft pick, Steven Strasburg 5-1.

Folks...this is one of the most exciting NCAA tourney's of all time. Football Bowl games and the March Madness don't compare with this incredible display of talent at these regionals.

The ACC is having a good first day. The SEC is also doing well. Just witnessed a shot off of the scoreboard from a Marist player as they take the lead off of Florida St...3-1.

Folks..watch this tourney On ESPN Classic and ESPNU...Also on line on CBS Sports...it's unbelievable!!!

RT Staff

The Greatest College Tournament Of The Year Starts Today!


That may seem like a biased headline...We won't lie...it is. We aren't going to apologize for our love for college baseball. We like this NCAA tournament more than the BCS and March Madness.

Tomorrows future stars will be on display for everyone to see over the next few weeks. I have been going to Omaha to watch the World Series since the 70's and I have never looked back. This tournament just gets better and better.

We just wish that the TV coverage of all rounds were being televised. It's better than years past, but I think the networks underestimate the sports consumer. You put every round of this on ESPN and cut between regionals like they do in basketball and "they most certainly will come".

There are some games on Comcast, and others that are being streamed via CBS sports on the internet. But the great college game deserves more. This is a game that has in recent years given us players like Evan Longoria, David Price, Joba Chamberlain, Pat Burrell, J.P. Howell, Ryan Garko, J.D. Drew, Jason Varitek, Troy Glaus, Khalil Greene, Lance Berkman, David Eckstein, Huston Street, Todd Helton, Eric Byrnes, Buster Posey and many more. They all competeted in this tourney and may have not reached the type of success they had in the majors without it.

So set your Tivo or other recording device to catch all of the action. If your son has dreams of playing baseball at the next level...this tournament is a good start to get excited about playing college ball.

Here's the Regional schedule...

2009 Regionals
Regionals are double elimination first-round pairings. Regionals take place May 29 - June 1.

Live play-by-play and statistics for all regional and super regional games will be available on ncaa.com. Game information will be updated directly from all 16 regional, eight super regional sites and all games from Omaha.

2009 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship

Atlanta Regional
#1 Georgia Tech (35-17-1) vs. #4 Georgia St. (39-20)
#2 Elon (40-16) vs. #3 Southern Miss. (35-23)

Austin Regional
#1 Texas (41-13-1) vs. #4 Army (34-19)
#2 Texas St. (41-15) vs. #3 Boston College (33-24)

Baton Rouge Regional
#1 LSU (46-16) vs. #4 Southern U. (30-15)
#2 Minnesota (38-17) vs. #3 Baylor (29-24)

Chapel Hill Regional
#1 North Carolina (42-16) vs. #4 Dartmouth (27-16)
#2 Coastal Caro. (46-14) vs. #3 Kansas (37-22)

Clemson Regional
#1 Clemson (40-19) vs. #4 Tennessee Tech (30-22-1)
#2 Alabama (37-19) vs. #3 Oklahoma St. (32-22)

Fort Worth Regional
#1 TCU (36-16) vs. #4 Wright St. (33-28)
#2 Texas A&M (36-22) vs. #3 Oregon St. (35-17)

Fullerton Regional
#1 Cal St. Fullerton (42-14) vs. #4 Utah (26-29)
#2 Ga. Southern (42-15) vs. #3 Gonzaga (35-16)

Gainesville Regional
#1 Florida (39-20) vs. #4 Bethune-Cookman (32-26)
#2 Miami (FL) (36-20) vs. #3 Jacksonville (36-20)

Greenville Regional
#1 East Carolina (42-17) vs. #4 Binghamton (29-20)
#2 South Carolina (38-21) vs. #3 George Mason (42-12)

Houston (Rice) Regional
#1 Rice (39-15) vs. #4 Sam Houston St. (36-22)
#2 Kansas St. (41-16-1) vs. #3 Xavier (38-19)

Irvine Regional
#1 UC Irvine (43-13) vs. #4 Fresno St. (32-28)
#2 Virginia (43-12-1) vs. #3 Western Ky. (39-18)

Louisville Regional
#1 Louisville (44-15) vs. #4 Indiana (32-25)
# 2 Middle Tenn. (43-16) vs. #3 Vanderbilt (34-25)

Norman Regional
#1 Oklahoma (41-18) vs. #4 Wichita St. (30-25)
#2 Arkansas (34-22) vs. #3 Washington St. (31-23)

Oxford Regional
#1 Mississippi (40-17) vs. #4 Monmouth (32-23)
#2 Missouri (34-25) vs. #3 Western Ky. (39-18)

Tallahassee Regional
#1 Florida St. (42-16) vs. #4 Marist (31-26)
#2 Georgia (37-22) vs. #3 Ohio St. (40-17)

Tempe Regional
#1 Arizona St. (44-12) vs. #4 Kent St. (42-15)
#2 Oral Roberts (31-13) vs. #3 Cal Poly (37-19)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Qualities of A Great Coach


We were discussing the virtues of a good baseball coach with a group of friends and the topic got a little heated. Our definition of a good coach is one that is:

Tough
A good coach should not be afraid to throw a few F-bombs around here and there to show who's in charge. We feel that a tough coach is the best coach and is paramount to a players success. Baseball is a game of mental toughness because it's a game of failure. A Hall of Fame player will have failed 7 out of 10 times at the plate over his career. One bad pitch by a pitcher that throws over 90 pitches a game can mean the difference between a win or a loss. It's a grueling game. As a result, players will be better served to have a coach that is tough to the extent and for the purpose of making his players even tougher.

Teacher
A good coach should always teach and never assume that his players know the game. No matter how many years a players has played, there's always something new to learn. A great coach has to be a student and a teacher at the same time. He must keep in touch with new practice techniques and better ways to hone his players skills.

Mentor
There's a difference between teacher and mentor. A teacher shows you the fundamentals...A mentor shows a player how to process that information and become a mature and mentally sound baseball player and person. A good mentor will show a player how a great work ethic can result into a great player.

Organizer and Time Management Expert
To become a great baseball player, you need to have a plan and stick to that plan. Good coaches will give you a pre-game, post game and off-season schedule to help make each player the best that he can be. I know many coaches that keep a daily log to make sure their players are sticking to those schedules. These guys know who the talented players are and want to make sure that they stay on top of that talent and never get complacent. If a team has the goal to maintain its winning ways, then the coach has to manage the time of all of its players. It's not considered a control issue...it's just good common sense..especially if that player is in college on scholarship. Young players are just months removed from being kids and a great coach must hold these very young adults accountable for their actions and teach them the consequences of not staying on track.

Situational Master
This is part of the teacher grouping, but great coaches grill and pound into the minds of their players how to react to the multitude of situations a player will encounter during games. This includes drills upon drills...handouts upon handouts and tests upon tests to make sure his players don't get that occasional brain freeze during a crucial inning.

Mechanical Genius
Proper mechanics are the bread and butter of a great baseball player. A great coach will identify a players mechanics as a hitter, infielder, pitcher, catcher outfielder etc. Every position has it's unique mechanical criteria. Every hitter has a different approach to every pitch in the count. Every infielder has a spot to cover and a stance to emulate based on outs, pitch count and situation. Every outfielder has to have perfect catch and throw mechanics to be able to make those plays to a base or the cut-off.

Respected
A coach that is tough may not get the respect of the players at the outset of the player/coach relationship, but over time and after the fruits of all of that coaching are seen in the stats and win-loss column, that respect will be recognized. We know of several old school coaches that were hated by parents and young players at the beginning...but over time, the good players always realized the sacrifices and the end game that the coach was trying to mold out of his players. Sometimes it is during the season and sometimes it's after the end of a season...but players that take this game seriously will always have respect for that coach that pushed and pushed to get the most out of his players.

Delegator
A head coach can't do it all. He has to know how to identify other talented coaches that can execute his overall mission and plans to be a winning organization. That head coach has to be as tough to his assistants as he is to his players. Jobs and school revenue are on the line...especially in college and believe it or not at many high schools as well. Everyone has to be held accountable and the head coach has to know when and who to delegate those tasks to and get the desired results from his players.

Communicator
Along with delegating...a great coach and his staff must be the ultimate communicators. No player should ever doubt their standing on the team or their role. Lack of ones standing on the team leads to low morale. If a player is just not living up to his expectation, a good coach will be in his grill to tell that player exactly what his standing on the team is. It's then, up to that player to take that information and process it to either sulk or improve his status on the team...but at least they were told the score...and the tough players (the type the coach wants on his team) will step it up and give the coach what he wants.

Talent Scout and Salesman
Above all, a good coach has to identify the athletes from the role players. College coaches have to know their future needs and what holes to fill. They need to manage that talent search...and develop a pitch to land that talent. Good coaches know all of the high tech social networking sites to communicate that level of interest and sell the program as if it was the only logical choice for that prospect.

There's more to great coaching we are sure. These are just our thoughts...Have any more virtues of a great coach that you'd like to share?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The NCAA's Shameful Picks


UC Irvine was the Number One team in the land. They play in the nations toughest conference that got two national seeds including them. They cruised through the conference with only two losses. They are truly a great team.

So, when the NCAA tournament pairing came out...you'd think that they would get a favorable regional. Oh...that's right...this is the NCAA and it's "new" selection committee we are talking about...Logic doesn't come into play when they are in charge.

Number One Irvine is in the same regional as the ACC's post season tourney winner, Virgina, who gets to face the nations freakish number one pitcher in Steven Strasburg and San Diego State. Irvine meanwhile has to face last years national champ in Fresno State...who has been playing inspired ball as of late and is on a mission a la 2008. Don't ever count out Mendonca and the Bulldogs. Coach Batesole knows how to coach and his players love listening to him.

Actually Irvine should not be as ticked off as Virginia. They win the ACC post season tourney...arguably a top 4 conference and this is their reward??? I have seen Steven Strasburg and I wouldn't give Virginia much of a chance against him. In fact, I wouldn't even waste my number one against him. Save him for the elimination game.

The NCAA selection committee is led by Big 12 representative Tim Weiser. In a commentary by Kendall Rogers of Rivals College baseball, the Weiser led group "wasn’t immune to blunders, controversy and downright shameful selections."

Kendall goes on to state..."The committee, though, threw everyone for a loop by including Baylor and Oklahoma State – two bad and undeserving teams – in the regional field."

"Baylor finished the Big 12 tournament with a solid 2-1 record, but its play in Oklahoma City last week certainly didn’t warrant a bid when you consider how the Bears finished the regular season. In addition to getting swept by a horrible Nebraska team to finish the regular season, the Bears also lost 10 straight conference games to end the season. Yeah, a nice new school record for the regional-worthy Bears, right? Hardly."

Rogers is right in that Baylor's three straight losses to a horrific Nebraska team should have been a season ender right there. This is the same Nebraska team that lost two of three at home to an even worse Cal State Bakersfield team that is in it's first year of collegiate baseball ever.

But, (un)Weiser is a Big 12 apologist...making all sorts of excusues why Baylor and Oklahoma State were worthy...none of them making much sense...but he is the leader of the committee and he sure got his way.

More deserving teams were Missouri State, Dallas Baptist and Rhode Island. However, those teams aren't in power conferences (DB is independent) and they didn't get the benefit of the doubt. I understand that, but still...Baylor was 10-16 in conference and Oklahoma State was 9-16. The Big 12 is a good conference, but not that good to warrant a tourney bid with a bad losing conference record.

One team that is in a Power Conference that got snubbed is UC Riverside. Their 33-20 record and 4th place finish (12-12) in the Nations Top Conference evidently wasn't enough. They were 3-1 against the Big 12 and clobbered Oklahoma State 7-0 at a neutral site (Palm Springs). (If Okie St was in the Big West, that shut-out would have been a recurring theme for the Cowboys...which would have made this years bottom feeders Davis and Pacific feel a little better about themselves.)

Riverside finished off the season with a great series win against Cal Poly...a team that DID get in...and the weekend prior they took two of three from a tough Santa Barbara team. While their RPI wasn't great (77), the more accurate and logical ISR posted in Boyds World has UCR at a 27 ISR.

One of these days, the committee will recognize the Big West as the top conference that it is. It is shameful as Kendall Rogers states "to leave out deserving teams from deserving conferences" over two "homer" picks in a vastly overrated Big 12.

Maybe the Big West should chair the selection committee next year...The thing is...they wouldn't be shameless enough to award their own conference teams that didn't deserve to be there. Play-offs are not an entitlement...you have to earn your way in...Baylor and Ok St. posted sub .500 records and didn't take care of business. The way we see it, both OK. St and Baylor should be sending nice fruit baskets to Mr. Weiser for the overly generous hand-outs they received.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Pro's Can Wait If The Scholarship is Great

RT Staff Note: Pass this post on to everyone you know. We said we would stop the NCAA ranting...but the more we stop and pause about how great this game is, the angrier we get.

The college and high school regular seasons are over and play-off time is upon us. Many players and their teams that weren't lucky enough to earn a play-off berth are cleaning out their lockers and saying their good-byes to another season of baseball. For many, this will be their last time in an organized baseball program. For others, they await another season of summer ball and for the elite few, the years ahead will be consumed with baseball whether it be college or pro.

The MLB draft is in a few weeks. Many players have been told by their advisors where they stand and how high they will get drafted. Most of those prospects are finishing their junior season in college. But some prospects are graduating from high school.

No matter how great the prospect, we would like to see more high school players go to college. We understand that the short term financial rewards of a top 5 round selection is tough to ignore...especially for a family that is not financially secure. Since the NCAA and it's member institutions can't seem to fathom the inequities of the reward to workload ratio that baseball players endure, the decision to go pro will always win out over a family trying to cope with paying 50% of the cost to play baseball at a college.

However, for those families that can work it out financially or qualify for student loans or grants to limit the additional out of pocket costs that the pittance they call a baseball scholarship doesn't cover, a player should experience and take advantage of what college has to offer.

Today's college baseball program is on par with the physical and mental development that has been the standard in college football and basketball for years. Many of the top programs have highly regarded coaching staffs, strength and conditioning coaches, top of the line equipment contracts, major league quality facilities, and a fan base that rivals the minor leagues.

The collegiate baseball player also has access to a variety of amenities from sports psychologists to nutritionists that can help them hone their skills and prepare for a long grueling season that literally is year round. From the minute they set foot on campus in the fall, they are strapping on their cleats and adjusting their batting gloves for fall practices and scrimmages and it doesn't really end until they complete their wood bat summer league assignment in August.

But the biggest advantage is the education and preparation of a life without baseball...because no matter how good a player is...you just never know. College will give young men a more controlled and disciplined path to maturity. Their lives are on a hourly schedule from 6AM to 10PM with little or no time to deviate from that schedule. College teaches them responsibility, accountability, time management, work ethic, and peer to peer friendships with young adults all around the same age that will last a lifetime.

The minor leagues for a graduating high school student doesn't offer that type of controlled environment. A kid is thrown from the life of living with mom and dad to the lives and lifestyles of players that are 23 or older. And while college is not immune from it's temptations, in minor league ball, there are no tests to study for or homework to finish after a game and that often leads to the type of down time that ruins careers. In those very volatile attitude, aptitude and maturity formation years from 18-22, it's our opinion that a player will be better served to grow up in a college environment.

But for many...college is just not economically feasible and that's because the NCAA doesn't seem to care about the gross inequities of college baseball. If college baseball players were a part of an American business, it would be served with multiple law suits that would be in violation of hundreds of labor laws. No player in any sport including football works as hard and has a grueling schedule like the collegiate baseball player. And no player gets less scholarship money for it's hard work than baseball.

So, as you watch the NCAA Regionals, Super Regionals and College World Series on ESPN and ABC, unlike their basketball and football counterparts...those players parents had to pay about $10,000 a year for their kids to be there...which is about one fifth of the cost of one 30 second TV commercial that the NCAA and ESPN will be running and profiting on for the next 4 weeks. Doesn't seem fair.


Monday, May 25, 2009

THE ON-DECK CIRCLE


RT Staff Note. Yet another article from BeABetterHitter.com

THE ON-DECK CIRCLE

As I mentioned earlier, much of hitting is understanding the game. Baseball is a game of situations. Because baseball is a team game, a successful at-bat may not be one that results in a base hit.

Your time in the on-deck circle should be used to analyze the game situation. How can you help your team when it’s your turn to step into the batter’s box? Will a bunt help the team? A fly ball? Should I try to hit the ball to the opposite field? These questions should be asked, and answered, before you step in to hit.

How many times have you watched a ball game on television and seen a player get high-fives from every player and coach in the dugout for making an out? It happens. Do you think they were happy about the player being out? You bet they were! If he got high-fives, he made what is known as a "good out." One that helps the team win.

Analyzing the situation helps you go up to the plate with a purpose. In and of itself, this mind-set makes you a better hitter. Remember the quote, "You can’t think and hit at the same time," from earlier in the book? I agree with that. But. . . you can think before you step in the box and you can think before each pitch. The smart hitter is sought after at every level of baseball. Be a smart hitter.

How many times have you seen a ball player kneeling on one knee, seemingly doing nothing? He may even be resting his chin on the knob of the bat. What is he doing? Studying. Perhaps the most important thing you can do as a hitter is study the pitcher. He is the one that controls the ball. The one that tries to fool you bad enough to have you strike out, or have you ground the ball weakly to one of the fielders behind him.

How fast is he pitching? Is his fastball in your comfort zone, or will you have to make some adjustments in your timing to catch up to it? What else is he throwing? Does he have an off speed pitch? Does he throw it differently? How about a breaking pitch? Can he locate it, or does he just throw it up there? What pitch does he likely throw when he is ahead in the count? Behind in the count?

These are all factors that you should pay attention to. There are a dozen or more questions you can answer in the on-deck circle that will better prepare you for each at bat. Remember the quote, "Hitting is timing." Well, having a good idea of what a pitcher throws in a given situation will make it easier for you to time the pitch and hit it hard somewhere.

I realize that some of this thought process is pretty advanced, but it is provided here so that you can refer to it as you progress in your ability as a hitter.

One last thing about the on-deck circle: Use that time to be prepared for your at-bat. Limber up and pay attention to the game. This is not the time to flirt with your girlfriend in the stands, pose for a picture for your grandma, or do anything else that detracts you from the game. Hitting is a huge part of baseball. Pay attention in the on-deck circle. You will be a better hitter as a result.

Friday, May 22, 2009

HISTORY DICTATES THE PITCH


RT STaff Note: This is another great article on hitting from BeABetterHitter.com.

HISTORY DICTATES THE PITCH
by Buz Brundage

Hitting is Timing. Pitching is upsetting Timing. The core of the game revolves around the hitter and the pitcher. It has, for over a century, been the most compelling aspect of the game of baseball. As a player you should recognize that this “history” essentially dictates the flow of the game between the pitcher and the hitter.

When you are capable of evolving mentally to the point where you recognize this, you place yourself in a position to capitalize on your knowledge of the game. Whether you are a pitcher or a hitter, history dictates the pitch!

As a hitter this is an incredible enlightenment. If hitting is timing (and it is), and history dictates the pitch… you should be able to take advantage of your athletic ability and perform at above average percentiles. What does this mean? It means you should be taking advantage of the percentages inherent in the game. Your “numbers” should be better than those from a player who has not recognized that the “game” of baseball revolves around numbers. The numbers are repeated, and have been repeated… and will be repeated over and over and over. If you pay attention to this history of repetition, your “numbers” should stand out.

Let me explain. What is a Fastball count? Well, history indicates that on a percentage basis… most pitchers will throw a fastball when they are behind in the count. The key portion of that statement is “on a percentage basis”.

Well, how is a hitter judged? By his percentage of success!

If you pay attention to the numbers, they can work for you. Your numbers will improve as a result. Ever hear the saying; “man, that guy really knows the game”? You want people to say that about you. So, you have to understand the “history of the game”.

Aaaah, but… so sorry… it’s not really that easy. Knowing the “history of the game” is not just referring to the overall history of baseball. It is taking the overall history, using it to your advantage in the “present”… and then… making adjustments in the present game as a result of the history of the “present game”. Get that?

For instance, your first at-bat in the “present game” had this scenario:

One out and a runner on third base, in a scoreless game; historically, what would your job be? Hit a ball hard to the big part of the field and you can score the runner. Or, hit a fly ball deep enough to the outfield and you can score the runner. Guess who else knows this? Ya, the pitcher… the catcher… every coach on the other side of the field, etc. What does the pitcher try to do? Get you to chase something you will hit weakly to an infielder, pop up… or even better, strike you out (So, something low and likely away in the strike zone).

The Scenario continues; you are facing a fastball pitcher. You also happen to know that he has pretty good command of a slider. Two pitches to worry about. You know this because you are aware of the “history of the present game”. On the 0-0 pitch the pitcher attempts to put that fastball low on the outside corner and misses. You knew that you would likely get a fastball on the outer two thirds (overall history of the game dictates a higher percentage of fastballs on 0-0)… (Present history dictates something away from you that you can’t pull for a sac fly)… you saw that pitch from the point of release and knew it was out of the strike zone. Aha… 1 ball 0 strikes!

Can you tell me what you will get next? Overall History of the game says what? Yup… fastball, and… sure enough, something down and away to try to keep you from doing your job. The pitcher’s job is to execute the pitch. So, what are you looking for? You got it… fastball. Now, are you starting to see the pattern here? History dictates the pitch. If you know the pitch… you can be in time. Hitting is Timing!

Continue with the scenario; sure enough you get that pitch on the outside part of the plate… it is a fastball… but… uh oh, shame on the pitcher… couldn’t quite hit his spot… left it up in the zone and you roped it to right center for an RBI single.

Fast forward… your next at bat you again play the “history of the game” both past and present to assist you in picking the pitch… you are right again and bang another solid hit; 2 for 2 using good old fashion history and athletic ability. Pretty cool, huh?

Third at bat; your team is down by a run in the 7th inning, runners at the corners with two outs, same pitcher. Remember the history. Not just the overall history (which you have used to your advantage), but the present history. The pitcher, catcher and the coaches all know that you have been successful using the numbers of the game to your advantage. They have two choices… continue to play “by the numbers” and give you the pitch you should get based on the count (which over the “history of the game” proves to work in the pitchers favor)… or see if you can hit something you ‘aren’t supposed to get’.

Dig a little deeper into this and you will see that “statistically” you are more likely to receive a fastball on 2-0 or an off-speed on a 0-2 count. Why do you think those are not “always going to get” pitches? Because, on occasion the other team has to do something different based on the “present history” of the game! Whether, it is a guy like you pounding out 2 hits, or because the batter is so bad they can throw him anything and get him out. These are the “percentiles” that make up the “most likely going to get” pitch scenarios. Do you follow that? Overall history proves that if they simply stick to their guns and throw what they should throw when they should throw it “statistically” the pitcher will win. The difficulty of hitting plus the gloves in the field guarantee it!

So, back to your third at-bat; the pitcher starts you off with a nice curve ball. It drops in beautifully for a strike. As you should have been… you were looking for a fastball on that 0-0 count. The game is on the line and you want your pitch. Now the pitcher has the advantage at 0-1. Historically, you should get something off-speed, right? Should you look for it? Maybe. Is that a pitch you hit well? Have you been watching this pitcher closely enough throughout the game to recognize his off-speed? If not, the answer is … NO. You don’t have two strikes yet. Hit your pitch! What is your pitch: Fastball!

Sure enough… they are thinking of going “against” history because you have proved that you can hit the pitch that “history dictates”… here comes a fastball… BANG! Exactly what you were looking for! Home Run!

Is this an unlikely scenario? Not really. Watch baseball and you will see this scenario repeated time and again. It is the “history of the game”… both overall history and present history. If you are paying attention to the “game” you can play it like this more often than not.

What do you think that will do for your numbers? You got it; it will make you one of the percentage leaders. Isn’t that how we judge good hitters?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Pitch Count


RT Staff Note: This is an excellent article from BeABetterHitter.com

The pitch count should have a direct impact on each swing you take at the plate. Certain pitch counts favor the hitter and certain ones favor the pitcher. Just as the smart pitcher takes advantage of the times he is "ahead in the count," the smart hitter understands when he has the advantage. In these situations, the hitter must capitalize. Or, at least, give it his best.

If you are ahead in the count 1-0, 2-0, 2-1, or 3-1, you should be looking for that "good pitch to hit." Something in your favorite area of the plate that you usually hit hard. Knowing your strong spot is crucial in this situation. If you have no idea where in the strike zone you hit best, then you cannot take advantage of the "hitter’s count" situations. These are the times when you can really look for a pitch and when you get it, really take a strong cut at it.

These "hitter’s counts" are not only ideal situations to look for a ball in a certain area, but are what are known at "fastball counts."
The pitcher does not want to risk throwing another ball and falling further behind in the count. So, you will usually get a fastball in these counts. If you know you are likely to get a fastball, your likelihood for success skyrockets ("hitting is timing".) In addition, on 2-0, 2-1, 3-1 and 3-0 counts, that fastball is going to be "fatter" (thrown more to the center of the strike zone). Strictly because that pitcher does not want to give you a base on balls. These are pitches you should be able to hit to all parts of the ballpark with authority.

On the 1-0 count, although you are ahead, it is early and the pitcher may take a chance with a different pitch. Or he may throw a fastball to a certain location. Certainly, your level of competition and age group play a factor in what might be thrown in these situations.

Up to the age of 15-16 the tendencies that I have described are pretty steadfast. Above that, and on up to the Major Leagues, pitchers have much greater control of a variety of pitches and may be willing to risk throwing something other than a fastball on a "fastball count."

The pitch generally thrown at these higher levels is that particular pitcher’s "best" pitch (which is another good reason to study your opposing pitcher while you are in the on-deck circle). However, studies show that a fastball is still the most likely pitch. Knowing that, and remembering that a large part of hitting is timing, you should look for the fastball. If you get anything else, unless it is so nice you can’t resist hitting it, let it go by.

This is called being patient and waiting for a good pitch to hit. At the very worst the umpire will call it a strike and you deal with the next count.

If you are even in the count 1-1, or down 0-1, you must adopt a different mind-set to be a successful hitter. Approach these counts with the idea that you are going to hit the ball "the other way." One reason for this approach is that you will naturally track the ball a fraction of a second longer, giving you more time to decide if the pitch is going to be a strike.

Additionally, this approach gives you the ability to hit pitches away from you, or on the "outside corner" of the plate. Pitchers like to nibble with borderline pitches to see if batters will chase them. If they do, the pitcher is in control. If not, he has to adjust. Pitchers generally like to nibble on the outside of the plate as that is the most difficult pitch to learn to hit. At higher levels of play the pitcher will "come inside" to set up something "outside" on the next pitch.

When you have two strikes on you it is imperative that you take a "battling" mind-set with you to the plate. This is "war" between you and the pitcher. Cut down on your swing, keep your head still, and intensely track the ball the moment it leaves the pitcher’s hand. Your goal is to "get a piece of it" if it is anywhere close to the strike zone. If you hit it fair. . . fine. If it’s a real tough pitch in a tough location. . .foul it off. The more pitches you make the pitcher throw in these situations, the greater your advantage. First, the pitcher cannot remain perfect. Sooner or later he is going to make a mistake and throw you a good ball to hit. Second, the more pitches you make him throw, the more fatigued he becomes, which may lead to more mistakes.

Brett Butler was perhaps the greatest hitter I ever saw at "battling" a pitcher with two strikes on him. He could foul off more pitches that were just too close to let go by than anyone in the game.

My philosophy has always been "don’t let the umpire decide," keep battling. Many a hitter has been called out on a third strike that was "close." Don’t risk it. Keep battling. Chances are you will get a better pitch to hit. This is "two strike" hitting, or "protecting the plate," a totally different approach than when you are ahead in the count.

A good hitter understands the game well enough to adjust his mental approach on each pitch, as the count changes. Nobody is encouraging you to be a "guess hitter," just understand the game and it’s tendencies.

If you notice, the one pitch count I haven’t addressed is the 0-0 count. The first pitch. There are two schools of thought about this pitch. Some of the great hitters adopt the position that they want to look at the first pitch. See what the pitchers got. Get a gauge for his speed, etc. Their thought process is that if hitting is timing they will be in a better position to time their swing.

I believe in the opposite, for two reasons: One, you should have been paying attention during your time in the on-deck circle. Or, if you are the first batter of the game, during the pitcher’s warm up. My point is this, study the pitcher, know him, he is your adversary.

The second, and most important reason, is this: Pitcher’s are instructed from Little League to the Major Leagues (and every stop in between) to get ahead in the count! "First pitch, first strike, first out" is drilled into them from an early age. It stands to reason that most first pitches are going to be "good pitches to hit."

I believe in treating the 0-0 pitch like a 2-0 pitch. Look for a fastball in your "zone." If you get it. . .smash it. Swing hard at this pitch. If you miss it, it’s 0-1 and you have two strikes left. If the pitch is not to your liking, let it go by. The worst it can be is 0-1. Plus, you had a chance to "look" at one to see what the pitcher has.

Rickey Henderson is the most prolific first pitch hitter that ever lived. He has more first pitch, first at-bat home runs than any player in the history of the game. Rickey is not considered a power hitter.

How then is he able to hold this distinction? I’ll tell you. . .he is a smart hitter. He looks for that grooved fastball on the first pitch. When he gets it, he pounces on it!

Very often the first pitch in an at-bat is the best pitch you will see. If you live by the philosophy to always "take" that pitch, guess how many times you will start out 0-1? A lot. Pitchers are not dummies. If you show a tendency, believe me they will try to exploit it.

On the other hand, if you are known for crushing the first pitch fastball two things could happen. One, they won’t give you a very good pitch to hit very often. Which means you will probably be ahead in the count 1-0 (depending on the umpire, or the quality of the pitch). Or two, you will see plenty of breaking and off-speed pitches on the first pitch. Which, again, the smart hitter can adjust to.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Practice What You Preach


RT Staff Note: Carmen Bucci of The Complete Athlete e-mailed us yesterday with a new article. He contributes several times a year to Rounding Third. Carmen attributes the success of his company to a unique collection of life-long passions...Sports, Mentoring Young Athletes, and Entertaining.

He was Drafted and Played with the San Diego Padres, was a Two-Time All-Big Ten Shortstop, Scouted with the Texas Rangers, and was the owner of West Coast Baseball School in Sherman Oaks, CA. He graduated from Northwestern University's School of Communications.

Carmen is an experienced Actor & Stand Up Comedian, the Author of "Sports is a Mental Game," Contributing Columnist to well known National Publications, and is a highly respected Public Speaker on the College Recruiting Process for High School Student-Athletes.


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How many of you have heard that saying before? I imagine most of you have. For those of you that haven’t, it basically means to do what you say. As an athlete, it’s not good enough to just talk a good game. Some have the philosophy that athletes should….

“Let your actions speak for themselves.”
“Let your play do the talking.”
‘Do your talking on the field.”
“Actions speak louder than words.”

Ok, enough clichés. I am here to tell you that in the world of college recruiting, you need to flip that around. That’s right, if you want an athletic scholarship, you need to preach about what you practice. Say what you’ve been doing. Talk about your play. And, let you words tell of your actions. Huh? What I mean is that you need to let college coaches know about you. Tell them about how well you’re doing in the classroom, about your rigorous workouts, about how your season is going, about your commitment and dedication to getting a great education and competing at the next level. Let them know why they should offer you an athletic scholarship or any other kind of scholarship over someone else.

Of course, no one likes a braggart. There are proven ways to present you to a coach. There are techniques for the type of email or letter you should send a coach. And, there are techniques to interviewing with a college coach. As you proceed with the recruiting process, there will come a time that you’ll need to talk with the coach. How many of you have been practicing for that interview? Don’t tell me you haven’t been practicing. I am sure you practice before your competition. And, I am sure you study for a test. But, you’re not practicing for the college interview?

Maybe you’re not going to call your friends and get them together for a pick-up game of public speaking. That might seem a bit odd. But, you should be practicing with someone. Why wouldn’t you practice for what could be the interview of a lifetime? The successful student-athletes know how to present themselves to a college coach. Are you one of them? Get started today!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Common Sense


RT Staff Note: The following is a good article from Steve Zawrotny's BASEBALL FIT Hitting & Pitching Conditioning - www.BaseballFit.com

In most areas of the country, the regular season and high school playoffs are finished for both baseball and softball. We are just now getting into the College World Series for both sports. In line with this, I recently received this message from a concerned parent of a college baseball pitcher:

“I ordered your throwing velocity and strength/conditioning booklets along with a set of weighted baseballs hoping my son would follow your program this summer. He read the two booklets and is excited about following your guidelines.

“His problem is that he just finished his season and he will go back to college mid August to begin fall baseball. If he takes a few weeks off (which I think he should; he pitches) he will probably only have about 10 weeks to use your programs. Any advice you can give me will sure be appreciated.”


This illustrates the on-going conflict between practice, playing, and improving one’s skills. There is no question that the more one does a thing, the better they will be at it. This is why most (but not all!) of the best ball players come from warm-weather states. Warm weather is conducive to more game-like conditions for practice and playing.

But there are limits to this approach, of course. For some more thoughts on this concept, what business management guru Steve Covey calls, “Sharpening the Saw,” click here.

So what is to be done in the face of these seemingly reasonable but conflicting demands?

It is well known fact in the training community that upon making a significant change to mechanics, athletes in any sport usually experience a drop-off in performance. This decrement is then overcome as the new mechanics are learned and integrated, which takes time – often weeks to months. This is why it is usually not a good idea to make drastic mechanical or skill changes in-season.

A good example of this is with golfer Tiger Woods and the changes he has made to his swing over his career. Several years ago, he felt that he needed to do some things differently in order to achieve his goals. He was criticized in some quarters for this, as his swing seemed to be just fine at the time. Yet no one is critical of what he did now.

I have some thoughts regarding Summer Ball, Fall Ball, and getting better, from the perspective of players, parents, and coaches. At some point in my life, I have been in each of these positions – sometimes in more than one at a time.

PLAYER CONSIDERATIONS

I know as a player, you want to perform your best and please and impress your coaches. So when they ask you to play, you feel obligated to do so. Yet playing all the time may not always be in your best interests.

Playing and practicing all the time leaves little time to work on other things. So, you keep doing what you have been doing. If your skills are already at a sufficiently high level, this is not a problem. But if you need to make significant mechanical changes (as most players do), such as learning a new pitch or two, or improving some aspect of your conditioning, doing these things while competing is very difficult, if not impossible. You need some down time – the off season – to accomplish these important objectives.

Is it really a problem if you play Spring and Summer Ball, then take the Fall and Winter off to work on needed areas for improvement? The idea of taking one step back now in order to take two steps forward later is not only a good idea but is vital to your growth and progress as a player. Discussing this with your coach is key. Hopefully he’ll know what you need to work on and will be actively involved in your “improvement plan.” With this approach, both player and coach will benefit in the upcoming competitive season.

Consider undergoing “active rest.” Play another organized sport, or participate regularly in some activity other than baseball/softball. Don’t just lay around during the off-season, but do something different than your regular competitive season’s activities.

PARENTAL CONSIDERATIONS

Your primary job is to look out for your child’s best interests. Ideally you’re doing this in conjunction with his/her coach. Obviously, things will not go well if you try to tell the coach how to do his/her job. However, you do have the final say on how your child is “used” on a team. If you don’t like how a particular team/coach is doing things, find another program, if possible. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you think something’s not right.

At the same time, DO NOT be one of those parents who questions or complains about every little thing a coach says or does. This is the quickest way to alienate a coach and perhaps send your child to the bench. If you feel you have a legitimate beef, say something to him/her respectfully in private. Otherwise, be supportive and allow the coach to do his job.

If you're the parent of a particularly gifted player, coaches will be tempted to “ride this horse” as long and as often as they can. For parents of pitchers. some good information you should be aware of and use is available courtesy of the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) and can be found here. If necessary, give the coach a copy of the info, and inform him that you will only allow your child to pitch under these guidelines. If the coach has a problem with that, find another team.

Doubtless your player needs some time off from playing games to actually work on their game. Fall/Winter is the best time to do this. Talk with the coach to get your and his ideas together to best advance your child’s skills.

COACHING CONSIDERATIONS

During the season, winning games is your primary goal and responsibility. You well know that it is difficult at best to implement changes to player mechanics during this time. The best time to do this is the off and pre-season. But if you’re playing year-round, when can your players make these key improvements?

My suggestion: play your regular spring competitive season, and another 50-60 summer/travel games. During these seasons, strive to be as successful as possible.

If you have a choice, do not participate in a competitive Fall season. Make this the time for player development all the way through Winter and the pre-season. Emphasize mechanical/skill and strength/conditioning improvements over competitive accomplishments. Go ahead and scrimmage, but make these scrimmages of a more controlled nature that allow you to create and observe the situations you want to develop and improve upon.

Evaluate players on how hard they work and the progress they make in both mechanics and strength/conditioning. You will likely find that players willing to work hard at this time will be your contributors in-season.

The bottom line is this: you can’t get better by simply playing all of the time. Take some time to do maintenance work. You will reap the benefits big-time next season!

YOUNG PLAYERS & BURNOUT

My definition of a “young” player for our discussion here is pre high school. Once a player gets to high school, they can get more serious about their sport, whatever that may be.

The way things are these days, players as young as six play on travel teams that are nationally “ranked” by some organization or another. I think this is ridiculous., but it is what it is. But my goodness, if you’ve been a “National Champ” a time or two by the time you get to high school, what do you have to look forward to? As a youngster, newspaper write-ups and awards become commonplace. Been there, done that.

No doubt you’ve noticed how many times, players who are phenoms when younger turn out to be pretty ordinary as everyone grows and matures. Suddenly the "phenom" has to work harder to keep up, and many kids don't want to do this. What was once fairly easy is now difficult.

So, when other things begin to show up to compete with this growing, maturing youngster’s time and interests, is it any wonder that many of these players quit and take up other activities?

Here’s the truth about youngsters and sports: they DO NOT have to begin when in diapers to excel and have an advantage over their peers! What a child is good at at age ten may well be very different from what they’re good at at age twenty. Certainly, many very good players begin playing organized sports at 10 or 12 years of age and go on to achieve at a very high level.

Parents, Players and Coaches: It is not necessary to start your child’s sports training out of the womb. It provides no significant advantage, yet offers the risk of burn-out. So let your children play in the streets and playgrounds to develop their skills and interests without the interference of organized leagues. If they show sufficient interest and ability, you will find this out in plenty of time for them to benefit.


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(C) 2008 Baseball Fit, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Quotations with attribution permitted. Cite source as Steve Zawrotny's BASEBALL FIT Hitting & Pitching Conditioning - www.BaseballFit.com


Monday, May 18, 2009

Life of a Baseball Scout


By Art Davidson/Daily News staff
MetroWest Daily News
Posted May 17, 2009 @ 12:22 AM

On the surface it would appear that John Kosciak has a pretty terrific job. He gets paid to watch baseball games.

There are some long drives and boring nights in small-town hotel rooms, but Kosciak truly loves being a major league scout. What's different this year for the longtime Milford resident is that Kosciak is now employed by the Houston Astros. Kosciak joined the Astros following last season after scouting for the Los Angeles Dodgers since 1994. Kosciak previously worked for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1983-84 and for the San Diego Padres from 1985-94.

"It was tough leaving the Dodgers after being with them for so many years." said Kosciak, "but it was time for a change."

Kosciak was offered the job by Houston assistant general manager and scouting director Bobby Heck.

"I've known Bobby for a long time. It seemed like a good opportunity," said Kosciak.

And what does Kosciak think of the controversy his former team is embroiled in with the suspension of Manny Ramirez for using a banned substance?

"No comment," said Kosciak with a laugh.

The Astros have other connections to MetroWest. Club president Tal Smith was born in Framingham and lived briefly in the town as a child. Houston's director of team travel, Barry Watters, hails from Ashland and is a Keefe Tech graduate. Retired Astros scout Stan Benjamin, who worked for the team for several decades, grew up in Framingham and played in the major leagues. He will celebrate his 95th birthday on Wednesday.

Some scouts operate at the major league level. Their job is to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of an upcoming opponent and judge players who might be pursued in trade negotiations. Amateur scouts like Kosciak attempt to find players their employer might select in the June draft. Following the draft, Kosciak will scout amateur, minor league and major league players.

"My job really hasn't changed. The only difference is that I'm working for the Astros," said Kosciak. "I'm responsible for scouting the six New England states, New York, New Jersey and eastern Canada."

Before Mother Nature permits baseball to be played in the Northeast, Kosciak began the season by scouting college teams in Florida.

"They played the Big East-Big Ten challenge in Clearwater. They had several games going on at the same time," said Kosciak. "There were days when I saw three games in the same day."

Now that college baseball is almost over locally, Kosciak has been viewing more high school teams.

"I try to see a game every day," he said. "Because a lot of night (amateur) baseball isn't played in this area it's tough to see more than one game in a day. Sometimes it's possible to watch two games in a day during the weekend."

If Kosciak sees a player who might have some potential he'll write a report and send it via e-mail to the Astros.

"Sometimes you might go 3-4 days without seeing anyone who is a pro prospect. There are weeks when I might send in 5-6 reports on players, but that doesn't happen all the time," said Kosciak.

"If I want to see a particular pitcher I have to know when he is pitching. The Internet has changed things. Instead of several scouts calling the coach's house and bugging his wife some coaches will send an e-mail to let all of the scouts in the area know when a certain pitcher is pitching."

Kosciak will often watch a player several times before the draft. He might have seen him also play last summer. A major league club will often send another scout to evaluate a player it is considering drafting, someone called a cross-checker. If it's a very high draft choice, Heck might go see the player himself.

"One of the things that has changed in scouting are the baseball showcases that are held for players," said Kosciak. "The people running the showcases tell the kids they have to attend them if they want to be seen by major league scouts and college coaches. Sometimes kids will hold back during the season because they are saving themselves for the showcases. I don't think that is right. The players have to pay a lot of money to attend the showcases. It makes it easier for me, but if a player is good he'll be found. He doesn't have to attend a showcase to be seen."

Before Kosciak scouted a game for the Astros, he helped the club.

Los Angeles opted not to protect Drew Locke, a former Boston College standout who had played in its minor league system, ahead of last year's Rule 5 Draft. Kosciak had originally signed Locke and recommended that he be selected by Houston in the minor league phase of the draft last December. Locke now plays for the Astros' Double A affiliate in Corpus Christi, where he's leading the Texas League in RBI and is third in batting average and home runs.

"I'm very happy about that we were able to acquire him," said Kosciak. "He's doing really well."

The Astros could be adding more players recommended by Kosciak in next month's draft.

(Art Davidson is a Daily News staff writer. He can be reached at 508-626-4403 or adavidson@cnc.com.)

Friday, May 15, 2009

More, More More.....


There are 287 division I and 246 division II schools that offer scholarships for baseball. This means that there are 5,594 scholarships on offer from NCAA schools. These are not "full ride" scholarships. Baseball is classed as an equivalency sport which gives the coach the opportunity to divide his scholarships between a larger number of players. IE: 24 players could receive a up to 50% scholarship instead of 11.7 full ride scholarships.

National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics colleges can offer a maximum of twelve scholarships per college. Baseball is also classed as a equivalency sport so a larger number of scholarships can be offered by each college.

The National Junior College Athletic Association allows twenty four baseball scholarships per member institution. These are full-ride scholarships but some community college's offer partial grants in aid.

There are 184 division I colleges and 129 division II colleges that offer baseball scholarships. Each school can only offer twenty four scholarships in total, unlike the NCAA the NJCAA cannot offer a larger number of scholarships at a lower percentage.

These are the facts...Now the reality. Sometimes we wonder if what we write about day in and day out is worth it. Families spend thousands of dollars to help make their sons better baseball players...because they and their sons love the game of baseball...but the game really doesn't love them back as much as football and basketball. They have to work harder, play more games and practice more than any other NCAA sport and get the least amount of money.

Get this folks...Women's crew gets 17 scholarships. Listen, I have a daughter and if she was in to crew, I'd be proud if she got some money...but a full ride???? I would never expect that. In fact, I would be embarrassed if my son or daughter got more than 25% for that sport.

Baseball is a Big 3 sport. It's still America's greatest game and more and more Major League clubs are turning to college players come draft time each and every year. They are more mature, disciplined, seasoned and in better condition that the high school athletes. But are the best athletes playing the game in college or are the better athletes that may prefer baseball playing football because the scholarship money is better?

This is our last post on this subject for a while...now it's up to you...the parent and athlete to take the next step and lobby the NCAA to change the NCAA scholarship limits for baseball.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Increased Scholarships Equals Increased Participation


RT Staff Note: We scour the Rivals message boards and contribute from time to time from the east coast to the west coast commenting on high school and college baseball. One of our favorites is NorCal Preps, which offers some unique perpsectives on baseball issues. One such contributor had a great post. We aren't going to print it all, but he brings up some good points and conversely, some perceptions that many parents wrongly have of the pursuit of college baseball. Here's a portion of his comments in italics...our comments are below his...

Baseball seems to have evolved into a game dominated by suburban white kids. Unfortunately, money has become absolutely critical to the development process. A thirteen year old suburban kid may have eight years of organized baseball under his belt. He has been taught the fundamentals. He understands the game and knows how to execute. He also has a sincere appreciation of the "team" concept.

By the time this kid shows up for his tryouts in high school, he represents the creme of the crop. The parents of the "wanna-be" baseball players stopped investing in those $200.00 gloves and $300.00 bats two years ago. The remaining parents are now investing thousands of dollars every summer in travel ball and camps along with the Demarini bats, high priced "sliding pants", and expensive gloves. Hell, I know one kid who's parents spent more on their kids' BATTING gloves than I spent on my kids fielding glove!

The parents that I converse with tell me that the investment is worth it because that four year college scholie is worth up to $180,000 and they expect little Johnny to earn one.

Though coaching and parental support are critical to development in ALL team sports, I believe that they are particularly critical to baseball. Baseball requires knowledgeable and competent coaches, training techniques, and physical facilities --and most of these elements don't adequately exist in the Urban Environment. And, to the extent one seeks to become supremely competent, money.

I don't believe it's enough to suggest that if a kid has talent, he will be recognized and selected for advancement in baseball. It may happen at Bushrod Park in basketball or high school in football, but, baseball seems to have a more difficult road in terms of attracting that gifted athlete that needs the where-with-all to maintain that interest in high school. I think the ideal solution lies in the establishment and marketing of baseball academies in inner-city communities. I also believe that MLB and individuals that have benefited greatly as a result of their affiliation with MLB should pursue the economic resources and political avenues to make this work.

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First of all, we agree in principal with his comments. Baseball has become a white, suburban sport. As he stated, there are many parents that think that they will get that big time scholarship if they invest thousands of dollars to make Johnny a better player.

The reality is...they will spend more money to get that scholarship than what the scholarship is worth. His figure of $180,000 for a college scholarship is way, way off. If a high school player is lucky...if he is the second coming of Steven Strasburg...he MAY get $10,000 - $12,000 a year...and that is based on a typical state school. Depending on his contribution to the program, that figure shrinks each year. So, over a four year period a player is lucky to get $30-$45,000 worth of cumulative scholarship money...which is about what most families spend over 8 years of travel, lessons, equipment and college development programs from the age of 10-18 years of age.

Yet, that's what colleges expect from their recruits. They need to be seasoned...they need to playing in the top showcase tournaments and competition...and that costs money and requires unprecedented dedication to the game. You don't see recruiters hanging out at the local Berkelely playgrounds. They are at the circus like events where everyone has $375 Demarini's, Wilson's, Rawlings, Mizuno's and Under Armor.

It's not that the road to get to the college ranks is too expensive...there are alternatives and scholarships to many College Developement Programs available...basketball and football, which can be equally expensive and travel intensive, offer that as well.

It's just that in baseball, the rewards at the end of high school don't equal the invested time and money and many families in general...not just those in inner city and urban areas...can't pay the difference of what a college scholarship doesn't cover. Most state schools cost around $21,000 for tuition, books room and board. A top pitcher may get $10,000 to cover that cost. Therefore, a family must pay the difference or seek out FASFA loan assitance, Pell grants and such to cover a part...but not all... of the remaining costs.

That is part of the reason why baseball is not as popular in the inner cities...football and basketball give out 100%....yet baseball requires more work and dedication than any other sport.

They practice for 45+ days in the fall and winter...have strength and conditioning 4 days a week at 6:30 in the morning...They practice everyday from January til the end of the season...oh, and play 56+ games depending on the conference and post season activity...They then get assigned to summer wood bat leagues clear across the country where they will play an additional 50+ games.

Now a student athlete is a student first and no matter what the scholarship, they should be grateful that they are getting an education at close to half price...

Well...yes and no. Collegiate sports are hard work and are in many cases more grueling than a full time job....plus an additional part time job. An athlete will find it very tough to take more than 12 -14 units during the season...and they can't make it up during the summer because they are in the Cape or Alaska playing ball....making it even tougher to graduate on time.

Therefore, after their college season is done, they have to pay out of their own pocket..an additional year or more just to get their degree.

The answer folks is not the cost of summer College Development Programs or travel or the showcases...Basketball has the same thing...gym time costs money...the top basketball shoes cost an arm and a leg...they travel everywhere like baseball...

The problem is the reward...If baseball were to become a fully funded sport and offer at least 25 scholarships a year, we would see an increase in participation and competitive leagues...not just in the inner cities...although that's where the biggest percentage increases will be...but everywhere...Baseball will become America's past time once again.



Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A Sell-Out For Every Game = A Scholarship For Every Player


RT Staff Note: I have written about the strength of West Coast Baseball on this blog and on Rivals College Baseball message boards for over a year now. I am a huge supporter of Big West Baseball in particular. The following letter is an open letter of sorts to vent the frustration from my readers and fans on the lack of support for what is the one of the greatest baseball conferences in America. This also applies to the PAC 10, WCC, WAC, and Mountain West conferences. All overachive on the field but grossly underachieve at the turnstiles...with the exception of Fresno State in the WAC and San Diego State in the MWC. Here's the letter...

I don’t have to tell you how important the Big West conference is to college baseball. Their talent pool is amongst the best in the collegiate ranks. The Big West baseball players in the pros are a combination of All-Stars and future Hall Of Famers.

This year and most other years, the Big West Conference is touted as one of the premier baseball conferences in the country. It consistently is ranked with conferences like the SEC, Big 12, ACC and PAC 10. With the PAC 10 down this year, the Big West is the top conference in the West with Irvine, Fullerton, Cal Poly and Riverside leading the pack.

Unfortunately, the local fans of these clubs don’t seem to know about the accolades of the conference. If they did, then it would seem that the fan base would be a bit more enthusiastic about the quality of baseball being played in their backyard. And, may I add, that it’s being played at such a high level and low cost to the fan…you’d think that during these tough economic times, real baseball fans would gladly substitute a $25+ per person pro experience for an under $7 per person college game.

Fullerton is the lone exception. They know how to market themselves, create fan excitement and interaction. They choreograph their games like a minor league club with between inning fan games, top notch announcers, a great food court and adrenalin induced music. Their Friday night games are usually close to a sell-out and full of crazy, yet knowledgeable fans, decrying the antics of the opposing teams, while keeping the fans amused and giving their club that home field advantage. That’s part of their allure for the potential recruit. No wonder they have such a rich and storied program.

On the other hand, you’d never know that UC Irvine is the Number One Ranked team in the land. (Big West headquarters) They struggle to get 1,200 fans to a game. Granted…it’s a young program with a fraction of the history of its Orange County counterparts, but, THEY ARE NUMBER ONE!!!

Who is the Sports Information Director at this school? Why aren’t there more promotional ideas being generated to draw more fans to the Anteaters games? I have heard all of the excuses…it’s a commuter school…it’s a tough academic school that cherishes grades over extra-curricular activities. Nationwide… Vanderbilt and Rice are tough academic schools as well, that have great baseball, but they get 5,000+ to their games. What’s their secret? Good marketing and top notch stadiums and stadium experiences.

Cal Poly is another school that should be averaging 3,000 or more a night. This top 15 team is a lock for the regionals and is in a college town. There is not a pro team within a 4 hour drive of SLO. This is their team and they are not supporting it. Towns of this size in the SEC Conference are drawing 6,000 or more to each and every game. It’s embarrassing for a club of this caliber in this beautiful climate to draw as few fans as it does.

Cal Poly isn’t the only college town where baseball seems to be the stepchild of the athletic department. UC Davis is also miles away from a premier sports team and while they have an above average stadium and a good facility, they can’t draw a hundred fans. Granted, they don’t have a good team this year, but they are bringing in teams that should draw well for the baseball fan. Just recently an underachieving Santa Clara team hosted San Diego State and the great Steven Strasburg. Santa Clara did a great job of promoting that game and despite a wet night, the game was a sell-out. That’s how you promote your games. The town of Davis is a very accessible community as is the baseball stadium. There’s no excuse for the local fans not to follow this team. The athletic department is not doing its job.

Another very disappointing program is UC Santa Barbara. Located in one of the nation’s most beautiful settings for a college campus, this school should be a haven for baseball talent. Instead, they have the league’s worst stadium and facilities. As a result, they draw less fans than the local Santa Barbara Area high school teams. There are no pro teams within a two hour drive of Santa Barbara to distract the locals from attending their college team. These guys just don’t know how to market the game. It’s like having a top of the line Mercedes and only driving it on small dusty dirt roads rather than the adjacent scenic freeway. It’s very sad, because this team has the greatest recruiting tool in the country…it’s location on the Pacific Ocean.

The Pacific Tigers have one of the nicest stadiums in the conference next to Fullerton and they too are located in a college town of sorts. The economy in Stockton is a big obstacle to overcome and we can forgive the fans a bit for their lack of support. The fact that they bring in 600+ fans a game is encouraging, but even that is low when you consider how fan friendly and low cost the games are. Like Davis, they too are not a very good team, but good teams are still playing in Stockton.

Long Beach State could also do better. They have the tradition, a good stadium and create some in game excitement… But, they average only 1,500 a game. When you look at their storied background and the blue chip players that have been in their program, they should be averaging over 3,000.

Northridge and Riverside are relative newcomers to the conference, but still folks.,..this is great baseball. The stadiums should be full and the games a must see event.

One should look no further than what the SEC is doing to attract record crowds year in and year out. Athletic directors from every conference in the West Coast should take an information gathering tour of those schools to find out what they are doing right. My take is that they all have top notch stadiums with lights, (If a team will install the lights...they will come...this should be mandatory for all West Coast schools) good food and great local media support. They get their students involved and each game is a new experience. Like basketball, many of these schools have rowdy student sections that keep the fans amused and in the game. It’s brutal to be an opposing team sometimes…but these fans can have you laughing out loud…it’s very entertaining to say the least.

The games announcers, both in the radio booth and on the P.A. system, rival that of any pro club and the fan interaction games in between innings are similar to what you’d find in many minor league parks…This involves mostly the younger crowd, but it’s fun, and keeps many of these youngsters coming back with their families on a regular basis. The music in between innings and before the game is current, lively and a great mood enhancer. I find many of these SEC games to be well choreographed events and it shows game in and game out at the turnstiles.

Conversely, a trip to a Big West game…Fullerton excluded, is a lesson in complacency. The stadiums are just a place to play baseball…which is fine if you are a baseball purist…but reality is…purists are a dying breed. Today’s game needs more…today’s fan expects more…They need solid information that gives them a reason to attend…and they need that information to be given to them on their platforms…Facebook, Twitter, My Space, You Tube, and the myriad of mobile device apps available to them. I mean come on…this is California, we invented those methods of communication…why isn’t the collegiate version of the national past time using them to create excitement and a great fan base?

It’s time for the Big West to step up Big Time. The conference is squandering a huge opportunity to make baseball a top revenue producing sport. If the SEC, Big 12, and ACC can do it...so can America's best baseball conference. With ESPN, CBS Sports, Comcast and Fox investing more time and money into college baseball, the timing to expand is now. The upside could be huge and the ensuing revenue boost could help make baseball a fully funded sport…a topic we have written about over a dozen times. I could go on for about ten more pages...but let's start here with this letter...Thoughts?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

If Teams Invest In Their Baseball Programs...People Will Come...They Most Certainly Will Come


On Rivals College Baseball, a poster suggested that football reduce it's scholarships and grant them to baseball. While I agree with that in theory, there has to be some guidelines.

About the discrepancy of scholarships between football and baseball. I have been saying that for years. Baseball barely has enough scholarships to field one team. (9 starters, a DH a middle reliever and .7 closer)

Right now football has scholarships up to and including a full fourth string offense...up to and including a full third string defense plus 8 other players. A back up kicker and punter get full rides, yet Steven Strasburg gets 50%?

I think the NCAA should pare down football to 66. That's three full teams of offense and defense. Of those 19 available scholarships...give women's softball 6. (they only field teams of 18 so five would make them fully funded) and give baseball 13, for a total of 24.7 which is nearly fully funded.

However, a team can't qualify for that extra 13 if they don't themselves take the steps necessary to make their team a revenue generator. In other words, they should only grant more scholarships to the teams that invest more into their programs. That's why football gets so many scholarships...they generate revenue...baseball has to earn it...this isn't an entitlement...that would really tick the football guys off if baseball just got the scholarships without contributing to the revenue.

The model to follow here is what the SEC is doing. Since the SEC teams average over 6,000 a game and turn a profit for their programs, they would get the full 13 extra scholarships.

The thing is...most college athletic departments are lazy when it comes to helping make baseball a revenue generating sport. The exceptions of course are all of the teams in the SEC, and teams like Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, Rice, Fl. State, UNC and others scattered around the southeast and Midwest. They realized the potential of college baseball and its draw and took advantage of the opportunities and are now reaping the benefits with record crowds and positive cash flows.

Ironically, the biggest disappointment lies where some of the best baseball is played...the west coast. More on that tomorrow. If those guys in the PAC 10, Big West, WAC (outside of Fresno State, they draw well) Mountain West (sans San Diego St) would invest in lights, marketing and media participation to increase attendance, I'd think you'd have an NCAA and advisory committee that would be more open to increasing baseball scholarships.

Right now, it's out of whack, because there are too many teams that treat baseball as a fifth wheel. I think that baseball would be better off if they weed out the fifth wheels that will never invest or even fully fund their programs and put them in a Division 1A. The teams in the southeast, southwest and west that recruit to win..as long as the invest to make money, should get the full benefit of increased scholarships. It would also make for better competition and a more exciting NCAA tournament.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Economic Relief


We recieved an e-mail the other day from a baseball tournament organizer in Michigan that really impressed us. The economy will have a tremendous impact this year on College Development Programs and other teams that travel and develop players. The cost of running a team will be prohibitive for many families struggling to make ends meet.

However, in an effort to ease the pain, The Wolves Tournament Director in Farmington Hills, MI, is waiving tournament fees for any head coach or coach that lost their job recently. That's a very nice gesture and more teams and directors should implement this policy. They key to development is for the kid...not to make money. Although, we need to support the CDP's and help pay their staffs, a scholarship or break for families in need are an important part of keeping kids in the game of baseball. Lack of money should never be an excuse for denying a kid a chance to play this nations greatest sport. Here's a copy of the flyer we received. For those of you in Michigan...support the Wolves and their Tournaments.. they deserve it.

May Day Classic Tournament May 16th & 17th
Farmington Hills, Michigan


Wolves Tournaments is continuing our program to help coaches and teams. If the head coach or one of their assistant coaches have lost their jobs that team qualifies for one our free spots that are open in 9u & 14u:

First teams to register for 9u or 14u get the spot
Register online at our web site
www.wolvestournaments.com
Submit verification paperwork

We have already helped a number of teams this year and when an opportunity comes up to even out a bracket we will offer that slot to coaches that have lost their job free of charge. It is our way of giving back to the community.

More information - Call Tim Broughton (734)645-9033

All of our tournaments feature:
Online registration, rosters, merchandise ordering and scheduling
Multiple Tournament Discount
No Lump Sum Gate Fees
We supply baseballs
Two umpires for each game
Run by a professional staff
Discounted hotel rooms

Wolves Tournaments .... where the top teams come to play since 2000.


Friday, May 8, 2009

Pitching Instruction


RT Staff Note: Yesterday, we showed pichers how to grip pitches. Today, we are pointing out teaching points for coaches. Go to Steve Ellis' The Complete Pitcher to view the entire article or go www.thecompletepitcher.com to view other articles on pitching techniques and training.

Pitching Instruction - Teaching Points For Pitching Coaches
By Steven Ellis, former Chicago Cubs pitching pro


It's easy for pitching coaches to leave out some very important, and often over-looked issues that affect young pitchers on their team. So in this article, I want to address some of these. These are not ranked in any specific order of importance, just labeled as common faults and in the order from the start to finish of a pitch. First I'll tell you what they are in order, and then I'll break each one down into a little more detail. You'll find I have a unique way of looking at the whole process because each one eventually leads to poor pitching, especially at the youth level, and some times it's not even the pitcher's fault for poor pitching performance.

The first 3 things I put on the shoulders of the manager or parent, the second group is things the manager or parent work together with the pitcher on, and the last group of 10 things are the actual mechanics of the pitch, neither one of these 3 groups can be neglected if you hope to not only improve the pitcher, but lay the foundation for them to prosper even when you're not their coach.

Manager:
A) Improper stretching and warm-up
B) Nothing constructive or positive from the manager or parent.
C) Poor catching (catcher) technique.

Manager / Pitcher:
D) No routine or Mental Approach.
E) Not Properly Instructed and No Practice Routine.

Player:
1) Poor lead leg action
2) Poor head/eye movement
3) Poor balance/body movement
4) Poor hand separation
5) Poor elbow location
6) Poor upper body / shoulder position
7) Poor post (back leg / foot) use
8) Poor landing
9) Poor follow-thru / finish
10) Poor fielding position

Break-down:

A) Improper stretching and warm-up:
This is so overlooked it's scary. I will actually dedicate a newsletter on this subject because I want to cover not only pre-game, but during-game and post-game. Please see the pitching instruction guide for details on proper stretching and warm-up. Real quickly, since you should already have the electronic guide to review, it's a series of things the pitcher does, not just the game time routine, but the pre-game routine and post-game routine as well that will help develop a consistently successful pitcher. You notice I don't just say a "successful pitcher" or a "consistent pitcher", it's "consistently successful pitcher" because I see a lot of what I call "one inning or one game wonders", and "consistently bad pitchers". In one of my next newsletters I talk about these as well. Please refer to the pitching guide you should have received from us and review the stretching/warm-up sections. We have developed some of the best young pitchers in the area, and it comes from being detailed in everything they do, from pre-game, during-game, post-game, between games, off-season, etc. We make little 3x5 cards with simple reminders of what they need to on game days and off-days. We'll email you a version of how we did it in a near future newsletter.

B) Nothing constructive or positive from the manager or parent:
I see too many managers mean well, but don't realize what they're saying has an impact. You've heard it before right, "just throw strikes", "come on, we need an out", "don't walk this guy", "There's a guy on 3rd, no pass balls", etc. I know it's difficult to always say the right thing, but managers need to learn canned phrases like: "we believe in you", "you can do it", etc. Until the manager really learns the mechanics of pitching and knows not only how to see what's happening, but can communicate correctly to the pitcher what's happening and what to do, they need to be positive at all times with their pitcher. We'll be covering some of the "how to identify" what's happening and what to do to correct it in newsletters coming soon.
Also, a phrase that is easy to remember is: "Practices are for coaches, games are for the kids". This really is true, and although a good manager that knows pitching, knows you can't make big adjustments during the game with young pitchers. You can make minor changes, but there will be days where the pitcher simply is off, and constantly barking out "get your elbow up" won't last of the course of the game. Stay positive and remind them that it happens even to Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens.

C) Poor catching (catcher) technique:
This is almost always overlooked. You don't have to have been a catcher to understand this. The reason I bring this up is because the catcher is important to the pitcher, and if he's doing a poor job of setting up and/or giving the pitcher a poor target, the pitcher is already starting out at a disadvantage. Having a good target to focus on is very important. In the instruction guide I talk about the pitcher not only focusing on the catchers mitt, but pretending there's a dime in the mitt and he focuses on the dime. I see a lot of catchers squat down, face the mitt to the ground, or constantly open and close the mitt, etc. Try to work a little with the catchers and get them to understand they're an important part for the pitcher to be successful. Just a little work with them and have them "set-up" in a good catchers position, give the pitcher a good target before the pitcher starts his motion, and have them keep that mitt open and not moving around. Sounds simple, but at young ages, many catchers and managers don't work this part of it.

D) No Routine or Mental Approach:
Way too many pitchers at this young age don't develop good habits or routines. I talk about this in the instruction guide as well and why it's so important to the complete pitching package. Many, no, make that most youth pitchers I see, even good ones will make the pitch, get the ball back, and do something totally different as far as getting ready for the next pitch. If you watch most good big league pitchers, they're creatures of habit. They will follow the same general process between each pitch. Once in a while, if they're struggling, they'll change a few things, such as speeding up the process from getting the ball to the time they pitch or slowing down, just to try and shake off the problem and find a different rythm.

They will all develop their own little systematic approach between pitches, but make sure you work with them on this, I talk about this in the guide as well. It's an important part of keeping their focus and getting them mentally ready for the next pitch without outside influences taking them off their focus and/or rythm. I call them "pre-pitch checks" a lot like a pilot taking their pre-flight check of the airplane to make sure it's ready before take-off, your pitcher will start their takeoff to success if they develop a good pre-pitch checklist. Things like getting the ball back from the pitcher, walking behind the mound, and taking 3 seconds to do the pre-pitch checklist, and it can vary, but they should mentally and quickly tell themselves the count, the outs, the situation, base runners, etc. visualize themselves making the pitch with all the right mechanics, but fluidly. Also what they do if they get the ball, and then the all important "I will pitch this ball where I want it and I believe in myself", etc. Sounds like a lot, but it's not. The pitchers we work with on this, along with making sure the catchers are doing a good job with the target, etc., they make very few mental mistakes on the mound because they're ready.

I'm not talking about sitting in the dugout as an 11 year old facing the wall and humming and getting into a trance like state. It's simply getting them to understand that the kid up to bat wants to get a hit, and unless the pitcher is prepared, then they maybe disappointed in how the game or his pitching will turn out. Just try to have them focus when they're out there. I know they all have buddies and friends they'll be joking with during innings, etc. That's part of the fun, they should have fun, but when they have to pitch, get them to stand behind the mound, do their pre-pitch check, take a deep breath and get on the mound focused and relaxed to pitch, and visualize the pitch.

E) Not Properly Instructed and No Practice Routine.
Most youth pitchers don't receive proper training until it's too late. Muscle memory is built at an early age, especially with pitchers, and it's difficult to change their current mechanics. Many things can be improved, but the longer parents or coaches wait to start teaching the youth to pitch correctly, then it's like betting on the lottery that they'll end up with good mechanics. This is another huge reason we're firm believers in video analysis right from the start, and to keep using it. We started using it when our pitchers were 8 years old and are using it now through ages 14. It's the only way to really isolate where problems are. It's also important to show them the good things they're doing, always with a positive focus. Not only that, but getting information from us on what to do with these mechanical faults is just as important. It's like knowing you have engine trouble, that's great, now you know your car isn't working, and unless you're a mechanic, you won't know how to fix the mechanical faults. This is why we highly recommend our very affordable video analysis service. In 15 minutes you can do the video, send it to me and within 72 hours I'll email you a report complete with still photos pulled from your video. You can place an order online and send the video, or you can print the order form and send a check or money order with the video. For details about making the video, please go to: http://www.youthpitcher.com/pitching_video_analysis.htm

Also, is pitchers not having a good practice routine. We cover this as well in the pitching guide. At the very least, pitchers need to do a few simple drills to improve balance, arm and shoulder movement, etc. throughout the week, along with doing long-toss regularly. Too many pitchers don't work at it, they show up at the game and think they're ready to pitch. Remember, they're just kids, so don't think you're going to get them to spend an hour 4 times per week.