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How to coach real world baseball

Posted by John T. Reed on

I am down to my last carton of Youth Baseball Coaching books, so I perused it to see if it needs updating. It does not. So I will just reprint it.
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That is a great book. One reader said he read all the books on the subject and mine is better than all the others combined. I know. I read them, too.
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You can see that testimonial and a bunch of others at https://www.johntreed.com/collections/john-t-reed-s-baseball-coaching-books
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My football books enable coaches who lost every game to win their Superbowl the following season. That’s because football is a highly coachable sport. Baseball is far less coachable. I say that at the beginning of my book.
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However, baseball COACHING is far more screwed up than youth football coaching. Seriously. The standard almost universal practice schedule is 45 minutes of hitting infield and outfield: get one, get two.
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Wanna know the truth about that? You should almost never hit infield or outfield in practice because they force you to do it before each game. And that is quite enough of it.
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And “Get two?” Get real!
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I saw ONE two-throw, double-force play in my entire youth baseball coaching career. And the first of the two throws had about 20 inches of flight distance. When I did infield, we practiced ONE-throw double-force plays only.
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Catch the ground ball near a base with a force out, step on the base, then throw to first. When we did that in pre-game once, opposing parents were laughing, then one of their kids hit a ball near second base with a man on first. Bang bang, our infielder caught the ball, stepped on second and threw to first. That may have been the only double play those parents saw all season in that league. They stopped laughing and went “Oh.”
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About 98% of Little League coaches make their players WORSE at batting. How they spend a ton of time teaching mechanics, back elbow up, don’t step in the bucket, rotate your hips, yadda yadda. That causes the players to think too much at the plate—about the wrong things. See the ball, hit the ball is all you have time for.
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Plus, there is little consensus on what the “correct” mechanics are. And the Little League coaches don’t know what that consensus is. I do. I got all sorts of instruction on batting mechanics and how to teach them. At batting cages, strangers would ask whom I played for. Opponents in adult baseball would compliment my mechanics. Knowledgeable parents would compliment the mechanics of my players at games. Very pretty, but could we hit? No actually, our on base average was worse than those of the teams with the lousy mechanics.
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I decided to start over. I opened Ted Williams book The Science of Hitting. In the first chapter, he said the best hitting advice he ever got was from Rogers Hornsby, a Hall of Famer. Hornsly said the most important thing was to get a good pitch to hit.
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So I closed the book and said, “I’ll try that.” At the time, I was playing semi-pro and coaching. It worked for me as a player and for my teams—big time. We became very selective, got a bunch of walks, and when we swung the bat, look out. I stopped having batting practice. All we did was go over every swing by every player in every game. We charted the location of every pitch. I was not coaching so much as convincing. “See what happens when you wait for a pitch right in the center of the strike zone. We did not swing at strikes. We swung at hitters’s pitched on the first two strikes, strikes after we had two strikes. On the first two strikes, we refused to swing at pitchers’ pitches that were strikes.
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Our on-base-average exploded to the best in the league.Durng the playoffs, the head of our league observed one of our games. He said he wanted to see how a team that never had batting practice. The verdict? He said he never saw one team hit more line drives in one game in his life.
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The second half of almost all amateur coached baseball practices is batting practice. SPecifically, each player takes a turn batting. The pitcher is a coach throwing much slower than game-speed pitches. He tries to throw each one down the middle of the strike zone. There is no count, no game situation. The rest of the team stands around fielding a ball if it come so them. The outfielders stand in group chatting. If the batter refrains from swinging at some pitches, the coach complains, “We don’t have all day.”
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Agh! I do no batting practice. I read a book about Little League coaching by a one-time American League MVP. He also had no batting practice. He wrote the book about Little League coaching after his team won the Little League World Series.
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Any batting practice need to be at game speed and must script all locations of pitches balls, strikes, pitchers’ pitches, hitter’s pitches. How are you going to do that? Coach pitches do not look like kid pitches, even if you truy to make them. You cannot use your pitchers in practice because you will wear out their arms and/or violate pitches per week rules. The main skill in batting is knowing what pitches not to swing at. The worst habit is to swing at all pitches, which is what coaches want in batting practice.
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Like I said, “Agh!”
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If you’re a coach, get the book. If you know a coach, get the book.

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