Youth Baseball Coaching reader success stories
These testimonials are generally applicable also to the book Coaching Teenage and Adult Baseball except where the coach in question refers to an under-12-only detail.
I love your book! Thank you so much for putting your thoughts down in
paper. So many rich and valuable ideas!
I ordered your book and followed it to the letter last season with my first coach pitch league.
Let me tell you, it was awesome! We had the most organized team in the league. You made me look like a Pro.
Jay Hill <email@example.com>
Hi Mr. Reed,
I purchased "Youth Baseball Coaching" from you and I truly enjoyed reading it immensely. I read it cover to cover and then went back and have taken notes for the upcoming season. It really is a terrific book and a great read. I was hooked after just a few pages and couldn't put it down. Thanks for writing such an excellent book. Funny enough, even though my son's little league majors team actually won our league pennant this last season, I still recognize many of the coaching errors I have made after reading your book, and I'm looking forward to implementing your coaching strategies in the upcoming spring. I've also gotten hooked on reading many of the baseball books you reference in the book, so thanks for that too. Your book was truly worth every penny. I've even tried to track down an actual Sybervision video with Rod Carew, but haven't been able to find one yet. I would love to just find the slow motion video of Carew's swing as you described it. With an iPad or laptop, it actually wouldn't be that hard to have a GIF video loop or something like it in the dugout these days, as you described.
Jack, we stood our local league on its ear following you vision, it was great. Patents still talk how we had our priorities right.
Mark Strahl on Facebook
I purchased "Youth Baseball Coaching" over 10 years ago. I was taken aback by the very first sentence, "98% of youth baseball coaches are incompetent". As I read further I realized this statement not only applied to me but every coach that I encountered in my 9 tears of coaching. I reviewed this book every year. It's well worth the price.
Ray Pascali on Facebook
It's been years since I coached little ball, but when I did, I used your GAM defense with pretty good success, given I was a new and very green coach dealing with 11-year olds.
Football (6th grade) was infinitely more challenging to me [than baseball], and the GAM book was critical, and I was really taken with it.
I might also add that I depended on your materials for baseball for kids as well—we were quite successful in our area, I might add. The baseball book (…brilliantly, taught me to manufacture runs via enlightened stealing, among other things) …
Thanks, and kindest regards,
Law professor, Oklahoma University
I spent 5 years coaching youth baseball, age 9 to age 15. i always suggested to players that a -10oz drop (weight 10oz less than length of bat) was the way to go. kids swinging a drop 3 would switch to a drop 10 and their batting avg would improve materially. i also found "youth baseball coaching" to be a helpful and unique resource.
Richard Dunn on Facebook
I love your books. I read the Coaching Freshman and JV [Adult and Teenage] Baseball book. I have been coaching football and baseball for over 30 years, I truly enjoy reading your work. Keep up the great job, and keep me posted on any new books out there that you have written lately.
PS: I have the one on being success, lead me towards a direction, if you know of any other authors out there that come close to your work on success or motivation.
Head Freshman / Head Baseball
Hartland High School
Hartland, MI 48353
I am in the middle of reading your Youth Baseball Coaching book. My son is seven going on eight for the upcoming season. I played baseball for 30 years and coached for about 15. This book is great. I can't wait to use some of your ideas this spring when coaching. The sad thing is I wish I read this when my son was even younger. Every father and coach should read this before they try and take the field.
Thoroughly enjoyed your Succeeding and Baseball Coaching books. Also, from someone who played baseball at Princeton University and then spent 8 frustratingly long years in the Navy (wrought with the same "counselling sessions" you frequently mentioned from your Army days), I find your detailing of your son's football career and your own military commentary to be incredibly accurate. Regarding your son's college recruitment, I've even referred a few people to your web article as I think it's the best description of reality that I've ever come across.
Dylan Jones <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Your Coaching Youth Baseball book was my bible when I coached through my sons baseball years! Thanks
The following appeared on the Hit a Home Run Info web site:
As I mentioned in a previous post, I buy a lot of videos and books about baseball instruction, to learn as much as I can about the game, to make my players better, and to ultimately win games. Over the years in fact, of all the books and videos that I’ve read and seen, there are only two that I review over and over. The videos are pitching videos by Tom House, a former professional pitcher, and the book is Youth Baseball Coaching by John T. Reed.
I have been coaching baseball for my son's teams since t-ball. Since I am not a baseball guy and I never played baseball in high school I always said I would stop coaching when I couldn't add value. I questioned myself early this year because my son was on the 10-11 year old team. In the end I continued to coach because the parents said I was good with the kids.
Since I never really played ball myself I was always searching for how to coach. I always found a bit here and there but it was mostly related to skills or drills. There was never a guide to baseball strategy at the youth level. For years it has seemed to be some sort of tribal knowledge that you get only if you played in high school or higher. Finally I ended up simplifying a bunch of diagrams from the high school to teach the players their responsibilities. It was never enough to satisfy me.
Your book is amazing. I knew from day one that this is what I had been searching for. I planned our whole season around it. It was a huge success, but first you need to understand our team.
Last year we had drafted a few players that were very very good, but they thought they were god's gift to baseball. Well these 10 year olds were completely disruptive to the team. They were mean to other players when they made errors and even stormed off the field during play.
So this year I drafted nice kids and nice families. I also installed your system. Our record was a disappointing 3-8-1, but the players loved playing. They loved the baseball strategies that I was able to teach them. Their parents told me that they were upset when they missed practice. During warmups to a game one of our wiser players looked at the other team jogging across a huge soccer field and asked, "coach why don't you ever make us run?". I replied, "how many times did you steal second in practice yesterday, 20?".
All teams in our 14 team league make the playoffs. After never winning two games in a row and only winning three games all season, they fought their way to four consecutive victories. Along the way they beat the top team in the division. Then, in the championship game, they came one run aways from beating a team that won its last 7 seven games by no less than 5 runs a game.
But the hightlight of the season was when we scored a run the tie that game. It was scored with the Billy Martin play that the kids had nicknamed "the lazy boy". Men on first and third, no outs. Runner on first is supposed to make himself irresistable as he steals second.
Well, this player walks a few steps and proceeds to sit down in between first and second. Run scores. Knowing exactly what happened our players and their parents errupted in laughter.
Thanks for the most memorable baseball season ever.
Hi John –
I'm a youth baseball coach who is of one mind with you on both coaching and safety. I spotted this and thought you might be interested:
My son is a 10-year-old travel player who is the starting pitcher for his team, and I have had him wearing a face mask since he started pitching three years ago. He uses the Defender face shield, which is the only one I've found so far that allows a baseball cap to be worn with the mask (even other models that are advertised for baseball can't be worn with a hat according to the manufacturers – go figure).
While I have you, I would like to tell you how powerful your baseball coaching book was for me. I'm probably an atypical reader, though; for me, rather than serving primarily an instructional purpose (which it does brilliantly), instead it gave me confidence that all the "crazy ideas" I had been espousing as a coach really weren't crazy after all. In fact, it was positively eerie how my own words seemed to be jumping off the pages of your book back at me! What you wrote confirmed that my general approach and specific techniques, rather than being loony, were actually enlightened. That gave me more confidence to pursue my methods (which, by the way, had always been extremely successful).
One obvious example was decision-making at the plate. I had always used a system essentially identical to yours – the two-part at-bat (less than two strikes, and two strikes). This system was so effective that I repeatedly had to declare a premature end to innings in which my kids were walking upwards of a dozen times (other coaches didn't always seem to appreciate my players' plate discipline, for some reason). I installed slip-on rubber mini-knobs on some bats in the choke-up position for reinforcement of the 2-strike approach, and I use the phrase, "up, in, and down" to remind them to choke up, move closer to the plate, and crouch a bit.
But perhaps the most important component of the plate decision-making system was the practice system I use. Like you, I think most regular batting practice is a waste of precious practice time. But I hold what I call "at-bat practice". Rather than just toss pitches and have the kids swing at everything (what do you learn from that?), I run a count just like in a game and I give each kid a dozen or so complete at-bats, with decision-making analysis throughout. Sometimes I even track where the "runners" are and runs scored to make it more fun, which really intensifies the batters' focus. I find this technique incredibly effective in preparing them for in-game at-bats, and frankly, I am rather baffled why in general, the only time kids experience a ball-strike count in their playing careers is during a game – in essence, they NEVER practice at-bat management, which, I don't have to tell you, is vital to maximizing offensive production. With my approach, when kids come to the plate in a game, it's just like the dozens and dozens of at-bats they've been through in practice, so they are very relaxed – they are in a familiar situation, and that, of course, breeds confidence. Let me know what you think of this system.
Best regards –
John, my name is Ken Ahlberg. I have been coaching baseball for five years now starting with T-ball and just finishing up a second year with Mustang. I picked up your "Youth Baseball Coaching" book just before the start of our Spring season. I am happy to report that with the help of this book we ended up winning the championship. Your book was very helpful. One of the biggest impacts was baserunning. Our base running really set us apart from the rest of the division. We spent at least 30 minutes each practice working on the techniques you outlined in your book. I know for a fact that nobody else in the league spent that much time on base running and it showed. Your "little known rules" really helped me out also. One more thing that set our team apart was the use of bunting. No other team at our level bunted. It really threw everyone off. They did not know what to do to defend against it. Even if we were not sucessful in executing a bunt, it really razzled the opposing pitchers and we drew a lot of walks. I plan on using the book again next year and hope to have the same success. Thank you again.....and a big thank you from the Romeoville, IL. Mustang Division Phillies !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I'm buying these as gifts for my son's coaches...so much better than buying them restaurant gift cards...there is no gift better than the gift of knowledge.
Your books are highly rational and very well done. Thank you so much for your efforts!
Marty [John T. Reed’s wife],
Thank you so much for shipping the book so quickly. I received it this afternoon and ravenously read the first 3 chapters in anticipation of a game I had scheduled for this evening.
I utilized just two of the things pointed out by John, Pitcher cover first base and the delayed steal.
My team won the game 9 to 4.
I can't wait to read even more secrets so that we can continue to move forward through the league and I think this book will really help me to become a better coach and more important for the players to have fun this season.
[John T. Reed thanked him for his kind comments and asked if he could quote him.]
After reading this book cover to cover, (in only 2 days I might add), I can't think of another baseball product that I would rather have my name associated with.
Thanks again John,
I just received your book. I never contact authors about their books, however I couldn't help but write in appreciation of what you'be written. Very frank and honest about coaching of youth baseball. I'm a first time coach of my son’s 8-10 year old team. Unfortunately we use youth pitchers. Would much rather have us coaches and pitching machine as you opined [for that age]. Anyway was up to very late taking notes from your book. I have one critique however. Your title of book would make it at first glance a generic-sounding run-of-the-mill-text book. While a bat shouldn't be machismo, your book is all that! Enjoying it immensely. Happy Easter.
Just wanted to get out to you a Thank You for your book, Youth Baseball Coaching.
I read it cover to cover, and used your suggestions for my son’s team, and their First Baseball Practice of the year tonight, and it worked out great. It is my first year coaching baseball (9-10 yr olds). My assistant laughed when he saw my minute-by-minute game plan of how we would be running practice today. He said: “You don’t really think you’ll be able to cover all of these teachings/drills today, do you?” I said yup, and I did. Kids loved it, especially the sliding drill on the cardboard.
You have already helped me quite a bit.
Again, thanks for this book. It’ll carry me through the season.
Your book is so good I'm sending a copy as a gift to my son's baseball camp director who agrees with many of your concepts I discussed with him on the phone today! Us baseball "nuts" have to stick together and I'm delighted to share your book with my friend.
Rob Winters, Foster City Little League
Thanks Jack I've purchased [Youth Baseball Coaching] and refer to [it] often. ...thanks!!! for making me look great and know, REALLY KNOW what I'm doing!
Mr, Reed, I have coached youth baseball for the last 4 years. Prior to this season I bought your book. I have read youth coaching books written by college baseball coaches and found them unsuited to the 12-and-under game. Your book is easy to implement and is based on common sense. Our team made it to the tournament finals and beat the season champs 7-0. Mid way thru the season I took your advice and stopped yelling at the kids. I and they had a much better experience because of that.
I used your youth baseball coaching book a few years ago to successfully coach a team of 9 year olds in Cal Ripken. I still recommend it to my friends/dads who may try to get involved in youth BB.
Michael T. King via Facebook
Thank you for saving me from myself. In 2005 I was a rec league baseball coach of a 7-8 year old boys team that was so bad that my team parents took a vote to fire me eight games into the season. I won by a single vote... [the next year] I checked your book (Youth Baseball Coaching) out from the library and had a one-loss season (still 7-8 year olds). Took a few years off and helped in the older leagues until coming back to 7-8 old boys last year; I reviewed what I had learned in your book and had another 1-loss season.
This season I am coaching the same age again in the same league and am undefeated so far; a coach from last year has caught on to the base-running emphasis and is giving me a run for my money. I just wanted to thank you for helping me move towards being a competent coach. I am happier and you are richer; I bought three of your baseball books (one for me and the others for friends). Keep up the good work!
Feel free to quote me. I use the basketball-off-tee drill. Really helps young hitters trying to learn how to hit. I was thinking of your turn at first and look to the outfield when I developed my race to second drill. I will try out the no runners throw to 2nd / runner on 1st throw to 3rd at tonight's practice. I have been needing something simple to address that weakness.
Thanks again for helping me enjoy coaching the game and helping kids love the game the way we do. The other unspoken result of your book; kids learn to love baseball and learn teamwork and love playing/winning as a team when they have a competent coach. I certainly am enjoying coaching now that I have left my old ways... Its nice to have parents and kids that like playing for me rather than voting to fire me... :)~
Dear Mr. Reed,
I would like to thank you so much for the honest information contained in your books and website. I purchased Youth Baseball Coaching and the difference in my team was amazing. Simply by emphasizing defense (You were right, I was the only 8-9 year old coach who had his outfielders covering bases) and base running, we went from a team that won only 3 games the year before to a team that won 15 games. We lost to the championship team by one run in the semi-finals and trust me they had much more talent ( they beat the second place team 15-1 in the championship game).
The greatest part of reading your book is that they had so much fun ( and so did I) with your fast-paced practice schedules. I think the most difficult part of teaching youth sports is understanding the limitations and abilities of your kids. I appreciate the fact that you deal in quantifiable skills rather then the things that "might" make our kids better.
Please don't quit writing. I have spent so much money on ineffective information and your books are the real deal.
Thank you for all your help,
Dear Mr. Reed,
I want to express my gratitude for your wonderful baseball coaching book. My own baseball career spanned 4 meager years (from 2nd grade through the end of 5th grade), but the memories of those times are some of the most indelible and cherished I have. I now realize how little I learned. My coaches were well meaning, but they were either poorly informed or grossly incapable of teaching what little they, in turn, knew. Your book is a call to coach at a higher level...and it succeeds on several fronts.
Your book should be essential reading for anyone choosing to be involved in coaching baseball. The majority of coaching books do very little to change or improve things on a practical level. While most resources chant the same mantras over and over, you have put forth messages that are intelligent, well thought out, well documented and defended, and supremely rational. Your insight and courage stand above and apart from the crowd, and what you say will ring true to anyone who actually takes the time to think.
Your book is equally great for anyone with a desire to simply understand the game at a deeper level. My enjoyment and enthusiasm as a spectator have been greatly enhanced by your book. Furthermore, any parent with a child in youth baseball would be well-served to read your book, not only to enhance their own child's strategic grasp and performance, but also to understand the challenges of coaching from a fresh perspective. Above all, your emphasis on safety issues is unparalleled. The safety information you provide is invaluable, and your book must be considered one of the definitive resources in this area.
I discovered your book after my first year of assisting with my own son's team, and I know this year's effort will be much more effective thanks to you. Your book will enhance our experience of baseball for however long his playing years are, and beyond that as spectators.
It is clear you have raised the bar on education, safety, and performance for coaches, parents, and players alike. You have my respect and gratitude for your efforts.
Michael Walsh, M.D.
OK Jack........here goes.......
We are 2-1 in pool play and have scored an average of 16 runs per game in the first three games. We made it into the "AA" bracket as a "B" team and 7 "A" level teams did not make that bracket.
Our pitching is not great but we have three boys that throw hittable strikes therefore every run we score is meaningful. My ace broke his arm on July 4th and has not / will not throw a pitch for us (stinks).
Your chapters on outfield have been an unexpected surprise. The other night one of their teams players hit a ball to the wall in left. My fielder picked up the ball and gunned to second (no cutoff) to make the runner retreat to first. I think he was used to getting extra bases on hits like that. We have thrown boys out at third and home from right field and I convinced one of my best throwers to play that position. He has been a difference maker in that the other teams do not even try for home once they see him throw in the early innings.
We run the bases like crazy. We have stolen home many times (including passed balls). The last game the other coach called time out and went to the umpire in protest of a first and third (the other corners....runner on second advancing on infield hit to create the "magic"). We sent the runner from first after he retreated to the bag while our runner at third waited off the bag. The pickle didn't work out well for the other team and we scored the run and got second. He (the other manager) claimed that we could not run in that situation even though it was a live ball and the play was ongoing!!!??? He was calling us cheap.
We still do have a lot of trouble covering home although we practice it all the time.
To make a long story short we are batting 0.455 as a team. We have a 0.605 OB% and an over 14 Bill James Runs created per game. We have 27 stolen bases, 32 bases on balls, and 40 hits in the three games.......and this is high level tournament play.
We have not had batting practice other than bunting (although I had to give one of my coaches 1/2 hour to hold "batting practice" one practice because they all thought I was forgetting about it). I worked with pitchers at that time. I have not gotten into the "batter's chart" but merely simplified and preach the message "swing at your pitch with 1 or 2 strikes". I applaud good decisions and yell "not your pitch" or "good take" when they lay off a pitcher's pitch.
We are definitely the misfits of the "AA" bracket and we will have a lot of trouble competing at the higher level, but we would not have the opportunity if it were not for the methods I learned in your book.
Thanks again and I will let you know how the 8 game "AA" bracket turns out.
You can see the tournament at www.district34ll.com. It is the invitational and we are in the 10 year old bracket (HHH American).
We rolled into the "AA" bracket against tough, tough competition and won two out of 8 games. They were both against "B" teams that also made it into the "AA" bracket. We were basically out pitched in the other games (and those two), but...WE WERE IN EVERY GAME. We never got ten run rulled (Mercied), in fact, we didn't give up more than ten runs in any game!! We consistently gunned down runners from the outfield at home and third. We covered home plate the best of all the teams. My son was one of the only players who understood the half bunt third strike swing and he had the least strikeouts on the team and punched several line drives up the middle as a result. These teams were all more talented and had better pitching than us.
One of my runners actually took off for second WITH BASES LOADED AND TWO OUTS from first. We got two runs in on that two out pickle!!! You would have loved it!!!! When I finally yelled to him that it was safe to go to a bag they got him at second. The other team's coaches couldn't believe it!!
The best outcome is that the "A" team from our league invited my son and another player to play up with them in a Fall League. My son became a better ball player as a result of this season and the methods he learned from your book. The "A" team could not believe how competative we were and that we beat a team that actually beat them. They suspect that we have some players that they should be looking at to reinforce their roster. My son is a year behind all of the "A" team players (They are going into 6th grade, he is only going into 5th due to the age cut-off thing).
It is amazing how crystal clear youth baseball is once you understand it!!
Feel free to qoute or use any of this.
I just wanted to drop you a note concerning your Youth Baseball Coaching book. I've read many positive reviews of your book, but they're all from coaches and a coaching POV. Personally, I am not a coach, nor do I have any desire to coach; however, I bought your book three years ago with a desire to attain a little knowledge of what goes into coaching youth baseball as my sons (then 5 and 8) were starting to play Ripken Baseball. I must say that the perspective you put forth in that book was both refreshing and spot-on in regards to what should be important to put into and get out of the sport at the youth level.
I used your book (still do) as a guide for the informal 'baseball practices' that I have with my boys and the results have been enjoyable as well as rewarding for all three of us. My oldest son has developed terrific plate discipline thanks to your methods...his on-base pecentage usually ranks among the best on the team, despite the fact that skill-wise he's always in the middle of the pack. And my youngest son, though he can't field a lick, was probably the #2 or #3 hitter on his pitching machine team and was voted the MIP last year. I credit your book for a lot of this.
So, thanks again, snd sorry to be so long-winded, but I just felt you might want to hear from someone who used your book not so much to 'coach' from as to understand what my kids (and I) should try to get out of the experience.
Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
bought your book last off-season and I’m prepared this season to unleash what I’m learning!
I’ve been stressing every practice, the difference between a hitters pitch and a pitchers pitch, even made a laminated poster for the boys to get a visual. During my group talk It always goes like this, “Hey, first pitch paints that outside corner low, we don’t swing because it’s a pitchers pitch, the umpire will yell STRIKE, but that’s okay, we couldn’t hit it anyway … do your best, if a pitcher can do that 3 times, he’s a great pitcher, but those pitchers are rare, so we’ll get our chances … be selective”.
I believe this speech if understood and adhered to is worth 100 points. Just to add to my point, I took a group of my little leaguers to one of this travel ball tourney’s in Sunnyvale’s Twin Creeks. We didn’t belong on the same field as these guys, but for example, my kid was batting second and had 3 walks on his first 3 AB’s!!!! He wasn’t taking any bulls***, you either put it there or forget it.
As you can probably tell, I've developed a passion for coaching youth sports. But, also a low tolerance for incompetent coaches who don't know what they're doing but aren't open to suggestions from parents THEY asked to help out. I'm in that situation now with baseball. So I'm not guilty of being one of them, I keep studying your books. Your baseball book seems to be even more phenomenal than your football books. Wish you had one for basketball too! God bless you both!
Because of my situation with my son Caleb’s baseball coaches, yesterday I read all your baseball coaching articles on your website. I was so excited about what I’d learned that I immediately ordered your baseball coaching book (to go along with the 5 football coaching books I’ve already purchased). After picking up my 5 year-old son from school, we immediately went to the park to practice just one thing: batting, specifically (1) the sweet spot on the bat and (2) NOT practicing so much batting mechanics. Today, we played the #1 undefeated team in our T-ball division. We got slaughtered 20-6, primarily because of incompetent coaches focusing on teaching “fundamentals” (and not much of that) instead of how to play in the game. My son had 2 times at bat. Each time, I just yelled to him, “Sweet spot!” He hit 2 homeruns—including a 3-run homer! He scored 4 of the 6 runs we had. After his first homer, the other team’s coach asked if my son can play on his all-star team! I wholeheartedly believe that his batting success today was completely due to me implementing your coaching strategy. I can’t wait to get my baseball coaching book next week!
Sta-Mo PONY Baseball
This year in Little League, I took a Manager’s position, bought your Coaching Youth Baseball book, applied a great deal of your philosophy, came in 1st place in the regular season, and won the post-season tournament.
Your books are the best. I think I have all of your sports related books and you have done a great job. FYI – the last two teams I coached after reading your books on Football and Baseball won their league championships.
Larry A. Pankey
Dear John Reed,
I am happy to offer feedback, as you have asked for it at the end of your books. You are free to edit and use this feedback if you wish.
I managed a group of 10U boys in an 8-team league near Charlottesville, Virginia. They play in a state-of-the-art facility built and maintained privately by another author, John Grisham. The league is highly competitive, as it is one of the most attractive and inexpensive places to play baseball anywhere (John Grisham underwrites everything and supplies all things, including bats and balls).
We finished with a 14-3-1 record, including 3-0 in the tournament. We won the championship, 6-4. We won it for the second consecutive year in this age class, which had not been done in this league before, at any age class.
I am compelled to write because I have had the opportunity to do something you have written about: Compare the use or non-use of a technique, against a similar background, to determine its effectiveness. Last year’s team was not taught using your method; this year’s team was. Almost everything else was quite similar.
Last year, we were one of the teams with a good percentage of offensive and defensive talent. We practiced much more often and thoroughly than most, so we also had the advantage that preparation brings. We did not generally signal things. We let the pitchers make their pitches. We stressed long-swing offensive fireworks and strong defensive field play. We finished 18-2-1 and won the tournament championship. Every other team more or less approached the game in a similar manner.
I read as many books as I can get my hands on between seasons, and I read your baseball book this winter. Knowing that the returning team would be fairly light on offensive and defensive talent, but above average in the battery, I concluded that your book offered the best strategy for this team.
I applied your strategies fully and consistently. This year’s team had three above-average players and a majority of 8-9 year-olds new to kid-pitch baseball. With their inability to hit into the outfield, I made two-strike hitting a separate endeavor for them. We used the bunt, your chop swing and what I called a short swing. I did not allow them to take a full swing with two strikes, ever. We signaled to the hitters, coordinating their activities with the baserunners on occasion. The baserunners were mostly left to their own devices but encouraged to be very aggressive. Practices always included baserunning, sliding and short-hitting techniques. I abandoned long-swing teaching (the typical batting cage), visiting it only during pre-game tune-ups for timing and during their live scrimmage at-bats. We charted every pitch and every hit. We generally threw the (John Reed) book at them.
The difference between our team and the remainder of the league was remarkable. We quickly became known as the baserunning bunters. As you intimated, many adults (including some on our own team) were violently and vocally opposed to short-game tactics. By the second half of the season, when the boys had gotten it down, we averaged less than three strike-outs a game. We played some teams that had as many as 13 strikeouts in a game against us. Where their boys were useless or worse at many at-bats, ours always had a fighting chance of reaching first base. Every boy had gotten on base and scored a run by the first third of the season, including one who had never played before. On other teams, there were kids who did not get a hit or score all season.
We were OK defensively, but the lack of size and experience in a rising 8-9 year-old was very much a limiting factor. Following your advice, I placed my best fielder at first base, when he was not pitching or catching. I insisted on very high competence in the battery (especially at catcher) and at first base, then tried to make the remainder of the team as good as they could get. I assigned positions and kept them there, with each boy having a backup.
Our boys quickly learned several offensive strategies unique to our team. For example, the lead-off man bunted for a base hit over 80% of the time, then was advanced to third by fake-bunt steals and passed balls; at that point, the second man would lay down a bunt or short-swing chopper and head off to first base, creating a first-and-third the other team did not suspect. Very often we scored this way, and when we didn’t we were able to load the bases on successive bunts while the other team focused on the boy at third. We did this to win the semifinal, 2-1.
In the championship, we were holding a 6-4 lead in the bottom of the sixth; the opposition had boys on first and second with one out. We had already proven that we would make infield miscues; the score should have been 6-1. The situation was absolutely ripe for a bunt or some kind of short swing to get everybody running and to give us a chance to throw the bal all over the place (the entire left side of the infield and outfield was 8-9 years old). Even so, the opposition batters, boys we knew from the previous games and from their position in the batting order were not strong batters, came up and swung away. There was no effort at a bunt or two-strike adjustment of any kind. So, they each struck out to end the game. The other team’s coaches got exactly what their stupidity bought them: Second place despite having a wealth of clearly superior talent (all of their games leading up to the championship had ended in mercy-rule shortened games).
I will point out that if you added up the ages of the boys on the teams to figure out who should win, we would have been the sixth-place team this year. The team we beat in the semis had only one new player (everyone else was 10 or 11) and the one we beat in the championship had only three. Of all the teams we faced, I cannot remember a single bunt executed against us, and all but two of them did not seem to have any idea about bunt defense. One team’s coaches were shouting it out to their players for the first time in the fourth inning of our game against them.
So, my conclusion, having made this comparison of typical and Reed techniques, is that your strategies are more fundamentally sound and offer more of a competitive advantage than all of the other books I have read, combined. By focusing on what 10 year-olds can do, instead of treating them like mini-MLB players, we crafted a style of play that fit their meager offensive talents like a glove. They were as good as they could be defensively. Combined with the lack of defense for our style of play exhibited by other teams, we were able to take an inferior team (talent-wise) and win the championship.
I will end by suggesting that in your next edition you give more time to the reactions others will have to this system. A coach who implements it has to be prepared for lots of derision/antagonism and misunderstanding from the rest of the league. It made all of the other teams look very, very poorly prepared, and the coaches and parents tend to be defensive when they are publicly embarrassed. I found that when we were executing our two-strike chop swing, many in the crowd (and most of the coaches) continued to insist that we were bunting. Even when we drove the ball by their too-infrequently-drawn-in infields, they did not understand the strategy. Even now, with the season over, I have people tell me our system was inferior and somehow not an acceptable form of baseball. Pointing out that empirical data (wins and losses) ought to be the bottom line in arguments about the appropriateness of our team’s approach gets nowhere with these people. Future coaches using your system need to understand that this is very likely to be their experience.
For me, I would not have traded this season for any other. We were giving our kids every chance to succeed, based on our strengths and the opposition’s failure to understand our approach. We were really coaching, rather than just organizing and watching. We had a plan, a unique plan, and nobody ever came up with an answer for it. Thank you for writing so clearly on the subject; I believe your price is at least $30 cheaper than it should be.
Please go to Part 2