Game Preparation: Be Ready, The Rebel’s Way

Written by on November 14, 2013 in Hitting Theory - 2 Comments

Preparation is the key for any successful athlete. The fast-paced, “throw and go”, nature of youth baseball, these days, can put a major strain on pre-game preparation and post-game analysis.  In this article, you will find some simple yet effective ways make sure the techniques you pay for find their way into games, sooner rather than later.

Pre-game off the Field I personally have experienced the entire recreational, travel, and high school baseball pre-game experience. Unfortunately, until a player reaches the collegiate level, pre-game preparation can be extremely difficult. There is an extreme lack of time and proper facilities, to fully get the body and mind, ready to go, at full capacity. With some travel games starting at 8 a.m., the ability to learn how to prepare fast, can really pay off. This is especially true if your player is getting ready to start real tryouts where prep time is minimal.  Players at this level must have the “A” swing ready, and here are a few steps to get you started:

  • Warm-up – Now this may be common sense for most of you, but what are you really warming up?  Basic and static stretching does not prepare the baseball swing muscles to be used.  Instead, try footwork patterns and core turning movements that get the body moving the way it does in a game. Also, take your time here and make sure the body is ready to perform.
  • Progression – Even if there is little time, have a progression of movements.  Have a systematic approach to get the swing ready, step by step.  This should not take too much time, especially if you have an early game.
  • Batting practice is nice if you can get it – most of the time this will not even be an option for youth teams.  Dry swings with a bat and no ball do just fine as long as the hitter swings with a PURPOSE!

If you are already part of the Baseball Rebellion or you have another personal instructor, you should have very specific and obtainable goals that you are working on. Goals could be a certain movement that you have been trying to implement in lessons, or also mental, like being more aggressive earlier in the count or taking a full swing no matter the outcome.  The key is to KNOW what your goal is, then go DO it.  Don’t tryDO! No matter the outcome, if you accomplish your goal, that is all you should care about. Upon arriving early to a game, use your time wisely.  Seek out a cage if you can and have your movement or mental goals ready.  Once in the cage, try to get up to speed and full swings as fast as you can.  You want to have the movements at full speed as soon as possible.  Leave some time to get to the field and watch the opposing pitcher warm-up.  He is going to show you what he’s got.

Pre-game on the Field

Baseball Rebellion Preparation: Little League

Have you ever wished that you could look through your algebra test the night before you had to take it?  Well guess what? In Baseball, you can. For hitters, until you reach the college and professional levels, the opposing pitcher literally gets ready in plain sight. I can’t tell you how many young hitters I see sitting in the dugout not caring about the guy getting ready to try to ruin your day. I am definitely not putting everybody in this basket, but from 13-year-olds and younger it seems to be an issue.  If you can see the pitcher warming up on the opposite side of the field, do not wait until the game starts, to get a feel for him. Look at his command, pitches, velocity, etc… This is a great time to see if this guy has good stuff and looks like he can hit his spots. If there is time, grab your bat and get your forward move going to stay loose and begin to figure out your timing.

In-Game

Baseball Rebellion: During Game, Dugout Preparation This is where I separate the mature from the not so mature hitters. If you walked into your son or daughter’s dugout during their game and asked them some questions like these:

  • How did the pitcher attack you last at bat or last game?
  • What is the pitcher’s go to pitch?
  • What is the pitcher’s big strike out pitch?
  • How was your timing last at bat?
  • Why did you pop up last at bat?
  • What felt good about that double you hit?
  • What adjustments do you need to make?

Could they answer any of them? I understand that getting an 8-year-old to pay attention for ten consecutive seconds to anything is hard enough. There are definitely some things that are expected from different ages. However, learning to be a student of the game from an early age can pay huge dividends later.  A lot of kids go to the on-deck circle not even knowing what they are about see. Once the player reaches on deck, they may only see one pitch. Encourage your players to learn from the game they are a part of. If the pitcher is the test, he is giving you the answers. Coaches, teach your players that if you’re getting your timing down on deck, it is too late.  Players should know that it is okay to be “that kid” in the dugout watching and moving to the pitcher’s tempo. That kid, more times than not, will be ready. Once the player gets to what we call “in the hole”, they should have a good idea of the tempo, pitches, and umpire zone. Players should use this time to move with the bat if they can, otherwise they should have the bat and helmet with them, and continue to read the pitcher. Baseball Rebellion Preparation: World Series, Detroit TigersOnce on deck, players need to get the body ready.  Unless your are in the top 1% of all baseball players in the world, DO NOT do what you see on T.V. Stay true to your training and your game swing. Get your feet moving, turn the body, and get the bat going in the good upward plane. You could also remind yourself of your goals and really dedicate this next at bat to accomplishing them. Also, try to visualize. See the at-bat before it happens. Get the positive vibes flowing and be in a good mental state, believing  you will execute is half the battle.

Post Game As a baseball player, it is important to learn how to have a “short memory”.  For some young players, this skill may take some time to learn and really understand what it means. While it is important that we don’t allow a bad at-bat, game, or tournament fester in our memories for too long, it is still necessary to learn from our mistakes.  A player needs to take in the game and get an overall feel for how it went at the plate. Then ask themselves certain questions that will help them grow, without asking questions that could be detrimental like those involve batting averages, RBIs, etc.  More productive questions that  will help the young player grow and better prepare for the next at bat, game,  or weekend would be:

  • Did I go to the plate with a purpose?
  • Strike out or hit, was I aggressive?
  • Did I accomplish my goal?
  • Did I learn from my previous at-bats?

Final Thought A youth player should know the difference between statistical success and at-bat success. If your player is working on perfecting a new aspect of their swing or making any changes then that should be the focus after the game. This especially pertains to the younger players.  There will be an age where success will be measured by results and statistics. Is this easy to do for a young player? Absolutely not, but if  parents and coaches can get our young players to evaluate what really matters at their developmental level, they can make huge strides to becoming better hitters faster.  If their focus is purely statistical, baseball will become more and more difficult and frustrating. This will be especially true for kids who are used to going 8 for 10 every weekend. Remember, 3 for 10 for life will put your kid in the Hall of Fame. If you are paying for instruction at any capacity, expect a process. Chas wrote a great article on the ups and downs of a player and learning a new swing pattern; you can find it here. This process will take time to work its way into a game. One of the best ways to expedite this process is by having clear and specific goals and preparing to execute what you have been taught. Hoping specific movements will happen in your swing because you want them to, leaves room for failure. Instead, JUST DO IT.

JK Whited, Leader of the Baseball Rebellion

About the Author

JK is the only certified Baseball Rebellion and I.T.S. Baseball hitting instructor. He has done over 7,000 lessons since 2008. JK works everyday alongside Chas Pippitt to create the most up to date techniques and drills to improve hitters of any age. JK played Division 1 baseball at UNC Asheville where as captain, he led the Bulldogs to a Big South Conference championship and their first ever regional birth in 2006.

2 Comments on "Game Preparation: Be Ready, The Rebel’s Way"

  1. Charles Sherrill November 14, 2013 at 1:23 pm · Reply

    J.K.,

    I think it was Ted Williams that wrote you need to have plan when you go to the plate… good advice.

    I’ve come to believe that the most productive thing I can do as a coach is to get kids to think about these things (especially the first 3 bullets) instead of goofing off in the dugout. The other thing, which is even more basic, is getting the young player to keep track of the count and understand what pitch he is likely to see based on the count and the optimal hitting strategy at each count. Most players at the 13U haven’t even thought about that unless they’ve had advanced instruction. But I’ve noticed that the best travel ball hitters are really aggressive when they have an 0-0 or hitter’s count.

    In my opinion, youth players could do with fewer signs from the bench when they’re at the plate. The coach should explain hitting strategy, and let the player figure it out from there. We need to quit trying to think for them – that’s as an important part of the game as the motor skills and other stuff we teach. (As a side note, I think youth catchers and pitchers should be calling their own game too once they get to 12-13 years old).

    Kind Regards,
    Charles Sherrill

  2. Steve Black November 16, 2013 at 11:57 am · Reply

    J.K. – I thought my approach might help some of your coaches – K.I.S.S. keep it simple – (The last S for – Coach).

    Zero Strike or One Strike counts – strong balanced swing at YOUR Pitch – In your Zone with the timing you expected. (If it is away and you were looking in – then let the ump call a strike. If it was off speed and you were looking fast ball and you’re off balance let it go and the ump can call it a strike. (Similar to Charles’ Hitter’s count). Low Curve or low offspeed – let it go.

    Two Strike counts – look for a pitch you can handle (in or just out of the zone) and put a good strong balanced swing on it. the key here is to Expect a good pitch but stay relaxed and focused so you can let those in the dirt or in the eyes just go by for a ball.

    We only ask for a strong balanced swings – no diving forward – no weak slow hands, no iffy swings, head steady nose to the pitch always (headlight, head right). The kids learn with everyone’s at bat and it will soon come naturally – confidence will become sky high.

    Those keys are how I gauge success at the plate – A strike out can be OK and a bloop might be a bad at bat. Too many weak swings and you WILL find a place on the bench or way down in the line-up – The kids get the message and it is something they can easily control.

    Once on base:
    Everyone has the green light – we have a full array of signs but I’ll teach them to be aggressive and draw the throw. A base runner does his/her job by drawing a throw and getting back or advancing safely. Anything less and you’re not taking enough of a lead/turn to draw attention. Challenge the other team’s defense. The rule is don’t make the 1st or 3rd out at 3rd or home. This is so the players learn how to safely be aggressive and put the defense on the defensive.

    Our teams have dominated, 7 out of 7 seasons as the leaders in extra base hits, 5 championships (or season leaders where there was no playoff.) Last year fall ball I took the freshman team and two 8th graders – and beat the JV team two out of three games – dominated hitting in each of the three games – the loss was a 7 walk /4 Hit batsman game. We started as very weak hitters, not one good hitter. That same freshman team was a 1 win disaster (under a different coach) but our JV and Varsity teams were very good 2nd in state I believe). We played against 3 of their best pitchers (all three are varsity this year) and it didn’t matter. Not that I’m the best but coaching matters.

    I’ll have two or three bunting sessions a season so it is a known skill – but bunting doesn’t get these kids to the next level.

    I hope this benefits some of the parents and coaches and therefore can help the kids.

    steve

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