Drive the Ball to All Fields with a Simple Visual Aid

Power to All Fields

Driving the ball to all fields is obviously a great skill for hitters to acquire. Many hitters struggle to drive the ball to the opposite field without a slice. Still, other hitters struggle to pull the ball without a hook. We found a simple and easy way to help combat this using a bucket lid and some duct tape.

Bucket Lid Arrow Drill

  • Make sure your arrow is straight
  • Put the bucket lid in the area that contact occurs with the ball
    • Outside pitch arrow is deeper and pointed to the opposite field
    • Inside pitches are further out in front of the hitter and pointed to the pull side
  • Toss or throw pitches to the corresponding arrow location
    • If you're working on the outside arrow, throw the ball outside
  • Tees can be used as well if tossing accurately is a problem

Applying the Bucket Lid Arrow Drill

As you can see, the Bucket Lid Arrow Drill is simple to explain and use in practice or lessons. Make a game out of it with different arrow positions and focuses for different rounds of batting practice. Players will compete and learn at a faster pace with some rewards for doing well and consequences for failure.

One coach even created an Arrow Drill Leaderboard at his practices that the kids really enjoy checking in on their status. If you're looking for even more drills for the upper body and staying through balls to all fields, check this article out from Garret Gordon.

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The truth about college athletics is simple. The evaluation process doesn’t just occur on the field at camps and at games. These coaches are not just evaluating your player, they’re evaluating the entire family. If you’re serious about your son or daughter being recruited and playing at the college level, here are some things to remember that will help your player get to the next level.

Conduct Towards Umpires

Are you at the fence screaming obscenities at umpires? If so, you probably want to stop that. It doesn’t matter how outside that call was. If you’re acting like a fool at your player’s games towards umpires getting paid by the game, just get a life. Recently, this horrible act was caught on film at a 7u baseball game. The reason for the melee was a disputed call by a 13-year-old umpire. Disgusting.

Conduct Towards Coaches

You never know what coaches are around you. If you’re snickering and complaining at every move your coach makes, who knows what college coaches overhear and see that. The last thing a college coach wants is a second guesser or a ‘Monday morning quarterback’. It’s hard enough managing a roster full of former HS stars and their parents without every decision they make being commented on. I asked a few college coaches from NCAA Baseball and Softball about parental conduct and recruiting, here is a quote from a Division 1 NCAA Softball Head Coach:

quote1

Conduct Towards Your Player

Are you screaming at your son or daughter while they are on the field? Are you ‘coaching’ them from the stands? Is it common for your player to look at you during the game for instructions? At some point, you have to allow someone else to coach your athlete. Let them spread their wings and succeed and fail on their own. The growth your young player will achieve in that setting can be amazing and transformational. And, you’ll enjoy it more as a parent watching them play instead of telling them how to play. Another coach weight in, this time, a Big West Baseball Associate Head Coach:

quote2

Conduct at the Complex

Hopefully, the parents in the video below were drunk. Even if they were, there is no excuse for this type of action at a youth softball game. I'm certain, if any coaches were in attendance, the girls in this game were all marked off the list as you simply can't risk that type of parent being a part of your team culture. As sad as this type of behavior is, its even sadder that this isn't completely abnormal on the travel ball circuit of baseball and softball.

One Last Voice on Recruiting

A high profile softball tournament director and travel ball coach had this to say about his conversations with coaches:

quote3

Be a part of the package in a positive way for your athlete. How you, the parent, conduct yourselves at practices and games is a massive part of the recruiting process. Give your young player the chance to achieve their dreams and don't let your actions get in the way.

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Five Real Reasons Why Your Son Might Not Be Performing to the Level that You Want

Why can’t my son hit in the game?  We hear this all the time in person and online at BRHQ. The swings parents see in games is a shell of the swings parents see in lessons or practice. There are many reasons a player struggles in games, and to be honest, some of them are tough to recognize for most parents. This article is not about a drill to help your son get out of a slump. It is also not a quick fix answer for every hitting issue your son may have right now. What this article is is the truth about youth sports, and sports in general.

The Tough Realities of Youth Sports

Most youth sports are just a race to puberty. The biggest kids with the most muscles and facial hair at 13 tend to be better than the baby faced kid who can’t do a pushup. Look at your son’s middle school teams, what do the best players look like? Remember that kid in little league who hit all the homers and struck everyone out? I bet he was bigger and stronger and faster than almost everyone in the league. Does your son look like that? Is it fair for you, the parent, or the player to have expectations of greatness when he’s a foot shorter than the tallest player on the team?

The toughest questions to answer as a parent:

1. Is your son small for his age?

Kids grow at different ages. The problem is the field and the bat rules change at the same time for everyone. So an 80-pound 7th grader is going to have a tougher time (generally) swinging a 32’’ BBCOR bat than a 13-year-old twice his size. Only in middle school sports can we see size differences like this:

FullSizeRender

And those differences are impossible to overcome or change. It just takes time to even out. For the record, the smaller player in this picture is one we train and has done very well in his transition to the big field.

2. Is your son weaker physically than his peers?

Now we’re starting to talk about things you son can work on and change. Every single kid CAN do pushups and situps at home. Every single kid can choose to go outside to swing or throw a ball instead of hours of couch time. Your son doesn’t need an expensive workout program to become physical. He simply needs to make the correct choices in what he eats, how much he eats, and how much exercise he gets on a daily basis. And before you even allow the thought that your son ‘eats all the time and can’t gain weight’ to enter your mind, know that is incorrect and that excuse you’re making for him is part of the problem. I once heard an MLB team nutritionist say this, "If you are saying that you can't gain weight and food is not in your mouth, you're not doing it right."

3. Have you bought into the ‘effort myth’ and pushed that onto your children?

“You can be anything you want to be as long as you work hard”. Another saying we hear a lot is, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”. In actuality, most of the time, talent and physicality win the day. I’m not saying don’t work hard and I’m not saying that players can’t get better. I am saying that if you tell your son he can be the shortstop if he works hard enough, and he throws left-handed and is an awful fielder...it’s just not going to happen. The effort myth sets unfair expectations and all but guarantees future frustration and failure. Baseball is a game of skill and ability. Hard work improves those two qualities, but only when done correctly. Practicing the wrong way over and over doesn't develop your skill. 

4. Would your son rather play hours of fortnite than play catch or hit in a cage?

Look, let’s get this straight, I have no problem with video games. I played them in college, I played them as a young kid too, I even cried when I got a Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas when I was six-years-old. I also played only about 30 minutes a day and I lived outside on the basketball court, on my bike, or in the woods. If the weather was nice, I was bugging my dad to come to play outside or I was knocking on the older neighbors’ doors to play basketball. Frequently, we ask kids how much time they play video games and they say around three hours, and that’s a DAILY number. 

Unless you're @Ninja, the professional video gamer, spending that amount of time on the couch is not going to be the best way to develop your skills. Physicality is huge in all sports. Get outside and become more coordinated and physical!

5. Is your son ‘mentally tough’ enough to handle the failure of baseball?
play big

Many kids, when young, cry when they get out. This is especially common when players younger than 10-years-old strikeout. After about 10-years-old, the crying has to stop. But also, after about 12-years-old, it gets really really hard to hit over .500. That means your son will be getting out over half of the time. Zero hit games are common and dealing with that failure is a huge part of who succeeds in playing baseball for a long time and who doesn’t. If your son strikes out and then takes that K to the field or to the plate with him for the rest of the tournament, it’s going to be hard to do well long term. Being able to compartmentalize hitting struggles or fielding errors and overcome them is a huge stumbling block for many players. Books like “Play Big” can really help teach players a mental strategy for success.

If you can answer “yes” to more than two of these questions or more, then the reality is your son probably won’t be very good until he changes those answers to ‘no’.

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Players all over the country are gearing up for summer travel ball! Softball is already in full swing here in NC and Showcase and Travel Baseball is getting rolling as well. Summer rainstorms are frequent here and in the south, so lots of indoor reps are needed to get ready for the summer circuit.

Lots of times, these indoor reps can be mundane and repetitive as its very hard to get competitive juices flowing indoors off BP. Another issue is that there are very few teams with access to HitTrax or Rapsodo hitting consistently. So how do you train players to avoid the best players on the field inside a cage? How do you groove and train your hitters to crush balls in the gap in a cage?

“Hang” a Center Fielder

If we didn't have 6 HitTrax machines and 6 Rapsodo hitting machines at our facility, this would be the best decision I ever made. Honestly, it still may be. I used some old netting and hung it off the top of my cage.  

Net at Top of Cage

This small piece of netting is my “center fielder”. Not only does this ‘target’ become something hitters don’t want to hit, it ‘punishes’ them by stopping the ball. Hitters LOVE to see the ball travel. Stopping the ball after a ‘good hit’ to center (which ends up in an out most of the time) frustrates the hitter.

This implicit training tool incentivizes missing the ‘CF-Net” so they can drive the ball further down the cage. Missing the net is missing the center fielder, the best defender on the field and the place where doubles go to die. Obviously, at younger levels, the centerfielders aren't as coordinated and struggle to run down fly balls over their heads. But as the hitters get older the fielders get better and the centerfielders track down nearly everything. Check out this graphic we retweet a few weeks ago.

This ball had an expected batting average of .700. Meaning that 700 out of 1,000 batted balls at 101 mph and a launch angle of 27 degrees are hits. The ball traveled 399 feet. If that ball is hit in one of the gaps, where the fence is shorter, it is a home run and not an out

Centerfield Out

Install a “Shortstop” or “Second Baseman”

We use old pitcher’s pockets sometimes, but those can cause ricochets we want to avoid. Now, we use a football blocking pad which makes a loud sound when hit. When the pad is hit, we all react and say, ‘nice grounder’ or something of that nature.

Shortstop 'Blocker' for Right Handed Hitters
Shortstop 'Blocker' for Right Handed Hitters
Shortstop Blocking Pads
Shortstop Blocking Pads

These types of situations help get players to realize every hit in a cage isn’t created equal. On a field, it’s easy to see the SS catch a ball cleanly even if it’s hit hard. In a cage, it’s common to think, ‘oh, I hit that hard, that’s a hit”. Because of this, bad hits and bad outcomes are internally thought of as ‘good’ outcomes. Nothing is more poisonous to a hitter’s game production than practicing getting out in a cage. Check out the 'shortstop' in action. 

Avoiding fielders is a huge part of our ‘hit design’ here at Baseball Rebellion. The HitTrax and Rapsodos help for sure, but the hitter can see and hear these negative feedback mechanisms that are both inexpensive and instant. Hitting the ball over the middle infield and away from the centerfielder works in all levels of baseball. 

Is It Possible to Train Hitters to Avoid Fielders?

Yes, we do it every day here at Baseball Rebellion. The number one way to get in the lineup and stay in the lineup is to get more hits. Just because of hit the ball hard does not mean it was a good at-bat. If you are continually hitting the ball hard to the middle of the field chances are you are getting out more than you are successfully getting hits. I've never heard of a coach keeping a kid out of the lineup because they are getting too many hits. Introducing these simple limiting factors into hitting is both cheap and fast and will pay big dividends in games as soon as you do it.

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How you talk to an umpire can be the difference between winning and losing. These men and women are not robots, they have both emotions and memories. More than likely, they will remember both good and bad interactions with you and your team. What’s the best way to make umpires remember you and your team in a good way and get the benefit of the doubt on tough calls?

Pitchers and Catchers

Talking to Umpires

ALWAYS introduce yourself and shake the umpires’ hand. Do this pregame in an inconspicuous manner. Catchers, NEVER EVER show up the umpire on a ‘bad call’ and always make sure they’re ok if they’re hit by a ball. Pitchers, make sure you NEVER EVER show up the umpire on a call you think he or she missed. Always thank the home plate ump after every game you pitch, win or lose, good or bad. Re-introduce yourself then as well, to help the umpire remember you and your character. It is hard to thank an umpire when you have lost or feel he’s squeezed you but I promise he or she will remember your words post game.

Umpires: don't be like this guy. The pitcher clearly does nothing wrong here. All he simply said was "that's horrible", talking about the call. He didn't say the umpire horrible, only the call. That's a big difference. This thin-skinned umpire is costing this pitcher's chances of playing in this weekend's super regional and possibly one game of the College World Series due to his suspension. Which is a mandatory 4-game suspension by the NCAA for pitcher ejections. 

Position Players and Bench Players

Be smart. Your actions on the field and words in the dugout help or hurt your team. Make sure you’re a part of your team’s solution and not a part of the problem. Remember: negativity breeds more negativity. This happens with teams, businesses and marriages.

Be POSITIVE about the next pitch or next call instead of reacting negatively to a perceived ‘bad call’. Remember, you weren’t closer to the call than the ump. And remember this as well: no umpire goes into a game trying to be wrong. Do you go into a game trying to walk everyone or strike out? Of course you don’t! Give them the benefit of the doubt and allow for some human error while keeping your competitive spirit.

Batters

Batters, you are the easiest and most likely to anger an umpire. Never ever look back at an umpire to question a call. Speak forward, or downward, to the umpire and never make eye contact or ‘helmet brim’ contact towards him or her. Looking back and speaking to them is a huge “NO NO” and will always be dealt with in a negative way by the ump. I was on a team once where a player ‘drew a line’ in the dirt where the pitch was...it ended in an ejection. Umpires will hold previous experience with you and your teammates against you, as they are human beings. Be a reason for them to like you instead of a reason for them to hurt you.

Check out these do's and don'ts from Philadelphia Philly Bryce Harper.

Coaches and Parents: It's Not About YOU

William Wotring/ The Dominion Post

There is a great responsibility with coaches and parents that many coaches do not understand. As coaches and parents, we are role models, we are mentors for our athletes that we coach/raise. We owe it to our players to never allow the umpires to be disrespected or berated at our games by our fans.

These people, the umpires, are humans. Because of this, we know they make mistakes and will not always rule correctly or in our favor. Therefore, it is our duty to protect them and our players from the outbursts of the parents on our team or our supporters. Umpires will never forget a coach calming an out of line parent or fan and this will provide much leverage and latitude in the future. There is no telling how this ridiculous and embarrassing outburst by this fan hurt WVU baseball with borderline calls.

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