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Fastpitch Softball Magazine Issue 47

FPTV Fastpitch Softball Magazine Issue 47

Issue 47 of The Fastpitch Magazine Published By Gary Leland

This month’s featured video is from my series with one incredible legend of the game, Dr. Dot Richardson. This has been a multipart series focused on the History Of Softball. This video is recorded with the famous Michele Smith. I have also included one of my great softball drills, another featured chapter from The Fastpitch Book, and all your helpful articles from our amazing writers.

Welcome to the July 2016 Issue of the Fastpitch Magazine. The Fastpitch magazine has been bringing you more fastpitch softball articles and videos than anyone on the planet for over two full years.

Mitch Alexander writes in the Softball Academy, “DIY Home Backyard Batting Cage”.

Keri Casas is writing in, To Coach or Not to Coach, her article “Unselfishness”.

Aaron Weintraub’s column, Bridging The Gap, has his article “Routines”.

Michelle Diltz is bringing focus in her section, School of Strength, with her article “Back to the Basics of Training″.

Shannon McDougall is back with an article on Planning For Success, entitled “Season End”.

Abby Hanrahan is back with The Pitching Link, in her article “Deconstructing Pitching Lessons”.

Dr. Sherry Werner joins us again with and article on Windmill Wisdom, “Breaking Down The Windmill Pitch: Timing”.

Featuring a Drill of the Month, this one comes from my book on Hitting Drills “The Ten Strike Game – Pitching Drill”.

Special Article featured from The Fastpitch Book, Written by Lisa Iancin “The Moment”.

Guest writer this month is by Bill Boles with an article on “Tryouts”.

I also feature my interview of the month with Olympian Dionna Harris.

All this and more in this months issue.

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A Battery Has Two Ends!

Bryan Ingalls

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A Battery Has Two Ends

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It is no secret that whether its baseball or softball, that if you do not have the pitching then your team will probably not be very successful. More so in the case of softball, you can get away with having just one ace carry you to many of your team goals. One ace can without a doubt mask some of the deficiencies that your team may have; lack of defense, offense, base running, or even coaching (yes I am a coach and am saying that).

There is something about throwing a no hitter or a perfect game that is just so very impressive, and you see it much more frequently in fast pitch softball as opposed to baseball. Why is that? Well I have stated before in my blogs that hitting a softball is so very much harder than hitting a baseball. With that being said I think about 99% of the coaches in this country would start a team with a stud pitcher. I probably would too, but I have always thought outside the box on many things whether it being in coaching, playing, business, and life, so why stop with this.

The position of catcher has been so overlooked and so undervalued, that the lack of catching can and will hinder the success of a great pitcher and a great team.

You can have the best pitcher on the planet, who has an untouchable riser, a change up that may seem like it stops in mid air, a curveball that cuts sharper than a Mariano Rivera cutter, a drop ball that drops off the table or a fastball that simply jumps off a radar gun. But remember that someone has to be there catching the pitch.

A pitcher is only good as their catcher. The catcher can greatly enhance a pitchers greatness and can also hinder them as well.

It does not matter how good your pitcher may be, if your catcher cannot handle them , there is no point is having them , you might as well have someone on the mound who pitches to contact and play good defense. Between coaching, watching and playing fastpitch there have been many instances where I have seen a dropped third strike and a passed ball, passed ball, passed ball score a run.

What makes a pitcher even better is having the confidence that she/he can let one rip and snap one off and no matter where is goes the catcher will be there to have their back. If there is any question in the back of the pitchers mind that she/he can’t stick that drop ball or cant snap up and get that rise ball, or block that nasty change up in the dirt then the effectiveness of the pitcher and confidence to make that pitch will go down.

The importance of developing a catcher at the youth levels has drastically gone down which is why finding great catchers coming out of high school are few and far between and we are seeing more and more athletes being converted to this position when they are already in college. The position of catcher is merely overlooked when the importance of developing pitchers and hitters are certainly on the rise.

You should not try and simply develop a pitcher, it is a must to develop a catcher and nurture the very important Pitcher/Catcher relationship!

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Change, Please

Aaron Weintraub

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Change, Please

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IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO PROGRESS WITHOUT CHANGE, BUT MAKING ADJUSTMENTS OFTEN ENCOUNTERS RESISTANCE. CONSIDER THE TOP REASONS THAT PEOPLE RESIST CHANGES WITHIN THEIR TEAM, SCHOOL, OR ORGANIZATION (ASSUMING THAT THE CHANGE IS FOR THE BETTER):

Fear of the unknown

A great synonym for the “comfort zone” is the “familiar zone.” Taking advantage of the opportunity to expand one’s comfort zone a little every day will reap immense rewards. Buyer beware: humans are creatures of habit. Not changing comes naturally to us.

Satisfaction with the status quo

We all agree that if something is not broken, do not fix it. However, “broken” can be defined in many ways. Clearly, winning once does not mean that nothing is broken. Perhaps a better definition for broken is “not as good as it could be.”

Resentment

It is often difficult to get the ego out of the way. Sometimes the brain says yes, but emotions shout, “No!” What is right is important. Who is right is not. Resentment can often be nipped in the bud by making the decision making process inclusive. Research shows that subordinates do not have to get their way to feel satisfied or accept change. They simply need to be heard.

Lack of confidence/motivation

The perception is that the cost is too high or the reward too low — what’s in it for me? This discussion is only about good change, but just because the change would ultimately be helpful does not mean that everyone knows this. In fact, the future is impossible to know and it is unlikely that everyone concerned will think the change is a good idea. Buy-in comes from effective communication. Great leaders communicate their vision with clarity.

Lack of faith

The idea may be good in theory, but the people involved may doubt their ability to see the adjustment through to its positive end. Change typically involves an initial performance decline before the benefits kick-in and outweigh the costs. It takes confidence to decide to change and faith to see it through.

Fear of failure

We all worry to some degree about not being good enough. The goal is not to eliminate fear, but rather to eliminate fear’s effects. It is okay to be scared; it is not okay to act scared. This takes the courage to do our best, one step at a time. When we define success as Coach Wooden does, (“The peace of mind that comes from knowing you did your best”), we can actually eliminate “failure” as a possibility by forming a plan (e.g. pre-performance routine) and executing it as best we can.

If faith and courage both exist in excess, look out world! Continuous improvement abounds.

As you read this article, you were led to think about change at an organizational level. Read the list again, this time thinking about adjustments at the individual level. The list still applies. Great adjustments come from athletes who are paying attention. Here are the specific questions of an Effective Rational Response that they are paying attention to:

What was I trying to do? (answer should be 100% controllable)
What happened?
Why?
What do I want to do next time I’m in a similar situation?
How might I best do that?

COACHING POINT

Teach your athletes to teach themselves. After all, perhaps the best way to learn something is to teach it. Plus, we all would love to have an omnipresent and omniscient coach. This perfect coach would figure out how to push us when needed and hug us just when we need that support to lean on. Someone to know when we are off track and how we can get back to our true selves. Someone to know our mechanics and the game so well that they know the key points and the “non-teaches.” Plus they give us these ideal mechanics in just the right doses at just the right times. They allow us to keep it simple, with a narrow-extemal focus during the action.

This coach is an artist, adept at balancing work with play, aggressiveness with control, a sense of urgency with patience and faith, and trying hard with detached observation. We will play on different teams, but this coach will stay with us always. Who can achieve all of this? There is only one candidate.

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In Time For The Double Play

Lisa Iancin

In Time For The Double Play

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When turning a double play, you can’t wait for the ball to be in your glove. You have to know that you are going to get the lead out before even attempting to go two. You need to anticipate. On top of that, can you double off the batted runner at first? As seldom as it takes place, a double play will happen in just a hair after 3 seconds. In that short duration of time, how is it possible to field one ground ball and make two accurate throws? Teams that know how to turn double plays are teams that understand the concept of Game Speed Defense.

Last week we talked about the idea of when Fastpitch happens. Since the game moves so quickly, we described how the intricacies of Fastpitch happen in the anticipatory phase versus the reaction phase of fielding. In the example of turning a double play, let’s use a third basemen’s perspective. With a runner at first base and less than two outs, a hard ball hit to the third basemen is a great time to consider turning a double play. The reason why is because the third basemen plays inside the baseline, closer to home plate than middle infielders who play deeper. Also, most hitters are right-handed and tend to drill hard ground balls to the pull side of the field. If a hard ground ball goes to the direction of the third basemen, chances are the ball will be in her glove in less than one second’s time. Now we have two thirds of our time left to use for gunning out runners. After all, that’s why they call third base “The Hot Comer.” Most everything comes that way hard and quick and you are reacting more than thinking. If you are the third basemen of your team, thinking that you got stuck there because your arm is not as strong as the short stop’s, don’t worry because you have likely been placed there for having more guts than anyone!

Getting back to it, let’s back it up a few notches. Ok so the ball has not been hit to the third basemen yet, but we are beginning our double play thinking as of now. Before the batter walks into the box, let’s take a glance at the runner at first base and determine is she has wheels or not. Is she the lead-off lefty slapper possessing the most speed on the team? Or is she a hitter known more for power and clean-up than a high stolen base percentage? After assessing the runner at first, let’s talk about the speed of the batter getting into the box. Now, if you think you have a shot, give your second basemen the nod to say “let’s get her at two.” This communication is just as important as the physical motions of turning a double play. By the time the ball is hit into your glove, you already know that your second basemen will be there on time since the conversation took place before the play. Now we allow our physical skills that we work on every day at practice do their job. At practice, the physical skills have to be designed into drills that set a standard for perfection. For example, the throw from the third basemen to the second basemen has to be right on the base and more specifically at the chest of the second basemen. This will allow for a quick transfer from catch to throw for the second basemen’s throw to one. In practice, we work for a high standard of perfection so that in the game we trust our mechanics are solid so we can let loose and just play!

The double play still yet goes beyond communication and physical skill. There is a third factor called expectation. Teams that turn double plays as routine have a high expectation for executing the second out. This means that they are not happy with just one out, but they are always looking for making two outs any opportunity with runners on base. You may not always get two outs, but you never know unless you are looking for it. I see many young fielders place a tag on a runner and look up to hear the umpire’s call. Often during that time, there is a second trail runner advancing to the next base. Again, the game of Fastpitch happens too fast in general. There is no time to wait for one umpire’s determination while the second umpire is already in position for the second play at another base. Having said that, let’s look for the third out while we’re at it!

From all of this discussion, I hope we can catch a glimpse of the lessons we learn from the game. Be aggressive and get the lead out and don’t settle for just one when you can get more. That is the winning attitude that it takes to win, and as a fastpitch softball player that is what you are signing up for. At the same time, throws are to be used wisely. There is no point in throwing to second base for a double play when the runner is already there as now you have given up the out at one just to risk overthrows. The mental needs to come prior to the physical as Fastpitch happens before the actual play. If you are in doubt and need a second opinion, communicate with your teammates on the field as they are the ones who you are going to need to tum this double play.

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Silly Superstitions or Rational Routines?

Charity Butler

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Silly Superstitions Or Rational Routines

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Superstition is synonymous with softball! From tee ball to the NPF, it seems we hitters have some rather irrational routines and beliefs.

In mild cases, players decide wearing a particular headband or certain color of nail polish will bring them luck at the plate.

More extreme episodes cross the threshold of hygiene and cleanliness creeping into what I call the Hot Mess Zone! When Sally is on a hitting streak, the stench of superstition billows through the close-quartered dugout. Her dirty socks are the reason she is having success, so washing them is out of the question.

Susie will not step foot on the field without her “lucky sweat band ,” the 15 year old misshapen rag, faded and without elastic due to dry rot. Then there is Josephine who will not shave her legs when she is hitting well because, “it is a good batch of hair.”

I can not make this stuff up! The examples above are all true stories , but the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Unfortunately, I must admit to having my own pre-game and pre-at bat rituals. Every action has its time and every piece of equipment has its place.

Ultimately, however, I have to step in the box and hit the ball. Having a good at bat (AB) has little to do with my hairstyle, socks , nail polish or even the particular bat I am using. If the bat is not broken and the length and weight are a good fit, the bat has nothing to do with the outcome of an AB.

Whether a hitter makes solid contact or chokes at the plate, she must take responsibility and own the outcome of her performance. Blaming the results on an irrational superstition or a situation outside her control is not acceptable or beneficial.

Although our superstitions can sometimes appear a bit insane, proper habits and routines can prepare us to be at our best when it matters the most. One particular routine became my secret weapon as a hitter: check- in, plan and trust. Let me explain.

To begin, when I am four hitters from my at bat, I find my helmet, batting gloves and bat. On a typical day, they are always be in the same place! This is a pre-requisite for check- in, plan and trust. I cannot work through my mental and physical routine without all the necessary equipment.

How many times do we see a hitter racing around trying to find a bat when she is supposed to be on deck? The hitter before her has a short AB. The unorganized and flustered player rushes to step in the box completely unprepared!

Gathering our equipment at the right time is a small step that can make a big difference.

Once I am “in the hole” (3 hitters from step ping into the box), the process begins. With my bat in hand, I find a place in the dugout where I can clearly see the pitcher. From that spot, I begin to check-in. Closing my eyes , I take long deep breaths and visualize myself during my at bat.

As if I am watching myself on TV, I see me. I go through my pre-pitch routine: fix the dirt, get the signal, step in the box, two flicks of the wrist toward center field , take a deep breath and then find my rhythm as I slip into my stance. I see the pitcher winding up. I see the ball release from her fingers and spin as it slowly moves toward me. It is my pitch , and I see myself drive it over the center field wall.

After seeing a perfect swing or two in my mind’s eye, I open my eyes and practice seeing the ball out of the pitcher’s hand. I will admit, my bat lays a certain way, and I secure my hitting gloves very particularly and at just the right time. Superstition does seem to inevitably weave its way in the game!

Once on deck, it is time to plan. I am sure to survey the situation becoming aware of the outs, runners on base and the set-up of the defense. I know the count of the hitter before me. It is also important to remind myself of the strengths and weaknesses of my teammates. If the hitter in front of me is not super-fast, I must be careful not to overrun her. In a tight game with runners on base and a short-game hitter behind me, I am looking for pitches to produce RBI’s, not simply move runners.

While planning in the on-deck circle, I also think through the potential situations coach may call on me to execute: hit and run, bunt, hit behind the runner, sac fly, squeeze. Will I be in a position to take a “big hack, ” or will I aim to simply drive a base hit through the infield?

Thinking through the different scenarios allows me to be most prepared, rarely blindsided by an unexpected situation that may surprise me.

When it is my turn to step in the box, actually perform the entire pre-pitch routine I pictured earlier. Once in my stance, I take a deep breath. Now it is time to Trust.

Trust? Trust what? I must trust myself and my preparation. I must clear my mind. The goal: remain relaxed and confident.

To help me Trust, I usually adopt one focus for my at bat. Some examples are: “See it and hit it.” “Release, Contact.” “Load and Explode.” “Middle of the ball.” “See it and drive it.” “Let it fly.” “BRING IT!” “Throw me a strike. ”

Once in the box, I turn off the superstitious thinking and simply trust the routine!

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First and Third

Coach Dalton

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You want to know what really gets me upset? I mean really sends me over the edge. It’s when I see a team with runners at first and third, less than 2 outs and I see the first base coach whisper to the runner at first. Although I’m in the stands I can hear them crystal clear saying “Just go ahead and run to second the catcher can’t throw because there is a runner at third base and we will get a run.”

I want to telepathically yell back at them “Of course she can throw down to second and she will. The player you have on third takes 2 foot lead offs and immediately jumps back to the base. I know she isn’t going to run unless the coach shoves her, the catcher knows she isn’t going to run and the player’s parents know she isn’t going to run. So don’t let your girl at first get hung out to dry here. ”

You probably think I’m crazy, and you may be right but truth be told you’ve seen it happen time after time and perhaps with your very own teams. You’ve worked all week on gimmick throws so in your minds the catcher “won’t throw” and so the runner darts straight to second base and sure enough the catcher does throw the ball, the girl at third is hugging the base, the shortstop catches the ball and tags the runner.

Well Coach Dalton what’s the solution? So glad you asked I’ d love to share a pretty neat solution with you. But first I need to interrupt the regularly scheduled good stuff, with a brief boring interlude to explain the difference between the base line and the base path.

The base line is that invisible line that runs between the bases. You know the ones that you run on because the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. (Yuck math stuff.) Well that base line may be the shortest distance but in this situation and you are the runner at first base you aren’t in any hurry to get there. You aren’t stealing. That’s where the base path can prove to be much more beneficial. If you know what the base path that is.

The base path is that invisible path that you define between the bases. But Coach Dalton if we run more than 3 feet out of the base line we will be called out. Wrong answer but thanks for playing. Imagine a player who is really fast rounding the bases. They go way more than 3 feet out of the base line but they aren’t called out. It’s because you are allowed to make your own path, but once you establish that path you are obligated to stay within 3 feet of your base path. Meaning you can run 12 feet from the base line, but once you start on that course if a fielder wants to tag you with the ball you aren’t allowed to say “just kidding I much prefer that path over there.” a fielder wants to tag you with the ball you aren’t allowed to say “just kidding I much prefer that path over there.”

Ok now that you understand the difference between the base line and your base path lets talk about how you can choose a smart base path in this situation. In the video you are going to see our runner Kady running on the base line. Catcher does make the throw and she is tagged out. I hate it when that happens. If Kady were smart she’d turn around and run back to first right? I do see runners do that but the SS has no problem chasing her and yet still keeping an eye on the runner at third. If the runner ever does get shoved off the base, she is actually closer to the plat than she was at second base, and bam she throws the girl out at home. You will see the fielder Lauren has no trouble handling Kady in either situation.

But when Kady makes up a base path that is about 1 0 feet from the base line if the runner doesn’t go and Lauren has to turn for the tag, guess what, the run was longer for Kady so she isn’t right there for an easy tag. When Lauren makes the instinctive decision to go after her since she is 1 0 foot from the base line she turns her back on the runner at third. Not kidding you at all. I’ve seldom seen players with eyes in both the front and back of their heads who can turn to chase a runner more towards the outfield and still see the runner at third. That’s a really positive thing for us.

The runner at third is likely in a panic mode thinking “they have a sneaky play up their sleeves and they will get me.” When she sees the shortstop turn her back to her and running further away it gives her the confidence that she can go. Unless you are of the mind that scoring runs is over rated that’s a really good thing. Instead of the runner from first getting tagged out because of her teammates panic and then yelling in the dugout “Why did you just stand there? You are supposed to go if they throw? What’s wrong with you?” She pulls the short stop away from the play, whichtakes the pressure off the runner so that she can score.

Back to Kady though who is now coming to second base from her base path and the short stop Lauren does make the throw home. Kady cruises into second base right? That’s the way it’s supposed to work. But why? Who says that in that situation Kady has to stop at second base? The “first and third base runner situation police?” She is now running full speed in a position where she can easily round second base and head straight to third. It’s going to take her about 3 seconds to finish that trip. In order to stop her in that same amount of time the catcher is going to have to make the catch, make the play at home, keep her head in the play and make a throw to third base. Considering that the runner at third has watched my diving videos she is going to back of the plate and the catcher will either have to turn for a tag.

Turning her back is probably all she needs to distract her frorn remembering that she has another runner who is very actively doing her job. And if she doesn’t forget the odds are really strong that the third baseman will be watching the play and not standing at her base to protect it from a diving Kady. I don’t even consider that a gamble. I consider that a pretty safe bet if you wanted to put your money on Kady being safe.

But hey feel free to run straight to second because after all it’s not like the catcher is really crazy enough to make the throw. No sense working up a sweat with all that extra running on your own base path and going to third if the catcher does throw. After all it’s not like runs are important. Now go GET DIRTY!!!

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