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Going Oppo – Tips to Hit the Outside Pitch

Written By Charity Butler

Going Oppo - Tips to Hit the Outside Pitch

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Has the outside pitch haunted you in the past? Learn simple skills that will allow you to drive outside pitches with authority to the opposite field.

Take a quick trip down Memory Lane to visit your elementary school playground. The sand, the swings, the monkey bars and merry-go-round, you are in the middle of it all. Your childhood best friend is running toward you. As she barrels closer, you notice her angry glare. She runs right up to you, stopping as a cloud of dust swirls at your feet. She says, “You’re dumb, and I hate you,” turning around to storm away.

You stand in one spot, stunned as your little, third-grade world internally crashes and burns in less than a second. Your “friend” then whirls back toward you, with a huge smile and shouts, “It’s Opposite Day! You are awesome!”

Wow, the playground can be such a cruel place! Hopefully the traumatic experiences of Opposite Days gone by have not left permanent scars.

When it comes to hitting, however, I propose we make every day an opposite day.

Many batters will say to the outside pitch, “You’re dumb, and I hate you.” Hitters, however, will say, “No way, it’s opposite day. Outside pitch, you are awesome!” When we know how to master the outside pitch, we learn to love hitting it.

The majority of players struggle to dominate pitches thrown outside. I want to share some tips that will equip hitters to “go oppo.”

First, we must learn to hit the ball where it is pitched. In the case of an outside pitch, this means driving the ball to right-center field, for right-handed hitters. Lefties should send the outside pitch to left-center. “Going oppo” means effectively executing this skill.

Hitters must also choose the correct size bat. A player should use the longest bat she can effectively handle. Possessing extra length is helpful when learning to hit the outside pitch, but if the batter cannot swing the longer bat correctly, she will end up dragging the bat through the zone, decreasing her bat speed and jeopardizing her mechanics. None of these conditions produce consistent, positive results.

For younger players who are still growing, here is a good trick to determine a feasible bat length: place the bat vertically on the ground (barrel down, knob up), at the side of the hitter. The barrel end should rest on the ground, and the bat should stand parallel to the player’s legs. With the hitter’s arms hanging by her side, the knob of the bat should fall somewhere around the bend in her wrist.

Because bats are so expensive, and players grow quickly at the younger ages, some parents purchase longer bats and have girls “choke up” until they grow in to the bat. This is an understandable strategy, but the goal should be for players to develop proper bat control as quickly as possible, so they can move the hands down toward the knob and make the most of every inch of reach the bat offers.

Once the proper equipment is in place, we must understand some fundamental concepts in order to master outside pitches.

Working to properly hit the outside pitch begins on the tee. In order to go oppo, the hitter must “let the ball travel” or “let the ball get deep”. These phrases are used frequently on the field but are rarely well-understood.

They are an attempt to describe the ideal contact point. The contact point, the exact spot where the bat meets the ball, is crucial for outside pitch success.

Every hitter is different and therefore possesses a slightly different ideal contact point. When watching a hitter from directly across home plate, a good rule of thumb for an outside pitch is connecting with the ball somewhere between the front foot and belly button.

This requires allowing the ball, when thrown outside, to travel further from the pitcher’s hand toward the catcher’s mitt than it would travel when the ball is thrown down the middle or on the inside parts of the plate.

Once correctly understood, the ideal contact point can be simulated using a tee. Using a separate home plate and tee will allow the drill to be set up properly. The hitter should step into the box and set up according to home plate. The tee is then placed so the ball falls on the outside corner of the plate and somewhere between the hitter’s front foot and her belly button. Several cuts may be necessary to determine the ideal contact point.

Once set up, the hitter should take swings focused on throwing the knob of her bat and her hands through the second baseman (for righties) or through the short stop (for lefties). This simple visual will promote the correct bat path, and should help the barrel stay loaded as long as possible.

I like to picture a loaded bat barrel as if inside a pipe. The pipe hovers just over the hitter’s back shoulder and points toward the appropriate middle infielder (28 for right-handed hitters and SS for left-handed hitters).

The hitter must work to pull the barrel out of the pipe without breaking the pipe. The longer the hitter can lead with her hands/knob and keep her barrel in the pipe, the more compact, efficient and effective her swing will be. This simple approach provides the best opportunity to drive the outside pitch with authority.

Let me be clear, however, the pipe is a visual, only. I do not recommend using any contraption to simulate this movement.

After beginning the swing correctly, by throwing the hands and pulling the bat out of the pipe, hitters must learn to finish the swing properly, as well.

After connecting with the ball, the hitter must then focus on extending through the pitch. After throwing her hands through the second baseman or short stop, she must then point with her bat head to that player. The goal is to reach full extension in the direction the ball was hit.

From contact to the point position (also known as extension), the hitter’s focus is finding the level of the ball and staying through it as long as possible.

Stop hating the outside pitch. Perfect these simple skills and make going oppo awesome! Here’s to many successful Opposite Days to come.

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A Series Of Their Own

Written By Bill Plummer

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A Series Of Their Own

Having worked on 13 softball books in the past, I took some time before deciding to do another softball book. Actually, I took six months, and then decided to do another softball book. The topic? The Women’s College World Series, which actually started in 1969 and not 1982 as some people had indicated. The year 1982 was when the NCAA took over the sponsorship of the event and of course since then the event has grown to become the premier college softball event in the U.S. The 2013 event was expected to top 80,000 fans, a record for attendance.

Telling the real story behind the Women’s College World Series and helping the sport were the main reasons for doing the book. The book needed to be done because softball unfortunately doesn’t have enough books about the history of the game and it makes sense to have a book about college softball and tell future players and coaches how the college game evolved and who were the people who were the pioneers of the sport. Before doing the book, I contacted Larry Floyd, who I had worked with during my career at ASA, and asked him if he wanted to co-author the book with me. He said yes and has done an outstanding book, not only helping to write, edit and design the book but designing and setting up our website: www.seriesoftheirown.com

Larry and I contacted Connie Claussen, who was involved with the first WCWS in Omaha in 1969, and she graciously gave us her personal files including clippings and pictures to start the project. Without her assistance, we would never have done the book. We did a lot of research on our own, but her files of information were invaluable in getting the book done on time, which was to have it in time for the 2013 College World Series. We met our deadline and had copies available on Tuesday the week of the College World Series, which started May 30. Throughout the tournament either Larry or I was in the ASA gift shop telling people about the book, handing out book marks and enjoying talking to people about the best event in college softball. We printed 3,000 copies of “A Series of Their Own. The History of the Women’s College World Series,” and have developed a marketing plan to sell the books in the year ahead. We were fortunate to have the cover along with a story in Oklahoma City Preview, which was distributed to the local hotels and motels. In fact, two ladies from California read the story in Preview and came out to the Hall of fame gift shop and purchased two books. We thank the staff of Preview for their help in promoting the book and especially Darl DeVault.

We did the book in about five months and could have taken a year or more to get it done, but we wanted to have the book done in time for the 2013 WCWS. We felt it was important to have it done in time for this year’s WCWs and there were times when we wished we had more time, considering we were doing three chapters a week, but we made the deadline and were pleased with the printing of the book by the Transcript Press of Norman, Okla. We dedicated the book to Claussen and Marita Hynes, former co-director of the WVCWS, who in fact was in town for the 2013 WCWS. She directed 19 WCWS and could just as easily give up when the going got tough, but she didn’t and certainly played a major role in developing this event. But foremost, the book was dedicated to the women college athletes who before the late 1970s laced up worn-out athlete shoes, wore mismatched uniforms and competed on less than adequate fields, and to the selfless coaches who nurtured these young players. These athletes and coaches pursued their chosen sport with little or no funding to speak of, not like today’s big softball budgets, and without the support and recognition given freely to their male counterparts. And they did it for the purest of reasons-the childlike love of their sport and the joyous excitement of athlete competition. And if you were on hand for the Florida vs. Michigan 16-inning game on June 1, which took five hours and 20 minutes to play, you got a perfect example of the joyous excitement and love these athletes have for simply playing a game they love to play. It doesn’t get any better than that and that’s the view from here.

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Throwing Behind the Runner

Written By Lisa Iancin

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Throwing Behind the Runner

 

With a runner on base, we are always taught to be quick enough with our throws to get the lead out. However there are times that instead of throwing in front of the runner, it is best to throw behind the runner to find the extra out.

A classic scenario of throwing behind the runner is a pick off from the catcher to the base that the runner is leading off from just after a pitch. The idea is to make a quick throw to that base while their momentum is still leaving towards the next base. By the time the runner realizes she is being picked off, it is too late for her to stop her momentum, and regain momentum back in the direction she came from. Hence, throwing behind the runner can be effective since the speed of a quick throw can be much faster than the change in direction of the runner. As our articles are not just about defense, but Game-Speed-Defense, I would like readers to begin to understand the intricate elements of the game such as momentum. If you can predict moments in the game when the runner is about to make a directional shift in their momentum, then that is a good time to throw behind the runner. However catching them off balance means that you have to be quick. You have to understand where these opportunities are likely to occur so that you have the sense to find them before they actually happen. Once you are in that zone of thinking, it is hard to get out of it.

There are also opportunities to mimic a pick off during a routine ground ball play. For example, let’s look at a situation with a runner on first base. An infield ground ball is hit and the lead runner is safely advancing to second in which the defense chooses to throw the batted runner out at one. Once the defense throws the runner out at first, the second basemen receiving the throw should pop her feet towards second base to look for an opportunity to throw behind the runner advancing to second. It is not mandatory to make the second throw, however being in a position to make the next play is important in case the runner decides to overrun the base. If the runner begins to lean into the diamond as she is passing second base, BOOM, pick her off! By the time the runner is just a couple of steps beyond the base, the ball is in your short stop’s glove for the tag and it is all done in no time.

Keep in mind the personality and tendencies of the base runner as well. The more information you have on your opponent, the more you can predict what they will do. For example, is the base runner an aggressive type who likes to look for the extra base? Is she also a smart base runner? A smart base runner will predict a pick-off throw from behind and may be less likely to overrun a base. However you might catch an aggressive runner who isn’t smart, off guard . If that runner is only focused on gaining the extra base in frontal view, she might not expect a throw from behind her. Know your opponents!

Another great opportunity to throw behind the runner is by utilizing a fake throw. For example, let’s say you are the third basemen and you have a super aggressive runner at third base who you think you can trick. If a ground ball is hit to you at third base, you may opt to make a full on fake throw to first base to draw an aggressive, but not smart, runner off third base. At the end of your fake throw motion, quickly pivot towards third base and toss the ball to your short stop for a pick off play at third base. This play is especially good to use when the batted runner has exceptional speed and may have hit the ball soft enough to be safe at first. This way you are using your throws wisely and towards the base that you have a better chance to make an out. Remember, every offensive threat opens up another defensive opportunity. You just have to know where those holes in a team’s offense are, and think of them before the pitcher gets into her motion. Think of them before they happen.

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A Message for Benchwarmers

Written By Stacie Mahoe

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A Message for Benchwarmers

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No matter how many, or how few, teammates you have, the reality is, only 9 can fit on the field at a time. For smaller teams, this may not leave too many players on the bench. For larger teams, it’s possible that half the team is left sitting on the bench.

Regardless of team size, as a non-starter, you are probably far more important than you realize. In fact, I believe that “the bench,” the non-starters, are the foundation of a team . They are the ” rock” or the “sand” starters stand upon. After all, a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link and teams are only as strong as their weakest players.

You can have great talent on your team , but all it takes is one person’s negativity and doubt to weaken a team. On the flip side, a solid, positive bench that stays “in the game” serves as a strong foundation for starters to rely on for much needed support in the toughest of times!

If you’re not a regular starter, always remember, no matter what your skill or experience level, YOU bring something special to your team. There IS at least ONE thing you do better than anyone else on your team. Make it a point to contribute that each and every day. Imagine what would happen if each person on your team did this. How many different areas of the game would your team have strengths in?

Think about it for a minute. What do you do better than anyone else on your team? Figure out what that is and be the absolute best you can be at it for your team all season long!. Your team needs what you have to offer!

After each and every game, you should know that you did something to help your team whether you played every pitch or none at all. If you can’t think of anything you did to help then you didn’t do your job. You’ re important. You matter. You’re either affecting your team positively or negatively every day. There’s no in between. Make your impact a positive one.

How?

One way to do is to PUSH yourself in practice.

Why?

1. Because you will improve your skills faster

2. Because you will increase your chance at earn ing some playing time

3. Because pushing hard in practice helps you get GAME READY just in case the starter in front of you gets sick, gets injured , has some kind of outside obligation to attend instead of coming to the game, or simply has a bad day

4. Because coaches love players that go hard in practice and HOW you practice leaves 1 of 3 impressions in your coaches mind:

a) you do things half heartedly because you don’t play much and the coaches are left with a negative impression of how you practice making them less likely to choose you if a playing opportunity arises

b) you don’t slack but you don’t push yourself either so you don’t stand out in your coaches mind, again, you ‘ re not the first person that comes to mind if a playing opportunity arises

c) you work hard and push yourself daily, a very positive impression is branded into your coaches mind about H OW you practice which greatly increases the likelihood you ‘ll the a chance to play should the opportunity present itself

5. Because the more you push yourself, the harder the starter in front of you works which helps them raise their game to a higher level which, in turn, makes the team better!

Pushing yourself daily is just ONE way to help your team as a non-starter. The more you push, the better you get, the better your team gets, and the bigger the contribution you make to your team’s success!

But that’s not all you can do to help your team succeed . Here are 10 more ways you can help your team and make a positive impact from the bench …

– Show up on time

– Set up, carry, or put away equipment

– Help set up practice or pre-game stations

– Help keep the dugout organized and clean so everyone can get in and out quickly and safely

– Study your opponent- Retrieve foul balls during a game

– Communicate game situation reminders to those on the field

– Hustle

– Keep the team atmosphere positive by constantly encouraging and uplifting your teammates

– Hold yourself accountable to perform the best you can each day

I’m sure you can think of a few more after reading that list. Think about it, then choose 2-3 areas you can focus on and start making a positive, memorable difference on your team .

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Win The Mental Game Vs. The Hitter

Written By Bryan Ingalls

Win the Mental Game vs. the Hitter

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THE PITCHER/CATCHER RELATIONSHIP (PART 3)

Some coaches prefer to call a game for the Catcher and some Coaches let their Catcher call the game. There is no right or wrong way, it all depends on personnel, intelligence and talent levels. As a Coach to the game, I have always believed that the Catcher has the best view to call it. My approach and goal has always been to educate the Pitcher and the Catcher enough so that they have the ability to think in a way to confuse, find a hole, and beat the hitter. There are many unwritten rules and old school ways and patterns that have been passed down over the years. The thought process is very important but the simplicity of this aspect of the game has been overlooked.

Reading a hitter, I believe is the upmost important skill that should be learned in the sport of Softball and Baseball! Why you ask? If you can read a hitters swing you can learn how to pitch to them, get a read on where they might hit, what they need to work on , what their strengths are. Reading a swing will help your plan of attack in the circle, it will help your ability to improve as a hitter and it will help your ability to properly position yourself in the field. This topic can be spread out over a course of about 100 articles. A book can be written about different things to watch for, to listen to, and how to use these things to your benefit in every aspect of the game. But as I have always done is try to use the complicated thought process from the catching and coaching perspective and simplify it so that over thinking does not affect you in a negative manner.

Rule #1 that I always go by: Always trust your gut! Do not over think, hesitation is a speed bump in the communication process with the pitcher and also gives a little confidence booster to the hitter. There is never one perfect pitch for a certain situation. It is much better to throw the wrong pitch with 100% conviction than the right pitch while second guessing or with hesitation. It is the Catcher’s and ultimately the Pitcher’s job to make sure that happens.

Be observant! Pay attention to the players practice swings. Every hitter has a hole in their swing. And by hole I do not mean a swing and miss, but I mean there are always certain pitches and locations that a hitter struggles with, just some are better than the other. But physical ability is not even half the battle when trying to get a hitter out. It’s a mental battle first and foremost. Whatever state of mind the batter is in mentally will directly affect what they do physically, so when I say be observant, take everything in. Look at their eyes, their breathing, their hands, how hard they are gripping the bat, where their feet are in the box, and what their swing looks like if they take a practice swing. Any tell or tip you can gain is information you can use in either this at bat or the next one. But also you do have to take into consideration what situation the game is in and whether there are runners on base. Depending on that situation your fielders will be positioned for that. Getting a batter out does not mean striking them out necessarily.

Do not create pitch patterns. Have the ability to throw all of your pitches in any count! Some hitters just see and react and others think and guess what pitch is coming. When a hitter can narrow it down to what you may call or what you may pitch it makes it easier for them to succeed. If a hitter has to be prepared for everything that you have the more they are thinking about which ultimately gives you the edge of the mental battle. Do your best to not turn a Pitcher vs. Hitter battle into strictly a Physical battle. There is nothing wrong with throwing balls, they can be very strategic. There is also nothing wrong with throwing a ball very short or very high to the screen. From a hitter’s perspective if a pitcher is constantly around the strike zone and in a groove hitting al the spots the batter has a sense of comfort in the box knowing that A they will not get hit and B. you are going to be around the plate. That sense of controlled wildness goes a long way in winning the mental battle with the hitter. That strategy is great for a control pitcher or for when you are in a groove and spotting the ball wherever you want to. It is also a great idea to have a shake off sign. As I said before, many hitters try and guess what pitch will be thrown and generally those assumptions come based on the pitch count and situation so a shake off by a pitcher will make the hitter second guess the pitch. Never let the hitter feel comfortable. That is all a mental game.

Remember to be smart but most importantly keep it simple as well. You do not necessarily have to “waste” a pitch if you are way ahead in the count, or “groove” a pitch if you are behind. Every pitch has a purpose and there is information to be gathered with every action a hitter makes. If the hitter is successful that at bat, use that information for the next one because remember this game is a war and each pitch is an individual battle, it must be thought of like that! 100% focus for 100% of the game and success will come your way when you are battling the hitter as a battery.

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The Best Of The Fastpitch Softball Magazine Issues 1 – 10: Book 1

Available on Amazon!

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Best Of Fastpitch Softball Magazine book1

My new book “The Best Of The Fastpitch Softball Magazine Issues 1-10” is now available on Amazon at http://fastpitch.tv/fastpitch-magazine-book-1

This book is a complete compilation of the articles from issues 1-10 of the Fastpitch Magazine.

In this book you will find my favorite in depth articles, coaching advice, training, videos, and much more all devoted to fastpitch softball.

You will find featured articles from Stacey Mahoe, Charity Butler, Lisa Iancin, Jennie Ritter, Natasha Watley, Rob Crews, Cat Osterman, Mitch Alexander, Dalton Ruer, and Aaron Weintraub.

This book is packed with 310 pages of softball content you won’t find anywhere else!

You can get this great book for the low price of $2.99.

If you know anyone who would be interested in reading this book please share it with them and if you enjoyed it please rate and leave a review of it.

Here is the link http://fastpitch.tv/fastpitch-magazine-book-1

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