Taking Charge of the Rundown

Written By Lisa Iancin

WeightedBalls.com For Baseball & Softball Training Balls & Training Aids!

Taking Charge of the Rundown

CatchersZone.com Softball & Baseball Catchers Gear!

I watch so many youth defensive teams get caught up “in a pickle” over a situation that is considered a base-running mistake. A Rundown situation should be taken literally, “run her down!” If a base runner is caught off the bases from either an accidental pickoff or an intentional first and third play, the defense needs to predetermine that runner as an out expected to happen. Over our articles on Game Speed Defense we talk about a proactive defense versus a reactive defense. Let’s go over the common areas of mistake for reactive defensive teams in order to make adjustments needed to take charge of the rundown situation.

Do you ever see a runner go back before a base and stop, just to watch the player chasing her with the ball slow down and also come to a stop?

Why does that always happen? If the base runner slows down, that is the very moment the player holding the ball should speed up to make the tag. It seems like common sense, yet I realize that everything in this game of softball is a mass of common sense lessons that have been taught to us by the right coaches. Yet I believe there is something about the rundown play that brings confusion and unpredictability in which the defense begins to think too long and forgets the common sense elements of the game. In fastpitch softball we are taught to be quick. Everything happens so fast in this game. Ball one, strike two, line out, you’re out, well at least I didn’t have time to think about it. When our minds and body movements get used to operating within the frame of milliseconds, I suppose having time to think can get in the way. Therefore, let’s first talk about the mental approach to a rundown situation so that our pre-planning can help us execute the out.

Anytime the runner is stranded between the base path, have the understanding that she has made a base running mistake and as a defense, we will get her out. Next, let’s plan to get the runner out closer to the smaller bag versus the bigger bag, if we must choose. For example, if the catcher with the ball sees a runner stranded right between first and second base, the catcher should run at her at an angle so that she pushes her back to first base. If the runner somehow comes away safe at first base, technically no error counts towards the defense for pushing the runner back to where she came from.

When it comes to timing of throws, let’s cut the 60 feet base path into quarters and go back to our scenario between first and second base. If the runner is stranded right in the middle of the two bases, the catcher should charge the runner to push her back towards first. After the runner commits her direction and momentum, the catcher should wait for the first basemen to call for the ball “now” and then make the throw. Communication is key to a solid defense, so let’s talk instead of making fake pump throws that confuse the runner and your own teammate while you’re at it. The receiver at first base should call “now” for ·the ball just in time to make one pinch step in and drop a solid two hand tag down on the runner. This is a bang bang play close to first base because we prefer to make the out at the lesser base. We want to call for the ball “now” later near the lesser base and earlier near the bigger base to be sure the runner doesn’t advance or score on a possible overthrow or missed tag.

As far as the throw is concerned, keep in mind that you are throwing on the run. Account for the momentum of your body running forward as your throwing length is shortening. Many overthrows occur because the receiver says “now” and the throw buzzes passed them and out of play. The throws are too hard, therefore be sure to charge at the runner with your elbow shoulder height and facing your target similar to how you would throw a dart. A dart throw only uses the small joints and muscles in the wrist and forearms which is all you need to get the ball there since your momentum is already doing most of the work. Pointing the elbow towards your target as you run may seem awkward, however it takes away the overpowering muscles surrounding the shoulder complex. This can prevent many overthrows as you can rely on the speed of your run versus the overbearing strength of your throw. In rundown situation, run hard, throw soft.

To be sure the rundown throws do not hit the base runner, let’s all get on the same page and elect the receiver to side step and create a throwing lane with the player holding the ball. After making an accurate throw with finesse, clear out of the running lane and cover the back-up position of the base you are moving to.

This way the runner will not collide into you and you can contribute to the Rule of the 3 B’s: Ball, Base, and Back-up. An efficient defensive team executes the rundown in minimal throws. More than two throws increases the risk of overthrow when the rundown is more about timing of throws, communication, and running hard.

Once you make an out, don’t settle .. .let’s get the trail runner!

Fastpitch Softball Player Search for Teams & Players!

Taking Advantage: Cheat Sheet

Written By Natasha Watley

Taking Advantage- Cheat Sheet

SportsDecorating_post-footer

As a slapper, it’s a must to take advantage of every little thing we possibly can to get on base. Usually we are the “table setters,” so we want to make sure we are the ducks on the pond when our clean up hitters come up. Whether it’s getting a clean hit, miss hit, walk, or putting pressure on the D, getting on base is the ultimate goal. So doing your homework before you step in the box from pitch to pitch is going to be vital for us to be successful. Paying close attention to the field conditions & our opponent, we can ensure that we are taking full advantage.

Although every softball field is the same in terms of the distance between bases and pitching mound, all fields conditions differ from one to the next. In addition to field conditions, always know your opponent and take what they give you.

Below is a cheat sheet of some examples of things to look for and then the suggestions to do in that particular situation.

Field Conditions/Weather conditions

Hard Ground- Dirt that is almost as hard as asphalt. At some point we have all played on a ” concrete” field. As a slapper take full advantage of being able to pound the ball in the ground to get a high hop, or just hit the ball hard on the ground. On these fields, they are usually known to be fast & have bad hops,so defenders have to be extra aggressive in order to get us out! Hit top of ball.

Just rained- when a field is wet and muddy, it’s absolute hell for a defender. So putting the ball on the ground could never be stressed enough. You most likely won’t get the high hops as you would on a hard ground, so trying to place the ball to make defenders have to charge and move laterally. The ball is wet, and defenders have to over focus on getting a good grip and making a good throw.

Dusty field- may be hard to get out of the box and get going on a dusty field. Almost similar to running on sand on the beach. So there would be a disadvantage in trying to beat something out on the ground, so may be best to think about getting it through the infield. Using a hard/power slap could be beneficial in this situation.

Soft dirt- the dirt will tend to be a slow infield when the dirt is soft. So the ball will tend to die, so in this situation think about laying down a bunt, or trying to get the ball through the infield with a hard/power slap.

Turf- tends to have true hops, so you can pretty much do anything on turf. Use the ground, power slap, or even bunt.

Spots that are hard- If you have a chance to practice on the field before hand to check to see if there are certain hard spots on the field. For example, the area around home plate is hard, would be ideal for chopping the ball in the ground to get high bounces.

Reading defense pitch to pitch

Defenders arms- While your opponent is warming up between innings, do your homework on their arms! If the 3rd baseman is throwing rockets and the SS is just lobbing it over, take note! Even though the SS is lobbing the ball in warm ups, doesn’t necessarily mean that she has a weak arm. There’s only one way to find out by challenging her. Sometimes as slappers we have to challenge our opponent.

Defense strength & weakness– (bad fielding pitcher,good fielding pitcher) This is self explanatory.

Defense shifts- (infielders shallow, infielders deep, slapper shift)- In simple terms, if they are shallow hit it hard, if they are deep put the ball in play on the ground and try to make defenders charge.

Pitcher tendencies- See what the pitchers go to pitch is and sit on it. For example if she primarily throws inside then think about bunting.

Right hand pitcher vs left handed pitcher- A Left-Handed pitcher is always at a disadvantage to throw us out at first. Whether you hit it to the right, left & in front they have to turn around to throw to to First base. Ideally if you have a lefty field you want to hit to the SS side because that takes them away from first-base.

Remember to do your homework before you even step in the box and you’ll already be one step ahead.

Good Luck and Happy Slapping!

Softball Junk

Sponsored by SoftballJunk.com

Are You Talking To Yourself? Are You Good at It?

Written By Aaron Weintraub

Dallas / Fort Worth Coaches Group

Are You Talking To Yourself? Are You Good at It?

BatTape.com For Lizard Skin Bat Wrap, Bat Grip, & More!

The most important coach any athlete will ever have is herself. During a softball game, each athlete has two roles: coach and athlete. A leader coaches herself, and sometimes others, between pitches. When it is time for action, she stops coaching and becomes an athlete.

Self-coaching is a product of self-talk. Self-talk is simply thoughts, the dialogue going on in a person’s head. Self-talk is usually in the form of actual words, although it sometimes takes the form of pictures or concepts. Right now, your self-talk is the words you are reading, although if you pause from the text, your mind could venture off in a thousand different directions. Even while you read, you can have distracting self-talk or you can be focused singularly on the task at hand. If athletes could simply not think, their talent would probably flow uninterrupted into their performance, but humans think… a lot. Estimates indicate that the average person has between 25,000 and 75,000 distinct thoughts per day (and scary though it may be, that over half of them are negative).

A softball player has many, many thoughts during the course of a game and those thoughts affect her performance. Just like gravity affects a person who does not understand what it is, these thoughts will impact performance level whether she has awareness or not. The pertinent question is not, ”Will I talk to myself?” That answer is set in stone. The question is, “Will my self-talk optimize my performance?” That answer is very much a variable.

Self-talk impacts performance in many ways, including directly affecting attitudes (including confidence), communicating mind to muscle, directing focus, learning skills, making appropriate adjustments, and increasing or decreasing other mental skills such as intensity or toughness/courage. Personal demons can lead to the following obvious examples of poor self-talk:

I’m terrible.
This is unbelievable.
We have to win.
I need to score on this play.

In contrast, the world’s greatest athletes think the following phrases right before they perform:

This is going to be awesome.
I’m ready. Let’s do this.
I love this game.
This is a great opportunity.

The following irrational or distorted patterns of self-talk relate in some way to confidence, dealing effectively with pressure, or both. Discouraging these inappropriate patterns does not tacitly accept negative outcomes. Rather, it promotes putting “failure” or competition in a proper perspective and using each experience constructively. The first goal is awareness, thus allowing an adjustment to occur.

Many athletes are relieved when they realize that these poor patterns are not unique to them or even unusual. What is unusual is having the discipline to convert bad habits into new, better ones with a decision to change and diligent, persistent effort.

The Far From Perfect Perfectionist

I’m not what I ought to be,
Not what I want to be,
Not what I’m going to be,
But I am thankful that I’m better than I used to be.
-John Wooden

Elite athletes are notorious for being perfectionists. They leave out the last line of that little poem. The idea that perfection is essential is obviously false yet often believed. With perfection expected, the horrible self-coaching that ensues can be debilitating. It is often represented by the bad word “should.” Simply replacing this with “could” (e.g. “I could have made that play and would have if I had been at my best”) is incredibly healthier.

The degree to which an athlete is a perfectionist is obviously on a sliding scale, but there is a clear pattern that this is more common in female athletes than males. A typical high-level softball team is likely to have one-third to one-half of its players who are extremely hard on themselves. Perfectionists should know that this personality trait is fantastic because it causes them to work hard and pay attention to details. However, it also is a negative when it causes them to snowball their mistakes. This happens, particularly in games, because they beat themselves up and dwell on the past. They lose enthusiasm, confidence, and focus. They need to recognize and adjust by remembering that nobody is perfect, so it makes no sense to expect perfection. Forgive to forget, without settling for mediocrity. This is achieved by striving for perfection, but never expecting it.

All or Nothing

Outcomes are easy to judge.
Too easy.

Polarized thinking is the tendency to view each outcome as an absolute success or an absolute “failure,” which is almost never the case. For example, a hitter may miss the hitting the ball on the sweet spot by a millimeter. Despite doing nineteen of twenty things very well, she makes a “loud out” instead of hitting a home run. If the poor outcome is viewed as completely bad, the athlete may fail to repeat all the good things she did, thinking the entire process needs to be changed. If she thinks, “Another fly out? I’m horrible,” she may fail to make a subtle adjustment that could lead to a major change in outcomes.

There are an unlimited number of similar examples. Perhaps a pitcher has great movement and velocity, but misses location by six inches. Perhaps the entire team is focused and committed to the plan, but they are not having fun, so they do not find their ideal state. Leaders consistently gain confidence even through adversity by remembering the good things they did and by making an effective adjustment on their singular mistakes.

Never Say Never

Never lose hope.
Dreams do come true.
Just believe and never say never.

Related to the all or nothing mentality, athletes tend to overuse the words “never” and “always.” Examples: “I always screw up in that situation” or “I can never run a mile in under six minutes.” Athletes should avoid these words because they are usually not true. Unfortunately, they are likely to become true if the athlete believes in them. They will return to being false as soon as she ends that belief. Self-fulfilling prophecies are real and common. Almost every athlete has limiting beliefs about herself, and they are just that: beliefs that keep her from approaching her potential.

Of course, exceptions to this rule exist (e.g., never say never). Therefore, every time a competitor is tempted to use an absolute, she should ask the question “Must this be true, or could there be an exception?” If an exception is even remotely possible, she should phrase the idea differently. She can at least change “I’ll never do that” into “That’s a tough one. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do that.”

Can’t Say Can’t

Positive self-talk doesn’t always work, but negative self-talk does.
-Trevor Moawad, Mental Conditioning Coach

History is full of success stories about people who believed they could when conventional wisdom said they could not: man cannot run a mile in under four minutes, man cannot walk on the moon, or a team that barely reached the playoffs cannot win the championship. In professional sports, it is quite common to see the “Wild Card” team win the Super Bowl or World Series. Athletes must be careful not to allow self-fulfilling prophecies to prevent achievement. This often occurs subconsciously and then continues indefinitely because without awareness, no adjustment is possible.

Athletes must also be wary of another, sneaky version of “I can’t.” “I’m not” means the same thing. Examples of this “yellow light” include “I’m not good enough to compete here,” “I’m not tall enough,” and “I’m not smart enough.” Instead of saying “I’m not,” or “we’re not,” an athlete should express the idea as a challenge. Instead of “We’re not going to be able to win this,” she can think, “It will be an awesome upset (or comeback) if we pull it off. I’ll do my best and see what happens.” At the very least, she can say, “I don’t know if we can do it.”

Hate the Word Hate

Forgiveness is the economy of the heart… forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits.
-Hannah More, English Religious Writer and Philanthropist

Exceptions exist. Hate is a strong word- usually too strong. Many people use this word carelessly or haphazardly: “I hate running,” or “I hate getting out of bed so early.” Athletes should say what they mean, even when speaking to themselves. A leader does not “hate” running because she weighs all the positives and negatives honestly. Running leads to improvements in skill and condition, which lead to winning. She loves winning, so even if she finds running tedious, she will not say that she hates it. It is natural to dislike some things (or traits in certain people), but athletes will have more positive energy when they avoid the word “hate.”

There’s No Crying in Softball (Catastrophizing)

Distance not only gives nostalgia, but perspective, and maybe objectivity.
– Robert Morgan, Poet

Catastrophizing means imagining the worst possible thing that could happen and thinking that this outcome is terrible and would be difficult to ever overcome. This perspective leads to large waves of emotions, rather than the even keel that marks the tough-minded leader. There are no catastrophes in sports, other than a rare severe injury or death. With a proper perspective, no single loss or “failure” will ever be viewed as a catastrophe, because it will have no direct impact on the athlete’s identity. The pressure-inducing thought “I need to” is then replaced with the thought, ‘This is a great opportunity to” or “I would like to.”

Brett Favre said, “Football is important but not as important as you once thought it was. When you lose a family member or something tragic happens, that stays with you forever.” Baseball relief pitcher and Hall of Famer Goose Gossage said, “Every time I come into a game, I think of my home in the Rockies, and that relaxes me. I tell myself the worst thing that could happen is that I’d be home fishing there tomorrow.” Losing is bad, but it is not a catastrophe. Often, asking “What’s the worst that could happen” will help an athlete realize that she is catastrophizing and is therefore likely to let her fear negatively impact her behavior.

No Fair, No Kidding

Things tend to turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things tend to turn out.

The fallacy of fairness is the idea that life should be fair. Thinking or saying, “This is not fair” (or, “Unbelievable” to mean the same thing) is often a disguise for a person wanting her personal preferences versus what someone else thinks is right or best. It leads to an emotional response that interferes with an effective rational response. Thinking that life should be fair is analogous to an athlete banging her head against a brick wall in an attempt to break the wall. It will not work, but it will hurt. Leaders recognize that overcoming obstacles that seem unfair is a necessary step towards success. Plus, they not only recognize that life is not fair, they emotionally accept it — even embrace it. They make unfair circumstances their challenge rather than their problem. Doing so gives them a competitive edge, and they know it.

It’s All My Fault

The worst guilt is to accept an unearned guilt.
-Ayn Rand, Author

Many athletes assume disproportionate guilt, taking too much personal responsibility for a disappointing outcome. The weight of the world will not promote a relaxed peak performance. The idea that any softball player is solely responsible for her team’s loss is false and can lead to dangerous conclusions such as “My teammates must hate me” or “I’m worthless.” Team games are exactly that- team games. It is easy to focus on the last play in a close game, but keep in mind what John Wooden preached: a free throw in the first minute of the game is of equal value and therefore equal importance to a free throw in the last minute. Like many of Wooden’s lessons, this lesson is logical and simple, yet often forgotten.

Balanced Rationality is Bad (Permanence)

Great leaders not only emphasize the good and de-emphasize the bad for themselves, they vocally help their teammates to do it, too.

Permanence, or a one-trial generalization, is the idea that a single outcome is destined to happen over and over. This is actually a fantastic belief when the outcome is good, but horrible self-talk when it is bad. When an athlete executes a play perfectly, she should expect to do so the next time the same situation comes up. A balanced rationality would also expect bad outcomes to repeat, but this is not a useful expectation, nor does it need to be true. An athlete may perform poorly one time in cold weather and decide “I stink when it’s cold.” This is obviously not the positive, relentless attitude that will lead her to perform up to her potential. The best athletes in the world emphasize one-time good outcomes as likely to happen again, but view a poor outcome as an aberration from the norm. Perfectionists tend to do the opposite, beating themselves up for each mistake and having thoughts like, “Here we go again” or “Today is not my day!”

Excuses Are Sneaky

The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely the one who dropped it.
-Lou Holtz, Football Coach

Acceptance of responsibility for personal behavior is critical. When confronted with a dilemma or tough situation, a person either will find a way or find an excuse, but never both. Excuses are like candy at Christmas: abundant but not healthy. As an athlete increases her acceptance that she is completely responsible for and in control of her behavior, which is all that can be controlled, she will develop an intolerance of excuses.

Most excuse makers agree with the preceding paragraph, yet they unwittingly continue to make excuses. These excuses sneak up on them in various forms and often include words or phrases from the poor patterns of self-talk listed above. Perhaps the excuse maker’s ego is fragile, needing the protection of excuses. It will eventually teach her the benefits of accepting responsibility and the pitfalls of fearing ”failure,” hopefully sooner rather than later. Awareness is the first step because without awareness, no adjustment is possible. Leaders drop their safety net and do their best, one step at a time, regardless of environmental difficulties. No matter what potential excuses exist, she can always do her best.

You win the mental side of the game when you give your best effort one step at a time, accept whatever happens, and do it again. Your best effort is always good enough.

Going Oppo – Tips to Hit the Outside Pitch

Written By Charity Butler

Going Oppo - Tips to Hit the Outside Pitch

Fastpitch Chat Show App Featuring Softball Tips & How-To's

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.

WeightedBalls.com For Baseball & Softball Training Balls & Training Aids!

A Series Of Their Own

Written By Bill Plummer

BaseCoachHelmets.com For Catchers Caps & Base Coach Helmets and protection!

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.

Fastpitch Softball Magazine App for iOS and Android!” width=

Throwing Behind the Runner

Written By Lisa Iancin

SportsDecorating_post-footer

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.

Softball Junk

Sponsored by SoftballJunk.com