In Time For The Double Play

Written By Lisa Iancin

In Time For The Double Play

Strike Zone Mat hitting and pitching training aid

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?

Written By Charity Butler

Strike Zone Mat hitting and pitching training aid

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

Written By Coach Dalton

Win Some Softball Stuff Show!

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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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Coaches Corner

Written By Darrick Brown

Video On Demand

Coaches Corner

How to Select a Pitching Coach

Choosing a pitching coach can be a very difficult and stressful process on a parent. Every parent wants the best for their daughter. There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a pitching coach who will hopefully advance your daughter to the level that she desires. Simply going to an instructor because she is nice is not a good reason! Here are some questions that in my opinion need to be considered:

• Mechanics/Safety: What style or basic mechanics does the instructor teach? Does the instructor understand and teach the absolutes of pitching? Are the mechanics natural to how the body moves to ensure the safest possible way to throw a pitch? The instructor should be 100% about SAFETY!

• Experience as an instructor: How many years has the instructor been teaching pitching? Where has he/she instructed?

• Experience as a pitcher: Has the instructor pitched before? In my opinion this is important because the experience of actually throwing the ball is invaluable! I have never been sky diving so I don’t think I would be a very good instructor in sky diving. Could I learn the basics from a video or internet? Sure but actually having the experience of doing the skill is priceless!

• Experience as a coach: What levels has this instructor coached at? Did the instructor have success? Just make sure the experience comes with updated and current instruction!

• Reputation as a teacher: What do people say about the instructors ability to diagnose and fix mechanical issues? What do people say about the instructors ability to teach?

• Success of instructors students: Are any of the instructors students successful? Have any of the instructors pitchers received college scholarships? Keep in mind most instructors have a range of students but ask around and get some feedback. Go to ball fields and talk to the pitchers families.

• Is this the instructors main job? I think this is important because you will find that a person who instructs for a living will more than likely keep updated on current mechanics. After all this is the instructors livelihood so he/she better be good at their job to earn their dinner!

• Communication/Chemistry with students: Does the instructor have good chemistry with his students? Does he/she care about his students success and development? Does the instructor have a sense of humor and seem to enjoy teaching kids? I think learning in a relaxed and fun environment keeps the students interested.

• Parent involvement: Often I am asked by parents if they can watch. personally want the parents to hear every word so they can reinforce in the backyard. I want them to ask questions and understand why I am teaching the style I teach or the drill that we are doing.

• Video Analysis: In my opinion this is the #1 tool in training pitchers! You can see so much on video that a naked eye may miss. Also, the visual of a mechanical flaw will help the student understand what she is doing wrong.

• Cost: I think the above questions are more important. Typically you are paying the instructor and the facility so keep that in mind. I would guess the going rate for an indoor facility is around $60/hr and $30/half hour. Again, the prices may vary depending on experience and whether your indoors or outdoors. Beware of high membership rates!

• Gender: IT DOESN’T MATTER! I have read all over the internet where people are bashing genders or saying men’s fastpitch pitchers can’t teach women’s mechanics. Lets talk common sense here. Do men and women both have feet, legs, hips, shoulders, arms, fingers, etc? Then why would we teach any different? We all want max leg drive and an elbow/wrist/fingers snap at release! The absolutes in pitching are still there! I often hear that women use their legs and men don’t when they pitch. Or that men are all upper body. What? The real difference is what men can get away with in the men’s game. Many associations or leagues allow men to crow hop or even hop outside the rubber which is illegal in the women’s game. The men’s ISF rules are the closest to the way the women’s rules are. Fact is there are great women and men instructors out there and in my opinion gender doesn’t matter!

• Recruiting: Does the instructor have collegiate contacts? Do college coaches respect the instructors opinion?

• Pitch Development: Will the instructor teach pitches? In my opinion when a pitcher is close mechanically to what the instructor wants she will begin learning other pitches. If the instructor waits for perfect mechanics and 50 straight down the middle strikes it will likely never happen. I do believe that without a solid lower half and base you will struggle with movement pitches. Many instructors fear teaching other pitches because they worry about injury. I believe injuries happen due to poorly taught mechanics. If your instructor says use your shoulder to throw a drop, make big stride adjustments to throw a curve or screw, or jerk backwards to throw a rise then RUN AWAY FAST and find a new instructor now!

• Observe a lesson: If your daughter does flips, T’s, and k’s for 20 out of a 30 minute then you need to go elsewhere. The cookie cutter academies are guilty of this! Don’t get me wrong lessons should be repetitious but drills need to be purposeful and as close to a real pitch as possible. Lower half should be a big emphasis in every lesson. My typical hour lesson is 30 minutes mechanics (lower half emphasis for most of that) and 30 minutes pitch development. My pitchers throw a lot of pitches in a lesson. Keep in mind the best way to learn is to actually use the whole body so you can incorporate rhythm in your drills.

The above questions and topics are definitely a good place to start in the very important process of selecting your daughters pitching instructor. Find somebody that is qualified, successful, has the ability to teach, and is passionate for the game. I hope you find this article helpful in your search!

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The Turboslot batting gloves are a way to gain greater bat control and improve the way the bat feels in your hands. By getting these batting gloves you give your hitter more confidence. They will be uncomfortable for the first couple of uses, but once you are used to them, your hitter won’t want to wear anything else! The Turboslot batting gloves are a great way to give your batter more confidence at the plate. Get your Turboslot batting gloves today!

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Want vs. Do

Written By Stacie Mahoe

Want Vs. Do

Make Sure What you want lines up with what you do

Have you ever heard people talking or grumbling about life changes they supposedly want or “need” …

“I want to lose weight.”

“I want to earn more money.” “I need a new job .”

“I want to pay off my credit cards.”

yada, yada, yada

Sound familiar? You hear people say these phrases all the time, BUT how many of them actually DO anything about those wants? Do their actions line up with what they want?

Are they doing anything to lose weight instead of gain it?

Are they doing anything to put themselves in a position to earn more money, like increasing knowledge or learning new skills, or are they just wishing for it?

Are they doing anything to find or train for a better job or do they just sit and complain about their current employment?

Are they doing anything to pay off those credit cards, like paying more to it than they charge each month?

What about you? What about softball?

Do you “want” to move up in the batting lineup but then go through the motions during hitting drills?

Do you “want” to be a pitcher but then try to get out of all those pitching drills and extra practice sessions?

Do you “want” your players to dominate on the bases but rarely practice taking leads , sliding, reading change-ups or dirt balls early, or getting out of the box quickly?

Do you “want” your players to execute the short game at will but forget to make bunting a regular part of your offensive practice?

Granted, you may not get everything you want, but. ..

If there’s something you really, really want, something that ‘s more important to you than just about anything, do a self check! Does what you do day in and day out line up with what you want? If so, congratulations! You’re on the right track.

If not, you’re probably stuck in the trap of “wanting” something but doing nothing about it. Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It happens to all of us for a number of reasons. Most commonly it’s because…

  • You don ‘t really want this thing as badly as you say or think you do
  • You aren’t sure what do to do accomplish what you want
  • You’re focused on another more important goal
  • You have no good reason, just need a loving swift kick in the butt or
  • You need someone to hold you accountable

So how do you overcome these issues and finally start taking steps toward what you want?

Decide: The first thing you need to do is decide what’s really important to you. What is it that you really, really (did I say ” really”) want? If you haven’t taken action on your “want” yet, take a moment to re-evaluate and make sure it ‘s not just something that sounds good or “would be nice” if you accomplished it. Get clear and be specific about what really matters to you. It’s okay to change your mind or put other less important goals on hold while you focus on chasing down the one matters most. Decide what it is you ‘ re after and decide that you will do what it takes to get there.

Take that first step: You may not know each and every step you need to take to accomplish what you want, but you CAN figure out a first step. You are capable of taking the first steps on your own. The most important thing right now is getting started! Think about it. What small thing can you start doing now that will take you closer to what you want?

Figure out what needs to change: To help you answer that last question, take a look at what you ‘ re doing now. What is currently helping you accomplish what you want? Are you doing anything that isn’t helping you? Be honest with yourself and evaluate your actions and choices. Keeping doing the things that help you and adjust or drop things that don ‘t.

This first step doesn’t have to be big. Start small and work from there. Maybe you need to start showing up for practice a little earlier instead of rushing every day. Maybe you need to focus just a bit more in your drills instead of engaging in chit chat. Maybe you need to sleep a little earlier instead of watching another tv show or staying on facebook. Maybe you need to hydrate well with water instead of drinking soda or juice. Again, it doesn’t needs to be something huge. Look for ONE thing you can change right away and take that first baby step toward getting what you want.

Ask for help: If you feel like you’re doing everything you can but still aren’t making the progress you want, ask for help. Maybe you need a little more work on your hitting or pitching or fielding. In addition to taking extra reps , ask your coach or instructor if they see something you can do better. What can you tweak to imp rove your performance? Be open and willing to listen to feedback and make adjustments as needed. While you can make great progress by simply making a point to apply what you already know, don’t be afraid to ask for help. There’s always more to learn. Asking for help does not make you weak or stupid , it makes you smart and resourceful! Sometimes all you need is a fresh perspective to help take your game up a notch. Watch, listen, learn , and apply concepts that work for you.

Build in accountability: In addition to writing your goals down and putting them in a place you ‘ll see them often, accountability can put you on the fast track to accomplishing your goals. If no one knows about your goals it’s easier to give up on them. Share your goals with positive minded people who inspire you and believe in you. Just knowing that someone else knows what you ‘ re trying to accomplish helps you stay on track and keep moving even when you feel like giving up. When you share your goals with the right people, you’ll find cheerleaders who jump in and pick you up at just the right time or butt kickers who provide that loving, but well deserved swift kick every now and then. Choose people who support you, believe in you, who aren ‘t afraid to call you out when you need it, and who won’t allow you to wallow around in a puddle of self pity for too long . A good support system is essential to success, but tough to find. Choose the people you surround yourself with carefully.

Take action today

I know I ‘ve given you a lot to think about and thinking is good, but taking conscious action is better. Doing the same thing you ‘ve always done will get you the same results you’ve always gotten. If you want different results, you must do something different.

Start small. Start now. Decide what you want. Think about whether or not what you DO lines up with what you WANT, make adjustments, and go from there. Make this season awesome. You got this!