Buford T. Justice Said it Best

Written By Coach Dalton

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One of my favorite movie characters by far is Buford T. Justice. Despite my old age I still vividly recall a scene where this crusty old sheriff stopped only momentarily to confront a group of boys in the middle of nowhere as they were clearly trying to steal a car. Well sort of. You see he didn’t have time to actually arrest them since he was in “hot pursuit” so he had them place their hands on the car and then told them to watch the car until one of his fellow officers arrived because there might be vandals out there who would want to harm the car. You probably didn’t see the movie but I’ll just bet you can imagine what the boys were thinking as this sheriff walked back towards his car. Then old Buford T. Justice turned back to them and uttered one of the funniest lines in history without cracking as much as a grin … “Don’t go home. Don’t go to eat …. Oh you can think about it. But DON’T do it.”

No I haven’t lost the other half of my mind. There is a absolutely a purpose to why I said Buford T. Justice said that line best as I will be using it later in the article and it’s important that you have a point of reference for the intensity with which I want you to perceive the line.

If you did the work I asked you to do last month I’m sure by now you have completely dominated the art of diving for a ball that is in front of you. This month we are going to kick it up a notch and work on diving for balls that are, “gulp”, at your side instead of right in front of you. The “gulp” of course is my dramatic way of drawing attention to what you might already be thinking “How in the world can I dive for a ball at my side without injuring my shoulder?” Sometimes in life there are silly fears, but this isn’t one of them this is a legitimate fear. So much so that we will start very slowly. Get your glove and a ball and then kneel down. Hold the ball in your throwing hand and separate it from your glove hand. On your knees try to lean forward almost to the point you will fall over with your glove facing up. Now imagine that the ball was hit right in front of you, continue leaning and sort of dive forward and bring your hands together for the catch. Remember (or go back and read last months article) that the key is always, always, always to continue extending your arms.

Now sit back up and I’m going to have you try again but just slightly differently. This time imagine that the ball is hit about 1 foot to your glove hand side instead of being exactly in front of you. Make the diving catch and continue extending. Sit up and try again, only imagine it was hit about 1 more foot towards your glove hand side. Make the diving catch and continue extending. Continue doing this until you imagine the ball being hit almost directly at your side. As you do this you are going to notice one thing about yourself that you hadn’t before. Your brain is actually very intelligent when it comes to learning something new like this. Because while you didn’t have to think about consciously your sub conscious brain told your hips to pivot before diving for the ball. So while the ball started going to your side, your brain simply adjusted your body towards the balls location and you actually dove straight out. Just happened to be straight out to your side.

Now sit back up and lets imagine, not do, just imagine, a hit to the side of your body you throw from or what we call your “backhand” side. This is a bit different and does cause us to think. Until now we have been making these sure two handed catches while diving. But if your glove is turned over to make the catch so that you are looking at the back of your hand it’s kind of odd to put your throwing hand on top of the ball for a two handed catch. Go ahead and see how that feels by holding the ball in your glove like you’ve made a back handed catch and see how it feels to try and cover it up. Silly right. Nobody does that. And so now we are left in a bit of a pickle. What do you do with your throwing hand when you dive?

Oh you’re going to want to put it on the ground to brace yourself. You’re going to want to put it on the ground because you don’t know what else to do with it. But listen closely . . . . “Oh you can think about putting that hand down, but DON’T do it.” You didn’t see that one coming did you? Seriously with the strongest look I can give you don’t dive and put that hand straight down, you do not want all of the energy that your body takes into the ground coming right back through that one hand/arm/shoulder.

You have to drive that arm forward just as though you were simply diving on the bases. Simply one in which you use your other arm to make a great back handed catch at the same time. Talented little thing aren’t you.

I’m so serious about wanting you to do this correctly that I’d like you to watch the video first before you proceed with trying a backhanded dive. Watch Savannah and Graham demonstrate it as many times as you need in order to see that you can in fact make the catch while extending your throwing hand. After you think you have it simply prop your !Pad up with something so that you can watch them and try the backhanded dive yourself. Remember as you are trying always start as low as you possibly can, and start already extended. Practice in a way that gives you the confidence to take it to the next level and start up in the air. Before next month you should be totally rocking both forward and side dives from your knees and in the air already leaning as far as you can.

Who knows if Savannah and Graham are up for it next month they just might demonstrate diving for the ball at a full run forwards, side ways and back ways. Oh you can think about not working hard this month, but don’t do it.

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Written By Mitch Alexander

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Fastpitch softball is a sport. That means players and coaches need to play with and exhibit something called sportsmanship. While sportsmanship might be somewhat difficult to completely define, it’s easy to spot when someone that should have it – doesn’t. The player that calls her opponent names. The parent who berates the umpire. The coach who wants to win at all costs – regardless of how the other team feels so long as his team wins. Lately, unsportsmanlike conduct seems to be on the rise and has become the norm instead of the exception. Therefore, it’s important for the rest of us to know how to understand, identify, and try to avoid unsportsmanlike conduct.

Recently, my 12u travel team was in a few local tournaments. I’m sad to say that more than one coach exhibited unsportsmanlike conduct, as did the players, and the players’ parents. You see, if the coach (who is the team’s leader) normally uses this behavior, the players and their parents also tend to do so. That isn’t to say that everyone on the team had bad manners. Some may not realize the situation, or recognize that unsportsmanlike conduct is the norm on their team. Game after game, the coach “protects” his team by making sure that the umpire’s calls are in his team’s favor. When this team comes across an umpire that won’t bend to the coach’s will, the umpire becomes the enemy and the team parents and even the players start yelling out things about the umpire.

Many games at the youth level are officiated by only one umpire. These umpires are the first to acknowledge that they can’t see everything. Many of these coaches use what I like to call “influential unsportsmanlike conduct,” which is when the other coach or team parents make the calls. They loudly let the umpire know when their player is safe and your player is out, and your player is always out if the play is close. Sometimes, umpires make the calls they can’t see by popular vote – whoever is loudest must have seen the play!

The game of softball is a game of honor. Rules are set out and well known before the game was even scheduled. Ground rules are established before the first pitch is thrown. However, some coaches think they can bend or even break the rules for their own benefit, sometimes to hide a coaching mistake they made! Coaches do not honor the game when they don’t honor the umpire, the opposing coach, or the opposing team. We had the occasion to ask Sue Enquist about competition and how she views her opponents. She said they are a bunch of shirts that are required to play the game. They are treated with respect as players and coaches. She said that each player on her team needs to compete against themselves and not view the other team as something bad. This is a great concept. Your opponent is playing to win the game just as you are. The players are (or should be) honorable. The coaches are (or should be) honorable. The game is to be honored. The other team is necessary so you can play the game.

Our team and organization always try to honor the game. We don’t argue with umpires. Our players don’t make fun of the other team or coaches. We don’t argue with the opposing team’s coaches, players, or parents. Our base coaches never call the play safe or out. We know the rules of the organization we are playing under. We know the local rules. If there are any doubts, we discuss them with the umpire to make sure we understand before play starts. When our girls cheer, they do it to support their teammates, not to be obnoxious to the other team. Even though certain organizations and umpires allow cheering through the pitcher’s windup, we don’t support that.

When we do come across teams and coaches exhibiting unsportsmanlike conduct, we never address it directly with the players, coaches, or parents. That’s not how this works. We address it with the umpire. Each manager is responsible for themselves, their players, and their players’ parents. Instead of getting into it with the other manager, we go straight to the umpire. We treat the situation like a court of law and try to minimize direct communication with the other team. After all they are only a bunch of shirts necessary to play the game. We shake hands and wish the other coaches and team captains good luck before the game, and shake hands and say “good game” afterwards. Any issues that come up during the game go through the umpire. They are the judge and jury of the softball field. Right or wrong, their decisions are usually final. They have the authority to stop unsportsmanlike conduct, you don’t – unless you decide to forfeit and leave the field.

Parents on the sidelines need to remember that it’s just a game and while there may be some championship or pool seeding resting on the outcome, the bottom line is that your child’s life will most likely not be significantly affected if they lose the game. Don’t shout at the other team or the umpire for a bad call. Good sportsmanship includes gracefully handling bad calls. Players should stay positive and acknowledge that the players on the other team have the same interests they do and may one day be their teammates instead of their opponents. At the end of the game, shake hands or high five every player and coach on the other team. Don’t try to hurt the other players’ hands by punching, slapping, or bending the fingers back (as has happened to us on more than one occasion). Umpires should remember that they too, are not always right and not show favoritism to one team over the other. There is nothing more discouraging to a young pitcher than to see her strike zone squeezed down to the size of a volleyball just because she’s the better pitcher or her team is winning. Coaches should not knowingly break any rules. Good sportsmanship is required of EVERY person involved in a game, from the players and coaches, to the umpires, and spectators.

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Fastpitch Softball Magazine Issue 49

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Issue 49 of The Fastpitch Magazine Published By Gary Leland

This month’s featured video is an interview with Coach Kirk Walker. I have also included one of my great softball drills, another featured chapter from The Fastpitch Book, and all your helpful articles from our amazing writers.

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

Aaron Weintraub brings us “12 Mental Game Fundamentals” from his column Bridging the Gap.

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

Shannon McDougall’s column, Planning for Success, has her article “The Off Season”.

This months featured video of the month is an interview by Dot Richardson with Coach Kirk Walker.

Abby Hanrahan writes in her section, The Pitching Link, with her article “For Parents Who Sit on Buckets″.

Mitch Alexander is back with Softball Academy, in his article “Collegiate View- Playing in the Ivy League”.

Robby Wilson joins us again with his article on Recruiting in the Fastpitch Lane, “So What ACTUALLY Matters in Softball Recruiting?”.

Sherry Werner writes us from her article Windmill Wisdom with the article “Parameters at Ball Release”.

Jen Croneberger writes from her column, These Five Words are Mine, with the article “When the “Why” is Big”.

Special Article featured from The Fastpitch Book, Written by Michelle Martin Diltz called “Competitive Training”.

I also feature my interview of the month with Jennie Finch.

All this and more in this months issue.

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Success Is In The Little Things

Written By Stacie Mahoe

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Success Is In The Little Things

Excellence, success, we’re all after it. However, you won’t achieve it if you can’t do the little things right. Bruce Barton said, “Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things, I am tempted to think there are no little things.”

The funny thing about “little things” is they often become BIG things. So if you want to do big things right, like win games, or even championships, make sure you take care of the little things!

3 Reasons Why Little Things Matter

As mentioned before, little things often turn into big things, so never let them slide! Little things added up over time create BIG results, good or bad, depending on whether or not you take care of them, so make it a point to do them well.

You must walk before you can run. In other words, you can’t expect the big things to go well for you when you don’t start with the little things first. Do the little things right day in and day out and eventually you will find yourself doing the big things right too. However, it doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient with yourself. Start small, keep taking those baby steps, and eventually the big things will come.

Little things, that happen daily, give you the opportunity to make excellence a habit. Big things usually happen less frequently. So if you want to create the good habits necessary for success, the way to do that is through the little things that happen often. Success comes through a series of baby steps taken over a long period of time, not by doing one or two big things every once in a while. Stop focusing so much on making big things happen. Be diligent about doing small things well over and over and over again.

Think about it. How are you doing on the little things? Do you make it a point to do them right? Or are you overlooking them in favor of “more important” things?

Fastpitch softball is simple… hit, run, score. Throw the ball. Catch the ball. But simple and easy are not the same thing! With so much to cover over the course of a season, with so much to teach, it’s very easy to let the little things slide. I challenge you, however, not to.

Here are 7 “little things” teams let slide far too often. I know they may not seem that important, but remember, little things become big things. Do them right!


Is your dugout neat and orderly? Or are bags and pieces of equipment thrown about leaving the dugout looking more like an obstacle course than a well kept space? There are several reasons a neat and orderly dugout is important. ..

–It makes it easy for your team to get in and out quick during innings –It’s just plain safer (you don’t need someone getting hurt because they tweaked their ankle on a ball or other pieces of wayward equipment laying on the ground)

–It means you’re taking good care of your equipment which means you’ll get to use it longer

–It shows you care about what you do and have pride in and respect for the game


If you see players walking on the field, ever, this is an area that can improve. You should see hustle in and out of the dugout. You should see hustle between practice stations. You should see hustle in and out of water breaks.

Hustle also means running through the bag, not to it. Finish with the best you have. Never stop short. Never let up. Never give up. Finish strong. This mindset is not only important for running, but in how you play the game.

Hustle keeps you in the game from beginning to end. Hustle shows you care about what you do and how much you WANT to be there. Hustle shows you’re willing to give your best even when it’s not required by someone else.

Hustle matters. Hustle wins games!


The use of mobile devices is so much more common now more than ever. However, a player’s need for it on the field has not increased one iota since back before mobile phones were common. Yet, players often stay attached to their device right up until the start of practice or game. Even while their teammates help set up, players are still focused on their phone! I’ve also seen players go in their bag to check their phone during/throughout a practice or game. There is really no need for this. There’s no reason players can’t put their phones away at least 10 minutes prior to start time and keep them away until after the team is dismissed for the day.


When I was in college, swearing was not allowed. When our local high school teams play on TV, coaches often remind them about their language. Players trying to get recruited often watch their tongue if scouts are in the stands. If it’s good enough for you do to when you want to be on your “best behavior” it’s good enough for EVERY day. Again, we’re talking about creating the right habits that will help you be successful when it matters most. This means practicing these habits daily vs expecting yourself to just do them right once, on the ONE occasion when it really matters. If it’s good enough for your most important day, it’s good enough for EVERY day. If swearing isn’t acceptable in front of the umpire or in front of your most important spectator, it’s not acceptable on the field at all.


From my experience, most leagues have the same appearance rules from game to game. Shirts must be tucked in, certain jewelry is not allowed, etc. Rules don’t change from week to week or game to game so players know exactly what’s expected of them. Therefore, there is no reason for games to be stopped because a player is improperly equipped.

If you’re a player trying to secure playing time, get this right without being told! If you can’t even bother to show up to the field the way you’re supposed to, why should the coach trust you to do what you’re supposed to do during the game? If you want your coach to trust you with bigger things, like playing time, make sure he or she can trust you with the little things, like showing up to the game properly dressed!

Plus, a neat appearance, like hustle, just shows that you care about and have pride in being a softball player!


This is a skill that translates easily into life. Coaches agree, if you’re on time you’re late. Showing up on time doesn’t mean you’re at the field when practice starts. It means you’re already ready to start training BEFORE practice starts. Your bag is put away, your equipment is in it’s proper place, your shoes are on your feet, your shoelaces are tied, and you’re ready to GO when the coach calls everyone up to start practice. Showing up on time allows you to get the most out of your training, minimizes distractions, and allows the team to get off to a good start each day.


Team yells are typically done at the start and at the end of a game or practice. Therefore, make it a point to always start well and end well.

Your “before” team yell should be your best, most enthusiastic yell. It sets the tone for your practice or game. If you were heading into the championship game, what would your yell be like? Do that every time. If you want to be a champion, you must train like one daily.

At the end of your game or practice, no matter what the outcome, no matter how good or bad the day went, no matter how tired or how energetic you feel, give a great team yell! Do it as if you just won the championship game. Don’t allow outside circumstances to affect how you do this simple task.

One of the biggest problems players and teams have is they allow less than ideal circumstances to affect how they perform. When things don’t go well, they don’t play well. Obviously this is a problem.

You can practice overcoming this starting with your team yell. Don’t allow how you feel at the beginning or end of a practice or a game affect how you do your yell. Make it great every time. Practice giving your best yell no matter what. It’s the first step in learning how to give your best when you play no matter what adversity comes your way. Your team yell gives you an opportunity to What about you? Where can you get better? What little thing can you be more excellent at today and every day? Get started now by choosing ONE thing and making a point to do it well every chance you get. To your ultimate success on and off the field.

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The Swing: Science or Art?

Written By Rob Crews

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The Swing- Science or Art?

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Is teaching the swing an exact science or a creative masterpiece? I guess it depends on who’s asking the question -the student or the teacher. I have come to realize that for many younger coaches it seems to be more of an exact science. For it is the novice that tends to ignore the creative process -a process that consists of teacher learning from student and developing a unique system that fits that individual student. The novice has read the book and studied the video. She spends a large amount of time attempting to get players to fit into an idea of the perfect swing. But it doesn’t matter how much you know if you are not effective in your communication as a teacher. Perhaps it would have been easier to listen to the mechanics of the student.

On the other hand, the Master Teacher has a deeper understanding of creativity and the diversity of swing styles -he has the humility to adapt to hitters. The Master knows there is no perfect swing. The Master Teacher knows that because at one time she was a novice who also chased the idea of a perfect swing.

This adaptable teaching methodology is important for players -especially those that have gone beyond the youth stages of development. Today’s athletes -hitters who have been specializing with hitting coaches from the young age of 8 or 9 year’s old. For players who may have graduated from specific schools of thought or hitting disciplines, it is much more difficult to re-teach them -especially the olderthey get. Unlearning old habits and getting comfortable with new movement can be a challenge for most. And its not that the coaches are ignorant -it’s that they haven ‘t figured out how to communicate it to the player. Many coaches who have the scientific approach to teaching science, will fail at converting most older hitters -that is hitters in their late teens. Instead of having a scientific approach to teaching science, many hitters need a more creative approach to teaching science. The creative approach makes it possible to unteach old habits while re-enforcing new movement -no matter the age of the player. You can either force-feed hitters and fail, or break off small pieces for them and succeed. It usually comes down to how stubborn or arrogant a coach is.

For this reason, beyond the age of 15, hitting is learned more than it is taught. The process of failure and re-learning falls on the hitters themselves. The hitters who are able to adapt are the hitters who are able to make the mental adjustments necessary for consistency at every level . Some hitters are able to learn (in-game) on one level, and perhaps cannot (learn in-game) at a higher level . You know those hitters who are working really hard, only to maintain a level of “still not good enough.”

Now of course there are scientific truths when it comes to swinging the bat. However, the interpretation of those truths lie in the perception of the beholder. The are so many arguments for and against different swing philosophies. Hitting can be a lot like religion -so many different ways to get to the same goal. And in religion, like a lot of rivalries, you can’t subscribe to more than one -or can you? Can you like the Yankees without hating the Mets? Can you like !Phone and Android or do you have to hate the one you don’t like? Why can’t they both be good but you just have a preference. America loves a good rivalry. America loves to argue. North and South, Republicans and Democrats. Linear vs Rotational. Why are these even arguments? Okay, one more Crest or Colgate.

The flip side of the teaching argument is the learning argument. After all, A teacher cannot even exist without students. I believe the post-modern student is evolving quickly and we must be very careful how we as teachers handle them. Once upon a time I had hitters that came in twice per week, every week, whether they were hot or not. I have less of those types of students now. I have more students that I have not seen in a month -and this is actually normal. Today’s student wants to do less and get more. And that is just the way it is. As teachers, we know that isn’t possible. Mainly because we know better than anyone what it takes.

Now we can’t teach the part-time dream chaser mentality the same way we taught the more focused hitter’s of the past. The hitter’s of the past didn’t have phones and 3 different social media accounts to manage. They didn’t have 2000 friends. Focus was much simpler then -but now we have this distracted generation. Parents are just as distracted and the mediocrity of society make’s them apprehensive to push their kids. Looking back, I wish I had the courage to push my own kids harder.

So is teaching the swing based on science? Absolutely, but in order to be effective in your teaching, you must be as creative as an artist. It is important to pinpoint a hitter’s natural swing and then figure out what you will negotiate while getting as close as you can to the science of what a swing should look and feel like. A Master Teacher motivates the student to find more time to devote to honing their skill. In a culture where players have way too many games and not enough individual practice time, it can be tough. But if you really want something, you find time to do it. No, your students will not shut off the computer and cell phones -therefore they must either wake up earlier or go to bed later. Whatever they do, they must get it done.


Taking Charge of the Rundown

Written By Lisa Iancin

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Taking Charge of the Rundown

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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!

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