We can learn a lot about the meaning of being a fan from the L.A. Times’ Bill Plaschke’s article about fifth-grader Casey Johnstone’s graduation speech. Casey is a Dodgers fan, though he lives in the heart of the Dodgers’ rival, San Francisco Giants, territory. You can also watch his 50-second speech complete with gasps from an amused crowd.
After watching Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Alex Cobb being struck in the head by a line drive, there are renewed calls for changes to be made to improve pitchers’ safety. Perhaps a helmet, similar to those worn by batters would have made a difference in this case. But is there anything that can be done to completely protect players standing less than 60 feet away from a batted ball coming at over 100 miles per hour?
By Dave Hudgens (Part 3 of 3)
Here are 5 curveball drills taken straight from our Conquering the Curveball DVD (the second DVD in the Hitting for Excellence series).
1) Underhand Recognition Drill
This drill is designed to help differentiate between the speeds of a fastball and an off-speed pitch. I like this drill very much because it will help you recognize where the weight of your body needs to be. To do this drill:
• Coach tosses underhand from behind a screen sitting about 15ft. in front of home plate.
• Coach mixes change of speeds and locations. Changing the speeds allows the hitter to feel the hesitation.
• Hitter drives the ball right back up the middle.
2) Bounce Drill
This drill reinforces the hesitation that needs to take place when hitting a breaking ball. For example if you are looking fastball, and the pitcher throws a hittable breaking ball, if you continue on as if it were a fastball, you will be way out front. That is why it is so important to recognize early and hesitate until the ball gets to you.
To do this drill seated:
• The tosser sits behind a screen 15ft. in front of the hitter.
• The tosser bounces the ball 4-5ft. in front of home plate, allowing the ball to bounce into the strike zone.
To do this drill standing:
• The tosser stands behind a screen 25ft. in front of the hitter.
• Tosser throws the ball overhand, bouncing the ball 3-4 ft. in front of home plate, allowing the ball to bounce up into the strike zone.
3) Underhand Lob Drill
Since a major key to hitting the curveball is to allowing it to come down to you, this drill is designed to practice waiting for the ball to come down to you. To do this drill:
• The tosser positions himself behind a screen 10-15ft. in front of the hitter, lobbing the ball over the screen.
• The hitter must wait for the ball to come down to him. Stay inside the ball and drive it up the middle.
4) Drop the Ball Drill
The purpose of this drill is to teach the hitter to stay down on the ball. It also helps to develop quickness in the hands.
To do this drill:
• The tosser stands to the side of the hitter, far enough back so as not to be hit with the bat.
• Tosser extends his arm high in the air, dropping the ball straight down into the contact zone.
• Hitter should make sure he gets ready early and let the ball come down to him.
5) Back Toss Drill
It is very important when hitting a breaking ball that you stay inside the ball. This drill will help develop that habit as well as practicing the hesitation.
• Standing 5-6ft. behind the hitter and to his open side (about a 45° angle) underhand toss the ball into the contact zone.
• The hitter should then concentrate on hitting the ball right back up the middle. This will give him the feel of staying inside the ball.
Know Your Strike Zone
Where many hitters get into trouble is swinging at offspeed pitches out of the strike zone. The best hitters command the strike zone. They know what pitches they want and where they want them. Your batting average and on base percentage will jump dramatically if you command the strike zone. This is what I call being selectively aggressive.
The best pitchers in baseball can not throw their offspeed pitch in a great location for a strike consistently. So don’t be intimidated. Even if the pitcher has a great curveball, it may not be good that day and it won’t be un-hittable every time. There is one important question to ask: Is anyone’s curveball consistent outing after outing? The answer is definitely NO.
Your goal as a hitter is to have a good approach on the hittable curveball. This is just one of the pieces of the puzzle to becoming a master hitter. Success doesn’t come overnight and only the most dedicated players will achieve their goals. It is my hope in putting this article together that you will have the same solid information at your disposal that the best hitters in the world have. 95% of players don’t have a plan when they see a curveball – aren’t you glad you do?
Dave Hudgens has been involved with the best of baseball for over 30 years. He is currently the Hitting Coach for the New York Mets. Prior to that he was a longtime hitting coach in the Oakland Athletics’ organization.
By Dr. Patrick Cohn
We often see kids who excel in practice, but freeze up during games. This can be frustrating and confusing for parents and coaches. What’s going on in the young athlete’s mind and what can sports parents and coaches do about it?
First of all, sports parents and coaches should help young athletes understand that they create their own confidence. If kids begin a game wanting immediate results (such as getting the first hit or basket of the game), they’re setting themselves up for frustration.
Many athletes have a fragile sense of confidence. They need to understand that it can take years to build up confidence in sports. Many only feel confident when they experience immediate success, especially during a game or performance. Don’t let them lose confidence by worrying about achieving immediate results!
What’s more, athletes need to understand that they’ll be more successful if they assume full responsibility for their own confidence before competition begins. Often, athletes unknowingly wait until the game starts before they decide how confident they should feel. If this is how your young athletes think, they need positive results before they feel confident. In other words, they need to make that great hit or basket before they can begin to feel confident.
If this is true of the young athletes in your life, you can help. Tell them they need to change how they think before entering competition. Tell them not to worry about making that first hit, goal or basket right away! Instead, they should draw on their many successes even before the game or competition begins. That means recalling positive experiences—great hits, blocks or assists. It means recalling how it feels to be viewed as a great team player.
Keep in mind that confidence develops over months and years of practice and play. Remind your child about this. In addition, confidence should come from within. That’s why it’s called self-confidence. Your kids should not have to depend on what you say to boost their confidence on game day. They should learn to take personal responsibility for their confidence.
Award winning parenting writer Lisa Cohn and Youth Sports Psychology expert Dr. Patrick Cohn are co-founders of The Ultimate Sports Parent. Pick up their free e-book, “Ten Tips to Improve Confidence and Success in Young Athletes” by visiting
In our daily workings with thousands of youth sports leagues, we often encounter memorial tributes to dedicated volunteers and, even more sadly, children who left before their time. We will share their stories with you from time to time in an effort to give these people even more well-deserved recognition. From Fredericksburg Soccer, here is a page dedicated to mom and volunteer, Kerry Keilty.