How to Slide

By Doug Bernier

Sliding is how we get into a base as quickly as possible while maintaining contact with the bag (i.e. not over running it and risk getting tagged). Sliding can be used to stop or redirect our momentum, break up a double play on the bases, or make a tag play more difficult by using a hook slide.

There are three types of slides in baseball: Feet first (or pop up), head first, or hook slide.

Feet First or Pop Up Slide
This is the most useful of the slides, and the safest. When in doubt, go feet first. This method of sliding can be used in any situation. This is also known as the pop up slide because if you do it correctly you will be able to use your momentum when you hit the bag to pop up quickly and continue running if needed.

How to Pop Up Slide
One of your legs is going to be extended and will make contact with the bag. It doesn’t matter which one you choose. Your ankle of your other leg will be placed under your straight legs hamstring. This will look similar to the number “4”. You will keep both your hands up. This is so when you make contact with the ground you will not slam your wrists in the ground and break a wrist. You will make contact with the ground with your bent knee and the upper part of the back of your straight leg.

Head First Slide
The head first slide may get you into the base a little quicker than going feet first, but there is a higher risk of injury.

Benefits: Head first is thought of as the quickest way of sliding into a base. This is because you keep your momentum going forward opposed to having to sit back on your legs or back side.

It can also be beneficial because sometimes you can manipulate the slide a little by shifting your hands to try to avoid a tag.

Downsides: Head first should not be used when sliding into home plate at any time (the catcher with all his gear on can do some damage to your fingers and your shoulders if you come in head first). Also, sliding head first when trying to break up a double play is illegal, and you and the hitter will be called out.

Sliding head first can be dangerous. Some guys have broken fingers by hitting the base the wrong way, or if an infielder jumps and lands on them. Also, if a infielder jumps and comes down on your arms or shoulders you can really hurt your shoulders.

Some teams are really starting to advise their players to stop sliding head first and to get used to sliding feet first.

How to slide head first, and tips to prevent injury

  • As you are running start your lean forward.
  • Extend your body forward and try to keep your forearms and hands out in front of you.
  • Cock your wrist back so when your hands make contact with the bag, the heels of your palm will hit it and not your fingers. This will help to prevent finger injuries.

Hook Slide
The hook is a spin off of the regular feet first slide. The only difference is that instead of making contact with your foot, you will slide feet first but to one side or the other and grab the base with one of your hands.

This is very useful especially on a play at home plate. It gives the defender making the tag less body to touch. Also, when done correctly you can move your hand so you can avoid the glove that is trying to tag you. When hook sliding into home you can hit the back corner of the plate with a real quick hand movement that can be difficult to tag.

You can use this at other bases as well, especially if a throw is taking a defender to one side of the bag. In this instance you can slide to the other side of the bag and grab with your hand.

How to Hook Slide
The mechanics are the same as the feet first slide, except you’ll be sliding to one side or the other and reach back with your hand to grab the bag.

You can also use the hook slide when trying to break up a double play at second base. The rule in professional baseball, is you can make contact with an infielder as long as you can touch the bag with any part of your body.

Doug Bernier, founder of Pro Baseball Insider.com, debuted in the Major Leagues in 2008 with the Colorado Rockies, and has played professional baseball for 5 organizations (CO Rockies, NY Yankees, Pirates, MN Twins, & TX Rangers) over the past 16 years. He has Major League time at every infield position, and has played every position on the field professionally except for catcher. Where is he now? After batting .200 in 45 at-bats and fielding .950 during 2017 spring training with the Rangers, Doug was assigned to the Ranger’s AAA team the Round Rock Express.

(Originally Posted at www.probaseballinsider.com)

Angry letter from lacrosse coach

This posted by Tom Ley of Deadspin and contains some off-color wording so we ordinarily wouldn’t publish this. But there is something here about the coach/player/parent dynamic that is all too common in ultra-competitive youth travel sports. This may be over the top, especially because it seems to pertain to a middle school player, but when reading it one wonders where the real truth in the situation lies.

More from yesterday’s post

Below you can read the follow-up conversation we had with the coach who asked us our opinion about what to do about a woman who posted something critical of him on Facebook.

Coach’s email:

Thanks for the quick reply.
 
I coach 9-10 baseball in a small town in Arkansas.  Our games are 6 inning or 1.5 hours long.  We practiced with her son at the catchers position during 4 or 5 practices but decided to go with a couple more boys because he son does not hustle and missed a lot of pitches. 
 
I have copied her post below.  It may not sound like much but I am not used to being criticized.   
 
“Really proud of my (name removed) today!! He’s been bat catcher for the entire 6 years he’s played ball. (Since he was 4.)This year, it’s apparent he won’t get to, even though the other kids on his team don’t really want the position. He had a rough game yesterday between not getting to catch & sitting out 2 innings & was pretty upset & pretty much gave up for the 2nd half of the game. We had a talk on the way home about not giving them the satisfaction of giving up. Today he went out there at practice & did what he had to do, even though tomorrow we have to find out if he has a broken or jammed finger. He didn’t let it get him down, even when he was yelled at for taking off his glove in the outfield when he was hurting… and I never saw tears in his eyes until we got in the truck. I’m very proud of the way he played today & that he didn’t give up even when he very clearly was in pain & upset. He has way better of an attitude about things than his Momma for sure! Way to go son!”
 
Her son took his glove off during the last 3 batters of practice and was just holding it under his arm.  I told him to put his glove back on and that he wasn’t ready.  I was on the 3rd baseline and he was in LF so I wasn’t yelling at her kid. 
 
Any more feedback is appreciated. 

Our response:

I would ignore it and just do what you think is right in terms of playing time/positions. If she does it again, then tell her you would like to speak with her privately. I think I’d also report it to the league just so that they’re aware in the event it becomes an ongoing issue. Real shame what she’s doing to her kid.

Is your athlete prepared for the upcoming season?

Great stuff from our friends at TrueSport.org:

Creating a pre-game routine requires more than just prepping a sports bag the night before. Getting sports gear ready is just one piece of being properly prepared for a game.

Good preparation starts from the inside out and teaching your athlete the importance of creating their own pre-game plan that relaxes and focuses your athlete can help calm their nerves and prepare them to play at their best.

How an athlete performs is dependent on many things, but especially on how they go about physically and mentally preparing for a game. Preparing for peak healthy performance requires smart training, nutrition, and rest.

Physical preparation in training is a given, but mental toughness in preparation can’t be underestimated as having a strong mindset can improve athletic performance.

Athletes aren’t the only ones that need to be properly prepared for the sport season. Coaches and parents need to get themselves ready to support their athletes.

This month, we asked Roberta Kraus, Ph.D., sport psychologist and president of the Colorado-based Center for Sports Psychology, how parents can best support their athletes as they begin their sport season.

Sport parents and coaches, should be properly prepared to be the support that their athlete’s can count on as the season progresses. Parents and coaches need to keep themselves accountable to send their athletes off to a game with a good mindset, so they can continue to build on that positive foundation that will continue to grow outside of sports.

My Bad

By Brian Gotta, President of CoachDeck

We have all heard the famous phrase, “To err is human. To forgive, divine.” However, when it comes to parents, teachers, employers and, especially coaches, what I’d rather say is, “To err is human. To admit it is fine.”

I was watching a baseball game on television. A runner was on first and there was a base hit to right field. As he headed to second I noticed the runner hesitate, clearly looking for direction from the third base coach who was off camera. The runner then accelerated towards third and was thrown out, fairly easily. The announcers made comments that he “got a little greedy,” implying he was to blame and had made a mistake.

I don’t know whether the coach signaled for him to come or did nothing. I am pretty sure he didn’t tell him to hold up, or else the runner wouldn’t have tried for third. Either way, the coach goofed. No big deal. Sometimes you take a chance and hope the other team can’t make the play, and this time the gamble didn’t pay off.

After the play ended and the umpire had signaled out, the coach walked away stoically. In the pros, you don’t worry about what the fans or announcers think. If they thought (as I’m sure most did) that the base runner erred, that’s not the coach’s concern.

But what if, instead, he’d given the kid a couple claps for his hustle and a pat on the back on the way back to the dugout? Then, at least, the fans would know that the coach, (who had told him to run) was not upset with the player. What if he’d even taken it one step further and patted himself on the chest a couple times as if to say, “My bad.”? Then everyone in the stands and watching on TV would know what had happened and that the player had not screwed up. By not making a public display of acknowledgment it almost looked as if he was hoping that no one would know he’d told the runner to go and that people would blame the runner. Of course, I may be reading too much into this.

Why is this a big deal? Again, in the pros, it probably isn’t. But if you’re coaching a youth league team, a travel or even high school team. I think it is. Here are some reasons why:

Having their backs
Players who know the coach is going to accept the blame for his own mistakes will be more relaxed and play better. I’ve seen too many youth coaches make blunders and then try to deflect the spotlight by blaming the kid. Or, almost as bad, saying nothing, even though fans in the stands clearly believe the youngster just messed up. If a coach owns up to his error, “My fault, Johnny,” then players play more free and loose, not as afraid of taking chances. In my opinion, a great coach will tell players, “If I tell you to do something – do it – and if it doesn’t work out, I’m going to take the blame.”

Loyalty
All it takes is that one time for you to bail out a player who has just had something unfortunate happen and they’ll be a fan of yours for life. Imagine this scenario: There is a crucial moment in the game and the ball is hit to the left of your second baseman. He does his best to get to it but it goes off his glove and the other team scores. The kid feels terrible. And then you say, “That’s my fault, Johnny. I should have had you playing more over to the left. Great effort.” After hearing something like that every player on the team knows that you’re putting their interests ahead of yours. And isn’t that the job description of a good coach?

Team
Publicly accepting responsibility also sends a powerful message not just to a single player, but to the team, which is: Team first. We are not individuals here only caring about ourselves. We are a team from top to bottom and we look out for each other.

Life Lessons
When you own up to your shortcoming you teach your players a valuable skill in life, which is to accept responsibility and not blame others when things don’t go well. You also help them understand that mistakes are not the end of the world. We get back up and move on.

And finally, when you get right down to it, the ironic thing is that rather than make you look weak in the eyes of parents and fans, admitting your errors publicly actually makes you look stronger. Because only someone with supreme self-confidence is willing to do so. No one is right 100% of the time. But no one really respects someone who pretends he is.

Brian Gotta is a former professional youth baseball coach and current volunteer Little League coach and board member. He is the President of CoachDeck and also author of four youth sports novels and a baseball coaching book which can be found at www.booksbygotta.com. He can be reached at brian@coachdeck.com

Top Three Pitching Tips

From professional baseball to all levels of youth baseball hurlers will be able to compete on the mound using the top three tips. All baseball coaches will benefit their youth baseball teams by coaching these baseball tips into their players. You do not have to be an expert baseball guru to coach successfully. You do not need to know much about baseball instruction, baseball mechanics, or baseball technique.

Although there may have other coaches, instructors and personal trainers say this, Ray Miller from the Baltimore Orioles is known to coin the phrase. His mantra was: “Work fast. Throw strikes, Change Speeds.”

#1 Work Fast: Keep Your Fielders on their Toes

Ask infielders and outfielders if they would rather play behind a guy who works fast or lollygags around the mound between throws? The answer is unanimous.

Work Fast. Although there may not be solid data to show proof there appears to be a strong correlation in better defense and guys who work fast. Players who work fast are able to keep the attention of their fielders better.

In other words the fielders do not have enough time to let their minds wander and lose focus. They have to stay ready because the next throw is coming.

When I see a youth player take several steps toward the catcher after they throw a the ball I know that the fielders are probably going to loose focus. They have too much time to let their minds wander between throws.

The best coaches, pitching instructors will condition and train them to retreat immediately to the rubber after delivering the ball. I call it “Back-track.”

Proper technique and fundamentals are to go directly back to the mound after the delivery. Then the hurler can immediately toe the rubber, get sign from the catcher and begin to throw their next delivery. Repeat this process every throw.

Often in amateur youth baseball coaches and managers instructing a youth baseball pitcher will allow them to parade around the mound area between throws.

Keep encouraging little league players and youth league players the best pitching tips are to back track to the rubber and see if the defense plays better. Include ‘working fast’ in your bullpen baseball practice drills and baseball throwing drills.

#2 Throw Strikes: Make ’em’ Swing the Bat

When I was scouting and recruiting baseball players for independent professional baseball teams I often could not see the player in a game. I had to go by his stats and recommendations or other baseball coaches.

The stats I would look at were strikeouts and base hits per inning and walks per inning. If the guy’s numbers showed they kept their walks low and the other stats were decent I knew I found a player that would be able to help our ballclub.

Just knowing that they throws strikes was enough to take a chance on signing a guy site unseen.

We know how important it is to get ahead of the hitters to have the advantage. Command and control allows getting ahead with the first throw.

When we are ahead in the count they can go for the corners of the plate. You will often hear the top instructors teaching and mentoring players to ‘get that good stuff over the plate,” and “Let the defense help you out.” No matter what baseball pitches are thrown “throw them over the plate.”

Down the middle until two strikes. Have the catchers set up their target down the middle until we get ahead of the count.

Good youth baseball coaching tips for your players are to go to the corners when you get ahead in the count. When you go back to even or behind in the count then go back to the middle.

What if the other team finds out this is your baseball strategy? You do not care because you want your defense to show their stuff. You want your defense to make plays. You want the hitters to swing the bat and put the ball in play.

#3 Change Speeds:

Baseball instruction should include changing speed on pitches. Baseball drills are good techniques for teaching players how change speeds.

Keep it simple when teaching baseball strategies. Work off the fastball. You do not need to throw curves, sliders, knuckleballs and other trick throws. The Curveball does not come until a kid can shave.

When coaching youth baseball have your players throw the basic baseball pitching grips pitches the most. The four seam fastball or the two-seam fastball, the straight change-up and the hump-up fastball. That is all you need to use in your drills and practice plans.

Throw strikes with your fastball. That is the best type throws to be able throw over the plate and to the corners.

Throw your change-ups only to the best hitters who can really hit your fastball. If you throw change-ups to the weaker hitters you often do them a favor…they cannot get around on your fastball anyway.

Use your hump-up fastball when you really need to get out of a jamb and cannot afford to give up a base hit. The hump-up fastball is thrown 2 or 3 mph faster than your normal working fastball using the four-seam baseball grips…just enough for a good hitter to miss hit the pitch.

Use these top baseball coaching tips to keep the game simple and help instruct players how to play baseball.

After finishing his professional playing career Dave spent eleven seasons managing in the Red Sox minor league system helping to develop several major league ballplayers. After leaving the Red Sox Dave managed and recruited in the Independent Professional Baseball leagues. He has also coached collegiate wood bat and high school teams. His site, coachandplaybaseball.com is a wealth of information for baseball players and coaches of all levels.

10 Strategies To Build Unstoppable Confidence In Youth Athletes – Part 4

By Craig Sigl

Strategy #9. Stop delivering typical sports cliches and trite sayings that mean nothing to a kid like:
“You just have to believe in yourself”
“When you’re out there, you have to be focused”
“Stop overthinking”
“Just go out there and have fun”

I often catch some flak for this but follow me here because this is my personal pet peeve having worked in this area for so long, and youth coaches are the worst offenders.

Think about this, can you explain to a kid HOW to believe in themselves? Can you give them the definitive steps to “Stop overthinking?” Or how about that vague command to “Get focused” or “Get your head in the game?”

They don’t know what any of that means, let alone HOW to do what you are telling them. And so what happens? You create confusion, uncertainty, worry that they “Aren’t doing it right” and will ultimately disappoint the adults giving them the advice.

So, instead of the kid just playing in the present moment with their body, which they do naturally and don’t have to be told HOW to do, by the way, we teach them with these silly cliche’s to get in their head and their useless fear-based thoughts.

Also, you might think that telling them to “Just go out there and have fun” is good advice and it CAN be…but, it is a risky move and here’s why:

The whole culture of youth sports is organized around winning and how well the kids perform. There’s no question about that.

Coaches, parents in the stands cheering good play and being disappointed in poor play like I already mentioned…and other messages constantly coming at them like:
Did you win?
How did you do?
Did you start today?
Did you score?
How many points? etc.

If that isn’t enough, Kids base their identity on whether or not they get playing time, make the team, get to the next level and even their friendships are centered around this. These messages are constant and everywhere…

and then you go and tell them to “Just go out there and have fun.” They hear that and at best, they forget it after 2 minutes and slip back into the whole performance-centered mentality they’ve been overwhelmed with. And at worst, subconsciously destroy their confidence in advice from you because of the mixed messages. Kids don’t need anyone to tell them that. Doing stuff is either fun or it isn’t… they don’t have to “try” to have fun.

The irony of of it all is that the parent or coach is giving the advice with the hopes that it helps their performance when in actuality, it hurts it.

Strategy #10. Do whatever you can to foster fearlessness.
The core of my work with all athletes is in helping them get over fears, in particular, all forms of “Fear of Failure.”

As the smallest boy in junior high and high school for years getting bullied and picked on, I lived with a lot of fear and carried it into adulthood. I vowed in raising my 2 boys that this would NOT happen to them.

I am proud to report that as young men, they are both pretty fearless. One of them has spent 2 summers selling pest control door to door. The other one joined the Air Force and had to be talked down by his mother from wanting to be a helicopter gunner in combat and has as his motto: “I just don’t care what others think.” The interesting thing about his motto is that he has tons of friends and has always had no problem making friends contrary to what most kids think. (I’m brushing my knuckles across my chest and patting myself on the back for that one!)

How did I do it? Well, of course, I taught them what I teach all of my clients and in addition to that, I think the piece d’resistance is that, regularly, I would grab my boys and get them in the car and just drive around looking for adventure.

Each summer, we would take off for a week or more with only a general direction and a map and see what we could find.

Here’s a typical example: One year, we decided to drive through Western Canada and went as far north as Edmonton. We kept seeing signs about the sport of “curling” and wanted to know what that was all about.

So, in our driving, we pass by a curling club, turn around, stop, get out of the car, knock on the door and as the owner comes to the door we say that we are from the U.S. and we are very interested in learning about curling.

It’s summer time and out of season for curling but the very gracious owner takes us in, shows us around, gives us a full tour and proudly explains the sport and all the champions his club has produced. We all had a great time and we thanked the owner profusely. (Canadians are so nice).

That’s just one simple adventure out of hundreds coupled with a consistent message I constantly delivered to them that there is no such thing as failure.

Conclusion and recap:
1. Get your kid to buy into the benefits of confidence and that it can be built like any other skill. 2. Give him/her a few tools to actively start working on it. 3. Eliminate the confidence killers.

If you want more, I’ve got a video program for confidence-building directly aimed at the kids on my website. I’ve learned a few things about how to get across a message to a kid. I sincerely hope you take these tips and use them to positively affect another person for their whole life. That’s my mission!

Craig has personally worked with thousands of professional and amateur athletes on the mental side of their game. He is an author and creator of 7 mental toughness programs sold in 28 countries and writes to over 30,000 athletes in his emails. Discover Craig’s programs for mental toughness and confidence building at: www.mentaltoughnesstrainer.com