Cooperstown Q&A: Wait, we need to provide an umpire?

There are many logistical concerns a team has to account for as it plans to attend The Cooperstown Dreams Park Experience.  From application, to fundraising, to travel planning and more, the whole event will take months of preparation.  One key piece of the puzzle that must be accounted for is the umpire that a team is required to provide for the tournament. Here is some information that will helps properly address that concern:


Q: Does every team need to provide an umpire for their time at The Cooperstown Dreams Park Experience?

A: Yes.  With several hundred games taking place each week, there is a need for umpires to officiate that cannot be supported by local resources.

Q: Will the umpire I bring officiate my team’s games?

A: No.  With several dozen crews available, the schedule planners are able to easily avoid any conflicts of interest that would mar such a significant travel baseball event.

Q: How does the process work to bring an umpire to Cooperstown?

  1. Invite an umpire
  2. Umpire submits Umpire Participation Form
  3. Forms is reviewed and approved
  4. Team (typically) assists or makes travel arrangements for umpire
  5. Umpire arrives at Cooperstown and begins activities

Q: Does the umpire have to be certified by Cooperstown Dreams Park to officiate the games there?

A: Cooperstown Dreams Park does not have its own certification process for umpires.  They do expect that umpires who apply are a member of an umpire association.

Q: What kinds of questions are asked on participation form?

A: General biographical information is captured, along with info on umpiring experience, associations, and achievements.  The forms can be found on the Umpires pages of the Cooperstown Dreams Park site, or it can be downloaded here.

Q: Does the umpire stay in the bunk with the team that he arrives with?

A: No, umpires have separate accommodations at Cooperstown Dreams Park.

Q: I don’t know any local umpires very well; how should I go about securing an umpire for the week my team attends?

A: Message boards like umpire-empire.com are a platform where teams and umpires can make arrangements to fill the requirement.  Users can communicate and negotiate with officials offline to identify a good match.

Q: Is there any cost associated with providing an umpire for my team’s week at the Cooperstown Dreams Park Experience?

A: The team is responsible for covering travel costs for the umpire to and from Cooperstown.  These can vary based on distance, schedule, and other factors; an expected range could be $700 to $1100.  Teams should begin planning for this and make the arrangements as early as possible to ensure the costs are not exorbitant


Teams have many considerations to take into account when planning for their Cooperstown Dreams Park Experience.  Along with applications, travel, and baseball prep, they also need to plan to provide an umpire to officiate games during the week.  This page should answer some of the questions related to that obligation; additional info can be found on the Cooperstown Dreams Park website.

 

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Video Blog: Softball Practice #1

I signed up to coach my daughters’ softball team this year and just wrapped up practice #1 over the weekend.  This is 8U coach-pitch rec softball, with some players who are brand new and others who have played for several years.  The first practice was an hour long, and my objective was to evaluate the players to understand their skill levels and begin to assess what we’ll need to work on in preparation for the season.

Enjoy!

Here’s a summary of the 60-minute practice agenda:

  1. 00-05 minutes – Introductions and team rules
    • Rule #1 – listen
    • Rule #2 – hustle
  2. 05-15 minutes – Baserunning
    1. Home to first to run through the bag
    2. Home to second to learn how to round first base on an extra base hit
  3. 15-18 minutes – Water Break
  4. 18-50 minutes – Stations
    • Hitting: players hit 15-20 balls (plastic balls) off a tee
    • Throwing: players stood by a cone on the foul line, and threw past a cone 50 or so feet in front of them in fair territory
      • Emphasis on proper footwork, throwing hard, and aiming for a target
    • Fielding: groundballs, throwing the ball bag to the coach
      • Emphasis: “Alligator” technique, quick release of the ball to throw back to the coach
  5. 50-55 minutes
    • “Tour” of the defensive positions
  6. 55-60 minutes – Relay race
    • half the team started at home plate, the other at second base

All in all I think practice went OK; thinking back the throwing station could have been better.

 

Looking forward to practice #2 in a couple days!

Cooperstown Q&A: What is the Schedule for the Week of the Cooperstown Dreams Park Experience?

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The Cooperstown Dreams Park Experience is a highlight of the childhoods of its participants.  It is a unique event in that for entire summers, it consistently draws in baseball teams and organizations from all over the country to not play baseball and compete for a championship, but also to meet individuals from and learn about different walks of life.

A major aspect to think about as teams and families plan for the events is the overall schedule.  Organizations are able to enjoy sights and activities around the village of Cooperstown, including the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, so it’s important to have an idea of the schedule and be able to plan accordingly.  Here are some answers that should help attendees as they get ready for the event:


Q: What is the overall schedule for the tournament?

A: Each session begins on a Friday evening (check-in) and runs through the following Friday morning (check-out).

Q: So the team will be playing games for 7 straight days?

A: No.  Game play begins on Sunday and runs through Thursday.

Q: OK, since the games are the most important thing, I need to be there starting Sunday, right?

A: No, there are key parts to the schedule that take place Friday and Saturday that teams and families need to plan for.

Q: What day should I plan to arrive with my team and players for the Cooperstown Dreams Park Experience?

A: Friday

Q: What takes place on Friday?

A: Coaches and Managers can begin the check-in process for teams starting on Friday.  Parents and players can attend this, but move-in does not start until Saturday.  All teams are encouraged to take advantage of early check-in on Friday evening beginning at 6:00 p.m

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Q: OK, when do the players move in to the clubhouses?

A: Players and teams move in to the clubhouses on Saturday morning.

Q: Does anything else happen that I need to plan for on Saturday?

A: Yes.  Saturday is full day of activity, for teams and families alike.  Here are some featured events:

  • Breakfast
  • Player move-in
  • Player Orientation
  • Parent Orientation
  • Dinner
  • Opening Ceremonies / Parade
  • Skills Competitions

Q: Wow!  Is every day this busy for everyone?

A: No.  Sunday through Wednesday have an almost-exclusive focus on baseball.  Teams will be playing their pool games Sunday-through Tuesday, and bracket play starts on Wednesday.

Q: OK so since Cooperstown Dreams Park doesn’t have anything specific planned outside of games, that might be a good time to schedule team gatherings, dinners, outings, etc.

A: Yes.  Once the pool play schedule is set, teams and families can fill up their itinerary however they see fit.

Q: When it comes to the players staying in the clubhouses, what are some key times they need to keep in mind as part of the schedule?

A: Meal times and Lights Out are important:

  • 6:30 a.m. -9:30 a.m. Breakfast
  • 11:00 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Lunch
  • 5:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Dinner
  • 10:30 p.m. Lights Out

Q: What times do pool games start each day?

A: 8:30 a.m. / 11:00 a.m. / 1:45 p.m. / 4:30 p.m. / 7:00 p.m.

 

Q: Are there any days besides Saturday when I need to plan for multiple activities?

A: Thursday is another big day in this regard.  The following events take place that day:

  • Tournament Finals and Championships
  • Family BBQ Dinner
  • Procession of Athletes, Closing Ceremony and Hall of Fame Ring Presentation
  • Fireworks and Championship Game

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Q: What time is check out on the second Friday?

A: Players and teams must move out of the clubhouses by 9:00 a.m.

Q: OK, that’s a lot of info to drink in about the schedule for the Cooperstwon Dreams Park Experience?  Can you summarize it?

A: Sure. Here are the highlights:

  • Friday – Plan to arrive, teams should take advantage of early check-in
  • Saturday – Move-in, Player/Parent Orientation, Skills Competitions, Opening Ceremonies
  • Sunday – Pool Play Day 1
  • Monday – Pool Play Day 2
  • Tuesday – Pool Play Day 3
  • Wednesday – Bracket Play Day 1
  • Thursday – Bracket Play Day 2, Family BBQ Dinner, Closing Ceremonies, Championship Game
  • Friday – Move-out

This should provide some guidance for players, teams, and families about what the Cooperstown Dreams Park Schedule entails.  How free time is used is often determined by the coach or manager and can include outings, team meals, and other activities.

Additional resources for info about the Cooperstown Dreams Park Experience can be found at www.cooperstowndreamspark.com:

  1. Coaches Kit (2016) – Includes multiple required forms as well as rules for the tournament
  2. Coaches Corner – Includes weekly and daily itineraries along with other resources
  3. Parent/Camper Kit – Includes waiver forms, rules for the facility, and guidelines on what players should bring with them

 


This post was sponsored by Training Legends, LLC

Cooperstown Q&A: Grandfather Certificates

Grandfather, : Grandfather Teach Me Playing Baseball Coloring Pages

image source: ColorLuna.com

The Cooperstown Dreams Park Experience is a major destination for the 12U age group in travel baseball. With 13 weeks of tournaments every summer, and about 100 teams each week, odds are that some of the talent on display will consist of future college and professional players.  Add in the camp-like atmosphere with players bunking in clubhouses and reduced contact with parents, the experience is definitely unique in the world of travel baseball when compared to other large summer events.

Planning for the Cooperstown trip is almost a year-long process, and many organizations and teams actually begin planning and fundraising even ahead of that timeframe.  While there are many topics that parents, players, and coaches need to consider in the process, this post covers one that many may not be aware of: The Grandfather Certificate.

Here a some answers to questions related to the Grandfather Certificate:

Q: What is the Grandfather Certificate?

A: The Grandfather Certificate is a document that is presented to each team upon completion of their week at Cooperstown Dreams Park.

Q: What is the function of the Grandfather Certificate?

A: The Grandfather Certificate guarantees for the holder that their application to participate in the following year’s Cooperstown Dreams Park Experience will be accepted.

Q: So it’s like a loyalty or affinity program?

A: Yes. For teams and organizations it allows them to plan for the following year with the confidence that they will be able to participate in the event.  For CDP, it helps create and foster a loyal customer base of teams and organizations.

Q: Is a Grandfather Certificate required as part of the application process for a team to attend CDP?

A: No. Teams and Organizations may apply to CDP without having a Grandfather Certificate.

Q: OK but if I have a Grandfather Certificate and include it with my initial application, my application will definitely be approved?

A: Correct.

Q: And if I don’t have a certificate, I can still apply to participate, but it’s not guaranteed that I’ll make it in?

A: Correct.  If your team isn’t placed in a week, the team is put on the waiting list. If the team does not want to stay on the waiting list a refund request for the $1,000 deposit can be made. If a team remains on the waiting list and they’re eligible to play the following year, you can roll the deposit and application to the next year.

Q: How long is the Grandfather Certificate effective?  In other words, I got one in 2016, but I’m not planning to attend again until 2018.  Will my Grandfather Certificate guarantee my entry in 2018?

A: No.  The certificate is only good for the following year and must be submitted with deposit no later then September 15th of the current year.  A certificate from 2016 must be redeemed for use in the 2017 event.

Q: OK so how should I look to bridge the gap?

A: There is no formal process for this, but a simple Google Search for “Cooperstown Grandfather Certificates” reveals an informal, secondary, unsanctioned market where teams and organizations can buy, rent, sell, and trade Grandfather Certificates.  In your scenario, it may be a good option for you look for a team that can use your certificate in the gap year, then return it to you when you need it again.

Q: OK. I don’t have a certificate, but I’m planning to attend Cooperstown.  What should I do?

A: Using your network of baseball contacts, ask around to see if any teams or organizations have certificates for the year you are planning to attend that are not currently reserved for a team.  Beyond this you can explore message boards and other online resources to see what the market is for unused certificates for the year you are planning to attend.

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Q: Are Cooperstown Dreams Park Grandfather Certificates transferable?

A: Yes.  A team or organization may sell, loan, or give their certificate to any other party so that it can be used in the year for which it is effective.

Q: Does Cooperstown Dreams Park sell Grandfather Certificates?

A: No

Q: What are the ways I can get a Cooperstown Grandfather Certificate?

A: There are only 2 ways to get one.  1 – Receive one directly from CDP when you participate in the event.  2 – Receive one from a team or organization through purchase, loan, or gift.

Q: What should I do with my Grandfather Certificate when I no longer need it?

A: Many organizations require that a team return the Certificate to the organization so it can be provided to a team that will use it the following year.  If no such requirement applies to you, then you are free to give, sell, or loan it to another team, or you could let it expire


Hopefully this provides some clarity to you and your organization as you plan for Cooperstown.  Be sure to reference this and other resources on this blog as we build out a knowledge base.

Additional resources for info about the Cooperstown Dreams Park Experience can be found at www.cooperstowndreamspark.com:

  1. Coaches Kit (2016) – Includes multiple required forms as well as rules for the tournament
  2. Coaches Corner – Includes weekly and daily itineraries along with other resources
  3. Parent/Camper Kit – Includes waiver forms, rules for the facility, and guidelines on what players should bring with them

 


This post was sponsored by Training Legends, LLC

How to run your first baseball or softball practice: ideas for the new coach

hardball_9532For the new baseball or softball coach (or even seasoned veterans) the first practice of the year can be a daunting challenge to get through.  Getting to know new players, families, setting expectations and routines for the team, and establishing a culture are all objectives for the coach to try to accomplish in the first session with the team.

This post focuses on what a new coach should try to assess from his or her players during the first practice, and some suggested activities to achieve these goals.  This assumes that the coach has group of players that he or she is not fully familiar with.  If the coach is new but has a good understanding of the players’ abilities, a different approach would be preferable for the first practice.

Areas to Evaluate

By the end of the practice the coach should have an idea of how each player performs in the following areas:

  1. Athleticism/Coordination/Mobility of each player
  2. Defense
    1. How a player throws
    2. How a player catches
    3. How a player fields groundballs and flyballs/popups
  3. Offense
    1. How a player swings the bat, including stance, balance, and coordination
    2. Whether the player seems to have an eye for the ball (either from the tee or via soft toss)
    3. How a player runs the bases
  4. Attitude
    1. Which players may require additional motivation
    2. Which players are eager for each new challenge

Activities

Here’s a sample agenda for a 60-minute introductory practice for a coach at the beginning levels of the sport with a 12-player roster and 2 assistant coaches.  Coaches should maintain a positive energy and a good pace for the practice, especially for young players who can be easily distracted or lose interest:

00 – 05 Minutes: Introductions

What to do: Ask each player to introduce him or herself, and introduce your self to them.  Let them know you’re looking forward to a season with them where they’ll work hard and have a ton of fun learning baseball or softball.  Make sure they understand expectations around effort, attentiveness, and any other team guidelines/expectations.

What to assess: Start to see personalities of the children, who is outgoing, who is shy, who is respectful, who has a shorter attention span, etc.

05 – 15 Minutes: Baserunning

What to do: Have the players run home-to-first a couple times at full speed, let them go home-to-second a couple times, and then close it out with an inside-the-park home run.

What to assess: This will give you a gauge on athleticism, speed, coordination, and stamina.

What to watch for: Make sure the players maintain discipline in the line, keep their hands to themselves, and pay attention.  It’s recommended to keep the line moving and the activity fast-paced so the players maintain interest and focus.

15-18 Minutes: Water Break

18-48 Minutes: Stations Activities

This is where you’ll start to get an idea of the baseball skills each player possesses and begin to formulate what coaching points you’ll need to emphasize throughout the first part of the season

What to do: Use your two assistant coaches and yourself to set up 3 stations

  1. Hitting: This can a combination of swings from a tee or from soft-toss, and this is the station that sets the pace and keeps everything on track. Over the course of 10-15 swings, the coach should be able to gauge whether the player watches the ball, can make contact consistently, has any kind of power, has a balanced approach, etc.  Only one or two players are needed here.  
  2. Throwing: The second station can focus on throwing.  There are many ways to do this, but the players at this point at beginning levels should be throwing to a coach only, and not to their teammates.  Using wiffle balls if safety is a concern or real baseballs if there is a reasonable level of trust.  The coach can simply have the players pick up a ball from a bucket or pile, and throw the ball to the coach.  The coach should be able to tell whether players use correct footwork and arm-path, can focus and throw to a target area.  Four or five players at a time can be at this station.
  3. Fielding: This final station will be to gauge the defensive abilities of the players.  For beginners and players at lower levels, there are good reasons to simply have players field the ball in an activity like this, and not necessarily make a throw after fielding it.  Basically the skills of fielding and throwing are separate and distinct for new players, and can be developed in parallel without always combining them in an activity.  For this, a coach can line players up 20-25 feet away and start by rolling each player a ground ball when it is their turn in line.  The players can then run the ball to the coach and run back in line, or they can drop the ball in a bucket and run back in line.  The idea is to get each player a many repetitions as possible while avoiding wasted time retrieving bad throws or missed balls.  The coach should be able to identify which players have a sense of how to move to the ball and field it, and whether they can follow directions and get the ball to correct location (either the coach or the bucket) after they make the play.  The coach can mix in light pop-ups for new players to see how  each approaches a ball in the air vs. a ball on the ground. Four or five players at a time can be at this station.

What to assess: The general skill level of your players when it comes to hitting, fielding, and throwing.

What to watch for: Players that are attentive and follow directions, and that move quickly between stations when it is time for them to switch.

What to strive for: Repetitions!  While a player may only take 10-15 swings, they should be able to get in 20-30 throws and 20-30 fielding plays.  The pace of the coaches is important to keep things moving and keep the players engaged.

48-50 Minutes: Water Break (additional breaks can be mixed in the station rotations as reasonable)

50-60 Minutes: Competitive activity

Here is where a coach can get creative, but the idea is to begin building a competitive spirit in the players and help them have fun while or practicing skills.  Sample activities for a first practice include:

  • Relay race
  • Longball contest: each player gets 3 swings off a tee, furthest hit wins
  • Long-throw contest: same as above, but with throwing

Wrap-up

At the end of practice the coach should bring the team together for a 1-2 minute wrap up.  Let them know how excited you are about their effort and all the things they are going to learn over the course of the season, and remind them of the next practice, and to work on the sport at home in between team sessions.

Again, the first practice of the season can present a challenge for a new coach, but having a plan (and being flexible) can help him or her get through jitters and make the first event a success!

 

Should beginning softball and baseball players play catch in practice? 

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No. Absolutely not. When it comes to softball and baseball players, 4,5,6 and even most 7-year-olds at the beginner level simply do not have the coordination or skillset to have a productive round of catch.

I see it time and again. A coach tells a team to go play catch to warm up and it turns into a game of fetch. A very slow game of fetch. A player throws the ball, her partner misses it, he chases it, picks it up and throws it back, and she misses it and the cycle goes on. Eventually the coach wastes 5-10 minutes of valuable practice time, the players are no better off than when they started, and the team moves on to something (maybe) more productive.

You might be saying get out of here it’s baseball/softball, they need to play catch!

No, no they don’t.

Look at this video of a top-5 google video search result for “baseball throwing drills for youth”

Regardless of whether you agree with the coach’s principles and what he’s teaching the players, it’s easy to see that the players were unable to consistently throw and catch successfully.

A solution:

The skills of throwing and catching are related but independent. As a coach you need to recognize that and at these early age groups set up your practice to emphasize each independently until such point the players have the skills and experience to make it productive.

Instead of wasting time with these players on a non-productive and inefficient activity, split them up into groups and have one assistant work on teaching players how to throw, and another one can teach them how to catch. It’s better at this level for a coach to be throwing to a player because the coach can (hopefully) have better control over where the throw is going such that the player has a higher chance at catching it.

Baseball and softball are all about confidence. Build the players’ confidence  up so when they are physically ready to play catch down the road (a month or 2,maybe a couple years), it’s a worthwhile activity.

Top 33 baseball or softball topics to teach to T-Ball and Coach Pitch Players

 

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It’s hard for a new coach to understand where to start or what should be taught when they take on the challenge of leading a group of youngsters in a baseball season.  The list below is intended to serve as a guide for new coaches and a reminder for experienced coaches of many of the objectives that should be covered over the course of a baseball or softball season.  The list is directional and generally comprehensive.  As a coach your goal at the end of a season should be to check off as many of these boxes as possible.

Certain leagues may have longer or shorter seasons, and teams may have larger or smaller rosters, so you will need to consider these variables when deciding what to cover.  The absolute essentials are bolded, start with those, and move on to the others to make sure your players have the foundation they need to enjoy the season and the desire to continue playing.

First Things First

Before we get to the list below, the #1 thing to impress on the players is that they’re engaging in a game and it’s meant to be FUN!  That fact gets lost in the shuffle too often at all levels.  The chance to step on the diamond and PLAY a GAME is a great opportunity that should be cherished.  Sometimes things will go their way, and sometimes they won’t, but a coach should always strive to keep things in proper perspective for the players.  The coach’s prime objective at beginning levels should be to instill an enthusiasm for the sport such that players develop the passion to continue playing and potentially strive to improve.

Shoutout to @CoachYourKids for this reminder!

Overall

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  1. Safety first
  2. Hustle as much as possible
  3. The 9 (or 10) positions on the field
  4. Pay attention and know when it’s your turn to hit
  5. Get in and out of the dugout quickly in between innings

Defense

  1. Pay attention and get ready for every play
  2. Don’t fight for the ball
  3. Infielders – get the ball and quickly throw it to first base (most of the time)
  4. Infielders – get the ball and quickly step on a base to get a force out (sometimes)
  5. Infielders – get the ball and tag a runner (sometimes)
  6. Infielders – don’t assume a play is over just because an out is made – stop the lead runner!
  7. Outfielders – keep the ball in front of you
  8. Outfielders – back up the infielders
  9. Outfielders – get the ball and throw it in – don’t run it in!

Baserunning

  1. Don’t watch the ball when you hit it
  2. Run as hard as you can to and through first base
  3. Break down properly after hitting first
  4. Advance on overthrows
  5. Look at and listen to your base coaches
  6. Run as soon as the ball is hit (most of the time)
  7. Learn the rare times when you don’t have to run

Hitting

  1. Swing hard
  2. Watch the ball all the way to the bat (coach pitch)
  3. Don’t chop down, try for a level or upper cut swing
  4. Balanced stance

Throwing

  1. Look where you’re throwing
  2. Correct Footwork
  3. Correct Arm Action (elbow above shoulder)
  4. Throw, don’t push the ball

Catching/Fielding a Ball

  1. Alligator style on grounders
  2. Two hands on pop-ups
  3. Get in front of the ball
  4. Get your glove on the ground

 

This post is intended to help you as a coach understand what you need to cover over the course of a baseball or softball season when you have a mixed group of new and experienced players who are just learning the game.  If you have older or more experienced players, these foundations are still important, but your focus will be on teaching and reviewing more advanced topics under each category.

 

Good luck to you and have fun out there!

 

February 26 in Baseball History

February 26, 1991

“Bill Veeck, considered the P.T. Barnum of baseball due to the imaginative innovations he put in place as the owner of the Indians (1946-50), Browns (1951-53), and White Sox (1959-61, 1975-80), is elected by the veterans committee into the Hall of Fame. In addition to the many promotions he employed to bring fans into the ballpark, ‘Sport Shirt Bill’ is best remembered for integrating the American League by signing Larry Doby to play for the Tribe, and the 1948 World Champion Indians, a team that drew more than 2.6 million fans, setting an attendance record that lasted for more than three decades.”

Wait, WHAT!  Branch Rickey deservedly gets credit for breaking the barrier with Jackie Robinson, but Bill Veeck was the guy to do it in the AL?  Why is this not a bigger deal?