January 31 in Baseball History

This will be a fun new daily series. Travel baseball is, for most of us, heavily focused on the present and future, understandably so.  That being the case, I don’t think it hurts to look to the past for context, anecdotes, or just something interesting.

Kicking this off with today, January 31:

“1961 – Houston voters approve financing for a domed stadium, removing the last hurdle to gaining a major league franchise for the Texas city. The Astrodome, the eighth wonder of the world, will be the result of today’s approval and will serve as the Astros’ home from 1965-1999.”

Love this one!  How many of the indoor facilities that are so much a part of travel baseball are part of the family tree of the Astrodome?  Climate-controlled baseball! Yeah!

TBB Essential Drills Series #1 – Mike Candrea Ground Ball Work

I’ve liked this drill since the first time I saw it.  The principles Coach Candrea covers related to progression, precision, and energy are terrific.  I especially like the back to back to basics approach of simply rolling the balls to the players for several rounds before hitting to them.  Mixing in forehands, backhands, choppers, one-hoppers, slow rollers, etc, is a great way to give players experience in different scenarios, and the throwing aspect reminds them that a complete defensive play consists of two parts – the catch, and the throw.


 

The TBB Great Drills series is where I’ll list out some drills that I’ve found incredibly useful in my years.  Feel free to share some of your favorites in the comments!

How to run a baseball practice – 10 Great Tips

travelballblogdotcom_how_to_run_a_baseball_practice

It’s getting to be that time of year.  Rec teams are being formed, and any travel teams that haven’t started already will begin practice soon.  With all the drills and activities and ways to run practice effectively, here are ten tips that will make for a great experience for coaches and most importantly players.  Here we go.

 

Purpose

I think it’s of the utmost importance to have a purpose and goal for every practice.  Whether it’s the first team session, or a workout deep in the summer between tournaments, it’s up to the coach to determine what the team should be getting out of every practice.  Early on the keys are to evaluate players, get an idea of their strengths and opportunity areas, and begin to build team chemistry.  Throughout the season between tournaments, the focus may shift to working on issues that rose up over a weekend or fine-tuning some areas that haven’t been worked on.  Later in the season, the objective may simply be to lift the team’s morale and maintain a high energy level heading into year-end events.

Bonus tip: COMMUNICATE!  Tell the players what you plan to focus on and expect. Regardless of the age group, their more likely to respond and meet expectations when they know what the expectations are.

Plan

Once you know what you want to accomplish, the next thing to do is figure out how you’re going to accomplish it.  The best practices I’ve seen can be broken down into some sort outline by position group, offense vs. defense, pitching, etc.  Setting aside specific blocks of time for each activity or drill will help you mentally stay on track and work towards your goal for the session.  Smarter and more experienced people than me have put together great plans which are easily found online, like the one here.

Ask for help

Players in older age groups are frequently (mostly) self-reliant and can do what they’re told in small groups.  For the younger age groups and even on teams where there are enough coaches to run the drills, it’s often a good idea to ask for some sort of assistance from parents or siblings.  Whether it’s shagging balls, filling in at positions where a player may be missing, or any number of other roles, it’s much better to request help and support than to attempt to struggle through a situation without it.

Drills and Activities

I’ll save my favorite drills for another series of posts.  The key thing to consider on this topic is that the activities relate to the objective of the practice and keep the players engaged.  Again this is a topic where I’d be a fool to reinvent the wheel; just search youtube for baseball drills and pick ones that make sense for your practice plan.

Rotations

Piggy-backing on the Drills and Activities is the concept of rotations through each station, made up of small groups of players.  This will allow players to get more individualized attention from you and the other coaches, as well as give them the opportunity to consistently be focusing on a new area of instruction.  Whether you split up into offensive, defensive, baserunning, or pitching groups, another thing to keep in mind is the importance of sticking to a schedule and moving the groups throughout the stations.  Depending on the age group, the practice length, and many other factors, you may find yourself rotating anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes.

Energy and Pace

There’s lots of different ways to approach this, from simply forcing players to sprint everywhere to implementing a countdown clock, but the principle is the same: instilling the mindset that time is valuable and consistent effort and hustle is the easiest way to maximize the instruction and development that can occur during practice.  One of the simplest and most recurring actions at a practice is picking up balls; while seemingly a mindless activity for players, showing effort here can be analogous to the sense of urgency that’s needed in games to retrieve errant throws, take extra bases, be alert on defense, etc.

Flexibility

I’m not referring to stretching or agility here.  I’m talking about your flexibility as a coach and leader to adjust your practice plan on the fly.  Circumstances frequently change at practice, which necessitates a flexible mindset to keep things moving and beneficial for the team.  Field space, attendance, weather, and equipment are frequent causes that come up.  Another less obvious one (until you think about it) is that players sometimes are just not grasping a concept or activity and it may be a good idea to just scrap it and move on to something more engaging while still being productive.  It will be less frustrating for coaches, parents, and especially players in the long run to move onto something new vs. trying in vain to bang home a point.

Competition

As long as they keep score, baseball’s a game where it’s typically more fun to win than it is to lose.  Instilling elements of competition at any point in practice can help implement the competitive mindset and motivation that players will need to fuel them through a long travel season.  This post on TeamSnap.com has some good ideas on the types of activities you can use, but really this is a good way for you to get creative.  Contests for bunting, throwing, fielding, hitting, running, etc. are all great ideas to reinforce your instruction while getting the players to compete.

Recap

Mirroring the communication at the beginning of practice, it’s always good to recap for players what was covered.  This is your chance to provide feedback on how things went (good or bad), and start setting the right mindset for the next team event, be it practice, game or tournament.

Fun

Baseball remains a game.  Keep practice fun by not taking it more seriously than it needs to be taken and you’ll create an environment where players are excited about it more often than not.


 

And there you have it.  The big thing is that this isn’t rocket science.  Preparation, planning, energy, and communication are the keys that will lead to a successful and enjoyable practice program for you and your team.  Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Favorite 2015 8U KP uniforms

No not those guys up top.  I think they were 15U.  Although some teams we came across seemed to think those were good designs to model 🙂

These are pretty much just Atlanta-area teams that we played or saw last year.

In no particular order:

  • Gainesville Braves: Red Nike Jersey, white piping, script Braves logo, white knickers, red socks
  • Georgia Blaze: Red front/white back Alleson jersey, white pants with red piping, red hat (I designed this so whatevs; I also hated our gray uni set, so there’s that)
  • Georgia YardDogs: Red/Black vest, white or black pants
  • Buford Wolves: White jersey with green trim, green/white hat.  The green and white combos was nice in that its not something you come across often.
  • Hickson Black Sox: Mainly just liked the hat, an all-black version of the Red Sox socks logo.
  • Elite Gamers (Sanders): Just the custom digi-camo socks.  Something different.
  • Midway Wolverines: White/navy set with gold trim I think.  Navy and white hat. I think they had like 10-inch numbers on the back which really stood out
  • 643 Cougars: Navy/Orange/White White Sox style beach blanket throwback design, white pants, striped socks in team colors.

There’s probably more and I’ll list them out as they come to mind.

Feel free to share your thoughts or teams in the comments.

I’ve got uniforms on my mind….

Starting a team part 1: the Marietta Bombers initial design and hat

I love love love uniforms.  Daily reader (and infrequent Ticker contributor) of Uni-Watch.com, follow a bunch of uniform-focused accounts on twitter, etc.  I think this all started probably when I was in 8th grade and got my first replica jersey, a black Shaquille O’Neal Orlando Magic top from Fan Fair at Northland Mall in Columbus, OH.  Very cool purchase for 13-year-old me.  Another topic for another day, though.

What I want to talk about here is my thought process as I put together the uniform package and design for a travel team I started 18 months ago with a couple friends of mine.  We were a new team with about a 5-week ramp up period to start the season and part of that included coming up with a name and team colors right before our tryout.  The coach landed on the name Marietta Bombers (to recognize the old Bell Bomber plant in Marietta, GA) and the colors navy and white to align with the those of the local high school.  Cool back story, and smart move on the colors.  At that point it was handed off to me to run with and get the uniforms lined up.

First piece of business was simply landing on a theme or or general principle for the design.  Knowing we wanted some sort of M on the caps, but not really knowing what logo or font would be best, I searched on google for just about any team I could think of that might fit the bill.  Marlins, Brewers (new and old), Miami Hurricanes, Montreal Expos (by the way I love the old Expos logo and would totally rip it off if I ever got to design a uniform set again!), and on and on.  Smartest move I made there was creating a pinterest board to easily save off anything I found of interest for future reference in the project.  Taking these different logos into account and roughly sketching out a uniform idea in powerpoint (and perhaps most importantly listening to my wife!), I landed on the idea for a white Old English M on a navy hat.  Quick trip to visit my friends at Lids Town Center to get some hats made so the coaches could look like they had a plan at the tryout, and voila!, a team identity was formed!  Here’s the hat:

travelballblog_mariettabombers_hat1_uniforms

I loved this hat.  LOVED IT!  Classic style, large logo, “3-D”, or raised, embroidery.  Freakin’ awesome!  Yeah I’m tooting my horn a bit and really anybody could have come with the a logo and hat like this, but they didn’t.  It’s not like we were running into this design every weekend, you know, lolz!  It fit perfectly with the what we were doing with the team and just looked great quite frankly.

That’s it for now. I’ll cover the rest of the process of coming up with the logos, uniforms, etc., in the future.

Meanwhile, if you’re not doing so already, check out Paul Lukas at Uni-Watch.  Great writer, fun blog.

Lay-tuh!

 

 

Ceremonial First Pitch

Here we are at the start of a new year and a new blog.  My intent with this is to get my thoughts on travel baseball out there for the whole to enjoy or pick apart or laugh at or whatever.  My son plays ball and I help coach.  I played baseball through high school and love the game.  I could go on and on about it and everything, but Field of Dreams pretty much covers it and if you’re reading this, then you’ve seen that.

 

I hope you find this interesting or informative or entertaining.  If you don’t I don’t really care.  And if you do, thanks!  And feel free to leave a comment.  I have ideas about where this will go, but any thoughts you’d like to share or things you want to hear about would be welcome.

 

Batter Up!

 

Andre