There are pitching coaches, hitting coaches, catching coaches, infield coaches, outfield coaches, and I've even seen an advertisement for a first baseman coach.
And all it takes is an email address and a location for someone to call themselves a specialist.
Add to that, every former baseball player thinks he can be a hitting coach because he hit .305 in high school.
Parents, please, please, please stalk the coach before you shell out big dollars for hours of instruction, yes, stalk. Do your research. What credentials does he have? What certifications? Who has he worked with in the past? Don't take his word for it - talk to his former clients. You owe it to your youth athlete, and your wallet.
Kids and Curveballs
What age is it appropriate to let kids start throwing them? It's been a hot topic since I began baseball more than 30 years ago.
Bottom line, curveballs don't put more stress on the UCL (Tommy John surgery ligament). Research shows that fastballs create more stress on both the shoulder and the elbow. Curveballs DO NOT hurt the elbow or shoulder more than the fastball - it's the opposite.
Research below (read the research, don't just listen to a coach's experience - while experience is valuable, it's only one person's perspective).
Lantz Wheeler from the Baseball Think Tank makes the point about youth baseball: curveballs will win games at 10 years old but will stunt the fastball and changeup development required to win games in high school and college.
Throwing Fastballs seems to have a higher risk of future Tommy John surgery than throwing curveballs.
Here's an article by Ian McMahan on June 13, 2016 on si.com (Sports Illustrated).
MLB Hall of Fame Pitcher John Smoltz is very active in the youth baseball world advocating for safe and proper development of youth pitchers. In his Hall of Fame speech, he said, "Please take care of those great future arms." He was a major player working with USA Baseball and Major League Baseball's Pitch Smart initiative.
Parents should inquire about the pitching management requirements of the league their child plays in.
Also, parents should require seeing how the coach will track pitching and ensure proper rest requirements are adhered to (this means throws, not just pitches).
If the coach needs a template, try the ones above.
Parents of all baseball pitchers should learn as much as possible about the inherent risks involved in pitching, and the safe biomechanical movements of the motion. Click here to go to a list of videos talking about Tommy John Surgery.
USA Baseball Long Term Athlete Development Stages
USA Baseball's LTAD is a multi-stage pathway for training, competition, and recovery. The graphic below outlines the stages, associated age groups, and the focus area for each track. Of note, there's no Advanced Track (what's often called travel, competitive, elite, select) until age 14. Be very wary of the league that creates teams based on skill (10U Majors and 10U Minors, for example). Those leagues are often more about the attractive aspects (winning tournaments, chasing trophies) instead of player development - although they'll tell you they're all about player development because everyone in baseball knows that's the right answer. Deeds over words.
The research USA Baseball conducted to implement the standards they've set forth is immense. One major output of this research is the optimal practice-to-game ratio for each age group. If you find yourself in an organization that prioritizes games and tournaments over practice, and your baseball player is under 14 years old, I recommend you inform the league (or coach) of the graphic below, and, if nothing changes, find another team.
What Makes Great Exercises for Baseball Players?
Baseball is a great American treasure, but it is also tough on the body. Baseball requires power, speed, mobility, and explosive performance, and exercises for baseball players must achieve all.
Those demands require intense training, trips to the gym, and yes, pain comes with it too. Don’t battle injury so you can excel when you hit the field.
Create a plan that prevents injury and makes you the best player. It is possible to train without pain, and the experts can tell you how. Below you'll find a list of some of the the best exercises for baseball players.
Before we get started, let’s explore what makes great exercises for baseball players. You need to know which exercises are blunders so you can pick the best for your performance and your body.
Great exercises for baseball players do the following:
Train the entire body
Improve explosive power
Strengthen and protect the shoulder
Improve mobility of the thoracic spine
Improve ankle, trunk, and shoulder mobility
Exercises should not be painful. Don’t shy away from soreness, but don’t fall victim to the ridiculous myth – “no pain, no gain.”
Click the picture below to see a great list of baseball fitness exercises.
Oh bats. I don't know that there's anything more heavily debated regarding baseball equipment that the bats. "Dude, I just got the CatX!" "I got the Ghost!" But, the quote to settle it all - a $500 bat won't fix a $1 swing.
With all of that being said, it is important for the athlete to have confidence in the bat. If the baseball player likes the bat, and it feels good to him, and he likes the color, or the attractiveness of the bat, it will do him good.
Different ages and leagues have different bat standards. There are USSSA bats (commonly called 'U-trip"), USA bats, BBCOR, drop 3, drop 5, etc. Refer for your local league for their bat rules.
The first step in choosing the right youth baseball bat is to determine the appropriate length and weight. A bat that is too long or too heavy can negatively affect a player's swing and performance.
You want the longest bat you can get that's the correct weight for your athlete. The video to the left outlines how to find the correct weight.
For younger kids, selecting a glove comes down to 2 simple things: is the glove light enough the athlete can use it, and does the kid think it's cool. That's it. The kid is going to outgrow the glove in a couple short years anyway - no need to break the bank for a $300 T-ball glove.
As the athlete progresses through the ages, and starts to get deeper into baseball, more consideration is warranted. Infielders have different shaped gloves than outfielders. Specialty positions such as first base and catcher have their own glove types.
Below is a couple sizing charts from STACK and links to a few others. But please keep in mind, this is another situation where the cool glove out there often isn't worth the price - not that the glove is a bad one, just not needed for the age of the kid. Baseball doesn't have to be a comparison of equipment.
When choosing catcher's gear, it's important to get the right size. Gear that's too loose may not offer enough protection, while gear that's too tight may be uncomfortable. Gear that's too big can move around during play and expose certain areas of the body that should be protected, and make blocking more difficult.
Here are some tips for choosing catcher's gear:
The most important part of purchasing catcher's gear is getting the right size. For the most accurate sizing, you can use the player's hat size. You can also measure from the middle of your knee to your ankle.
Must fit the athlete well. The mask should be tight enough it doesn't move around when he moves his head. It should cover both ears, and have a throat protector.
Don't skimp when it comes to chest protection. To measure a chest protector, you can measure from the base of the throat to the waist.
Shin guards are also important. The straps need to be adjustable and built to last. Ensure they have a flange to cover the top of the athlete's foot.
Catcher's mitts are different than regular fielding gloves. Typically, anyone age 12 or younger will require a catcher's mitt of 32" or less, while a player age 13 or older will go for a mitt of 32.5" or more.
Don't forget the accessories. You can also consider adding a throat protector, knee savers, and a bag to put your gear in.