Thursday, January 28, 2010

An Effective Game

A quick example of a game that really helped my son to concentrate playing catch (I think). Like the game of H-O-R-S-E in basketball; we swtiched it to C-A-T-C-H in baseball. Throwing the ball back and forth any dropped balls resulted in a earned letter.

Once he mastered catching (getting the glove turned over took a while) the game got more competitive, using pop-ups and short hops. You could bobble the ball, but it couldn't touch the ground. I never used it with a group but one-on-one it helped make things exctiting.

Try it out. Tell me what you think............

Friday, January 22, 2010

2009: The Year I Stopped Throwing BP

In late May of 2000, I was on a flight to Newark, New Jersey for my cousin’s wedding. At the time, I was 23 years old and just situated into my first coaching job. We had just completed our high school spring season with a 3-9 record. The summer season was due to start in June and judging from our record we had some work to do.

On the flight, I sat next to a baseball coach from South Carolina. He was a nice man who loved to talk about the game. During our conversation, he mentioned that his team just completed their best season in recent memory. I asked him the details around their success, back then my “toolbox” was empty. His first sentence stunned me,” I stopped throwing batting practice!”

As a first year coach, I was floored. How could someone let their players throwing batting practice? I couldn’t trust our players to pick up the bases after practice, let alone, prepare each other’s swing for competition. Didn’t this guy know that coaches had to make sure strikes were thrown, time was not wasted, and players got a certain number of swings? I began to think this guy was nuts.

He continued with his story. “Instead of the batting cage, we used the field; the kids threw off the mound to each other.” I just about fainted. My pitchers couldn’t throw strikes in a game; batting practice would take forever if they were in charge of it. How could you not use the batting cage? Isn’t that where hitters are made? I shut this guy out completely. He must have a bunch of all-stars on his team; no one else could just the kids throw and be good.

The plane eventually landed and we both went separate directions. Being a know-in-all young guy, I brushed off what the coach had said knowing it couldn’t possibly work for me. That season, under intense coaching supervision and detailed scheduling, my team experienced great success. My methodology was reinforced; I knew how to do things!!
In 2009, nine years later, I was in a different situation. For my entire coaching career, I detailed how my teams would get swing repetitions in practice. There would be soft toss, tee drills, and cage work. Players would see coach thrown batting practice everyday, either by me or an assistant. It was organized, orderly, and controlled. Nothing like an actual game; where things are free-flowing and independent.

Last year, though, things had to different. With only one coach for my entire team, I could not be the only one to throw batting practice. Plus, my arm had not been the best. It could not handle a season of 200-250 throws per practice. That’s when I thought of the old coach, who I sat next to on that flight in 2000. The light bulb went on, instantly.

So our batting practice changed. Having an available portable mound, we moved it into the batting cage. Along with the cage mound, our team used the practice field mound. Outdoors, with two mounds, our players took batting practice off live pitching every practice. When the weather turned bad, the mound was moved indoors and live pitching was thrown in the gym. Being in Nebraska, the weather was quite cold early in the season.

Hitters would be given about 5-10 minutes with each pitcher often seeing 50-60 pitches per practice. The pitcher would throw from the wind-up and set positions, mixing in change-ups and breaking balls. Depending on their location, hitters would take 35-45 actual swings. A far cry from the previous practice of players getting 80-100 swings in drills and short cage work.

The results……………. Well let’s just say at 32, I was a much better listener than 22. Age definitely makes you smarter. Of course, the ole’ coach’s advice worked as our team produced 35 extra base hits in only 16 games. Also, our walk to strike out ratio was 2:1. An unbelievable statistic if you would have saw batting practice our first day. More importantly our record was 9-7. Not too exciting, but compared to a 0-16 mark these players had a freshman a truly great improvement.

So coaches, learn from my mistakes. Take a deep breath and loosen the reins. Let the kids throw. Make sure they stay on task, but make every practice a head to head battle. Not only did our offense produce but our pitchers performed so much better as the year progressed. It was awesome to watch. Moreover, the kids had fun doing it. They loved throwing against each other; it helped make practice enjoyable. Begrudgingly, I admit now that watching five REAL pitches (not even swinging) in the batter’s box is better than 50 meaningless cage swings. If you don’t believe me; ask that guy from South Carolina……………………..

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Topics for 2010

The following are some topics I am going to explore in 2010. If there is any other specific topic you want covered; feel free to contact me. The only way a coach gets better is to share and hear fresh, creative ideas. Keep them coming and I will post'em!

1. 2009: The Year I Finally Let Players Throw BP

2. When the Going Gets Tough; the Tough Get Going: Why do so Many Players

3. Why Every Baseball Players Should Play One Year of Football!!!!!

4. Lonely Days: Managing a Season with Just One Coach

5. Coaching Confidental: Balancing a Family with Sports

Extra Innings in Sioux City, Iowa

For any Iowan or Nebraskan out there; I wanted to let you know about a new indoor baseball academy that opened last month in Sioux City, Iowa. The name of the place is Extra Innings. It is run by the former head baseball coach at Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. He has moved to Sioux City where is wife gained new employment. He is one of the best coaches in the Midwest and Sioux City is lucky to have him. Check out the website at

Rory Jackson - Owner/Instructor
Phone - 712.226.2255
Email -


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Long Absence

I am sorry for the long absence away from the blog. I have been working on two projects:

1. A book for Coaches Choice, Inc entitled A Coaches Guide to Developing Baseball Players. When I first started I never knew it would be such a project. Right now, I am in the process of re-shooting three chapters worth of pictures. In my book proposal, I thought it would be around 200 pages. Turns out, 320 pages, over 200 pictures, and 100 diagrams (before offical editing). With no ghost writer, a full and part-time job, and three children it has been a long process. It will be done soon.

2. Also, I have been working on a DVD entitled Achieving the Dream: A Quest for 90 MPH. I have been working on this, since 2004, with a highly linked paper floating around on the internet. The paper, which has changed a lot since its publication in Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, has grown into a throwing program which I have used for the last 5 years. The DVD should be finished in the next month. Email me if you are interested in purchasing the material. I have no price yet, but it should be reasonable.

I should be a regular poster from now on. It feels good it be back. I have missed writing on this blog and hearing from others on their approach to coaching baseball.

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