Words of Wisdom If Your Son Is A Talented Pitcher

Q on the moundThere are two things that can make competitive youth baseball coaches drool uncontrollably. A young player with a strong throwing arm and a left-handed young player with a strong throwing arm. Add accuracy into the equation and coaches will get downright giddy.

If you think it’s easy to raise a son with those traits, think again.

Unfortunately, a coach’s giddiness often gets in the way of better judgement. That’s when your son can get hurt. That’s when your son can get burnt out. That’s when your son’s natural talent can feel more like a curse.

Glen Haisley knows what it’s like to have a son who is a young talented pitcher. His youngest son, Quindon, is a 16-year old left-handed pitcher in the New Orleans area. I’ve gotten to know Glen a bit via social media and trading some emails recently. I can tell that he’s raising “Q” the right way. Not that there’s a clear “right” or “wrong” way to raise a young athlete, but Glen puts his son’s best interests first. (He built Q a regulation pitching mound/bullpen in their backyard! How’s that for Fueling Your Child’s Passion For Sports?) Glen is putting his son in the best situations to succeed, without adding extra pressures on him like a lot of over-competitive Sports Dads can do.

One quote from Glen sums up why I feel that he’s a great Sports Dad we can all learn from:

“As a parent, my philosophy to Q is, I will give you all the resources to set you up for success but you have to seize the opportunity.”

If you’re a Sports Dad of a young pitcher (like I am), I think you can learn from some of Glen’s experiences raising his son. Glen was kind enough to answer a few questions for us. I hope you enjoy the  insights and experiences he shares.

Click Here to read the full interview at CoachUp.com.

The Highs & Lows Of Watching Your Son Pitch

It was the bottom of the fourth inning. Gehrig, my 9-year old, had just singled to drive in the go-ahead run in the top half of the inning. His team lead 5-4. Due to the time limit, the fourth would be the final inning of the game. It was Gehrig’s turn to pitch.

Normally, I’ll warm up Gehrig before he takes the mound. But since he got on base in the top half of the inning, I couldn’t. The warm-up tosses to the catcher would have to do.

“Balls in!” shouted the ump.

The inning began. Gehrig walked the first batter on four straight balls. Two were close to the strike zone. One bounced in front of the catcher. And another hit the bull.

Out Of Whack
Gehrig’s first few pitches to the second batter made me think it was going to be one of those innings. He completely short-armed the ball. His delivery was rushed. He was just feeling for the strike zone, aiming every pitch. The look on his face told me everything. I could see his inner thoughts with the release of every pitch. “Pleeeease ball, just get over the plate!”

The Low
I felt awful for him. It was like the pitching mound was a deserted island. Even though he had eight of his teammates out there with him, he was all alone. His teammates would be no help if he couldn’t throw strikes and get the other team to put the ball in play.

Don’t Show Your Hand
After another one of his pitches bounced four feet in front of home plate I realized something. I looked like a nervous wreck. I was leaning forward in my chair. My elbows were resting on my knees. My right hand made a fist and was placed inside of my left. My chin rested on my hands. Once I realized how nervous I must have looked, I made a conscious effort of not outwardly showing how I was feeling inside. I knew that if Gehrig sensed that I was nervous for him, his nerves would really kick in. So I sat back and tried to relax.

Balls three and four floated out of the strike zone. And when I say “floated,” I mean it. His velocity was completely gone. It was hiding somewhere with his confidence.

So now the potential tying and go-ahead runs were on second and first base. Part of me wanted to see if Gehrig could battle back and regain his form. Another part of me wanted his coach to get another pitcher warming up to come in. I knew that Gehrig would be pretty upset if he was responsible for his team losing the game. No other pitchers were getting warm. It was Gehrig’s game to win or lose. I started preparing myself for what to say to him after the game. What could I say that would make him feel better now, but also help him out the next time he’s in this situation?

Signs Of Life
While my head was spinning about what I could say to him, he began showing signs of recovery. While facing the third batter of the inning, Gehrig slowed his delivery. His throwing motion looked more natural and fluid. His pitches had more life on them. He threw a couple strikes and the batter fouled off a pitch. Unfortunately he threw four balls before he could get three strikes.

Here we go. No outs. Bottom of the ninth…er fourth. Bases loaded. Leading by one.

Gehrig’s coach walked out to the mound and talked about the situation. At the time, I had no idea what coach said to G.

But it worked.

Gehrig proceeded to strike out the next three batters in a row, and they won the game! It was like he just flipped a switch and remembered how to pitch. And pitch with confidence. It was awesome.

The High
Gehrig had a huge smile on his face as he ran off the field. His teammates chased after him to high-five and congratulate him. All the coaches and a few parents patted him on the back while he packed up his gear after shaking hands with the other team.

I just had to know what in the world his coach said to him. So I went over and asked, “What in the world did you say to him out there?”

Coach laughed and said, “Honestly…I said, Gehrig, you see that guy standing on third base? He’s the tying run. You see that guy on second base? He’s the winning run. And there’s a guy on first base too, so we don’t have any more room for runners. You’re gonna have to strike the next three batters out. OK?”

So that’s what he did.

Sometimes this complicated game can be so simple. :>)

Share Your Highs & Lows
What are some highs and lows you’ve experienced watching your son play sports?
Share in the comments below, on Twitter (@SportsDadHub) or Facebook.

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-Kevin

The Importance of Mechanics & Muscle Memory In Youth Sports

My 9-year old son, Gehrig, has pitched five times this season. The first four times he toed the rubber, he was excellent. Sure, there were a few walks and a hit batter here or there, but he threw a lot more strikes than balls. That’s huge. Especially at this age.

But something funny happened during his last pitching performance. His pitches were all over the place. He wasn’t quite like former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Rick Ankiel back in the 2000 NL playoffs. But he just couldn’t get the ball over the plate consistently. He also wasn’t throwing the ball as hard as usual. It appeared that he was pushing it, or guiding it up to the plate instead of just cutting loose and throwing it.

Don’t Just Focus On The Result, Look For The Reason
The other team’s pitchers were pretty wild. By the time Gehrig took his turn on the mound in the third inning, four batters on his team were already plunked by pitches. I figured he was just scared to hit other batters and that’s why he wasn’t throwing the ball hard. When I warmed him up before that inning, he threw well.

While he struggled on the mound I was so focused on where the next pitch was going that I didn’t focus on his mechanics. I foolishly assumed that my first assumption about not wanting to hit batters was correct. (And you know what they say about assumptions, don’t you?) Instead of focusing on his delivery for other reasons why he wasn’t throwing the ball well, I focused on the results. I held my breath on every pitch. I was no help at all.

Thank Goodness For Good Coaches
Luckily his team’s pitching coach watched his performance with a much more analytical eye. After the game his pitching coach came over and told me what he saw Gehrig doing differently and what we could work on together. I was right that he wasn’t throwing the ball as hard as he normally can. But I was wrong about why. As it turns out, he started leaning back when he brought his leg up to begin his delivery. Instead of keeping his chest vertical or slightly over his knee, he was falling back as he threw. That’s why he appeared to be pushing the ball and why he  lacked control. He needs to remain working downhill toward the plate. By keeping his chest vertical or slightly over his legs, his delivery is much more compact and easier to control.

I’m so glad his coach noticed and pointed out this minor flaw. Something so simple could have developed into a bad habit and messed him up for a while. With a few more rough outings like the last one, his confidence surely would have been affected. And when you’re not a confident ball player, playing ball isn’t much fun.

Valuable Lessons Learned
This latest experience taught me a valuable lesson. A couple actually. First, having never been a pitcher myself, I need to study pitching mechanics a lot more. (I’ll share what I learn/discover here, with you.) Then every time Gehrig and I work on pitching, I need to remain focused and reinforce those mechanics. Learning proper mechanics and developing good muscle memory at a young age will serve him well as he advances in baseball. Having a point of reference is so important. Without a true understanding of mechanics, the next time he struggles, I’d just be grasping at straws to figure out why.

When Gehrig pitches to me at home my goals are always for him to develop confidence and have fun. Those things as still extremely important. But going forward, I’m going to make sure he’s pitching with a purpose and not developing bad habits while he’s having fun. If he’s throwing with poor mechanics, our side pitching sessions will do more harm than good.

Do you have any similar experiences where a better understanding of mechanics could have helped your son? If so, let me and other Sports Dads know in the comments below.

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-Kevin

 

Free Pitch Counter App Review: Protect Your Son’s Arm

There’s nothing like walking through a little league baseball complex on a hot summer night. The sounds of aluminum bats hitting balls and the roar of small crowds gathered around each field. The smell of freshly cut grass, dirt and popcorn. The sight of young pitchers ruining their arms because they’ve already tossed 200+ pitches in the last four days.

It’s no secret that the combination of little league baseball getting more competitive and kids playing on multiple teams in different leagues has led to an increase of arm injuries. One way to reduce the risk of injury is to track and limit your son’s pitch count each week. Little League Baseball actually has a rule that every team must have an official to track pitch counts and inform the umpires when a pitcher reaches his limit.  Even so, I wouldn’t leave this responsibility up to his coaches, especially if your son plays on multiple teams.

Communication is huge.
Make sure you let your son’s coach know that you’re tracking his pitch count and when he reaches his limit, he needs to come off the mound. That way you won’t catch a coach off guard when you tell him your son needs to come out in the middle of an inning. If he’s pitching for more than one team, inform both coaches of his pitching schedule. That way if he’s pitching for Team A on Monday night, the coach of Team B will know that he’s not available for their game on Tuesday night. You might even want to consider talking with each coach about creating a pitching schedule early in the season. That way everyone will be on the same page early on and there won’t be any surprises or arguments.

There’s a FREE App For That
The key though, is still tracking his pitch count. Even with a well planned schedule, tossing too many pitches in one game can lead to serious arm trouble. Smart phone pitch count apps have made tracking your son’s pitches easier than ever. There are quite a few apps to choose from. As a fellow Sports Dad, I know how busy your schedule is, so I’ve already done the work of testing and reviewing five free pitch count apps for you. Check out the reviews below for my top pick. (I tested the following apps on an iPhone 4.)

Sports Dad Hub’s Top Pick: Power Chalk Pitch Count 2.2 

The Power Chalk Pitch Count 2.2 app far outperformed the other four apps I tested. The main features that set this app apart are the Pitcher Database and Game Database. These two features allow you to track and save files for the entire season. Coaches can look back at past games to see which pitchers were used and how many pitches each one threw. You can look up every game your son has pitched to get a cumulative pitch count on the season. It has everything a dad and coach could need. I can’t imaging a paid app offering more benefits than this free one does.

What I liked:

  • It’s a comprehensive app, yet extremely simple to use.
  • Nice big “Ball” and “Strike” buttons to tap.
  • It has a “Pitcher Database” that allows you to create and save multiple pitchers for tracking. This is a great tool for coaches to use. None of the other free apps I tested contained this feature.
  • You can save each game you track within the app. If you can’t remember how many pitches your son threw in his last game, just pull up the saved file and look.
  • The Pitcher Database also allows you to track the total number of pitches your son has thrown during the season. Seasons aren’t getting any shorter, so it’s up to you to know when his arm has tossed enough innings. This is especially important if your son plays both summer and fall ball.
  • There’s a “Game Database” that saves all the pitchers used in each game and the number of pitches thrown by each pitcher. Another great tool for coaches.
The only thing I didn’t like:
  • No sound effects. An identifiable sound effect, or vibration when you tap “Balls” or “Strikes” would be nice so you know for certain if you tapped it or not.

Get this free app at your phone’s app store or click one of these links:

Other Apps I Reviewed 

Pitch Lite
Why I didn’t like it:

  • It’s Too Simple and primitive. Basically, it’s an electronic pitch count clicker.
  • No pitcher or game database.

MyPitch Count 3.0
Why I didn’t like it:

  • Seemed unnecessarily complicated.
  • Had a scoreboard feature that tracked balls, strikes, outs, innings and the score. (I didn’t really see the point of this.)
  • Small buttons to track balls and strikes.
  • No pitcher or game database.

Pitch Count
Why I didn’t like it:

  • Not comprehensive at all. Like “Pitch Lite,” it’s basically an electronic pitch count clicker.
  • No pitcher or game database.

SteeRIKE! Pitch Counter
Why I didn’t like it:

  • Again, too simplistic. No pitcher or game database
What I did like:
  • Sound effects/vibration when tapping “Strike” and “Ball” (However, the sounds were kind of odd and very annoying.)

Safe Pitch Counts and Days Off Between Pitching

If you’re not sure what the pitch limit is for your son or how long he should rest between pitching in games, jot down the safe limits set by Little League Baseball.

Age

Pitches Limit Per Day

7 – 8 

50

 9 – 10

75

11-12

85

13 – 16

95

17-18

105

Rest Requirements: Ages 7 – 14

Pitches Thrown In One Day

Days of Rest Before Pitching Again

1 – 20

No Rest Required

21 – 35

1

36 – 50

2

51 – 65

3

66 & over

4

Rest Requirements: Ages 15 – 18

Pitches Thrown In One Day

Days of Rest Before Pitching Again

1 – 30

No Rest Required

31 – 45

1

46 – 60

2

61 – 75

3

76 & over

4

If you found this post helpful, share it with the other parents on your team. And if you’re already using a free pitch counter app that you really like, let me know about it in the comments section. 

Thank for reading,
-Kevin