Sunday, April 13, 2008

Keep it Fun & Moving, Mr Umpire

It is cold here in the midwest this time of year. The weather can be nice at times but more times than not it is windy, wet and cold. As parents of ballplayers we pack up our lawn chairs, our blankets, thermos of hot coffee or cocoa, wear multiple layers and enjoy the ball games (that is right, I said enjoy!)

All of this is great for about 90% of the games. The umps know it is cold and tend to keep things moving along. They tend to speed up inning changes, they ask that players sprint back into the dugout after an out, they tend to expand the strike zone a little to get players to swing the bats, and they tend to do a great job overall – that is 90%. This blog entry is not to bad mouth umpires – not at all. I do not question umps ever on a judgment call, only on rule interpretation issues (a practice all coaches should employ).

Yesterday I was at a game where the umpire thought he was the king of the free world. He had a strike zone as small as the width of a PVC pipe and did not want to take any flack about it from anyone. The wind was blowing hard from left to right field, right across the diamond, making it even colder than it was outside (game time temp=52 degrees). My hot chocolate did not last half an inning before it got too cold to drink.

I would like to ask the ump of this game what he was trying to accomplish by having a strike zone that small on such a cold day. He certainly has his right to have a strike zone where he wants it to be, as long as it is consistent I am good with it. But on a day like that I would like for the zone to be expanded to a true zone: one ball width outside of each corner of the plate, knees to armpits high. The kids would have more fun because they know they would need to be swinging the bat when at the plate, the coaches would be able to keep moving and keep a little warm, and the fans would enjoy the game more because there would be some action to watch.

My plea is for all umps to hear this – keep the game fun – expand the strike zone. (Especially on cold days – have I told you how many former ball players are on the lacrosse team at our high school?)

Best of Luck,
Coach Chuck

Check out the latest in Baseball Training Aids at We also have lots of free baseball instruction available.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

School Baseball vs Summer Baseball

My son is a freshman at our local high school. He is fortunate enough to be able to play 3 sports – football, baseball and this season – baseball. He is a wonderful pitcher and will likely get to play some varsity games this year but for now he in the JV team. We live in a community where the local school system graduates 120 kids a year, so it is not very big. That size of a school opens up a world of opportunities for athletes and he loves it.

Outside of school, we have been involved with a summer baseball program that plays at a very high level. The team he plays on travels to out of town tournaments, they have tryouts each season with lots of kids showing up to try to land a spot on the team, and they are professionally coached by a man who also coaches a high school team during the spring season.

I have become accustomed to (and a little spoiled) watching baseball be played at a high level. The first time I realized how good the summer team had become was when I caught myself describing the team and type of games played to a co-worker. I was telling him that the difference between summer competitive baseball and recreational baseball is that ground balls are expected to be outs, fly balls are caught, pitchers throw strikes and if a team makes more than an error or two during a game they go back to the drawing board and figure out what went wrong. If you have ever watched a recreational game each ball hit is an event. In competitive baseball leagues, most hit balls are outs.

When I showed up at my first JV scrimmage game I instantly noticed a big difference in the way the opposing team was taking infield – kids were overthrowing first base, the first baseman had trouble getting it back to the catcher, etc. My son’s team was better than the opposition were but many of the same issues still existed – we just did not have 9 players to put on the field of the same caliber of the summer team.

At first I was a little frustrated and I could see it on the faces of a couple of the parents who have sons who also play on more competitive baseball teams in the summer. Then I watched the game and it took on a whole different perspective from where it started. The kids seem to truly enjoy playing for their school. The pressure is there but it is different than trying to keep stats up or trying to take a player’s spot, as it is in the summer leagues. The pressure is there to play well and win with the group of kids who are on the team – period. It seemed OK that some of the boys would be better than others - no one was calling for an upgrade to the center fielder when a ball dropped in front of him and they all enjoyed the game quite a bit when my son pitched and dominated the opposing team for a few innings. It was different and enjoyable and made me proud to know that so much school spirit still existed. I hope your local school has the same experience – this is going to be fun! I am looking forward to an enjoyable spring school season with some good friends before we start our summer season.

Good Luck,

Coach Chuck

Check out the latest in Baseball Training Aids at We also have lost of free baseball instruction available.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

How I Got Started With

People often ask how we got into the business of offering baseball training aids and unique baseball equipment. Here is the story…

It all started with a funny looking bat a few years ago…while coaching a youth baseball team I had seen this thin bat that allowed players to take full batting practice (with real baseballs) and weighed the same as the one they used in their games. This bat was only a little larger than 1” wide at the barrel so it really focused on developing hand-eye coordination and was able to hit the ball like it was coming from their normal bat, just exaggerating the effect of hitting above or below the ball – very cool. I got one for each of my sons. It sharpened their hitting skills and made taking BP even more fun for them, like it was supposed to do. My kids loved the bat and people started asking me where I got it from.

The next year I saw another coach using a radar device that fit on the back of a glove that could tell how fast a pitcher was throwing and I had the same experience - I could not find it in a store and had to look hard to find it on-line. People kept asking me where I got the cool bats from the summer before and then about the great glove radar device. I still did not get that there was a pattern emerging – great baseball training aids that were hard to find.

Then a couple of years ago I had seen this pitching machine that pitched wiffle golf balls and thought my sons might like it. It was rugged and could pitch 100 balls with a 6 second delay between pitches. I could not find it at any store so I looked on-line and again, I had to look hard to find it. I got the pitching machine and I loved it – it was the centerpiece of our neighborhood for a couple of months that summer. It was easy to tear down and set up so we also used it for the team that I coached to hit rounds of wiffle balls during practice. I enjoyed the machine, the kids loved it and people kept asking me where they could get one.

It was after a dozen people asked me where I got the pitching machine from that I decided to offer a selection of unique baseball training aids and baseball equipment through an on-line store. The response has been overwhelming and I thank you.
Coach Chuck