by George Barone
April 25, 2016
Letter to Sports
Dear Sports Editor,
What has happened to sandlot baseball games? The ballfields that were once the meeting place for the neighborhood kids to play are now empty morning and afternoon in the summer. The kids that do come out to play are more interested in playing home run derby rather than play the game.
In youth baseball, the focus over the years has shifted from learning the correct fundamentals and love of the game to a focus purely set on winning. Winning should not be the main goal when teaching our youth baseball.
Instead, learning the correct fundamentals and having fun should be above winning. Kids have fun when they know the correct way to throw, catch a baseball, hit, field and pitch.
It is my experience over decades of coaching baseball that when the focus of the game is on winning, coaches often then focus the majority of their efforts on the gifted athletes of their team. Too often there are good players that are underdeveloped and overlooked.
Every boy and girl that signed up to play should be given the chance to learn and play. Baseball practices need to be focused on drills and stations where every child is engaged in the learning process and able to practice their skills so that no one is bored or feels left out. I don’t want to see kids get cut or quit.
Today baseball is about home runs and not about hitting correctly. The approach to hitting today is for hitters to swing from low to high. This approach encourages ”swinging for the fences” and get that home run rather than focusing on getting a good solid run.
A batter’s swing should be high to a low approach. We need to see singles, doubles and triples, as these score runs. A young baseball player will find more success learning how to hit a solid ball than attempting to get that elusive home run. Although it does happen, it isn’t often that kids are going to hit a home run. The focus needs to be on hitting a good ball and getting runs.
Volunteer coaches are vital to the youth baseball programs and they give a lot of time to the leagues and their team in the community.
These coaches should be provided with mandatory training, focusing on correct baseball fundamentals and successful coaching techniques. The younger leagues need more practices as many times these kids have twice as many games scheduled as practices.
To the players: Baseball takes a lot of dedication, hard work, patience and being a good team player. Cheer and give high fives to the players on your team. God gave you two ears and a mouth. Listen to your coaches and ask questions. Never WALK on a baseball field.
You are hustling all the time. To get better, you must get smarter. Get rid of CAN’T and replace it with CAN. Concentration is very important. Anything less is a distraction. You can’t be afraid to fail. You decide whether you succeed or not.
To the parents: You and the coach must communicate. The first team meeting with players and parents is very important. Discus with the coach his schedule of practices, games and playing time.
Be polite to each other. Help the coach if you can. Parents and players must have sportsmanship to the other team and to the umpire. Umpires are the voice of authority on the baseball field and should be treated as such.
Baseball is a mental game and a game of adjustments. Coaches, be a positive role model for all players on your team. My heart is with children and young adults. I want them to enjoy this great sport of baseball. I want to see happy children.