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Ballgames Don't Always Matter Vol.140 Mar. 2016
March 17, 2016

Baseball Games Don't Equal Player Development

Competition does not mean development.

How much player development really goes on during a youth baseball game?

Answer: Not as much as you would think.

Think about it, there is only one ball for about 24-30 players. How often are players getting touches or swings during competition?

Unless you are the pitcher or catcher a kid is not touching the ball much. Infielders get some action but outfielders get rare opportunities. If a player plays like 50 – 100 games per year won’t that make them a ballplayer? Answer: Not necessarily.

Competition does not in itself develop ballplayers. Just playing a bunch of games does not automatically mean a player will develop into a high school varsity baseball player or a post high school player.

Why can’t more players play at the high school level?

Here are a few reasons why competition and playing a ga-zillion games will not guarantee players make a high school baseball team.

Games, Games and More Games

Lack of Hitting Ability:

Very few players ever develop hitting skills and abilities to sustain them deep into their high school careers.

(“You go as far as your bat takes you.”) Youth baseball as a whole is not very strong in developing hitters who can consistently hit the fastball.

Over-coaching and poor coaching hampers hitting development which keeps many kids from ever reaching their hitting ceiling.

Raw athleticism is often lacking.

When the ballfield reaches 90ft bases and 60’ mounds the men get separated from the boys, the sheep from the goats, the wheat from the shaft, etc.

The lesser athletes, less skilled, poor mechanically, less physical players have a difficult time finding any successes.

At age 14 you will see 75%-80% of the players will have dropped out and moved on to something else besides baseball.

Not able to play premiere ball handling positions.

Playing multiple positions is amazingly important.

Players who cannot throw hard enough to play the left side (3B or SS) are going to be limited. Players who cannot play infield at all (outfield only) are going to be limited.

Players who cannot be a pitcher or catcher are going to be limited. Basically, if you can play close to the ball (catcher, pitcher, shortstop, and first base) you can stay in the game longer than a second baseman or strictly an outfielder.

(NOTE: lefties are really limited to pitcher, 1B and outfield at the higher levels. At minimum all lefties should be able to play 1B and hopefully pitch too).

When I ask kids at age 9, 10, 11, 12 years old what position do they play…and their answer is outfield, I know the end is near.

One cannot survive the post-puberty baseball age without the ability, coordination, and athleticism, to play premiere ball handling positions.

You can play a ga-zillion games and it will not make you into a player good enough to throw, catch, field and hit at a high enough level to get through and penetrate the high school level teams in most cases (competitive baseball playing areas).

Why? Because most kids simply don’t have enough talent and elements necessary to play the game well. Nothing wrong with that but it is usually the truth. Good players don't sit the bench.

You cannot manufacture a baseball player.

Lessons, instruction, experience, good coaching, all can assist.

Playing baseball games definitely can’t hurt. But the real common denominator is athletic ability, athleticism, body strength, personal desire, work ethic and grit.

Players who stay in the game and still make it into high school baseball mostly have developed into decent to average athletes for high school age, can play multiple positions, play premiere positions close to the ball, have some speed and/or body strength and a bit of grit.

Just playing a ga-zillion baseball games will not magically turn a player into an athlete equipped with these characteristics needed to survive to Varsity High School baseball.

Bunts & Walks Win Games But at What Cost?

Sure, bunting stresses and tests the defensive team’s ability to execute and ‘catch & throw’ consistently (which the large majority of youth level teams cannot do).

Yes a team could win a bunch of games by bunting all the time on a regular basis. Winning in this fashion is not in the best interests of a player’s development.

Hitters need every at-bat to get as many quality swings as possible—otherwise it might be game-over for the non-hitters.

So, pack away the sacrifice bunting and all your ‘strategy’ and let the kids swing it. So what if you lose a few along the way. The object is to develop hitters that can ‘square-up’ on the barrel consistently.

I hear coaches say, “But Coach Dave, I have players that cannot hit and I don’t want them to go home all dejected. At least if they can lay down a bunt they will feel a little bit good about themselves.” I say you are taking the easy way out.

You are settling. Settling to speed up the process of sending a kid right out of baseball without ever hitting a ball squarely on the ‘sweet spot’.

By the way, just substitute ‘walk’ for ‘bunt’ in the above article and you will see how I feel about my players getting walks below high school (I don’t like my players to walk or bunt).

Re-read the article as if it says ‘walk’ (instead of bunt). Sure I hear, “But Coach Dave, my team’s parents want to win and if I teach hitters to be aggressive the parents don’t understand why we are free swingers and trying to get quality swings.

Answer: It is called a pre-season meeting to explain your coaching approach and philosophy about your best interests in their children’s player development, and you are not interested in the win-at-all-costs approach. No Bunting in Baseball Pre-Season Parent Meeting

Where is the player development?
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March 2016 Vol. 140 Additional Topics

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Until next time, Thanks for your service to Baseball!

Dave Holt
Baseball Development

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