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Bunting: Where does bunting fit in your priority list of baseball fundamentals?
I thought I had seen just about just about everything when it has to do with winning-at-all-costs youth baseball. Just when you think you’ve been seen everything something else comes in and tops it.
Recently, I had agreed to help my friend with a 12 and under travel team. I don’t recommend travel ball until kids reach 13 and over but this guy has a brand-new bunch of kids from a local Little League.
Most of the boys had never taken a lead off base or held runners on from the pitchers mound in a live game. We got our tails handed to us all weekend but we got the kids introduced to the running game and leading off and stealing.
|“Every coach is competitive. So are the kids and parents. Everybody wants to win. It’s the American way, and sometimes it can blur the judgment of even the most well-adjusted coach.”|
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This one team we played was from another planet. First of all, their coach was a maniac. I have seen some of obnoxious yeller’s who enjoy embarrassing kids on the field but this guy was Mr. Moon-Beam. He was all over his kids from first-inning to the last…Wow…unbelievable.
But worse than that was every kid that came up to bat laid down a bunt and I mean every kid. I recall about three kids who hit the ball on their ballclubs line-up.
This coach made the batters waggle the bat while taking a strike. If they did not walk they all bunted. Yes every single kid in the lineup tried to lay one down. Either square around and do a sacrifice or tried for a base hit by drag bunting. Of course when the runners reached base they would steal on the first pitch including home too.
I bet all those middle school and high school coaches can’t wait to get their hands on all the good bunters on this team. How many college and professional baseball scouts are signing up kids that can only lay one down? (Zero).
You know what I say, “You go as far as your bat takes you.” What a travesty to the game and a moral disservice to the kids and families of these players. But, their team was happy since they won the game 7-2. There is never a justification for winning by exploiting the players in this fashion.
That was about the lowest point I’ve seen in youth baseball as far as the win-at-all-costs philosophy proving it is alive and well and to top it off the coach was an embarrassment to baseball the way he verbally and assaulted his players.
Unfortunately this baseball coach and his player’s parents don’t realize that there is a better way to develop players. ‘Player development is the winning formula.’
In 12 and under baseball I don’t believe hitters should waste at-bats laying one down. It is certainly okay to introduce the fundamentals at this age but in the big scheme of things it all boils down to how well one swings the bat and squaring up on the ball.
Bunting is not the highest priority for this age. The kids have to swing it. If they don’t its game-over and their careers will come to a premature end with a bunch of frustration along the way.
I have been coaching a youth team of 11 year olds this fall and I have not even shown or allowed anyone to lay one down yet. Why? I don’t want to waste any time on stuff that will not keep kids in the game. Other things are more urgent at this time.
Every at-bat in practice and games is swinging the bat. If they don’t hit---it’s Game-Over. Plus, who wants to go your whole youth baseball career and never experience the thrill and feel of hitting a ball perfectly on the sweet spot.
We faced a kid the other night that walked 4 times and never took a swing the entire game. What good was that but a wasted opportunity to swing-it!
Many youth baseball coaches take the easy way. Since the typical youth league coach does not understand how to teach the professional mindset needed to be a good hitter they just avoid it by having kids square around and lay one down.
By having the kids lay one down the coach feels the kid at least did something besides strike out or walk. I think it is all to common and accepted in youth baseball today to have the kids lay one down, taking the easy way out, and avoiding the truth that coaches really are helpless in helping kids swing the bat with a professional baseball approach.
SIDE NOTE: Walk limits: Why not put a per inning limit on walks. Say after two batters take a walk in the inning there is no more walks that inning. Either you hit it, strike out or you are out.
FYI: I have my players do five pushups if they get a walk. Why? I want them to look to swing at the first available pitch around the plate.
It serves no purpose to walk or lay one down at this age. ‘Ya, but Dave, kids have to have a good eye at the plate.” I say, “Becoming a hitter who can consistently swing it trumps having a good eye.
If a kid has a good eye but cant hit the ball out of the infield then it is Game-Over. Having a good eye at the plate can wait. The problem always comes back to the baseball parents that want to win more than develop hitters.
Walks in youth baseball will help teams win games—but at what cost? The price is costly because so many kids never get a chance to develop into real good hitters and this is an epidemic around the country.
Win-at-all-costs baseball parents have no idea how they are harming kids in having an opportunity to become a good hitter. This is why I don’t allow players to bunt or send kids up to get a walk.
Swing-it my friends—Swing-it!
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