Results tagged ‘ baseball camps ’

Brewers Baseball Academy: Saying Goodbye to 2014

Here’s a wrap-up and thank you from Tim Rappé, Executive Director of the Brewers Baseball Academy presented by Kwik Trip, eight separate week-long baseball/softball camps open to youth (ages 6-14) that were held in various cities across Wisconsin this summer.

Enjoy!
-Cait

@CMoyer

SAYING GOODBYE TO 2014

As I’ve now officially awoken from my summer camp “coma”  it’s time to say thanks to some very special people for making the Brewers Baseball Academy camp’s second season even better than the first…no small feat since 2013 was really great.

Every camp sold out. As much as we hate turning kids away, our commitment is to run a very high quality camp experience every day for every child. And that means that we will continue to limit the number participants. Over 1,000 kids spent part of their summer with us having a blast, learning to play baseball the Brewers way. You might want to keep an eye on the website in December when we go “live” with the 2015 schedule.

In 2014, we made our first trip to Fond du Lac and moved our Madison-area camp to Waunakee. We ran our first camps in Wauwatosa and Greendale. The story was the same; folks all over Wisconsin love the Brewers and we did our best to give them a heaping dose of Brewers baseball and softball training.

The secret to our success is really no secret. We bring good instructors to camp and work our fannies off to deliver an excellent product every day. Leading that core of instructors were Scott Staude and Greg Fetherston with some very special smart baseball from Brian Gillogly, Ronnie Nedset and Dan O’Brien. Thanks, guys.

Brewers Baseball Academy 2

A big hug to coaches Ed Sedar, Rick Kranitz and John Shelby for continuing to bring their amazing knowledge and huge personalities to camp every week. And of course a big tip of the cap to Mike Fiers, Jimmy Nelson, Khris Davis and Elian Herrera …you guys gave up free time to make the camp week even better for all the kids and coaches.

Brewers Baseball Academy

We concluded the camp season with another great Champions Day at Miller Park. This is where the kids who recorded the top scores in our Skills Competition during the summer squared off for the final time. You can see the winner’s picture and all the final scores here.

All in all, a real good summer. Like you, we live and die with the Big Boys and despite the rough last few weeks, they gave us plenty of reason to be proud of 2014 and excited about 2015. Expect camp dates to be locked down some time in December.

Until next time, “If you’re gonna swing, might as well swing hard.”

-Tim Rappé

Tim.Rappe@Brewers.com

Tim’s Tips: Reflecting on the Summer

If you’ll recall, this past season, we launched the Brewers Baseball Academy presented by Kwik Trip, eight separate week-long baseball/softball camps open to youth (ages 6-14) which were held in various cities across Wisconsin this summer.

All season, in addition to putting on the camps, executive director Tim Rappe provided some baseball tips here on John and Cait…Plus 9 as well. Read on for the latest installment from Coach Tim.

Enjoy!
-Cait

JohnandCait@brewers.com

TOP SIX THINGS I HEARD THIS SUMMER THAT MADE ME CRINGE

Right out of the box I will admit that just because we wear a Major League uniform doesn’t mean we have all the answers. I am not afraid to question what I believe and have made adjustments in my teaching approach over the years as a result. That being said, I’m also not afraid to go toe-to-toe with things I hear that are fundamentally wrong; especially those that pose a threat to the health of the athlete.

Here are some of my “favorites” from this past summer…

#1. “Are You Teaching the NEW Way of Hitting?”

Oh boy. Part of my role with the Brewers is to attend seminars, study video, observe Spring Training, and generally keep up with new approaches to teaching our game. 99% of the time, that question is traced to a private instructor or Internet Guru who is trying to make a name for himself by “discovering” something new or renaming something old for marketing purposes. Doesn’t mean they’re wrong…but they do add to the noise that tends to confuse people. We teach hitting the way that Carlos Gomez, Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy and for that matter, Miguel Cabrera, swing the bat.

#2. “My Son Plays Travel Ball so He’s Probably Too Good for Your Camp.”

Ugh. Them’s fightin’ words. When you take a look at the resume of our coaching staff and the depth of our curriculum, it’s pretty much impossible to conclude that we can’t help an athlete of any level…unless he comes to camp with the mindset that he doesn’t want to learn.

#3. “Girls Need to Learn a Different Way to Hit Because…Well, They’re Girls.”

I know that statement is not meant to be insulting to softball players…but it is. The male and female bodies get the bat to the ball in exactly the same way. Granted, there are some nuances but girls generate force at the point of contact just like guys. Just ask Jennie Finch, Crystl Bustos, Stacey Nuveman and Jessica Mendoza…probably the best U.S Olympic hitters of all time. Better yet, grab some video as I have and see for yourself. Of course, I’m not referring to slap hitting here.

“You Hit Like a Girl” could be the nicest thing someone could say to you.

“You Hit Like a Girl” could be the nicest thing someone could say to you.

#4. “I Heard You Should Never Use a Batting Tee Again.”

Yikes. There’s that Internet Guru again proclaiming that if you don’t do it his way, at best you are a terrible coach and at worst, a moron. Don’t use tees? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Every professional, collegiate and high school team relies on the tee to isolate swing mechanics before introducing a pitched ball. Statements like that may be a good way to sell a video but it also adds more confusing noise in the market. By the way, I bought video…and I got my money back.

Don’t be so fast to dump the batting tee

Don’t be so fast to dump the batting tee

#5. “I’m Going to Have My Son Throw Every Day Over the Winter to Add MPH’s to His Fastball.”

No. No. No. Sometimes more is not better and when it comes to the “care and feeding” of the arm, it definitely isn’t. The shoulder and elbow need rest in order to repair the strain of the long grind of the spring/summer season. Big Leaguers shut it down after the season and not just to play golf. Since 2000, there has been a 500% increase in elbow and shoulder injuries among young baseball and softball players. Almost all of that is attributed to overuse. Now when I say to shut it down I’m referring to all overhead activity like volleyball, football passing, dodgeball in gym class, badminton, etc. I know that’s not realistic but not throwing a baseball IS realistic. Work on core strength and hammer those difficult-to-work decelerators in the back. You will love the result come spring.

#6. “Coach, Am I Throwing the Curveball Correctly?”

You’re asking the wrong question. Yes, it’s true that a correctly thrown curveball is less stressful on your arm than one thrown incorrectly. And yes, there are some pro’s who started throwing junk very early in their young lives. There are also miles of scar tissue and shattered careers because of the unnecessary harm caused by curves and sliders. As a teacher of baseball and the Director of the Brewers Baseball Academy I will not teach the curve because it plays Russian Roulette with the pre-pubescent athlete. I know that’s controversial but winning isn’t worth the risk. Spot your fastball. Throw a change-up and study hitters’ weaknesses. The “W’s” will pile up.

OK, got all that off my chest. Until next time, “If you’re gonna swing, might as well swing hard.”

-Tim Rappé

Tim.Rappe@Brewers.com

Baseball in the Land of Sand: Coach Tim Travels to Dubai

This past season, we launched the new Brewers Baseball Academy presented by Kwik Trip, eight separate week-long baseball/softball camps open to youth (ages 6-14) which were held in various cities across Wisconsin this summer.

All summer long, in addition to putting on the camps, executive director Tim Rappe provided some baseball tips here on John and Cait…Plus 9 as well. Now, read on for a story of his exciting travels to Dubai.

Enjoy!
-Cait

JohnandCait@brewers.com

BASEBALL IN THE LAND OF THE SAND

I admit that as I’ve aged, I’ve become more and more of a homebody. So, when Team Rhino Sports, the only baseball/softball training academy in the Middle East, invited me to assist with a camp for the Dubai Little League, it took more than a little nudging to pack my suitcase and make the journey to the “Land of the Sand.” But, with passport in hand and one of the best Brewers Baseball Academy instructors at my side, Isaac Valdez and I boarded a plane for the 15 hour flight to Dubai.

Here I am at Dubai’s “Field of Dreams” with the Burj Khalifa (world’s tallest building) in the background.

Here I am at Dubai’s “Field of Dreams” with the Burj Khalifa (world’s tallest building) in the background.

For the geographically challenged, of which I am a charter member, Dubai is a city in the emirate of Dubai which is part of the country of the United Arab Emirates. Think of it as New York City in the state of New York in the country of the United States. That may be where the similarities end. Dubai is a Muslim emirate sitting on the Persian Gulf not so very far from places we hear about every day…and not often in a good way.

In the city of Dubai, you can play a spectacular golf course in the morning, eat lunch at the world’s tallest building, shop in the world’s largest shopping mall and finish the day by skiing indoors at another enormous shopping mall…no kidding. The wealth and opulence are incredible. Roger Federer gave a tennis lesson yesterday to one of the camp kids and Rihanna is performing tonight just up the road in Abu Dhabi…not very often I get to write “Abu Dhabi” so I had to throw that in. Dubai is where the Arabs come to relax as well as a whole bunch of famous American entertainers.

And then there is baseball. I really didn’t know what to expect from the Dubai Little League but what I found was an organization that is trying to hang on to a piece of their heritage which happens to be embedded in a rare patch of green that serves as home to the 400 kids of the Dubai Little League.

This is the morning of the last day of camp and what I’ve experienced isn’t whole lot different than Brewers Camp in in Oshkosh or Delafield. Yes, the kids are from Dubai, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia but they got those addresses by way of Ohio, Indiana, New Jersey, Washington, etc. In other words, these are American children of “expats” who have been raised to love baseball and their MLB teams just like we do. They are following the playoffs like their counterparts in America except for the fact that the games usually start around 4am local time.

It’s been a remarkable experience and I feel blessed to be a part of these kids’ baseball lives. It’s going to be 105 degrees today and you have to be careful as the sun and heat can flatten you like a Jim Henderson fastball. Other than the heat, the only threat to my health in this Middle Eastern country was the teenage Dubai Royal firing past our car at about 200mph in his Ferrari on our way to the baseball fields yesterday…

Until next time, “If you’re gonna swing, might as well swing hard.”

-Tim Rappé

Tim.Rappe@Brewers.com

Brewers Baseball Academy Skills Champion’s Day Wrap Up

If you’ll recall, this past season, we launched the Brewers Baseball Academy presented by Kwik Trip, eight separate week-long baseball/softball camps open to youth (ages 6-14) which were held in various cities across Wisconsin this summer.

All season, in addition to putting on the camps, executive director Tim Rappe provided some baseball tips here on John and Cait…Plus 9 as well. Read on for the latest installment from Coach Tim, a wrap up of the Brewers Baseball Academy Champions Day.

Enjoy!
-Cait

JohnandCait@brewers.com

THE SECRET SAUCE IN EVERY CHAMPION’S RECIPE

At each Brewers Baseball Academy summer camp we have the kids participate in a Skills Competition that measures bat speed, running speed and field/throwing speed. We’ve found that breaking up the instruction with competitive events really spices up the day and the Skills Competition does the trick. Plus, it helps reinforce the very things that we are teaching the kids during the week.

A couple weeks ago, the top 70 scorers from the summer participated in Champions Day at Miller Park. In addition to the 70 competitors, there were another 300+ friends and family members in attendance. It was a gorgeous day, although I wished the grounds crew was preparing the infield for the playoffs rather than re-sodding…but that’s what next year is for.

The focus of this post is to ask whether or not placing kids in the cauldron of competition prepares them for what’s ahead. Trust me; the kids at Champions Day feel the pressure of competing for a trophy in front of a lot of people on the very field their baseball heroes perform. It’s only natural to feel that heart-pounding, sweaty palms, “where’s the restroom” sensation. The big question, of course, is whether or not the performer can park those feelings somewhere they won’t impede their physical and mental performance. Or do they give into them and essentially fall apart at the most critical time?

I submit that champions not only control those emotions but use them to propel his/her performance to new heights. That confidence, that belief in oneself, is the secret sauce in every winner’s recipe.

What's the "Secret Sauce" in every Champion's recipe?

What’s the “Secret Sauce” in every Champion’s recipe?

I think about all the travel tryouts that were conducted throughout Wisconsin in the last 60 days. We measure kids’ running speed. We hit them ground balls and watch the “carry” on their throws across the infield or outfield. We throw batting practice and watch their strokes. What we can’t do is put a dipstick in that part of the athlete that measures their ability to manage stress…to excel under pressure. If we could, I fear that many of us would come up a quart low.

Case in point. If you ever had the pleasure of standing in the third base coaching box you get a real sense of the kids who step into the batter’s box like they own it. It’s as though they lock the door behind them and nothing exists other than the next pitch. These kids will compete for me. On the other hand, I’ve had plenty of kids who stepped into the batter’s box in that same pressure cooker situation and looked as though there was a snake in it.

The remarkable “you can’t beat me” attitude is what separates good from great and it may very well be hard wired in the athlete’s DNA. Although, preparation, experience and multiple “learnable” techniques can make a huge difference. But the “will to win” that we see from the great ones may not be something we can teach. Then again, a few Sunday’s ago class was in session at Miller Park for 70 young athletes from the Brewers Baseball Academy…and they put on a show. You can click here to see the final rankings.

 

Until next time, “If you’re gonna swing, might as well swing hard.”

-Tim Rappé

Tim.Rappe@Brewers.com

Wrapping Up the Inaugural Year of Brewers Baseball Academy

If you’ll recall, this summer, we launched the new Brewers Baseball Academy presented by Kwik Trip, eight separate week-long baseball/softball camps open to youth (ages 6-14) which were held in various cities across Wisconsin this summer.

All summer long, in addition to putting on the camps, executive director Tim Rappe provided some baseball tips here on John and Cait…Plus 9 as well. Read on for his summer wrap-up.

Enjoy!
-Cait

JohnandCait@brewers.com

WRAPPING UP THE INAUGURAL YEAR OF BREWERS BASEBALL ACADEMY

Well, it’s over. We just wrapped up the first season of the Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Academy and what an exciting summer it was! The only downside is that it kept me from writing. It’s difficult to explain just how time consuming and exhausting it can be bouncing from town to town and hotel to hotel…especially at my advanced age. :) Sounds like I’m whining, but the fact is that I love it and can’t wait to start next season.

Normally, my objective in these posts is to explore baseball and softball from an instructional perspective. But, there are a couple observations from the summer that deserve to be shared.

By a large margin, the winning observation is that the people of Wisconsin LOVE their Brewers. Whether we were at the Notre Dame Academy in Green Bay or  Sun Prairie High School or Carthage College, the passion for this team was amazing to see. Let’s face it; we’ve had a headline-grabbing summer and much of the news was not good. But Brewers fans continue to support the team and believe that the future is bright. Our staff witnessed that time and again and it sure made our jobs a bunch more fun working with kids who came ready to learn and ready to learn the “Brewers” way.

My second big observation is that there are some crazy good instructors in Wisconsin who also love the Brewers and poured their hearts and considerable talent into making the Brewers Baseball Academy a critical success. While we have a ways to go in terms of reaching our enrollment potential, from the perspective of a 20+ year camp veteran, what these guys did throughout the state was remarkable. We set out to create the best baseball and softball camp in America and I’ll be darned if that didn’t happen.

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A special thanks to Field Director and “Chief Entertainment Officer,” Scott Staude. And a big thanks to Station Leaders Dean Haase, Brian Gillogly, Dan O’Brien, Jason Jacome and Ronnie Nedset. Just outstanding.

I also want to thank Scooter Gennett, Jim Henderson, Caleb Gindl, Martin Maldonado, Khris Davis, Sean Halton, Logan Schafer and of course, Coach John “T-Bone” Shelby for making our trips to Miller park unforgettable.

We will be putting an exclamation point on our first season on 9/29 as 80 campers compete in the first Milwaukee Brewers Baseball Academy Skills Championship at Miller Park. If you want to check out the finalists, click here.

Until next time, “If you’re gonna swing, might as well swing hard.”

-Tim Rappé

Tim.Rappe@Brewers.com

Brewers Baseball Academy in Full Swing

If you haven’t heard by now, our Brewers Baseball Academy, presented by Kwik Trip, is eight separate week-long baseball/softball camps open to youth (ages 6-14) that are being held in various cities across Wisconsin this summer.

I recently came across a nice piece on the camp, produced by Time Warner Cable Sports32, which I thought I’d share. This video gives a great sense of what the camps are all about:

If you’re interested in signing your child up for one of the remaining camps, please visit brewers.com/camps for details.

Enjoy!
-Cait

JohnandCait@brewers.com

 

Tim’s Tips: Train Your Brain!

Here’s another great tip from Tim Rappé, Executive Director of our new Brewers Baseball Academy presented by Kwik Trip, eight separate week-long baseball/softball camps open to youth (ages 6-14) that will be held in various cities across Wisconsin this summer.

Along with signing up for the camps and getting excellent baseball instruction there, every so often, Tim will provide some baseball tips here on John and Cait…Plus 9 as well.

Enjoy!
-Cait

JohnandCait@brewers.com

TRAIN THE BRAIN THE RIGHT WAY FOR THE BEST BASEBALL RESULTS

In 1994, at the age of 31, perhaps the greatest basketball player of that generation and maybe of all generations decided to quit the NBA and become a professional baseball player. Yes, Michael Jordan, an extraordinarily gifted athlete retired (for the first time) from the NBA and gave everything he had in order to get a shot at the Big Leagues.

Certainly someone with such amazing athleticism and a legendary will to succeed could find his way on to a Major League roster…nope, it didn’t happen. Jordan’s .202 batting average for the AA Birmingham Barons was the beginning and end of his pro baseball “odyssey.”

You see, hitting successfully is not like lifting weights or even running a marathon. Hitting is a complex visual-motor skill that has to be learned. Picking up spin, speed and identifying direction of a pitched ball and then getting the bat to the right spot at the right time requires a skill set that doesn’t happen by accident.

When Michael Jordan’s brain was most receptive to making all the amazing neurological connections necessary to be a skilled baseball player, he was busy learning another sport. The bottom line is that at age 31, Jordan was too old for his brain to make the complex adjustments to play baseball at a high level.

So, you say, “Coach Tim, where are you going with this?” We need to understand there is a time in the life of our brain when it is better suited to learn. Ever wonder why kids can pick up a second language so much easier than us old fogies? The young brain is craving new stimuli and responds accordingly. The older brain is still growing but not with nearly the same appetite as it once had.

That’s pretty much why we work so hard on correct fundamentals at the Brewers Baseball Academy. I swear we can almost hear the brain cells multiplying when we’re around young players. The brain is a blank canvas or as some neurologists call it; an “engram.” Think of the brain as a blank DVD that only records what we send to it. That’s why it is so critical to not only learn the game at a young age, but to learn to play it correctly.

In my opinion and it’s an opinion shared by many others, what separates great baseball players from the rest of us mere mortals is their ability to collect and process data. Fielding thousands of ground balls, throwing thousands of pitches and seeing pitch after pitch after pitch is the data that our brain must collect and process in order for it to learn.

I can’t even imagine how many complex and nearly simultaneous pieces of data a hitter must process as a 95mph heater is hurled at him. To top it off, the body has about as much time as it takes to strike a match to act on the data. And yet, they do it. And they do it because they have observed and processed so much data over their baseball lives that they have achieved a level of “unconscious competency.”

Since data collection and processing is vital in acquiring fine motor skills, it is important that we try to reach game speed when we practice. I know what I am saying is very difficult to achieve at the youth level. But there are things we can do to send the right training messages to our brain.

For starters, use a stopwatch liberally. It’s easy to figure out how fast a typical runner gets down the line so when you are doing infield, put a stopwatch on your fielders and challenge them to get the ball to first base under that time. Turn double plays with a stopwatch and watch the pace of your practices pick up. Practices will not only be more fun but the “data” your players collect will be far more valuable for their developing baseball brains.

Using aids like a stopwatch and a bat speed device can boost the quality of practices and feed the baseball brain with valuable data.

Using aids like a stopwatch and a bat speed device can boost the quality of practices and feed the baseball brain with valuable data.

Another “data collecting” idea I’ve employed in the past is the use of a bat speed measuring device at indoor practices. Here’s a picture of one that I really like and that we use at camp. Wait until you see how much faster your kids swing the bat when each swing is being measured against their last swing as well as their teammates’.

Sports Radar Device

Sports Radar Device

Again, the point is to approach game speed in your training whenever possible so that learning can be optimized. It’s not hocus pocus. There is a scientific, neurological basis for learning baseball at a young age and it is paramount that the training messages we send to the brain are mechanically correct and approach the intensity that the brain/body will be asked to achieve in competition.

In short…Train young. Train right. Play right.

Until next time, “If you’re gonna swing, might as well swing hard.”

-Tim Rappé

Tim.Rappe@Brewers.com

Tim’s Tips: Talking Quality At-Bats

Here’s another great tip from Tim Rappé, Executive Director of our new Brewers Baseball Academy presented by Kwik Trip, eight separate week-long baseball/softball camps open to youth (ages 6-14) that will be held in various cities across Wisconsin this summer.

Along with signing up for the camps and getting excellent baseball instruction there, every so often, Tim will provide some baseball tips here on John and Cait…Plus 9 as well.

Enjoy!
-Cait

JohnandCait@brewers.com

SHARING BATTING AVERAGES…MAYBE THE WORST THING WE CAN DO FOR OUR PLAYERS

 I know this post is going to be controversial. As a baseball and softball coach for more years than I can remember, I have often made playing decisions and batting order decisions based upon batting average. BA is easy to calculate and the baseball/softball culture has revolved around BA as undeniably the most important offensive statistic. Just yesterday, I picked up the newspaper and read the top 100 high school batting averages in the area. It’s how we keep “score” when comparing offensive players.

And that’s a shame. Let’s suppose a player hammers a line drive at shortstop in his first at-bat (AB). He then advances a runner from second to third in his second AB with a sharp grounder to second base and in his final plate appearance drives the centerfielder to the wall where he makes an over-the-shoulder catch. The batter is 0-3 and his batting average takes a dip.

Do we seriously think that my imaginary hitter’s 0-3 performance was a failure? If we judge him by batting average, the answer would have to be “yes.”

Why do we love to watch Ryan Braun and Jean Segura? Answer: Because they compete in every AB. In other words, they give us “quality” At Bats (QAB). But, of course, a QAB doesn’t always result in a hit. At last count, there are eight guys out there with gloves trying to catch it. More and more coaches are grading hitters’ performances based upon whether or not they give a QAB..and that’s a good thing.

 Ryan Braun is the “poster child” for how to compete in every at-bat. Ryan knows the value of a quality at-bat.

Ryan Braun is the “poster child” for how to compete in every at-bat. Ryan knows the value of a quality at-bat.

Here are several examples of a QAB:

  • Hit the ball hard regardless of whether or not it results in a hit
  • Any seven or more pitch AB that doesn’t end in a called third strike
  • Execute situationally: Sacrifice bunt, suicide squeeze, advance a runner, sac fly, etc.
  • Getting a walk (unless it’s my big bopper taking a walk with two outs and runners on base)

On the other hand, I don’t consider a “handle shot” that falls over second base or a nine-hop “seeing eye” grounder that manages to squeak through the infield a QAB. Get the idea? You can find plenty of QAB charts on the internet if you decide to make the move from away from the almighty batting average. You will find yourself and your players having a much better approach to winning a baseball game when they are equipped with an understanding of Quality At-Bats.

Over the years, one of the sure signs that my team was going badly or about to tumble was when I’d overhear kids talking about their batting averages. The last “swing thought” I want my hitter to have is about what happens to his batting average if he gets a hit or doesn’t. Batting average can be poison for a hitter, but focusing on Quality At-Bats is the antidote

Until next time, “If you’re gonna swing, might as well swing hard.”

-Tim Rappé

Tim.Rappe@Brewers.com

Tim’s Tips: Fielding and “The Milwaukee Two-Step”

Last month, I introduced to you Tim Rappé, Executive Director of our new Brewers Baseball Academy presented by Kwik Trip, eight separate week-long baseball/softball camps open to youth (ages 6-14) that will be held in various cities across Wisconsin this summer.

Along with signing up for the camps and getting excellent baseball instruction there, every so often, Tim will provide some baseball tips here on John and Cait…Plus 9 as well. See below for his insight on the batting stance!

Enjoy!
-Cait

JohnandCait@brewers.com

“MILWAUKEE TWO-STEP”…THE DANCE OF THE GREAT INFIELDER

Time to talk a little defense. Any coach or scout who has to make a decision about which player we draft or keep on our team at travel tryouts knows how difficult that decision can often be. Certainly, we look at arm speed, bat speed, leg speed, position-specific proficiency and the important but intangible, character “make up.” In addition to those attributes, I think it’s fair to say that we all have something that we specifically look for that can make or break that player’s chances of going forward.

Here’s mine. When it comes to judging an infielder I watch their approach to a ground ball…specifically, I watch their feet. I want to see the infielder work him or herself into position to (a) decrease the distance of the throw and (b) increase momentum to the target. Does the infielder come to the ground ball and stop or does he/she come through the ball and continue in the direction of the target? By virtue of this simple evaluation, I will often make the “cut or keep” decision.

And here’s how we teach kids to do this correctly. The feet do not land at the same time as they would when a basketball player does a “jump stop.” The basketball player is deliberately stopping his momentum to his target and converting that to a vertical movement. The baseball and softball player wants to create controlled momentum toward their target.

Before I get into more depth on this subject it’s important to understand that I am describing the action of the infielder throwing the ball from his/her right to left like a shortstop to 1b. It does not apply to the first baseman throwing to 2b or the second baseman throwing to the shortstop covering 2b. Got it?

It starts by working the body into a position where the ground ball is just off his/her left shoulder. Whether the infielder takes two steps or ten steps to charge the ball, the last two steps are: Right Foot followed by Left Foot. This left shoulder positioning and Right Foot/Left Foot movement causes the fielder to receive the ball just to the left of his/her belly button and when the fielder makes a power step to the target, the distance is shortened considerably and momentum gives their throw more “carry.” The infielder has achieved what I want to see..Decreased Distance and Increased Momentum.

Rickie Weeks Fielding

A smooth, rhythmic, RIGHT>LEFT>STEP>THROW execution is exactly how an average arm can achieve above average results and the “plus” arm turns into a rocket launcher. And it tells me that the player has been well trained and is ready to advance.

There is another critical positive result from this fielding approach. The fielder who comes to the ball and stops or even worse, sits back and lets the ball come to him/her is sentenced to whatever the last hop is…good or nasty. The fielder who is aggressive and comes through the ball can often control which hop he/she fields. Ever wonder why great shortstops seem to always get good hops? It’s not an accident.

Want to make the team and show that you’ve got the stuff to be a big time infielder? Remember the RIGHT>LEFT>STEP>THROW fielding action.

Until next time, “If you’re gonna swing, might as well swing hard.”

-Tim Rappé

Tim.Rappe@Brewers.com

Tim’s Tips: Busting One of Baseball’s Biggest Myths

Last month, I introduced to you Tim Rappé, Executive Director of our new Brewers Baseball Academy presented by Kwik Trip, eight separate week-long baseball/softball camps open to youth (ages 6-14) that will be held in various cities across Wisconsin this summer.

Along with signing up for the camps and getting excellent baseball instruction there, every so often, Tim will provide some baseball tips here on John and Cait…Plus 9 as well. See below for his insight on the batting stance!

Enjoy!
-Cait

JohnandCait@brewers.com

SWING DOWN OF THE BALL!?

BUSTING ONE OF BASEBALL’S BIGGEST MYTHS

I confess. Years ago I preached the importance of swinging down on the ball. It sure made sense when you consider that the hands start at shoulder height and have to hit a ball that is obviously lower than that. So swinging down seemed to make a ton of sense and we sure didn’t want to encourage the dreaded uppercut.

But even as I taught the “swing down” concept, there was something gnawing at me that kept whispering that this just didn’t make the most sense. But I trusted my eyes and the advice that had been passed along to me. Isn’t it true that much of what we teach is because that’s how we were taught? The really good news is that most of that which is passed along remains true. Swinging down on the ball is not one of them. Here’s why:

The top of the pitching rubber is set at 10 inches above the ground. Most baseball pitchers throw the ball from an overhead position. The instant the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, gravity begins to do its thing and a 90 mph pitch decelerates at about 1 mph every seven feet. When the ball crosses the plate it’s traveling diagonally down at about -10 degrees.

So, Coach Tim, what’s your point?

My point is that because the ball is traveling downward when it crosses the plate does it really make sense to swing down to make solid contact? The ANSWER: It doesn’t make sense at all. And thanks to high-speed video we can confirm that, at the point of contact, the ideal swing should be 7 to 10 degrees tilted upward. In other words…an uppercut. Getting the bat head on the same plane as the ball is undeniably the best way to “square up” a pitch. Video confirms that our major league hitters swing up at contact. Braun uppercut

If you are hearing this for the first time, I realize that it may challenge what you were previously “sure” of. New video technology has rocked many of our traditional beliefs. But here’s why you don’t necessarily have to change a thing about how you coach, even armed with this new information. If you are teaching the correct starting position, correct hand path and proper finish, the likely result is a slight uppercut at contact. Mission accomplished.

The uppercut that we see from our young hitters that ends up in a pop up, a top-spin grounder or a whiff is the result of a severe 15-30 degree uppercut that does not match up with the downward angle of the pitch. At the Brewers Baseball Academy we don’t teach kids to uppercut. We teach the correct positioning of the body and the proper swing sequence. The resulting path of the bat head is where it should be…traveling about 10 degrees upward at contact.

The irony is that we want a slight uppercut but we don’t teach kids to uppercut because you will not like the result. Teach proper swing mechanics and the result will be more balls hit on the “screws.” Whether or not you decide to continue to shout out “SWING LEVEL!” to your hitters is up to you. But now you know the truth.

Until next time, “If you’re gonna swing, might as well swing hard.”

-Tim Rappé

Tim.Rappe@Brewers.com

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