Teaching Little Leaguers

Grumpy sez:  Dr. D,  Do you have any suggestions on good rescouces (books, instructional vids) you found helpful in the context of helping you son?  Thanks, Grumpy

Rockies Jeff sez:  Grumpy, I look forward to the Doc's answer.  For what age level were you looking for material?  (Jump right in Jeff!  We defer to you on this one - Dr D)


Thanks for asking Grumpy.  Note carefully that it is two separate questions, (1) what should an accomplished high school coach like RockiesJeff do with a 10-year-old?, and (2) what should a dad do with his 10-year-old? 

Those questions are as different as (more different than) what should Rick Adair do with Cliff Lee?  With Ryan Rowland-Smith?

Here's what we would advise a dad to do with his child, if his child were going to pitch:


=== Long Toss ===

If we are talking about a Little Leaguer -- 12 and under -- then long toss is the first, second, and third-best thing you can do for your son's pitching 'career'.

We're talking about a comfortable distance, but one in which your son has to two-step to get the ball to you.  Longer than that and he starts jerking his head, exaggerating the throw, breaking windows behind him :- ) and so forth.

During long toss, if your son is stepping down the centerline, his shoulders, hips, and arm naturally find their paths-of-least-resistance.  My own theory is, whatever motion your body uses to throw the ball the farthest, will be very close to the motion that you use to throw the hardest.


Another advantage:  it's not a chore.  It doesn't teach a 10-year-old that organized sports are boring.  Your son will love playing catch with you from a distance, and will be very enthused about seeing how far he can stand from you and complete several throws without dropping the ball.


Another advantage:  you don't need an education in sports mechanics to successfully use this drill with your son.


Another advantage:  lots of long toss?, and your son will automatically be your team's center fielder, when he's not pitching.  :- )  He'll be the only one who can track down a high fly and catch it routinely. 

He'll get oooh's and aaah's the first week, and there's nothing like the thrill of watching a live game, watch an opposing batter crack one hard to center field, and watching your son effortlessly take the right angle to the ball and catch it backhanded.  The stands break into laughter and applause... to your son, it's just having a catch with Dad.

(When he's catching long toss, keep telling him, get under the ball early. Then he learns to track the ball.  Needless to say, start with throws that are easy for him to get under.)


part 2


RockiesJeff's picture

Great question Grumpy and wonderful response Jeff! I don’t know about HS ball in Seattle any more but for the last few years I have heard from HS Coaches in Colorado of how many kids are turning out for lacrosse. Baseball is too slow to a lot of the younger kids. Baseball has more standing around and it is crucial for coaches to keep the kids involved and enjoy the sport for all that it is. So hopefully more people like all of you on this site will help pass the baton to a new generation to appreciate America’s Pastime!
Not much to add Jeff as you said a lot of great things. I have two sons who have had some success in pitching. I did have an advantage early in Little League of having two pitchers automatically. You are right Jeff, that does win championships right there. They could both throw strikes at about age 7. Then added a change up at age 10. I started them out early throwing the ball for distance at a very young age and they loved it. I made it into games where they would go out for passes like in football with the baseball, etc. They can now throw pitches that have a movement but I have not allowed any rotation on curveballs. I have seen too many young kids in my very limited experience who have scars to show their Dads were zealous to a fault.
They learned the basics early but I never wanted to over-instruct. I see too much of that. I am sure some of you can relate. When I coached Little League I tried to get parents involved but have had more than a few times where I wanted to send over-zealous Dads out to run the poles because they wanted to make each kid into an Ichiro or Randy Johnson in a 5 minute period. Sometimes a few of them all talking to one kid at the same time. I think it should be simple with balance and basics. Baseball is very mechanical but a mechanical player won’t usually excel. Grumpy, there is a lot of good helps that are easily obtained. Former MLB star Jeff Burroughs has a very good yet simple book called Little League Instruction Guide. There are lots of beginner books which are well done and have plenty of pictures. Mike Curran’s Coaching Baseball Successfully is one. Use you cell phone to take pictures of your kids so they can see what they look like. Make it hands on and simple so they understand. I have learned if they know what they are doing, the get confidence and that makes it much more fun.
For pitching, get the kids to love to throw and catch the baseball and not be scared of it. So many kids today can’t throw from too many hours in front of computers and tv. Most kids coming into middle school and want to pitch too often don’t know the fundamentals. Balance is key. My own kids I had pitch out of the stretch for several years wanting to keep extra movement to a minimum. Then they need to learn to throw with their whole bodies. Pitching is a sideways activity and with the rotation adding up to power even if they are not built like a Clemens. Most kids rotate too early and throw with their arms only. There are certain drills to help with his. If anyone wants to learn the mechanics of pitching, I would highly recommend Dick Mill’s www.pitching.com. Tom House and Paul Reddick have excellent books and video/dvd.
And like you said Jeff, keep it fun. It is a game. It should be a fun one. I want kids to show class win or lose. And with baseball that is important as it is a mental game. Learn to deal with bad umps. Colorado has a monopoly on that I do believe. Kids will make errors and such is part of the game. Sorry to have so many words but a fun subject!!!


"Little League Confidential"
Google it.  It's a GREAT book...not for teaching your son...but for teaching yourself.  Lots of great funny moments in there.
I bring it up because I cracked up laughing at your "My son is two" revelation...you remind me of the Dad in that book...crowing about how his son had an APGAR of 9...which means he's gonna be a great ballplayer some day!  And his first baby toys being a foam baseball and nerf bat...LOL
I wish more parents would (light heartedly) bring baseball into their kids' lives at an early age. :)


You're the designated SSI instructional coach :- )
Grumpy, strange as it sounds, my son John learned how to hit at the age of 3, by watching Junior on TV.  At 4 or 5 he could crank a wiffleball as far as most adults :- )
... throwing is going to be a little later.  But *very* young, he will enjoy swatting a wiffleball that you underhand to him from a few feet away.  (At first, you can toss the ball to where he's swinging his bat.  You can encourage him to watch the ball hit the bat.  Wow!  You can hit a ball great, can't you!)
So, for preschoolers, I like the idea of mirroring people they see on TV... this is very Timothy Gallwey also:  100% positive with no "avoid XYZ"...
RockiesJeff, take it away from here amigo, on these kindsa questions.

RockiesJeff's picture

Jeff, you are still the doctor!!  But thanks!  And will be more than happy to add my deflated $.02!!  Everyone's attitudes are refreshing!!
Grumpy, best video right now might be the Flinstones. Get your 2 year old to watch Bam Bam and carry a bat around.  Enjoy...I hope for lots of great memories ahead with him!


Bamm!  Bamm bamm bamm!
Jeff, did your sons pursue organized baseball far?


Well, for a two year old he does have excellent range in CF already, and I started him on "take me out to the ball game" in utero, so I'm thinking HOF lock.
Thanks for the book tip, BTW.


Any good Akido/CG control/Japanese body control references (eg Akido for Dummies)? 
(Not necessarily for a two year old, LOL).

RockiesJeff's picture

Jeff, they are 16, 14 so really getting into high school and legion ball.  Keep you posted.  It is fun and we enjoy it.  Who knows, maybe down the road but you know the odds.  I haven't had to put Boras on hold by any means!!  LOL!


My personal favorites are any books written by, or even having to do with Gozo Shioda, a direct disciple of the founder of aikido, and probably the most martial (as opposed to spiritual) of the first-generation sempai... he founded Yoshinkan aikido.  His basic text is this one.  Can't go wrong with Shioda-shihan :- )
The (reputedly) best aikido dojo in North America is in Granite Falls, WA... Koichi Barrish sensei... if Barrish isn't the best, he's one of the best...

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