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The Article below is one that all Volunteers & Coaches should read, and try to incorporate in their interactions with the kids. 


Play Baseball the Ripken Way
By Cal and Billy Ripken

1) Our Teaching Philosophy
a) Dad used to always say that there’s more than one way to skin a cat
b) Be yourself, be open to the experience and wisdom of others who have played the game, apply the
proven fundamentals of the game, keep things simple, and remember that baseball is a game it’s
supposed to be fun
c) We think it’s very important to explain the why.
d) If we’re teaching things a certain way, we should know why.
e) Teaching or drills that are too technical and challenging can frustrate and confuse a young player.
f) If a young player has not been introduced to the fundamental skills – and has not had the
opportunity to practice those skills over and over – when it comes time to introduce more
advanced concepts, such as turning the double play, the player is inevitably going to struggle and
become frustrated.
g) The team that plays catch the best will win.
h) If you can break the game to its simplest skills, baseball becomes easier to understand – for the
eight-year-old, the eighteen-year-old, or the twenty-eight-year-old.
i) If you can’t explain the why, and you do not attempt to figure out the why and communicate it to
your players, then you are not teaching. You lose credibility, and the lesson is less likely to be
accepted by the young player and practiced religiously.
j) Each young player develops a certain style that he or she is comfortable with. It is our
responsibility as parents, coaches, and instructors to use that style to enhance the player’s skills.
k) Equal importance to allow players to operate within their own comfort zones while applying those
fundamentals to their skill sets.
l) Coaches must develop an understanding of the players’ learning capacities and attention spans.
m) Contests can be used to emphasize the fundamentals on which drills focus. If young players are
having fun, learning capacities and attention spans become less of a factor.
n) In baseball, repetition and practice are the keys to success.
o) When kids enjoy – and excel at – something, they generally stick to it. Mission accomplished.
p) Games are always a hit with young players. Whether it is a scrimmage at the end of practice or
skills contests that involve hitting, throwing, and eye-hand coordination, kids love the idea of
testing themselves against others.
q) Learn the plane of each player’s swing and try to toss the ball to that location so that he or she is
more likely to hit the ball.
r) When the players are successful, be animated. Yell, scream, and give out high-fives. If you are
excited, they will be excited. Small successes and positive reinforcement will keep young players
coming back. If they come back, their motor skills will develop to the point where success will
come more easily and more often.
s) We believe in shorter, well-structured practices with small groups of players rotating to different
drill stations every fifteen or twenty minutes. Keep the kids active and moving. Incorporate
contests to work on the fundamentals that are being taught. The worst thing you can do as a coach
is to have one player hitting and fourteen shagging balls.

2) On the Bases
a) run all the way through home plate; do not let up just because there is not a play at the plate and
you will score easily
b) when you hit a ground ball, no not watch the ball; take a straight line to first and run through the
c) slide through home plate, not just to it

3) The Fundamentals of Hitting
a) we feel that a lighter bat lends itself to developing a quicker, shorter swing.
b) Not to start our squeezi8ng the bat too tight, tense muscles also slow your swing
c) line up the middle knuckles when a player grips the ball; we would rather the emphasis be put on
the proper grip – leave the back elbow alone
d) your feet should be shoulder-width apart or slightly wider, with your weight balanced
e) good balance will provide you with a stable, athletic base
f) you have to be able to cover the entire plate with your bat
g) starting your hands near the back shoulder can eliminate some wasted movement
h) you start in a balanced position before transferring your weight first to your back side and then to
your front side as you stride into the swing
i) a hitting tee is an excellent way to practice the weight shift; go back to go forward
j) a shorter stride allows you to wait on the pitch longer, which prevents you from being fooled by
pitches of different types and speeds; also it means the head moves less; when your head does not
move, your eyes do not move, and when your eyes do not move, you see the ball better
k) a hitch – dropping the hands below the shoulder – could lead to problems with your swing
l) you have to keep your front should in, or closed; you should try to show the number on the back
of your jersey; of course can’t fully turn your back to the pitcher and still see the pitch
m) two-handed and one-handed follow-through on the swing is OK as long as your bat does not slow
down through the hitting zone
n) bunting – from your normal stance, simply pivot on both feet and slightly bend your knees
o) the ideal swing is one that is short and quick to the baseball
p) the important teaching concept to stress with the soft-toss drill is “loose hands, quick bat”; the
focus should be on the hands and wrists
q) one-arm drill – take the top hand off the bat and swing with just the one arm for five swings;
“tighten your elbow down to the side, which will give you stability and shorten it up a little bit; if
the hitters continue to have problems, they can choke up a bit; even if the hitters swing and miss
five times, say “okay, two hands on the bat”; some kids will be able to hit the ball with one arm
and some will not have as much success, but by going through this drill the batter should notice a
shorter, more compact swing during the final set
r) the fundamentals: staying on the ball; not pulling off; striding toward the pitcher; going straight
to the ball; creating a short compact swing; not over swinging; swinging level; and hitting the ball
back up the middle

4) On the Mound
a) three essential skills: throw strikes; good velocity; good movement on the ball – the more a
pitcher executes these three essential skills, the less you have to do as a coach
b) make sure young pitchers pivot al the way so that their foot is totally parallel to the rubber
c) as a pitcher you have to use your legs
d) make sure that the hand and fingers are on top of the ball
e) as the arm comes forward, the pitcher should keep the elbow slightly above the shoulder in order
to create an L with the throwing arm
f) the elbow should remain slightly above the shoulder
g) start with a baby step back; turn your foot (pivot); pick up your front leg; point your front
shoulder; release the ball
h) stretching followed by wind-sprints should be a part of any pitcher’s pre-mound ritual
i) the longer a young pitcher sees the catcher’s glove, the more likely it is that he’s going to throw a
j) the change-up is thrown for a strike, but it is not a strikeout pitch; let the batter hit it
k) a lot of times a young pitcher babies a pitch and kind of lobs it up there, which is worse then
throwing too hard
l) the fastball can be four weapons: thrown high, low, inside and outside
m) it is important for a pitcher to remember that once he releases the ball, he is no longer a pitcher, he
is a fielder; he has to get into position after delivering the pitch and field those balls hit back to him
n) every ball hit to the right side of the infield – no matter if it is a foul ball, a fly ball, or whatever –
their first instinct has to be to get over to first base

5) In the Infield
a) it is defense that wins championships
b) Alex Rodriquez, Derek Jeter and Nomar Garciaparra – all they want to talk about is defense
c) the better we do our job out in the field, the sooner we get to hit
d) select a glove that you can handle
e) fielding a ground ball means: get wide; get your back side down as low as possible; get your
hands out in front (another reason to have your hands out in front is that it puts you in a better
position to react to bad hops)
f) if the fingertips of your glove touch the ground, you have created a good glove angle
g) if you remember only one thing about fielding, make it this: get your butt down when you are
fielding a ground ball
h) about getting your feet wide: use the player’s shoulder width as the starting point
i) by shuffling your feet toward the target, we create momentum and allow our shoulders to stay
horizontal to the ground
j) three key components of an accurate throw: creating momentum toward your target; pointing your
front shoulder toward your target while throwing; and using your momentum to follow the throw
(Derek Jeter is a great example of doing these three things every time)
k) every throw made by any position player – should be made with the four-seam grip; why?
Because the ball carries and it also goes straight
l) it is useful for coaches to introduce both backhand plays in the form of drills; that will get the
infielders’ confidence level up and ultimately help the overall
m) after fielding the ground ball, bring your hands to the center of your body; do not sweep your
hands to the side in a circular motion in an attempt to get rid of the ball more quickly; this can
throw the body out of whack and cause a bad throw
n) it is important for the first baseman to get to the bag early and be a good target, square to the
infielder who is throwing him the ball; the first baseman should never set up by crouching down
o) two golden rules of first-base play: if the ball is not hit to you, get to the bag and set up as soon as
you can to be a good target; do not stretch too soon
p) the better your first baseman handles balls thrown by the other infielders, the better your team will
be as a whole (if you need to sacrifice a little range to make sure you get there on time, that is
what you should do)
q) the three basic ways to turn a double play by the second baseman are: go across the bag to the
ball; take the right foot to the left field side, using the bag as your friend; and step back
r) the shortstop’s pivot setup should be right foot on the bag, and take the left foot to the ball; here
the shortstop has to make a concerted effort to get his front shoulder pointed toward the target
s) the mechanics of the underhand flip can be broken down into three parts after the ball is fielded:
stay low and take your momentum toward the target by using your feet; flip the gall with a stiff
wrist and your hand behind the ball, leaving your hand at the target’s face level; and follow the
t) when you are covering the bag on a steal, the setup should be one where you straddle the bag
u) there are some fundamentals important to all rundowns: always run with the ball in your throwing
hand and in a position to throw – you need to be ready at all times; no pump-faking – by having
the ball in the ready-to-throw position, the other infielder can see the ball and time his move – you
do not want to deceive your infielders; one throw is ideal – the more throws, the greater chance of
v) fly ball to shallow left: the job of the shortstop is to go after the ball until he is called off by the left
fielder; it is very important for the left fielder to call off the shortstop on every ball he can catch
w) fly ball behind third base and little down the left field line: the shortstop has the better angle and
the responsibility to call off the third baseman; if this play involves the left fielder, he has priority
over the shortstop and the third baseman
x) fly ball between the catcher and third baseman: it is much easier play for the third baseman
coming in on the ball
y) fly ball in the middle of the infield: the shortstop has priority over all the other infielders
z) fly ball between the center fielder and the left fielder: the center fielder has priority over all
aa) fly ball between the shortstop and second baseman: the shortstop has priority over all infielders
bb) Summary of the rules: shortstop has priority over all infielders; middle infielders have priority
over the corner infielders; corner infielders have priority over the catcher and the pitcher;
outfielders have priority over infielders; center fielder has priority over left and right fielders


6) Behind the Plate
a) when receiving pitches it is important to have your mitt out in front and your throwing hand
protected behind your right leg
b) with runners on base or two strikes on the hitter, your rear end should be slightly higher and your
weight slightly forward, with your throwing hand protected behind your mitt
c) when catching the pitch, it is important to remember to follow the ball all the way into your mitt;
do not assume the projection of the pitch, because some pitchers have a lot of late movement and
you might get fooled
d) when blocking a ball in the dirt, it is important not to give the ball any room to escape
e) turning the hips on ball off the plate makes the ball bounce toward home plate and remain in the
catcher’s control
f) throw the ball with a four-seam grip like any infielder
g) when fielding a bunt down the first base line, it is important to field the ball first, clear yourself
from the runner and make the throw
h) when throwing to second base, receive the ball with both hands, transfer it from glove to hand out
in front, step through with the right foot, create momentum toward the target, and get the front foot
pointed directly at second base; this puts you in a sound throwing position
i) the catcher should wait until he is certain where a pop fly is going to come down, then discard his
mask and make the play
j) when setting for the throw at home plate, the catcher should force the runner to slide to the back of
home plate; once he receives the throw the catcher can ride the base runner further away from the
k) when blocking a pitch, putting your face over the ball helps cut down the angle of the hop,
eliminating a higher bounce that is tougher to control

7) In the Outfield
a) by catching the ball above the head the outfielder has the best chance of success
b) teach younger players to catch fly balls with two hands; as players become more advanced we
like them to catch the ball in the manner that is most comfortable – one hand or two – as long as
they can see the ball and the glove
c) even when using one hand on the run, the most important thing is to have the glove above your
d) there are times when the outfielder needs to field a ground ball with one hand; when doing this it
is important to have the glove hand out in front with the glove-side foot
e) the rotation generated by a four-seam grip also allows for a truer skip when the outfielder makes
a one-hop throw to a base
f) when you come up firing, look at the chest of the player you are throwing to; that is where you
are going to hit him
g) after catching the ball in the proper manner it is important to explode toward your target by using
your feet, while the rest of your body gets into a good throwing position
h) stress the importance of throwing overhand
i) crow hop is a nice way to introduce the younger kids to the first mechanics of throwing
j) charge all ground balls with reasonable timing; do not lay back on them

8) Lessons Learned
a) I hope that everyone who reads this book will reexamine and rethink the purpose and the value
of youth sports; I recently read a book called “Why Johnny Hates Sports” by Fred Engh, that hits the issue
right between the eyes; it is well written in style that is easy to read and understand; I wholeheartedly
recommend it to everyone involved in youth sports
b) We need to teach the kids how to be good winners and how to cope with their failures and their losses; I
was the worst winner (I loved to brag) and the all-time worst loser (talk about fits and tantrums); my
parents explained things well; gave me tools to deal with my feelings; I try to do the same with my son
c) Kids can recover quickly from a loss or bad game/practice if you give them something fun to do
d)you must take into consideration kids’ attention span and their emotional maturity; kids are generally
about action and less about talk
e)Kids tend to communicate more through their actions; the expression “action speak louder than words” is
true for all ages, but it especially applies to young kids
f)Coaches might consider a dry-erase board that can be displayed at the field and that has the next game or
schedule information already written down; that way parents and kids can refer to it on their own time and
a post-game meeting is not necessary
g)Fundamental skills and strategies are better to address at a much later time so they can be understood; it
was an important discovery for us, and by separating the game form the instruction we were able to reach
the kids much better
h)We can prepare for the games, and then it is in the kids’ hands; resist the temptation to teach during the
game; bring a little notebook to the game and make notes of things that you see; take those notes home and
develop a plan or lesson on how you can help the kids; most of the time these notes will lead to individual
lessons, but if enough of the same mistake are being make you can work up a team lesson that will benefit
i)We as coaches need to be even-keel as we can; let the experience of the game flow; let the players
experience it uninterrupted
j)The other’s team parents and coaches were going crazy, yelling out in support of their players; it was all
positive stuff but way too much; the lesson I learned that day was that coaches and parents need to support
at a consistent level; they control the emotions of the players; they can drive the kids’ emotions way up and
they can help them crash; we have to respond to all situations as if we knew they would happen; after all,
that should be the value of our life experience

9) Perfect Practice Makes Perfect
a) try to be disciplined in each drill so you can develop good habits
b) make a hitting station, a throwing station, and a fielding station and try to keep the kids active
c) if you have twelve kids and you get a couple of parents involved to help, you can easily have
three subgroups of four; you can bounce kids around: four can work on a fielding drill, four can
work on a throwing drill, and four can work on a hitting drill; then shift those around every ten to
fifteen minutes
d) there are many different drills you can do: outfield, infield, pitching, hitting, base running,
throwing – the options are endless (limit each drill to 10-15 minutes)
e) remember: plan each practice before you go to the field; listen to the players; get parents involved
f) 1 ½ hour practice time for 9-10 year-olds; maybe 2 hours for 11-12 year-olds
g) Live hitting is the most important drill
h) Plan ahead – you should give some thought to how you are going to run each practice before you go
to the field; do not try to figure it out with all the kids there, getting restless
i) observe the players, make adjustments as needed, and seek feedback from your them
j) “Rome was not built in a day” – so let’s not try to accomplish everything in one practice
k) What we accomplish today will help us have a better practice the next day; let us identify the five
most important things in this particular season that we are going to teach our kids and then stay
within that framework and be consistent with that so that by the end of the season they will have a
good grasp of those five things
l) Pre-game practice: soft-toss; tee and live hitting (get more done with less standing around and the
kids get more engaged – batting practice is the most important thing you can have, period)
m) We do not think coaches should try to teach in the context of the game; let the kids play the game;
take notes and observe what happens in the game as a test, and after the test is over, the next day at
practice, you can pick a time and a way to present that teaching; there is enough pressure, scrutiny,
and embarrassment in the game as it is without the coach saying, “we are trying to do this and that”
n) My Dad would sit and watch the games, and if a mistake was make, he would not address that on
the bench; he would instead make a note of it, and after the game was over he would collect all the
things he noticed and prepare a one-and-a-half or two-minute meeting the next day with whichever
player was involved; he dealt with those teachings individually, which preserved each player’s
dignity and did not single anyone out; it was one on one, and that way he preserved their trust; he
would identify the situation but also reinforce what was positive with a clear head; the player would
leave with a good bounce in his step

10) Fundamentals for Running a Practice
a. Organization – purchase a coach’s watch
b. Practice Basics – plenty of infield and outfield fungos should be a staple of every practice
c. Establishing Team Fundamentals – should be established as soon as possible and polished
throughout the season
d. Using Small Groups and Rotations – work on multiple skills at the same time
e. Three-Day Sample Practice Schedule
Day 1
3:00-3:20 stretch, run, and throw
3-20-3:40 infield and outfield fungos
3:40-4:00 cutoffs and relays
4:00-4:20 base running
4:20-5:00 batting practice (four ten-minute stations: live hitting, tee, two shad
Stations); pitchers throw on the side
Day 2
3:00-3:20 stretch, run, and throw
3-20-3:40 infield and outfield fungos
3:40-4:00 cutoffs and relays (incorporating base running)
4:00-4:20 live stealing drill
4:20-5:00 batting practice (four ten-minute stations: bunting, soft toss, tee, and
Two shag stations); pitchers throw on the side
Day 3
3:00-3:20 stretch, run, and throw
3-20-3:40 infield and outfield fungos
3:40-4:00 pickoffs and rundowns
4:00-4:20 first and third defense
4:20-5:00 inter-squad game