Monthly Archives: May 2013

Muchera – a different type of sliding pants

The other day in my email I found an interesting note from someone who has invented a new type of sliding pants. These pants, under the brand name Muchera, combine traditional sliding pants with knee and shin protection.

That’s an interesting concept. Back when I started coaching in the 1990s, sliding pads were a big thing in fastpitch softball. Of course, the players wore shorts then, so if you didn’t have some sort of knee/shin protection you’d end up with some pretty nasty-looking scrapes and bruises. They also wore slider shorts – some padded, some not.

This new idea combines the two of them. Given that almost all female fastpitch teams these days are wearing regular baseball pants it makes sense. You can throw these on underneath and no one will be the wiser. No more hassling with trying to remember if you packed your slider after the last game or not. (Incidentally, for you slow pitch players they have them in men’s sizes as well.) 

They’re not quite ready for purchase yet – the inventor is working on getting the first 300 pairs made. But be sure to check it out, because any aggressive baserunner is likely to want a pair of these pants!

NOTE: This post was edited because of a change in the plans for bringing the pants to market.  

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Pro athlete Kevin Durant shows amazing class

I don’t follow the NBA much, but I heard a cool story on the radio this afternoon and just had to share it. It’s about Oklahoma Thunder player Kevin Durant.

Apparently, shortly after the tornado tore through Moore, OK earlier this week, Durant donated $1 million of his foundation’s money for disaster relief.

We hear so much about the selfishness of professional athletes these days, how they only care about themselves and what they can take. How great to hear Durant sees himself as part of the community and chose to make that donation. I’ve also heard he’s been helping out in the community, speaking with people, lifting spirits and helping out where he can.

If only more pro athletes were like Kevin Durant.

A way to explain the power zone in hitting

banana-strawberry.jpg

Earlier today I was working with a 12U player named Sydney on softball hitting. She’s a lot of fun to work with because she’s very intense and focused, and really tries to absorb everything we’re working on.

As I was throwing front toss to her, I could see she was ahead of a lot of the pitches. I tried to explain the importance of timing to her, how she wasn’t hitting the ball as hard as she could because her bat was already slowing down by the time she hit the ball.

Part of that explanation was drawing a bell curve, with the optimum spot to hit the ball being at the top of the curve. I showed how if you’re too early, or too late you’re further down the curve, and thus have less power. It made sense to me, and Sydney dutifully nodded her head as I said it. But I doubt it really made much of an impression, or much sense to her.

As I walked back out behind the screen I had a sudden inspiration. I told her to imagine a banana. I asked her what the best color is to eat a banana. The answer was yellow, of course. I then told her that swinging too early was like the banana being green, and swinging too late was like the banana being brown. That seemed to help her visualize it better, and she started hitting the ball harder.

A banana is something pretty much everyone can relate to. We’ve all seen them green, yellow and brown (disgusting). It helps players visualize time, or rather doing things at the right time.

As a postscript to this story, when I asked Sydney whether the banana analogy helped, she informed me that she doesn’t really like bananas. So while I worked with her we changed it to strawberries – green for early, red for right/ripe, and brown for late. That worked better for her personally.

If you have a hitter who’s having trouble with the concept of timing, give this one a try. And let us know what explanations you’ve used to help hitters understand the importance of getting the bat to the right place at the right time for maximum power.

Learning to slap is an off-season project

I was talking to one of my softball hitting students the other day, and she was telling me how her high school coaches have been having her hit from the left hand side. Now, understand that in theory it’s a good idea. She’s very fast, and would probably benefit from being that extra couple of steps closer to first.

The problem is, no one ever said a thing to her about it during the off-season, or even hinted that she should learn it. They just sent her up to the plate and told her to hit from the other side.

That’s just insane. To get an idea of how difficult that is, try eating an entire meal with your opposite hand. Then try doing it with chopsticks. Then try doing it while someone moves the plate around while you eat.

Learning to slap from the left if you’re a right-handed hitter is an off-season project. It takes a good year for right handed hitters to really become comfortable slapping and drag bunting from the left side, and usually longer for them to be able to swing away competently. Everything is backward, and it’s awkward.

What I don’t get is no coach in his/her right mind would ever consider sending a player out to play a field position opposite-handed without training. That would be insane. The player might be able to catch the ball, but certainly wouldn’t be able to throw it very well. And hitting is a much tougher skill to learn than throwing.

I’ve said before that my philosophy on slapping is to “burn the ships.” If you’re going to become a slapper there can’t be any of that two strikes and turn around stuff. You’re either in or you’re out. But with no training, and with no time to develop, your chances for success are very low. Extremely low. Practically non-existent, even if you’re a great natural athlete.

If you’re thinking about turning a righty around, don’t do it now. Wait for the off-season and give her time to develop properly. Otherwise, all you’re really going to accomplish is making a player frustrated and unhappy.

Oh by the way — usually you turn around a righty who isn’t a particularly good hitter, because you’re not losing much and have a lot to gain. In this case, this girl is a very good right handed hitter. Even went yard in a high school game. So to take the bat out of her hands right now makes even less sense.

Yes, I’ve turned hitters around successfully before, and yes, I’ve worked with this girl on it a little. I stand by my original statement – it’s a project for the next off-season.

A sign that I’m learning

The other night I was out watching a high school softball game (no surprise there) when I ran into an interesting situation. I was watching with some guys I knew from outside the left field fence, pretty much looking down the third base line.

At one point, a bouncing ball was hit down the line, then crossed over into foul territory where it was snagged by the third baseman. “Foul ball” cried the umpire. Then some blowhard parent who was also out there said “That’s not a foul ball. It has to hit the ground in foul territory.” I’m pretty sure he said it because he was rooting for the team in the field and the third baseman made a great play to grab it and make a throw.

Anyway, at that point I decided to correct him for the benefit of everyone out there. “No, it’s foul,” I said. “It doesn’t matter where the fielder is standing. If the ball is touched in foul territory it’s foul.”

A few minutes went by and the guy decided to pipe up again. He again insisted the ball had to hit the ground in foul territory to be foul, and he was pretty belligerent about it.

I was about to argue with him again, but then realized it was pointless. Without a rulebook in my hand there was no way to prove I was right, so I just decided to let it go. A sign of maturity, right? I’m sure Mr. Blowhard Parent was convinced that he’d won the argument because A) he was louder than I was and I didn’t argue again.

But no matter how loudly you proclaim your point, the rules are the rules. When I got back to my car I looked it up, just to be sure.

So to you, Mr. Blowhard Parent, I say look up Rule 1 in the ASA Softball rulebook, the one that’s for definitions. It clearly says that a foul ball is defined (among other things) as a ball that has hit the ground (regardless of being fair or foul) and is then touched by a player when the ball is in fair territory.

Ok, guess I haven’t matured as much as I thought since I felt compelled to address it here. But there’s no doubt I was right – again. So ha!

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