Featured Stories

Voting For Flat Seam Ball Will Take Place

Editor/Collegiate Baseball

A flat seam baseball could be mandatory for NCAA Division I baseball tournament games as early as the 2015 season if coaches show support for it in upcoming voting that will take place by the American Baseball Coaches Association.

NCAA Division I Baseball Committee rules currently require that a raised seam ball be used for Division I tournament play.

Because of that, all NCAA Division I schools use the raised seam ball in their practices and games.

The NCAA now has researchers testing raised seam vs. flat seam college certified baseballs with a COR performance limit of .555 to determine what the “drag effect” is of both balls and if the flat seam ball flies further, according to Dave Keilitz, executive director of the ABCA.

“It will be interesting to see what NCAA researchers come up with,” said Keilitz.

“If the raised seam ball goes 350 feet, will the flat seam ball go 355 feet, 360 feet or further because it has less drag in the seams? Currently we don’t know the answer.

“They are nearing the end of their study and will then do some field testing with the ball before finalizing their conclusions,” said Keilitz.

“I have suggested that everything be finalized by the end of September.”

At that point, Keilitz plans on sending the results to NCAA Division I head coaches so they can vote in a survey for the raised seam ball or flat seam ball.

“Based upon the input, I will then report the desires of our coaches to the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee for discussion and possible action at their November meeting,” said Keilitz.

“I believe the committee will side with the desires of our coaches. If coaches decide to have a flat seam ball, it is an easy transition.

“All the major ball companies (Diamond, Rawlings and Wilson) produce the ball and have indicated to me it would not be an additional cost to schools. If the flat seam ball is adopted by the NCAA, the earliest date of implementation would be the 2014-2015 school year.”

What is not on the table for testing is the minor league specification flat seam baseball since neither the NCAA Rules Committee nor the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee has any interest in using it for tournament games at this time with the higher maximum .578 COR performance level.

According to Keilitz, previous testing showed significant differences in the distances balls travel that are approved for college and pro baseball.

“Previous research has shown that a minor league flat seam ball with a maximum COR of .578 hit 300 feet would go 20-25 feet further than a college (raised seam) ball with a maximum COR of .555,” said Keilitz.

That would translate to 26.6 to 33.3 feet further on a ball hit 400 feet with the minor league baseball.

Keilitz said that the cost per dozen for the minor league ball would run more than the college ball. The major league ball would be cost prohibitive to most schools at a cost of over $100 per dozen.

The complete article is in the Sept. 6, 2013 edition of Collegiate Baseball. To obtain this issue or subscribe, CLICK HERE.

Secrets Of Great Infield Play Answered

Secrets Of Great Infield Play Answered

Editor/Collegiate Baseball
(From the Sept. 6, 2013 Edition)

UCLA’s defense the last three years has been extraordinary.

In 2013, the Bruins recorded a .980 fielding percentage, the best in school history, as UCLA committed only 52 errors in 2,624 chances.

The previous two years, the Bruins posted .976 fielding percentages which ranked second in school history both seasons.

It is no coincidence that UCLA’s fielding success has happened under Bruin Infield Coach T.J. Bruce who has been with the Bruins the last three seasons.

He is without a doubt one of the top infield coaches in all of baseball and utilizes many progressive concepts that allow infielders to have soft hands and make play after play with precision.

UCLA won the College World Series last season for the first time in history with great pitching and defense. But not until now has an in-depth story been written about how defense is taught at UCLA.

In posting a 5-0 record during the College World Series, UCLA’s infielders only committed 2 errors, and turned 4 double plays.

There were a number of outstanding defensive plays that contributed to 10 consecutive wins during the entire NCAA tournament.

Infielders only committed four errors in those 10 pressure packed playoff games.

“You don’t ever want to see your infielders lose their athleticism. That’s been the biggest key for us the last three years at UCLA.

“Teaching them that every play is different is also important. We had 769 assists during the past season in 66 games, and every ball that was hit to our infielders was different. And the key to our success is having the players have a solid foundation.

“I also believe that the earlier the separation of the hands, the earlier your feet must get into motion. No one ever thinks that way. As soon as you break your hands, your feet must do something. They have to move. I always tell my infielders that if they have bad feet, they will go and play in the outfield.

“That’s no knock on our outfielders who do a great job. But infield play is done with your feet. Nobody stresses that. And I feel it is crucial. In fact, I utilize a drill where I have them about 40 feet away from me and have their hands tied behind their back or have their hands in their back pockets.

“Then I roll balls to them and have them simply stop balls with their feet. This really helps them move their feet and makes them realize how crucial footwork is. It doesn’t matter which foot touches the ball. I just want it instilled in their mind that they need to touch the ball with one of their feet.

“If one of my guys can touch a ball with their feet, they will throw you out. That’s always been my theory. I want them to expand their minds on infield play because it can be tedious working on infield play with thousands of balls they will receive during a typical year in practice.”

For the rest of the in-depth story (first of a 2-part series) on how T.J. Bruce teaches infield play at UCLA, purchase the Sept. 6 issue of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe by CLICKING HERE.  Bruce explains his system for consistent improvement with infielders, working on different hops, and the notorious 4-ball drill for third baseman and other infielders.

Summer Instruction Series: Art Of Bunting 2

Summer Instruction Series: Art Of Bunting 2

Bunting IncorrectlyBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

Three head coaches who have long been advocates of the bunting game, Mike Gillespie of U.C. Irvine, George Horton of Oregon and Jim Morris of Miami (Fla.), share their thoughts on this specialized skill.

The interview with these three coaches originally appeared in the Oct. 11, 2002 edition of Collegiate Baseball.

“We want all of our players to be complete in the offensive phase of baseball,” said Gillespie, who also coached at Southern California prior to moving to U.C. Irvine.

“Bunting is a big part of offense for us. As far as the sacrifice bunt, we have our batters cheat up in the box. We want to get better plate coverage and be up in the box to take advantage of the full 90 degrees of the base angles instead of having someone attempt to bunt in the middle or back of the box where a bunt would have to roll across the foul line to be fair.

“Something we do which may be a bit different than other programs is that for a sacrifice bunt, we have our hitters show early. They then spin on both feet and have the feet facing the pitcher as the pitcher comes to the set position. Virtually all pro teams and most college teams don’t show until after the pitcher comes to the set position, lifts his leg and breaks his hands. That is when hitters usually commit to a bunt.

“But on sacrifice bunts, we do it early. And we do it for a couple of reasons. When we sacrifice, there is no surprise element involved. Just about everybody in the world knows it is a slam dunk bunt.

“The next thing we do is have our hitters drop their front foot open just a little bit for balance. Then they go into an exaggerated knee flex so they minimize the barrel from dropping.

“Another point to make is that our bunters choke up on the bat about 3-4 inches off the knob with the bottom hand. We want the hands split with the top hand around the label. He cradles the top of the bat in his hand.

“We also pre-angle the bat to whatever direction we want the ball to go making sure the barrel is above the knob. It also is important to hold the hands with the bat at the top of the strike zone or even a little higher. We never want our hitters to lift their hands to adjust to a pitch. There is too much risk in that as pop ups result batters will get outs.

“No matter what technique someone prefers in bunting, you must have a comfortable flex with the elbows if you are doing a sacrifice bunt or trying to bunt for a base hit.

“The single most common error is running too quickly before the ball is struck with the bat. We keep hammering and hammering away at our bunters to not run until they see a downward angle of the ball just coming off the bat.

“Once they see that downward angle of the ball off the bat, run like hell to first base…but not before seeing this downward angle of the ball.”

Gillespie said he becomes incredibly frustrated when his bunters run too soon before striking the ball.

“We attach all sorts of penalties in good fun to running too fast before a bunt is struck properly.

“We spend a significant amount of time on it. We are a little unusual in that the first pitch of batting practice is bunted by our hitters. But also the last pitch the hitter goes after must be a bunt as well. We do that because he is running on the pitch, and we want him to be comfortable with running hard to first or whatever the round calls for. This way we can check to see they are being mechanically sound.”

Gillespie said minimizing movement by hitters with the drag, push and other bunts is critical to the success of batters.

“We have our guys use more of a sacrifice technique in bunting than you see with other teams which use the traditional drag or push techniques because frankly players can get too cute with fancy techniques. We try to convey to our hitters to always be on the lookout for opportunities to drag or push bunt…but only do this when the defense allows you to take it. You don’t have to be extremely foxy. If a corner guy is way back, that is a great time to do it.

“So we have a modified sacrifice bunt technique which our guys use for these techniques. We are much more interested in placement of balls than about exact timing. If we place the bunt well, we will be safe.”

Gillespie said he is convinced you don’t have to have players with great speed to have a great bunting team.

“I honestly believe you don’t have to be a great runner to be a successful bunter. It has been our experience that opportunities are there for big, slow guys to bunt. If you develop their techniques, they will be safe because defensive players will play back on them.

“Over the years, I have had maybe one or two players with incredible speed. Damon Buford (USC player) comes to mind. We just have not been successful in our recruiting to get that type of player with incredible speed. But we have still been pretty successful with the bunting game.

“We had a player named Casey Burrell, a 6-foot-3, 230 pound guy (USC) who was basically a base clogger. As a sophomore he hit 7th in the lineup. But the following year he was the 3-4 hole hitter and had plenty of power. But people didn’t realize he had 17 drag bunt base hits as a sophomore. He never had a push bunt base hit. But he had the perfect technique to drag. Third basemen almost always played him back. But he had the ability to bunt a tick firm so the pitcher couldn’t make a play.

“You normally want a bunt to die about 12 feet from the plate near the line like a wedge shot. He was contrary to this formula. He had to make the third baseman field the ball.”

Bunting With Slow Runners
Gillespie said Hall of Fame Coach Wally Kincaid from Cerritos College always had a few big, slow guys who could drag bunt.

“If the opposition had its third baseman back with two outs and Coach Kincaid had a runner on third with a big, slow guy batting, many times that batter would drag bunt to third. It was amazing how many times that play worked. We copied that idea because it works.”

Gillespie said his teams work on bunting in several different ways.

“One way we practice bunting is by placing a cone where we want the balls to go or make a small alley lined with bats from home plate to the area the ball must travel or even throw a hat out there. Then we will pick our best two bunters and have them choose teams. Team X will bunt five to 10 drags or pushes and keep score. Then the other team will follow. The winners might get a Popsicle while the losers might pick up gear. Or the winners might be excused from running at the end of practice. We make it fun for the guys.

“We bunt every day, and typically bunting is among the first two things we do after stretching.

“Another thing we have done is establish groups of three and fan them out foul pole to foul pole. In those groups you have a bunter, thrower and shagger. One day we may have 15 drags or 5 drags, 5 push bunts or 5 squeezes…whatever. We devote 15 minutes to it. We have the hitters back up to the warning track and have the thrower pitch to him. The problem we have encountered is that the pitcher usually doesn’t throw hard enough from 50 to 60 feet away. We are always on them to throw hard to make it game-like. Bunting against soft pitching just doesn’t work.

“Then, as I said earlier, we have hitters in batting practice bunt the first and last pitch.”

Close Monitoring Needed
Gillespie said the one problem he has had with players fanning out across the warning track foul pole to foul pole in groups of three is that coaches can’t monitor every group with every pitch.

“I don’t care what skill it is. If it is not monitored, they are not working hard at it. In our case, we only have three coaches at practice every day. I think we may change one aspect of bunting this year. If we have a group taking batting practice, the others might be placed in groups of two on the sides of the aprons in front of the dugouts where I can see all of them. On one side of the infield, one group may practice drag bunting while the other side may be working on push bunting.”

Gillespie said no matter how much emphasis or how hard his teams work on all phases of bunting, in reality there are only a few guys who are extremely skilled at this craft.

“Not everybody develops the ability to bunt well in games. And that’s frustrating because we really believe in it. There is a significant place for it in baseball. I have found that there usually are two or three guys on any one team who can drag and two or three guys who can push bunt.

“Wes Rachels was the absolute best offensive player in all phases of the game I have ever seen in 36 years of coaching. He was a grand master at executing all the skills of offense such as the drag, push, sacrifice, squeeze, hit and run, slash…you name it.

“I’ll never forget the 1998 College World Series where he was named MVP. Many people don’t realize that from the first day of the College World Series to the last, Wes did everything offensively you can do. He got a squeeze down, drag bunt, slashed twice, hit and run, moved a runner over, hit two doubles and a home run.”

Executing The Slug Bunt
Gillespie said Jerry Weinstein’s teams at Sacramento City College were noted for executing the slug bunt.

“He would have a left-handed hitter up at the plate and come around to bunt. The third baseman and first baseman from the opposing team would run in toward the plate. But usually there would be a huge hole between the third baseman and pitcher with the shortstop playing back. It seemed like every year he had a guy who could hit the ball to the right of the third baseman toward the shortstop which would be an easy single if hit with the right amount of touch. But this takes a tremendous amount of skill to do.”

Other Philosophies On Bunting
Oregon’s Horton (who also has coached at Cal State Fullerton for many seasons) said bunting is one of the key components of their offense.

“Bunting is one of the first lessons our new players learn,” said Horton.

“We want kids to buy into it early in our program. I am not a gadget type of guy with different bunting gimmicks which might be on the market. We teach the fundamentals from the get-go. Batters must have the proper angle of the bat aimed toward the target they wish to hit. The barrel of the bat should be slightly higher than the knob.

“The term we use a lot is catch the ball with the bat. We want pace to be taken off the ball on a sacrifice bunt. Most hitters naturally stab at the ball with their bat. I have found that how firm a batter grips the bat with his top hand is important. Through repetition, hitters can become superb bunters.

“Sometimes a JC or high school guy will come into the program as a great bunter. We don’t touch those guys…only add to their skills if we can.

“I like our bunters to have their bottom hand about three inches from the knob. The top hand slides up to control the position of the barrel. A good visual cue is to tell the batter to place his top hand on the barrel of the bat so that it is almost like a chair with the thumb serving as the back support of the chair. You pinch the bat with a bent index finger and the thumb with all other fingers tucked safely away.

“Sliding the top hand to the barrel must be done quickly so the bat can be turned at the correct angle toward the target. The bat is placed at the top of the strike zone as an aiming device. Any pitch above the bat is a ball, so bring the bat back. Anything below should be bunted as long as it is a strike. It is crucial to bunt only strikes.

“We are committed to the bunt and put aside enough practice time to be successful. We tell all of our guys as a motivation tool that if player A and B are equal in every respect (power, running, defense, etc.) then often times the bunting game will give one player the edge over another. They get the message right away how much we value good bunters. When we scrimmage, everyone is asked to bunt. That translates into a commitment to work harder in practice.”

Horton said he uses orange cones to designate where hitters must bunt the ball.

“We have several drills with the bunting game we work on. We want hitters bunting and pitchers fielding to have a game-like atmosphere. We also have different bunting stations which help their skills as well.”

Success At Miami
Miami’s Morris said the bunting game became an important weapon for his team after the loss of so much power off his 1998 team which hit 139 homers in 63 games to rank No. 1 in Hurricane history.

“Even though we still hit over 100 home runs last season (2001), we went back to the old Ron Fraser style of game at Miami with great bunting and a solid running game.

Morris said his players must be committed to the bunting game.

“They must understand bunting is an important facet of offense. Often times you will have too many guys who won’t give a good effort when you practice bunting and don’t understand its importance to winning baseball. It is more than a technique. It is an extremely important part of offense.

“As a coach, you must set aside time every week in practice to work on it. People will find it interesting last season that we never had traditional batting practices on Thursdays prior to a three-game weekend series. We really concentrated on the bunting game every Thursday.

“Our practices on Thursdays consisted of having 16 hitters break into two groups of eight each. In 20 minute segments, one group would work on the field while the other would work in the cages. Then they would flip flop. All of the hitters would work on sacrifice, drag and push bunts in both the field and cage setting and strive to be mechanically sound by doing things the right way.

“By spending this amount of time on bunting in practice, it shows the hitters right away the importance you place on bunting.

“We also work on sacrifice bunts with runners on first and second and strategies such as this. We have found that our Thursday bunt sessions have allowed our hitters to have better hand-eye coordination. So there have been other hidden benefits as well.”

Morris said his players work hard at making precision bunts.

“With runners on first and second and an obvious sacrifice bunt is called for, our hitter is taught to bunt the ball a little more firmly so the third baseman handles the ball. With nobody on and our guy dragging a bunt, we want the ball to be deadened and stopped, if possible, near the foul line.

“We move our batters up in the batter’s box and square their feet by spinning them so they point toward the pitcher.”

Morris said the more actual game experience players get as far as laying down bunts in game situations the better.

To obtain a copy of the Oct. 11, 2002 issue of Collegiate Baseball or subscribe, CLICK HERE.

Summer Instruction Series: The Art Of Bunting

Summer Instruction Series: The Art Of Bunting

The Art Of BuntingBy LOU PAVLOVICH, JR.
Editor/Collegiate Baseball

Bunting has been a big part of offensive play for many top college baseball teams since the late 1990s when changes were made to tame the performance of aluminum bats.

Augie Garrido, head coach at the University of Texas, is considered the best in the business at teaching the art of bunting. In the October 11, 2002 edition of Collegiate Baseball, Garrido explained how he teaches hitters this skill.

“The first thing to do is have the players understand the value of bunting,” Garrido said.

“Part of the psychological problem with bunting is that you can’t simply ask a less than successful hitter to bunt. If you ask such a player to bunt, he thinks you don’t have confidence in his hitting, and that doesn’t work. The player needs to know that he is bunting because it is his contribution to the rally.

“Players much practice bunting consistently in game environments and use it in games and not be afraid to do it. There is no question they would rather hit. That’s another thing I like about the bunting game. To do it well, it forces the player to be unselfish and make his contribution to the offense when you are advancing runners and so on. But you must use bunts in games.

“The fundamentals of bunting are pretty simple. You keep your balance, see the ball and get the bat out in front and watch the ball off the bat. Get your angle early. Most guys who don’t bunt very well don’t get into the proper position prior to the ball getting to them. So they don’t track it very well, and they don’t get the angle because they are rushed. So there is a timing and rhythm to it that needs to be followed. You need to keep it simple to be consistent.”

Garrido discussed when his batters begin showing bunt in a game.

“If the infield is back, I would rather have our hitters not show a bunt early if we are going to bunt for a base hit. If the infield is already in, you might as well just turn around and do it because it eliminates one of the elements of timing.

“It is important for the bunter to position himself in the front of the batter’s box prior to bunting the ball to allow for better bunting angles in fair territory. We have a batting cage that is set up for the bunting game and have targets that the bunters aim for. We also have targets on the field as well when they bunt. We try to bunt at specific areas and try to play games with it so they have fun with it.

“We don’t want our hitters attempting to deaden the ball because that is when hitters pop it up. So I just have them be firm with the bat and try to get the ball on the ground quickly. This allows the bunter to stay on top of the ball and let the ground deaden.

“When you get an early first bounce on a bunt, it helps the runner so he can get a good jump.”

Balance Crucial
There are different ways to grip the bat for a bunt, but Garrido has a certain method he likes.

“I like to see the top hand up on the bat to a point where the barrel is resting between the thumb and fore finger with those fingers out of the way of the ball striking the barrel. Those fingers are firm on the bat. Then you slide the bottom hand up a little bit as well so you have balance. When you have balance, it is easier for you to control the bat and see the ball.

“Another key teaching point is to keep the barrel of the bat in position so you have the proper angle prior to the ball hitting the bat. Then you can see the ball and the bat come together, so that contact zone is out in front of the eyes and slightly off to the side and you don’t foul a ball off into your face.”

How sophisticated do his teams get with the short game?

“To be honest, you will never, ever get control of this game. You just try to work on the percentages and get players a chance to contribute to the rally at the time they are involved with the rally. Then the results will take place. There are no guarantees in this game.”

Bunting Puts Balls in Play
Garrido said he resorted to utilizing the bunting game during his high school coaching career many years ago out of necessity.

“I think what motivated me to teach players to bunt early in my coaching career was that it was a way for the high school players to contribute. For a young player or any player for that matter, it is about their confidence. If you can’t contribute to the offense then you start playing with less intensity on defense. That’s just the way it works. With high school players, I wanted to give them a way for them to be successful and put the ball in play. That’s where it all started from.”

It was pointed out to Garrido that good bunts on any level can cause nightmares for defenses. Good bunts cause errors because throws are rushed and defensive players are usually thrown off balance.

“It puts the ball in play, and that’s one of the major issues with bunting. When you put the ball consistently in play, you have an edge. Bunting allows the batter to hustle down to first base and let the defense make mistakes. If the batter strikes out, it comes down to whether the catcher catches the ball or not.”

Toughest Bunt To Defend
Garrido discussed the most difficult bunt to defend.

“A real tough bunt to defense is the one that is in between the pitcher, second baseman and first baseman. If you get all three of those defensive players going for the ball, you have them beat because nobody is covering first base. That is the ideal situation. If the ball is in the right place, it forces three players who all have the responsibility to cover first or get the ball.

“They all must make a quick decision as to who will do what. That is where the problem is for the defensive player One must cover the base, another get the ball and the other get out of the way. It’s a tough, tough play to make when the ball is hit in the right spot.”

Garrido was asked if he utilizes any special bunting charts to track bunts during the season.

“No, not really. I know who can bunt and who can’t through the many practices we have. So that isn’t necessary.”

Garrido was asked if the hitting vision of his players, such as tracking pitches and reacting to them, is enhanced by spending a considerable amount of time on bunting.

“There is no question that bunting helps a hitter’s tracking ability. When you bunt a ball, it is one of the few skills that allows a player to track it from the pitcher and see the ball come off the bat at contact.”

The Texas skipper had one final tidbit of advice for coaches on the subject of bunting.

“If you don’t practice bunting, your players will probably not be able to do it during a game. If you don’t practice it in game-like situations where you have high intensity, you will probably not be able to bunt during games. The best way to do this is for the players to play games with high intensity concerning the bunting game. Have them hit targets on the field with their bunts. You can also have 2-man teams going against other 2-man teams for competition.”

For more great instructional clinics, subscribe to Collegiate Baseball newspaper, CLICK HERE.

Summer Instruction Series: Stealing & Defense

Summer Instruction Series: Stealing & Defense

Special To Collegiate Baseball

PORTLAND, Ore. — This is a multiple drill that combines the teaching of both base stealing techniques and defensive skills to be used against those attempting to steal.

• Protective Screens.

• Place protective screen behind second base to protect runners from errant throws from the catcher.

• Place protective screen behind first base to protect runners from errant pick off throws from the pitcher.

• Throw down bases.

• Stopwatch.

Pitchers will practice throwing from the “set position,” holding runners at first base and quick delivery to home plate.

• Place a pitcher on the mound.

• Works from set position.

• Pitcher tries to pick runner off first base.

• Works on quickness to home plate.

• Works on varying time between pitches to home to keep runner guessing.

• Quickness to home plate should be timed from start of pitcher’s first movement until ball hits catcher’s glove.

1.6 seconds = Poor

1.4 seconds = Good

1.3 seconds = Excellent

Catcher will practice proper shifting and proper footwork to improve quickness and release time on throws to second base as well as accuracy of throws to second.

• Behind home plate and in full gear.

• Receives pitches and throws to second base.

• Coach will use a stopwatch to time catcher’s throw to second.

• Stop the stopwatch the instant the ball is caught at second base.

• Ideal time is 2.0 seconds or less.

First Baseman will practice correct position and stance for holding runner at first and how to apply the tag correctly.

• Assumes correct position at first base to hold runner on.

• Receives pick-off throws from pitcher and applies tag.

Middle Infielders will practice covering second base correctly, receiving catcher’s throw, applying the tag correctly and “cheating” toward second base to be there in time to receive the catcher’s throw.

• Place shortstop and second baseman in their positions.

• Shortstop and second baseman alternate covering second base and backing up the throw.

• Middle infielders learn how far to “cheat” (play closer to second base) to be at second base in time to receive catcher’s throw.

• Middle infielders receive catcher’s throw and apply tag.

Base Runners will practice how to lead off first base correctly, return to first base correctly after a pick-off attempt, read the pitcher’s moves, make the correct initial step when “breaking” for second base and how to “look-in” when attempting to steal as ball enters impact zone.

• No runner on first base…for reasons of safety.

• Players line up behind first base along the right field foul line.

• Use throw down bases.

• Space bases about four feet apart.

• Three or flour players practice “breaks and leads” at one time.

• Runners break for second base as pitcher delivers to home.

• Runners do not slide, but run behind protective screen at second base.

• Runners should be timed.

3.4 seconds — Very Fast

3.4 to 3.6 seconds — Alert to Steal

3.6 to 3.8 seconds — Questionable

3.8 to 4.0 seconds — Hit and Run

4.0 seconds — Forget Stealing

Jack Dunn is the former head baseball coach at Portland State University. He has written many articles over the years for Collegiate Baseball. His articles focus on actual drills that can be used by coaches and players to improve specific skills. To subscribe to Collegiate Baseball, CLICK HERE.

El Dorado, San Diego Advance In NBC ’Series

El Dorado, San Diego Advance In NBC ’Series

2013 NBC World SeriesWICHITA, Kan. – The El Dorado (KS) Broncos and the San Diego (CA) Force each won four games to advance to Championship Week in the 79th Annual National Baseball Congress World Series.

The Broncos used aggressive offense and solid pitching to win four games and win the First Week Championship. Taking an early 4-0 lead to defeat the San Diego (CA) Force 6-2 in the meeting of the last two undefeated teams. Tyler Ware went 3-for-5 and scored twice and Clayton Taylor went 2-for-4 with 2 RBIs.

Eric Schuermann, the second of four pitchers, earned the win in relief, allowing one hit and striking out three in 2 1/3 innings.

El Dorado, in winning a $5,000 compensation prize, led all teams in the First Week with a .331 batting average and was second in pitching with a 1.36 ERA. Taylor batted .500 (7-for-14) with 7 RBIs and three extra-base hits.

San Diego, which was unable to recover from that deficit, bounced back in the final game of the first week to beat Cape Girardeau (MO) 7-3. Timothy Williams went 3-for-5 and scored two runs, while Tyler Nordgren and K.J. Miramontes each drove in a pair of runs. Adrian DeMar went 5 2/3 innings to get the win.

The Broncos will open Championship Week on Aug. 2 against the Nevada (MO) Griffons.

The Force also earned a $5,000 compensation check and will play Clarinda (IA) Aug. 3

Those teams join 14 others, including two-time defending champion Santa Barbara (CA), in the second week double elimination phase.

This is the first year of the new format, in which the tournament is divided into two week-long segments.

ABCA’s Dave Keilitz Announces Retirement

ABCA’s Dave Keilitz Announces Retirement

Dave KeilitzMOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. — Dave Keilitz has announced that he will step down as Executive Director of the American Baseball Coaches Association in June of 2014.

He has served with distinction in that capacity for the last 20 years. Prior to that, he was the Athletics Director at Central Michigan University for 10 years, leading the Chippewas to 26 Mid-American Conference championships, a span in which every coach was named MAC Coach of The Year at least once.

He also was the head baseball coach at Central Michigan for 14 years and never had a losing season, compiling an impressive 456-203 record. He coached eight All-Americans, and 51 of his players signed pro contracts with seven eventually making it to the major leagues. He was involved with the baseball program for 20 years and was a graduate assistant and coach of the freshman baseball team for five years as he established an 84-26 record.

Keilitz was Central Michigan’s first All-American baseball player and established 19 game, season and career records for the Chippewas.

During Keilitz’s time as Executive Director of the ABCA, the association’s membership and number attending the annual convention have grown significantly.

In addition, he had his hand in important NCAA legislative accomplishments for baseball over the years as ABCA Executive Director including NCAA Division I bracket expansion, change of season, bat standards, academic performance, as well as recruiting and practice schedules, just to name a few. He helped stop attempts to reduce the number of games in NCAA Division I on several occasions and other potentially damaging NCAA legislation.

He is a member of the ABCA Hall of Fame, Midland County Sports Hall of Fame, Central Michigan Athletics Hall of Fame, NAIA Hall of Fame and MAC Hall of Fame.

A in-depth look at what Keilitz has meant to baseball coaches on all levels of baseball will be in the Sept. 6 issue of Collegiate Baseball newspaper.

Greatest Closer Was Once An Afterthought

Greatest Closer Was Once An Afterthought

Editor/Collegiate Baseball

OMAHA, Neb. — UCLA closer David Berg is able to juggle four balls at a time and six with a partner.

It only seems fitting since he is the greatest closer in college baseball history and seems to juggle anything batters have waiting for him.

No closer in college baseball history has put up the staggering numbers that Berg has in his first two years with the Bruins.

As his sophomore year recently concluded with UCLA’s first national baseball championship, Berg has now appeared in 101 games in two years (50 as a freshman and NCAA record-tying 51 this season) as he saved an NCAA record 24 games in 2013.

In 101 appearances, he only has two blown saves. And both times, he came back to post a win.

The Louisville Slugger first team All-American also posted a 7-0 record this season in 78 innings with a 0.92 ERA (second best in the nation) and struck out 78 batters with only 11 walks.

As hard as it is to believe, three seasons ago at Bishop Amat High School (La Puente, Calif.), his pitching career was on the rocks.

During his junior year, he only was allowed to pitch 9 1/3 innings as he was learning to throw as a sidewinder from his normal ¾ arm slot. He had a 6.00 ERA with 4 walks and 3 hit batters as he gave up 8 earned runs. 

“David came in as an outfielder/pitcher as a freshman and was a good athlete,” said Bishop Amat Head Coach Andy Nieto.

“Entering the fall of his junior year, he was having some difficulty pitching on the varsity level. It just wasn’t happening. I talked to my pitching coach Chris Beck and told him that we had to ‘Muckey’ him.

“There is a well known coach in Southern California by the name of Scott Muckey at Crespi High School who annually turns one of his pitchers into a sidearmer to give opponent hitters a different look.

“Both Chris and I felt David would be a good candidate to try this. There was no guarantee it would work.

“So we talked to David about it, and he took it from there as he worked extremely hard to learn this new delivery. And he wasn’t allowed to throw over the top any more.

“From that point on, he was only allowed to throw as a sidearmer.”

Nieto acknowledged that Berg had a tough junior year as he worked on his new arm angle.

“In fact, it took about a year for him to figure out how to throw from this arm slot with a completely new release point.”

During Berg’s junior year, he appeared to be a nervous wreck when he did pitch as he walked halfway to the plate to retrieve balls from his catcher and constantly paced around the mound.

Nieto and pitching coach Chris Beck had to remind Berg to stay on the pitching circle.

“He was definitely a pacer at that time. But now he has grown up physically and mentally and has a chance to pitch in the Big Leagues in a certain role.

“He has shown he can pitch to both right and left handed hitters which is rare for a sidearmer.

“We could see the potential he had, but David just needed some work at the change.

“We knew he was a diamond in the rough. The movement he had with the new arm angle was terrific, and the deception was superb.

“We felt if he tackled this new arm slot with the commitment he had in the classroom, he would make it work. And boy has he ever.”

Amazing Senior Year
His senior year at Bishop Amat was sensational with a 7-1 record, 1.05 ERA and 4 saves as he led the Lancers to the CIF championship with a 29-4 overall record.

He had 21 appearances in 33 games that season and threw 46 2/3 innings. It was a transformation for the ages.

“During his senior year at Bishop Amat, he was our salvation,” said Nieto.

“He pitched in every big game we had. I will never forget his outing against Torrance High School in the CIF semi-final game. We were down 4-0 after two innings, and he came in and no-hit Torrance for the next five innings as we rallied to win, 5-4. We then won the CIF title at Dodger Stadium in the final.”

Berg’s pitches darted under and over bats as hitters had trouble even making contact.

With renewed confidence, he was now a mentally tough pitcher who could conquer anything.

The breakout game of his senior season was at the National Classic when Bishop Amat took on St. Francis High School (Mountain View, Calif.) which was ranked No. 1 in the nation at the time.

The game didn’t start well for Bishop Amat as starting pitcher Daniel Zamora was chased from the game after 2 1/3 innings.

Berg came in to face this remarkable ball club and struck out 10 of the final 14 batters over 4 2/3 innings of relief work. Nobody could hit him as a re-tooled sidearmer.

Strangely, no college offered him an athletic scholarship despite his superb senior season.

His only offer was an academic grant from NCAA Division III Cal. Lutheran. Late in May, UCLA Recruiting Coordinator T.J. Bruce felt the Bruins should take a chance on him, and Bruin Head Coach John Savage agreed. U.C. Irvine and Nevada-Reno also started showing interest.

More On David Berg: The full story of David Berg is in the July 12, 2013 edition of Collegiate Baseball. He explains that he hasn’t been on any scholarship his first two years at UCLA despite throwing in 101 games and why he might not next season as well. He delves into how he made the adjustment to throwing sidearm, what type of pitches he has and the challenge of being a closer. Head Coach John Savage discusses why Berg is so special is as well as UCLA baseball team sports psychologist Ken Ravizza. To obtain this issue, CLICK HERE.

Summer Instruction Series: Throwing Drills

Summer Instruction Series: Throwing Drills

Throwing Game-LikeBy CHARLIE GREENE
Special To Collegiate Baseball

MIAMI, Fla. — Practicing to throw in game-like drills has long been needed in baseball to allow players to maximize their throwing skills.

The typical practice routine involves two players throwing the ball back and forth in order to build up arm strength and develop some degree of accuracy and quickness. However, the game requires wide variety of throws, few of which are found in just playing catch.

At the Major League level, teams rarely take “infield” anymore, and as one longtime Major League coach confided in me, “I can’t find four guys who want to.”

This has led to a decreased level of throwing skill. It is my opinion that players do not want to re-warm their arms when batting practice has been completed for both teams, and therefore are inclined to skip infield drill.

Starting in the early ‘80s our teams started to take infield immediately after warming up, and before batting practice at home games.

The advantages of having a freshly maintained field and the players properly warmed up were obvious.

No longer did the players have to be alerted to prepare for “infield in a few minutes” and rush to warm up their arms, sometimes insufficiently. Injured arms were often the result.

I would like to propose a series of throwing drills that involve the use of a various sized square formations, each providing a chance to practice game-related options. Groups of four in square formation can be set up near each foul line.

Getting sufficient repetitions is the basis for all acquired skills and throwing is no exception. Start out slow before picking up the tempo. Insist on proper footwork and arm action.

20-Foot Square
Four players form the corners of a square 20 feet apart and execute short throws in a clockwise, counter clockwise and diagonal direction.

The two types of throws are the underhand toss and the arm side “flip” where the player extends his arm while pronating (thumb down).

The coach can call out clockwise, counter clockwise, diagonal or allow player options.

Reminders: The underhand toss should be executed with a firm wrist extended directly at the receiver’s chest.

The arm side extension is best executed when the fingers also extend to the receiver’s chest. Both types of throws should be completed with a walking follow through.

60-Foot Square
Four players form the corners of a square 60 feet apart and execute overhand throws, also in a clockwise, counter clockwise, diagonal and player optional direction.

The emphasis at this distance is quickness.

Proper footwork will almost automatically occur, something that is missing in just “playing catch.”

Catch ball close to body. Don’t get quick until you secure the catch.

120-Foot Square
The enlarged square give the players a chance to stretch out their arms in the same directions as the smaller squares and will make the 90-foot infield dimensions seem easier.

90-Foot Square
This regulation distance is a test for the effectiveness of the other drills.

Coaches may want to use a stopwatch to objectively measure how much improvement is taking place.

Drills afford increased opportunities for needed repetitions. Footwork will come naturally with an occasional reminder from the coach.

Use all four drills each day or place emphasis on one or more. Skills are difficult to store and should be reviewed often.

The square formations provide an efficient method to duplicate game-like throwing challenges.

They are particularly effective for infielders and catchers, but pitchers and outfielders can also benefit.

(This story is part of an ongoing Summer Instructional Series Collegiate Baseball newspaper will be running in July and August. Please check back for more great ideas on playing baseball from top coaches and players. To subscribe to Collegiate Baseball, CLICK HERE.)

Summer Instruction Series: Catcher Communication

Summer Instruction Series: Catcher Communication

Coach/Colorado Rockies

Catchers must always be in communication with defensive players.

Here is how I suggest they work with pitchers, umpires and infielders.

To Your Pitchers
1. Subtle body language mechanical reminders.

2. No more than one simple verbal cue.

3. Positive reinforcement whenever necessary and appropriate.

4. Remind the pitcher before the pitch to get over to first base with a left-handed pull hitter up.

5. Get pitcher off the mound whenever the ball is hit. It’s especial important on balls hit to the right side. (“Get over there” loud and early.)

6. Make sure that the pitcher knows who he is working with on come backers. Make sure that the pitcher is reminded to throw to second on a come backer with runners on first and second with less than two outs or to second with runners on first and third with one out.

With runners on first and third and no one out, the dugout should tell you where they want a come backer to the pitcher thrown. It’s usually to second unless it’s late in the game. Just find out before the pitch.

Occasionally the dugout will want you to come home with one out and runners on first and third base on the running speed of the batter-runner or on a 3-2 count when the runner on first will most likely be running.

You must help the pitcher react to this situation if the runner from third does not break and there is no play at second.

Make sure that the pitcher stops the runner at third before he throws to first base.

1. Make sure the pitcher knows when the first baseman is playing behind a runner on first.

2. Remind the pitcher to stop especially with a runner on third and he is pitching out of the stretch. This should be a subtle sign or verbal so as not to heighten the umpire’s awareness and lead to a balk being called.

Use something other than “make sure to stop” or hold your hands at your waist.

1. When the pitcher is winding up with a runner on third, remind him to look the runner back at third before starting his windup.

2. Bases loaded and less than two outs remind the pitcher to come home on a comebacker.

3. With a runner on third or a runner on second and less than two outs, remind the pitcher to look the runner back before throwing to first base.

To Your Infielders
1. Give the infielders the outs frequently both verbally and visually.

2. Remind the corner infielders when base hit bunters are up.

3. Let all the infielders know when there is a plus runner at the plate.

4. Tell corner players to throw home or to second with the bases loaded and less than two outs.

5. Check “no doubles” positioning and make sure infielders have told the outfielders to keep the hitter off of second base.

6. Make sure that the defense is not way out of position based on the pitch call.

7. Give the infielders a dive reminder with a runner on second.

8. Three-two count and two outs and the force one, remind infielders to throw the ball to first base.

9. Subtle hand signal to middle infielders to heighten their awareness to delay without alerting the offensive team that you are ready for a delayed steal.

10. Remind third baseman that you’ll be at third base if he fields a bunt with a runner on first.

11. Remind first and third basemen of their cutoff and relay responsibilities.

12. When there is no possible play at the plate, go down the fence line and help the corner infielders on foul pops down the lines and near the fence.

To The Umpire
1. Non-confrontational discussions regarding pitches. No one should be aware of your conversation. (Do not turn around and don’t change your body language. Call him by his first name, never “Blue.”) If you show up an umpire, he’ll eventually win and you’ll lose. Umpires share information within their fraternity, so an overly aggressive confrontation with one umpire or umpiring crew is known to all.

2. Remind him to make sure the batter-runner is in the running lane the last 45 feet to first base when the bases are loaded and there is a potential force play at home.

3. Ask for an early and loud call when there are runners on first and third or first and second and there is a three ball count on the batter. The exception would be a 3-2 and 2 outs. So you are not needlessly throwing to second base or third base on a close pitch.

There is a fine line between community and over communication. If it slows the game down or people stop listening, you are probably over communicating.

(Since summer is a time to improve and work on your baseball skills, Collegiate Baseball is offering a special instructional series for coaches and players. Various top coaches from around the country will share information on all aspects of playing the game.) To subscribe to Collegiate Baseball, CLICK HERE.