Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Youth Curveball Debate Continues

The recently published results of a five-year study on curveballs by the University of North Carolina and Little League Baseball have done nothing to cool the debate about the safety of breaking pitches at the youth level. It may be that the discussion is only heating up, as a result of that study's controversial findings, or lack of findings.

While the UNC study caused Little League to report that overuse, rather than curveballs, was to blame for arm injuries, former coach and current WFAN (NY) radio host Rick Wolff begs to differ. He says you simply cannot ignore decades of doctors' advice against throwing curveballs or sliders at a young age. Here is a podcast of his recent interview with Cincinnati orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Timothy Kremchek, who believes that Little League has political reasons for not banning curves.

Whether "it's politics" or a lack of conclusive information,

The Simplest Way To Get Quick

I came across this post by trainer Kelly Baggett on the Cressey Performance blog about gaining athletic quickness. Baggett brings up some good points about the importance of decreasing muscle tension in order to increase quickness.

As I tell my youth players, relaxed muscles are quicker than tense muscles. Unfortunately this idea is usually the opposite of many players' natural instinct.

When faced with an incoming pitch, the batter often reacts by "muscling up" to try to hit the ball hard. They clutch the bat tight, twist away from the pitcher and reach back for more power. But they won't find any more power back there. Since they have so much tension, the fast-twitch muscles of the front arm cannot fire quick enough. They lengthen their swing path, and sometimes completely bar the lead arm, creating a stiff, sweeping motion to the ball. The result is a late swing and a jam shot off the handle of the bat.

When a pitcher wants to blow a fastball by a batter,

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Allure of Being "Elite"

I encourage you to read this ESPN article by Tim Keown about the state of travel ball in America. Although not exactly new information, Keown's commentary is on the money. I think I agree with everything he says, and would only add that what actually matters in youth baseball is fun and good coaching.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Reason Enough To Back Up the Mound

Braydon Salzman was extremely lucky to avoid serious injury on Friday at the Little League World Series. Watch the video if you haven't seen it. Little League's days with a 46 foot mound are hopefully numbered.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Five-Year UNC Curveball Study Complete

A study of over 1,300 youth pitchers has been concluded by the University of North Carolina and Little League Baseball. The results: overuse, not curveballs are to blame for arm injuries.

As mentioned before on this site, it's primarily the young pitchers that repeatedly push themselves to the limit without enough rest in between outings that risk hurting themselves. Surprisingly, some previous studies have indicated that curveballs don't put any more stress on the arm than fastballs.

Still, the calls for banning curveballs in Little League have persisted. But Little League President and CEO Stephen Keener has now concluded that a ban won't be necessary.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Laying Off the Doughnuts

Here's an interesting article from the Wall Street Journal about the actual effect that swinging a weighted bat in the on-deck circle has on your swing at the plate.

Baseball players have used bat doughnuts or other types of weights for many years in order to make their regular bat feel lighter during their at-bat. Doughnuts are not allowed in Little League, and technically neither is the on-deck circle, but players often use two bats or a weighted bat sleeve to warm up.

But scientific testing has proven that swinging a weighted bat in the on-deck circle actually slows down your swing at the plate by activating slow-twitch muscle fibers best used for endurance, not the quick burst of speed needed to hit a fastball.