Dugout Demeanor


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By Coach Alex Shapiro
​After coaching at the high school level for four seasons, the ultimate conclusion I have made is that I have learned more as a coach than I ever did as a player. I make it a personal responsibility to teach and coach in a way that allows my players to learn the things I did not, or perhaps just did not grasp, because I played on great teams with great coaches. One thing I have asked myself is, if I was not on the field as a part of the starting nine, what was my demeanor like in the dugout and on the bench? Did I wish for others to fail in hopes for an opportunity to step up and succeed in their place? Was I engaged in what was happening in the game, or on the bench pouting? While I would like to say the completely honest answer to those questions is “no”, the reality is, I am completely sure I was guilty of doing some of these things throughout my playing career.
​The most recent #PitchingChat covered a variety of “little things” coaches look for in players on their teams. Hustle, commitment, how players respond to feedback when it is given, just to name a few. Many chimed in about how players are on the bench and what the climate is like in the dugout. It is imperative that players assume responsibility for their demeanor in the dugout and on the bench. All coaches want their players to experience success and players need to comprehend that how they conduct themselves can directly contribute to what opportunities they may or may not receive. We can also come to the consensus that some players will receive more playing time than others, but if you are a player who wants more of it, you must first ask yourself what “little things” you can do to improve those chances.
When a game starts, there are two situations: a player who is starting, and a player who is not. Players who read the starting lineup and learn that they are not in it have two choices they can make. The first one is to find a spot on the bench, slouch down in it, wait for the last out to be made and go home. Before pointing fingers at other players for the mistakes they are making and thinking, “Oh, I would have made that play…”, or criticizing the coach for playing favorites, you might want to ask if you would put yourself out there with your teammates based on your actions, not just playing ability. The answer to that question should be obvious. Your coaches, teammates, and hopefully your parents, will pick up on it. If that is the choice a player makes, it just confirms the coach’s decision not to play him!
The second choice is to be engaged, energetic, enthusiastic and ready to play at any moment. As a coach, when I pull out my lineup card to contemplate making substitutions, I analyze the demeanor of bench players throughout that particular game. If I see a guy who has been active throughout the game, picking his teammates up, warming up an outfielder and chasing down foul balls, then I am more inclined to throw him some innings in the field or some at-bats when the opportunity presents itself as opposed to a player who has not got up off the bench at all. To help get bench players active, I encourage all of them to “go get” teammates — get up off the bench, pick a new teammate every time, and give him a high five, pat on the back, compliment a play he made, etc.—in between innings as they are coming off of the field. As a result, their teammates will want them to succeed when they get their chances to contribute!
Let’s flip the script: say you are a player who does indeed have a spot in the starting nine. You may have received this spot based on your playing ability, but your character, not talent alone, will keep you there. If you are a player who hangs your head after making a mistake, does not hustle on and off of the field, throws equipment, does not run out ground balls or pop ups, then you cannot be surprised when you have found yourself getting comfortable on the bench in favor of perhaps a less talented player who does not put these types of actions on display for everyone In attendance to witness. Maybe you are a player who receives a lot of playing time and is not necessarily having the best game out on the diamond that day. Guess what? You can still help your team compete and win by staying energetic and engaged in the dugout, and encouraging your teammates to do the same, when not on the field or up to bat. Coaches love this type of player because it shows that they put the success of the team over their personal performance.
Once again, another benefit of #PitchingChat has become more than clear to me: coaches sharing ideas with one another in effort to improve their abilities to do their jobs effectively and make their teams and programs better as a result. I am certain that many topics discussed in this article are “little things” that we, as coaches, recognize as integral parts of any team. What we can do from here is make it known, assure and reinforce that every member of the team, whether it is the starting shortstop or the foul ball chaser, has a role that it is important and can take it a step further by doing these “little things”, which as we all know, can add up to VERY BIG THINGS, for both the players and the team! read more

Youth Baseball Pitching Mechanics

One area I believe that is often overlooked is mechanics at the youth/little league level. Let me first say mechanics are crucial at any age and any issues should be corrected immediately. That being said, I believe coaches have a tendency with youth pitchers to either make too many changes or none at all. This can allow pitchers to develop bad habits that become harder to break as the pitcher ages or the pitcher becomes too robotical in his delivery due to over overcoaching.

I believe both of these issues can be fixed in a very simple and easy way: Focusing On The Fundamentals. Many of you coaches may remember legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. If you know anything about Coach Wooden’s philosophy it was that he emphasized fundamentals every single day. He believed if a player mastered the fundamentals, s/he would be abound with confidence. I agree 110% with Coach Wooden. If pitchers are taught early on in their careers the very basic actions of the pitching delivery (hip drive, arm action, rotation, follow-through) then the pitcher can become much more confident in his ability, he can establish a “FEEL” for his mechanics so he can adjust when something is wrong, and he can keep his arm healthy. read more

The Truth About Weighted Ball Training

By Joe Hudson, CSCS

Sports Performance Coach, DC Strength

It is no secret that pitching in Major League Baseball has become the dominant force in the game over recent years. Perhaps the largest contributor to pitching success at the highest level can be attributed to significant increases in fastball velocity. With average fastball velocity climbing from 89.5 MPH in 2002 to a staggering 92.0 MPH in 2014, it is no surprise pitchers at all levels are striving to throw harder. Young pitchers are seeking every way possible to light up the radar gun come spring, with arguably the most highly recognized method coming from weighted ball training. read more

Is Japan The Way To Go?

Much has been made of recent Japanese imports to Major League Baseball, and for good reason. A vast majority sport a mid-high 90’s fastball with impeccable command. While some of these pitchers haven’t worked out (Kei Igawa immediately springs to mind), others have had amazing success but most share one common theme: Health. Japanese pitchers have had an astonishing track record of durability and longevity over the years (maybe there’s something to the 7 day rotation, but that’s an article for another time). With American-born pitchers struggling to maintain arm health, many coaches, scientists/researchers, and “professionals” have been in search of a solution. My response? Head East. Far East. read more

Pride and Prejudice: A Case for Deconstruction

By: Casey Fisk

Most of the baseball coaches I know are pretty good. Some are extraordinary. Others are the kind you could, conceivably, read bad reports about on the internet. The third kind isn’t reading this article, so congratulations! You are somewhere on my “pretty good” to “extraordinary” scale of coaches. You care, and you’re looking for the edge to make yourself and your program better. My hat is off to you! You make me proud to be writing to you. But pride is a sin, and so is prejudice. Dang it! Why did I have to go there? read more