Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Nutrition for Youth Ball Players

The postgame snack schedules are just about set now. Team Moms across the league probably know who is responsible for every game of the season. But take time to consider what types of food we should be giving out to our kids at the park.

Here is one article on nutrition for youth ball players. It lists five basic nutritional facts to teach our young athletes:

1. Protein allows the body to build muscle and enhance strength.
2. Carbohydrates provide energy. Complex carbohydrates are best for longer lasting energy.
3. Certain types of foods provide more protein.
4. Processed foods are generally less healthy than unprocessed, fresh foods.
5. Eating more, but smaller meals, is considered by many to be healthier.

Sometimes the right choices don't come in individual snack bags. And consider also how much energy is required to play a T-Ball game. Sometimes the calories after the game might outweigh the ones burned during the game.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Rain Shortened Opening Day In the Books

Cold rain put a damper on Opening Day 2011, but at least we got Opening Ceremonies in. The 9:00 and 12:00 games were played before things got too bad. The remaining afternoon games were postponed to a later date.

In Major League action, Harry & Bryant beat Al Browne, Trinity beat Bryant Supply and Christ Church beat Regions Bank. Not sure about the NL and AL games. If the league coordinators want me to post standings, please copy me on those announcements throughout the season.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Night Lights

There's a handful of high school baseball games under the lights tonight. I know most of us will be home watching the Spiders, but if you want to catch a game on the big field tonight, here are a few to mention. All games are at 7:00:

Country Day is hosting Cary Academy tonight at Ed Walton Field. CD has just returned from a successful spring break trip to Florida and this is their first home game of the season. The Bucs feature five former MPTLL stars: Webb Anderson (CP), Lee Harrison (RB), Keisuke Ishikawa, Sam Poole (AB) and Colin Walls (AB).

It's Military Night at Myers Park High School's Jack Sink Field, as the Mustangs host South Meck. There will be a color guard presentation, rock climbing wall for the kids and military vehicles on display. The team will wear special camouflage jerseys to honor the men and women of our armed forces. One of this blog's two (that's 2) followers pitches for Myers Park. It's not Rex, so it must be MPTLL alum Bo Coggins (HB).

And one of the best high school teams in the nation, Ardrey Kell, ranked #18 in the country by Baseball America, plays at East Meck tonight at 7:00.

That's just a sample of the high school games on tap. There are schedules for these and other teams here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Opening Day Is This Saturday

Opening Day 1962
Opening Day is this Saturday, March 26th. This is a special day. It is our league's 59th anniversary and the Harry & Bryant team's 60th. We will honor our wins - like our new all-star championship banners. And we will remember our losses - especially the tragic loss of our friend, Zan Copeland.

The coaches are excited. The players are more excited. Rob Pierce, who played for Al Browne in the early '60's, once said of this week: "I can still feel the butterflies, thinking about it all during school. My friends and I couldn't wait to get out there and play. Then Saturday came, and it was a big day."

The big day begins with a new twist - some early NL and AL games at 9:00 before Opening Ceremonies. Then the teams will parade onto the field, butterflies and all. The games will continue at 12:00, 2:00 and 4:00.

Players are asked to arrive for Opening Ceremonies in uniform between 10:00 and 10:15. Ceremonies begin at 10:30. Please park in either our main upper lot on Billingsley Road, the large overflow lot at the Department of Social Services next door, or down at the Grier Heights Fields. Do not park across Billingsley Road in the Annuvia lot, next to the new field at the county gas pumps or drive through area, immediately next to our main lot in the county fleet lot, or on any grassy areas. Trust me, you don't want to park on the grass - I can tell you from experience that our grounds crew will call the cops on you.

See you on Opening Day.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Reflections on a Good Coach

Here's an article for my fellow coaches out there. Actor David Duchovny writes in the Wall Street Journal about how his high school basketball coach made a positive impact on his life. An excerpt:

"That is what a good coach does. He fills you with a belief that may or may not be justified. As you make the dangerous crossing from unproven belief to actual accomplishment, from potential to reality, a good coach holds your hand so expertly that you don't even know your hand is being held. I got better because Coach Byrnes told me I was already better. It was that simple—a magic trick."

Couldn't agree more. One of the best things we can do for young athletes is instill self confidence in them that they can draw from the rest of their lives.

How to Protect Pitchers from Injury

I came across an important article from last year by Eric Cressey: Understanding Elbow Pain - Part 4: Protecting Pitchers. Cressey is a expert in the field of physical training for amateur and professional athletes. He works with a lot of baseball players and knows what he's talking about. He has a useful blog that I read occasionally, which our high school pitchers might also be interested in.

The article is wordy, but here are essentially Cressey's four primary ways to protect pitchers at any level:

1. Good Mechanics. No two pitchers are alike, but there are certain angles and timing issues to avoid, which exert more stress on the elbow. Visit my Lessons page for additional info on learning proper mechanics at a young age.

2. Avoiding Overuse. This has been discussed by about everyone. See the post below.

3. Long Term Physical Preparation. I think flexibility is most important for youth pitchers, but strength training is beneficial as well.

4. Short Term Physical Preparation. Pitchers should warm up their bodies first, then their arms. And don't forget the stretching and cool down period afterwords.

There's much more in the article, including some good links in each section.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Five Ways to Prevent Overuse Injuries

Here is a link to a timely article at Mom's Team on how to prevent overuse injuries. According to the National Athletic Trainers Association, 50% of youth sports injuries are caused by overuse / repetitive stress. Their top five ways to prevent such injuries are:

1. Education and supervision;
2. Pre-participation physical exams;
3. Participation limits;
4. Training and conditioning; and
5. Delayed specialization.

Check out the article for all the details.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Specialization vs. Sampling

Here's a link to an article by Dr. Sharon Chirban, a psychology professor at Harvard Medical School, about the popular debate regarding what is better for youth athletes - specializing year-round in one sport at a young age, or sampling a variety of different sports. Chirban says it is healthier for kids to play different sports, both physically and mentally. The interesting thing about this debate is that we never seem to see the other side of the argument presented.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Get Behind That L-Screen - It Could Save Your Life

Please let this be a reminder, as we start the spring season, to use your L-screen, and use it well.

Vinny Ribar, a 15-year-old Freshman baseball player at Kiski Area High School near Pittsburgh suffered a serious injury on February 26th after being struck in the head by a line drive. He was using a protective L-screen in practice, but failed to stay completely behind it as the ball was approaching.

Ribar's story unfortunately does not stand alone as a wake up call to coaches everywhere. In case you need another example of how your life can be turned around forever with one pitch, I urge you to spend some time reading the story of former Sun Valley High School (Monroe, NC) coach Kenn Wright.

Ed Walton of Charlotte Country Day first alerted me to this years ago. Here's a link to Scott Fowler's series of Charlotte Observer articles called The Pitch, which tell of Wright's 1997 brain injury and the struggle for life that followed. In Wright's case, I believe it was the netting of his team's L-screen that had fallen into disrepair, allowing a 70 mph line drive to slip through and strike him directly in the forehead.

If you are going to be serving up batting practice to your players, even at the Little League level, please follow through and duck behind your L-screen. Check the netting for any holes or weak sections. Consider wearing a helmet. And don't let your youth players throw batting practice.

A couple of welts from Alfonso Fernandez in 2005 were a physical reminder for me. But bruises fade away with time. The story of Kenn Wright should never be forgotten.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Easton Unveils New Pitching Helmet

Easton-Bell Sports has introduced a prototype for a safety helmet to be worn by pitchers, and the company expects nationwide use of the product to begin in youth leagues by fall.

The product was unveiled and will be initially worn by Gunnar Sandberg, a Marin (CA) Catholic High School senior who was seriously injured by a line drive while pitching a year ago. Sandberg no longer pitches because of an arm injury, but he plans to wear the 5 1/2 ounce padded helmet while playing the field as a 1st Baseman this season.

Easton-Bell and the Sandberg family hope that widespread use of the new product catches on. Stephen Keener, president and CEO of Little League Baseball, Inc., says that he will support it. Easton is the official team equipment supplier for Little League, and the organization has been a leader in safety modifications throughout its history. So don't be surprised to see the pitching helmet on the field at some point over the years to come.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

High School Girls Face Off on the Mound

When Marti Sementelli of Birmingham High School and Ghazaleh Sailors of San Marcos High School took to the hill in Van Nuys, CA, it was a landmark occasion for women's athletics - the first time two female pitchers had started a varsity high school baseball game.

Sementelli and Sailors are two of about a thousand girls playing high school baseball in America, a number that is growing each year. They met at the USA Baseball Training Complex in Cary, NC while playing on the National Women's Baseball Team, and decided to try to get their coaches to arrange the match up.

It happened on Saturday, with Sementelli getting a complete game victory. But the experience was a win for both, and delivered another strong message that girls can play baseball too.

Friday, March 4, 2011

High School Baseball & Softball Getting Started

One good way to show Little Leaguers how the game is played is to take them to a high school game. The players are bigger, faster and more powerful. They are also usually very skilled. Our future stars can learn a lot by watching the pitching and hitting mechanics, the defensive skills and just seeing how the players carry themselves on the field.

Charlotte area high school baseball and softball teams began play this week. Check out some of the links below for more information and game schedules. Some of these schools have several players that came through our league:

Charlotte Country Day Baseball
Charlotte Country Day Softball
Myers Park High School Baseball & Softball
Charlotte Latin Baseball
Charlotte Latin Softball
South Charlotte Weekly 2011 Baseball Preview
MaxPreps NC Baseball
TBR Preps Baseball Message Board

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Challenge Baseball Tryouts Are This Weekend

If you are registered for Challenge Baseball this season, tryouts for ages 8-12 (as of April 30) are this coming weekend. Please review the schedule below.

8U – Friday, March 4th at 5:30pm on East Field
9U – Saturday, March 5th at 8:30am on Wade Field
10U – Sunday, March 6th at 1:00pm on Wade Field
11U – Saturday, March 5th at 8:30am on Founders Field
12U  - Friday, March 4th at 5:30pm on New Field

LL Baseball Team Selection Is This Week

Team selection for Major League, National League, American League and T-Ball takes place throughout this week. Players should be contacted by their regular season coach at some point by the end of the weekend. If you have not received a call by then, please contact a league official.