A: They almost always struggle with using the back side — turning the back foot at the right time. Best drill is bat behind the back and step and turn the back foot.
Q: What is the biggest problem you see with young pitchers?
A: Their front foot does not step toward the plate. Best thing to do is lay down a rope between the mound and home and have them step on the line during their throw to home and have them look at where their foot landed.
Q. Why did you create this website?
A. I was tired of seeing coaches run a practice as if it were a game. Put kids in the field and hit them balls. In today’s world that’s just too slow-moving and doesn’t generate enough reps — a few drills like that for a few minutes are OK but not the whole practice.
Q. How do you make money from this site?
A. I don’t. It’s really an act of community service on my part. I don’t lose too much — I try to sell some books to offset the cost of the site and I enjoy adding things to the site. So its sort of a fun hobby, but I’m not trying to make money off of it. I hope I can come up with more ideas for making some money that are within my ethics — don’t really want to sell ads, etc so maybe I can break even.
Q. How did you get the name?
A. I loved the name coaching youth baseball and I kept pestering the owner who wanted a LOT of money when I started and finally got him down to a smaller sum and decided I would like the name so much I bought it.
Q. What are you going to add to the web site?
A. I want to add so many things — frame by frame analysis — more practice plans, Lots more photos. I just learned how to build an iPhone app — check out smarthebrewflashcards.com — and I want to make an app for coaches — something that asks what kind of drills you want to o and how many plates you have at a practice and how much time you have and how many assistants you have and it’ll crank out a nice practice plan for you. Have it all in my head.
Q. Will you answer coaching questions that come up?
A. I love hearing from coaches — send me an email anytime. I can talk baseball all day anytime — happy to have a zoom with someone who wants a longer conversation.
Q. Why are you qualified to give advice about coaching?
A. Most of coaching is learned through experience. I started in 1998, went to every coaching clinic I could find, read every coaching book and went from someone who was a baseball fan to someone who could really help kids. I know I can break down skills, as by day I’m a computer scientist and it’s what we do for a living, we break a problem down into his smallest parts and then go from there. For baseball, to me, “throw a ball” has a picture in my head of a 26 frame sequence and you just have to figure out the key parts and how to teach them to kids. Some kids do it naturally but plenty don’t.
Q. Who cares if some kids are crummy at baseball? Why care so much about the crummy ones?
A. Baseball is a game where you are only as strong as your weakest link. If you have a horrific right fielder, the baseball g-ds will make sure all the important balls will go to right field and you will lose and you will break the heart o the right fielder who knows the game was lost because of their play. Who needs that? Coach up EVERYONE and especially focus on the weakest.
Q. What was your reputation in your league?
A. Parents told me I was known for helping the worst player and I was only so/so on the really good ones. Probably true, I spend a LOT of time getting the below-average kids up to average and I get the above-average to help them — so they learn something too. I probably am not the guy to take a 0.650 hitter to a 0.700. But I can get kids from 0.000 to 0.333 almost every time and suddenly the bottom of my lineup is very dangerous. When everyone in the lineup is a threat to hit a line shot off the wall – it gets hard for the other team.
Q. Do you think you the greatest coach ever?
A. Obviously not or I would win more games. I have lost plenty and had numerous failures as a coach. I try to learn from them. I love coaching as I feel like I keep learning every day. I still read the latest books, still watch MLB guys frame by frame on my beloved TIVO and watch coaching tips on YouTube. I grill good coaches when I can, as I’m always looking for new ideas.
Q. Have you had any kids make it to the big leagues?
A. Had one drafted in the 5th round by the Diamondbacks — we’ll get his picture on the site, but I take no credit for him. He would have made the major leagues with or without me, thank heavens I didn’t mess him up.
Q. Why do you care whether kids stay in baseball?
A. Baseball teaches failure and how to fail. If you strike out it’s in front of everyone and it’s hard to blame the sun, the ump, the rain, the ball, the dirt, the fog for EVERY pitch and every strike out. At some point you have to admit it was your fault and from there you can get better. In soccer, I’m sorry, you kick the ball you don’t kick the ball, its usually not a public display. In baseball it’s all public. Parents can barely watch. They know there is no hiding. It’s a very very hard game — hey lets try to hit a rock thrown at high speed with a round bat. Whoever thought of it was just kind of crazy, but it works because if you do hit it, you know its because you worked at it. So you get rewarded for hard work and you can learn from your failure and you can learn how to fail. If all you know is how to succeed, life is going to be hard for you as life has plenty of failure in it. Why not get ahead of it. I have written countless research papers that have been rejected, book proposals that were rejected, but I know that the sun will come up tomorrow. That is what baseball has taught me and that I can get better over time. The papers, book proposals eventually get accepted if you are persistent and that’s what baseball teaches. Keep working at it and good things will happen.
Q. Do your kids play?
A. My son plays high school ball, my younger son no longer plays. They both did just fine in little league — I tried not to pressure them too much and honestly it was never a big passion for them so I didn’t push them too much. I’m glad they played, they know the game, they had some fun. I think they both learned a LOT and I’m happy. I feel bad that some of their development was not as good as it should have been as I was off coaching older kids when they were like 4-5 years old and I was just so excited about coaching all star teams at the time that I did that and it probably reduced some of their development. They are great kids, but they aren’t super into baseball like their dad and I think thats OK. I always hated seeing kids who rally didn’t want to spend a lot of time on baseball and their dads insisted they play all the time.
Q. Are you still coaching?
A. Yeah my sister has two small kids and I have been coaching them — very fun.
Q. I’m a parent, should I care about the information on this site?
A. YES, parents can do an enormous amount to improve their kids’ play. I gave a parent a coaching book I liked one time when he was taking his kid to the beach and a week later the kid was reformed and threw a LOT faster. He worked with he kid EVERY day and it made a difference. Quality reps matter.
Q. Why can’t I just drop my kid off — I do that in soccer and it works fine?
A. Your poor coach has to deal with 10-12 kids o the team. If you aren’t there to help what will happen? He’ll have maybe 2 hard core trusted assistants if he/she is lucky. Grand, now picture what happens when a kid throws a ball way into the outfield, someone has to get it. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some extra hands to help? I put all parents to work at every practice and it makes a big difference.
Q. Why don’t you have a parents’ section of the website?
A. Maybe I should, I think most of the verbiage on the site is accessible to all, though.
Q. What is your coaching resume?
A. Started in 1998 as an assistant on a AA team (kids pitch, age 9-10), we lost all our games. Became a head coach next season in AA, won the league in the regular season and the post-season tournament and was hooked for life. Loved working with the kids. Since that I have coached 25 regional teams, have coached all star teams, was in in the UK for three years and got to win two UK 9-10 championships. I have coached blast ball, T-ball, A, AA, AAA, “majors”, Travel, you name it I coach it.
Q. Were you a good player?
A. I was horrific. Dropped balls all the time, neve really started, sat on the bench. Got maybe a couple of hits, was on a team that lost something like all but four games in 3 years. I believe I had no coaching, so I guess that’s why I try to help kids who may be uncoordinated as I was. I bet I could have hit about 0.250 with some help and I would have had a LOT more fun. I just loved the game so I stayed with it. In college I got more coordinated and played on intramural softball teams and coached and did just fine — solid line drive hitter and decent pitcher and first baseman. I coached softball for 10 years before a guy on my team asked me to help out with his little league tame and the rest you know…
Q. I have a kid on my team that has a problem that I can’t fix.
A. Maybe you can take a clip using Coach’s Eye and share it with me — I love Coach’s Eye for diagnosis, but I’m happy to look at it as well and give you my thoughts. I’m thinking that could be a service I provide for some small fee, but have to see if anyone wants to do it and the only reason for a fee is to try to break even the site (see earlier question).
A: Easy one — player who never listened, never did anything, missed a bunch of practice, and I had him on the bench for an inning and he took off his shoes on a sweltering day. I lost my mind and was upset and said in a loud voice to please put on your shoes. The parent came and got the kid and told me that he had him play baseball to improve his confidence and not tear him down, and he took the kid and the kid never played again. I have to say I should have addressed it earlier with the parent and made it clear that if you miss too many practices and games it’s just not good to come and show up in the middle of the season. I still don’t know why oh why did he take off his shoes. I always think about that one—sad how you dwell on the bad moments.
Q: What is your second worst moment with a player?