Skills Development

Q:  How do you get over fear of the ball?                                                                                                                                                              
 A:  This one permeates all coaching of baseball and is almost never discussed.   I remember a coaching clinic where I asked the question and a college coach said, “If they are afraid of the ball tell them to play soccer.”  Meanwhile I was dealing with kids who wanted to learn baseball but were truly very nervous about being hit by a ball.  This is the elephant in the room at every practice.  As kids get to high school they realize the odds of being hit are fairly low and if they start to dodge a ball during  a swing they won’t hit it.  Players age 5-8 don’t have to worry much, as a coach is throwing to them.  But boy, when they hit a coach’s pitch, the fear of the ball is paramount and very rationale.  Other kids are throwing and the batter cows good and well there’s a fair chance the pitcher doesn’t really know where the ball is going — the batter only has to think for theirself and say “hmmm if I was throwing what are the odds it goes where I want.”    The secret here is understanding.  Talk about fear of the ball, don’t sweep it under the rug and tell the kids of course they are SMART to be concerned about being hit by a rock.  Tell them it’s really traumatizing to the other pitcher if they get hit and they just jog to first like it wasn’t even a problem.  It makes the pitcher feel like they aren’t throwing very hard and then the defense starts to worry as well — so now they are helping your team if they can get over it.  Then teach them how to get hit — turn and kiss the catcher is the phrase I use so the ball hits their back instead of their ribs.   The more practice they take at hitting the better they will get at recognizing if a pitch is really inside and then they’ll feel more confident.  If you get past ball fear you’ll see amazing gains in the hitter as if they are starting to bail-out or move while the ball is being pitched, forget about much hope of hitting it.    Same goes for catching in the field, start slow, have them throw giant balls first and catch them and gradually build up the ability to track a ball and catch it.   Lots and lots of reps and ultimately ball fear will no longer be the problem and you can get back to coaching the game rather than just dealing with the psychology of a small rock being thrown around.
Q:  What is the biggest problem you see with young players and hitting?                                                                                                     

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: What do you do to make it so really young kids have success?                                                                                                                      
A:  We focus on GB to P and Throw to 1B.  We work it over and over.  We set up multiple stations and just roll ball to pitcher who then picks it up sets feet and throws to first.  This covers GB work, throwing work, catching work.  It’s great and it translates into results in a game.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

This Website

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 — 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.

About Me

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).

Q:  What are some of your best moments with parents?                                                                                                                                    
A:   At the end of a season when they thank you for what you have done for their child’s confidence and ability to work as a team member.  Nothing beats that because you know you have taught life lessons for their child that maybe can’t be taught in any other sport.                                                                                                                                                                                                           
 Q:  What is your worst moment with a player?                                                                                                                                                   

 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?                                                                                                                                        

A:  Easy one.  I was coaching third and I told a player to take a lead and the pitcher looked at him and he started to lean back to third and I said stay — I didn’t think he was at risk and I was thrilled to have the pitcher throw over to third to just distract him.  I was a sort of overly competitive coach when I started and this was in season 3 or 4, I think.   The player looked at me and said  “what?” —he couldn’t understand why I didn’t say to get back — in that moment the pitcher threw to third — the player didn’t move —I yelled get back — he froze and the third baseman tagged him standing up.  I fell on the ground in frustration.   After the game I apologize to the parents for my poor behavior and to the player.  The player finished the season, went on to play high school ball and I saw him 10 years later at a restaurant — he came right over to chat and say HI so I was glad that I hadn’t ruined his life.  I told him I still remember the play and feel badly about it.  He said, ”Oh yeah that’s like the only thing I really remember from youth baseball.”   As I said, very sad that people remember the mistakes.                                                                     
Q:  What was your best AH HAH moment with a pitcher?


A:  I remember working with a pitcher in a bullpen — big strong kid  and he was throwing like 2 miles an hour.  He did all the mechanics and the ball just had no velocity.  I said, “please THROW the ball and stop AIMING it”.  I said close your eyes, your mechanics are fine and just throw the ball at about 80-90% of your max and see what happens.  He threw it and ZAP it went into the catcher’s mitt.  He heard the thud and said, “hmmm” but you could see the light went on.  He fired about 5 more and I had him go to the mound and pitch in a game simulation drill that luckily I had going on at the same time.  He struck out three good hitters in a row and a monster pitcher was born.   He went on to be a great player in our league and in high school as well.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
 Q:  What was your best AH HAH moment with a hitter?                                                                                                                                        
 Super athlete who struck out all the time.  I couldn’t take it.  I finally got him at an all star practice to just come with me way off to the side and I brought a bucket of whiffle balls and a bat.  I said I’m gonna toss these and you are gonna crush them as you are too much of a natural athlete not to hit.  His swing was perfect — I had him hit a few off a T and they were all line shots.  I switched to the whiffle balls and I started watching as I threw and his eyes never met mine when I threw.  His head was not completely turned to see the ball.  I said OF COURSE you aren’t hitting — you don’t see the ball. I went over and grabbed his helmet and turned (not too far) his head about 2 inches so now both of his eyes were looking at the pitcher.  Next whiffle ball he just about took my head off with it as I was standing close.   I said, GOT THAT — he said YES and next game he hit his first home run and on his travel team I know the coach and he said to me that the kid said, “Last practice Coach Grossman fixed my hitting.”  How much fun is that?                                                                                                                                                                               
Q: Any bad moments with parents?                                                                                                                                                                      
A: Sure —but let’s not go into them.  I try to be honest with parents and I try to ask them to talk to me after a game, but alas in the heat of the moment things happen.  At the end of the day there’s a great coach that told me, “ just remember most parents think their child is 70-80% better than they are”.                                                                                                                                                 
I laughed and it’s not always the case, but in any of the cases where I have had trouble with parents it’s because the reality of the child’s performance and skills is very different from what the parent sees.  Keep that in mind and remember not all parents are seeing these players all the time.  If you watch them a LOT you know there are BIG differences and not everyone is going to have a success at pitcher and shortstop and its your job to put kids in positions where they can succeed vs just pleasing parents.  Baseball is tough that way as the coach makes decisions about who plays where and odds are the parents aren’t going to agree with it.   Just be honest and try to make it so everyone develops their skills so maybe by the end of a season you can pitch 8 out 12 players — that will do more for overall team chemistry and parent happiness than anything else, but it takes a LOT of work.
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