Little League Dad Confusion

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So my son Emmett, age 7, just started his fourth season of Little League, but his first out here in California.

He’s on the Orioles in A ball, which means coaches pitch 90 percent of the time, kids the other 10 percent. Emmett is a very solid little player—he makes more plays in the field than most, is an OK hitter, runs well. Blah, blah, blah.

Last spring, our last in New Rochelle, Emmett had a little bit of a breakthrough. He started hitting well, getting on base a lot, feeling great about himself. Much of the success came with a slight change in his stance—he started holding the bat closer to his body, with his elbow lowered instead of cocked back. It was terrific—he didn’t hit for power, but he hit for a high average. And, again, felt comfortable and happy.

I digress. We’re now in California, on the Orioles. And the coach—a lovely man who seems to know baseball—is insisting all the kids hit with their elbows cocked far back, sorta like this …

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And Emmett is more like this …

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 11.41.03 PMI don’t want to be the jerk pigheaded father who demands things and insists he knows and blah, blah, blah. I also, however, see Emmett’s discomfort and confusion. I do believe he learned to hit well with the hands lower, and also believe (firmly) that different strokes apply to different folks.

So, dear readers, here’s the question: Do I (gently) say something? Request he let Emmett hit as he hits? Do I have that right as a parent, without crossing a line? Or do I just sit back from afar and hope it works out?

Thoughts genuinely appreciated.

7 thoughts on “Little League Dad Confusion”

  1. I think if you bring it up as you have here – thoughtfully, respectfully – you aren’t crossing any lines. I imagine at this level it’s primarily an instructional league, so if you let him know your kid has had success with a different stance, I don’t see anyone thinking that unreasonable. Besides, as the great Ted Williams said, “Don’t ever let anyone monkey with your swing.”

  2. Yes. I do think you should gently say something to get to know the coaches thoughts in his hitting approach and talk about the success your son had previously. From there, hopefully it will allow an ongoing dialogue with the coach to help your son.

    I am a high school baseball coach and a hitting instructor. From a hitting perspective, it doesn’t matter where the hitters hands start, as long as they end up in “ready position” when the hitter begins his swing. In the picture above, ARod would move his hands closer to his shoulders as he begins his swing. Mattingly’s hand are already in ready position.

    I trust two of the greatest hitters of all time. Ted Williams and Tony Gwynn both have instructional hitting videos on You Tube. Once in ready position, Gwynn explains to lead with the knob of the bat to the baseball. A good hitting instructor will know where ready position is and knows what it means.

  3. How about just having Emmett tell his coach he feels better swinging the other way. If he is hitting well so be it. Also he’s 7, learning new is what he is built for. Pros adjust their swings in all sports. Let the coach teach him this technique as an alternate to his current, explain to E that there are a lot of ways to swing and that there is something to learn from this technique as well. If it is not working have him change back… He’s 7, the scouts won’t be around for another 2 years.

  4. When I coached, I always was open to suggestions on theory of “if there was only one way to teach baseball, there would only be one book on how to play baseball.” Yes, you should say something. This coach might only know how to hit and/or teach hitting one way so he will hopefully be open to suggestion.

  5. a “good coach” tailors his coaching to his players’ strengths.
    It is understood that Emmett is only 7 and the coach is most likely volunteering (thank him for that), but the theory remains.
    Bottom line is that Emmett is playing baseball (one assumes) because he finds it fun. Hitting is fun; being successful is fun. A volunteer-coach should realize that. Emmet should be allowed to hit in a way that leads to success and to fun. Coach should coach up the kids’ strengths.
    Have you asked Emmett how he feels? What he wants?
    If Emmett wants to hit like Donny-Baseball, he should. And you should say something to the coach (Coach, after all, might not even realize what he is doing.). Or Emmett might get discouraged and not want to play anymore.

  6. At this age chances are you have a newer coach teaching what they teach the coaches at the Little League clinics. The default stance sure sounds like it, if you hear them talking about squishing a bug with the back foot it’s a mortal lock. Either way, at this age the coaches are trying to put untutored kids into basic positions to begin teaching. Early in the year they don’t know what level each kid is at or how much (or well) they’ve been coached. They are just trying to assess the kids and start teaching.

    So…this is the perfect time to help the coach out by letting him know how your son has been taught and what he has success with. Three sentences will save the coach time (and your son frustration) figuring it out and they can start building on what he already has learned.

    I still coach in the 8-9 age range, for me the first practice is always basic drills and me telling each kid to show me what they have. Then I have an idea of what they’ve been taught and where each kid can start learning from.

    (C’mon, Jeff, coach a year. You try hard enough that you’d be good)

  7. My son is also seven, and I’ve done some coaching with his teams for the past three seasons or so. A lot of kids at that age have a hard time with the basics of hitting, so I know I would appreciate it if a parent let me know that they had practiced with their child and found a batting style that worked for them. You should probably just take care to mention it before the next practice rather than during the hitting drill itself.

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