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Sparks Journey from Little League to College

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  • Or, as some coaches put it, every pitch is either a swing or a "check swing". This may be a risky cue to give to some kids, but the idea is that they should go through their launch routine on every pitch, but train themselves to abort the swing when they realize it's not hittable.

    Plus, I think if you look ready and determined when you take a pitch, the ump is more inclined to call borderline pitches a ball.
    sigpicIt's not whether you fall -- everyone does -- but how you come out of the fall that counts.

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    • Mistake

      We were supposed to play our last fall season game last night, it was rained out. All in all we played a total of 6 games during the fall season. Most of the games were cancelled due to weather and they refuse to allow us to make the games up.

      I must say I have never been more disappointed. I think I made a big mistake this year. My boy begged me to allow him to play football and I refused, I wanted him to play fall baseball. (Notice that I said "I"). My boy didn't have a great fall league season. I guess the only bright spot was that he earned a spot on the pitching rotation which I told him he would have to do to be a pitcher. On a team with older kids he was the third pitcher and did pretty well. As I've said before most of the other kids were older and bigger.

      The end result is my boy didn't have fun playing fall league. When the last game was rained out he said he was glad. I almost fainted because he's always loved to play. It didn't help that the fall season was run terrible. They made us play on an old softball field and the fences were 285 feet and on top of that the fence was 15 feet high. There simply was no way these kids were going to hit a homerun. Let's face it, part of the game that kids love is hitting homeruns...when you take that away from them you take a lot of the fun away. My boy had finally gotten where he could hit homeruns over the fence on the 205 feet field and he was looking forward to hitting one over in a game. He hit 6 over the fence in practice and he was thrilled.

      Looking back I think my boy got burned out on baseball. He played the entire summer on my team. He also played with the older team so you can say he played two seasons this summer. Then of course there was the all star games and so forth. When fall ball came around I think he was burned out.

      In the future I'm going to try to make sure he has fun playing and not force it on him again. Who knows, maybe he would have been a good football player.

      Anyway, if anything I learned a lesson. All the talent in the world isn't worth spit if the kids can't have fun.

      Till next time...

      Sparks,

      Comment


      • Originally posted by Sparksdale
        The end result is my boy didn't have fun playing fall league. When the last game was rained out he said he was glad. I almost fainted because he's always loved to play.
        Hey Sparks,
        Always love the updates.

        It sounds like your boy hit his saturation point sometime in the summer. I always caution parents against multi league years for this reason.

        Every child has a saturation point. If they reach that point it sometimes results in the child walking away from the sport you thought they loved. Pushing them too hard consciously or sub-consciously can have devastating results both emotionally and physically for the child (and sometimes for the parents - or grandparent). Believe me I have made this mistake and wish I could turn back the clock.

        Keeping a healthy perspective on what's good for the child and what is not an easy task. It's like playing Russian Roulette, sometimes it's worth the risk, sometimes not. The most important aspect of the process is in what we learn.

        I suspect Mini-Sparks will rally in the spring when the sounds of baseball are once again echo throughout the country.

        Again, love the updates!
        Best regards,
        Jake
        "He who dares to teach, must never cease to learn."
        - John Cotton Dana (1856–1929) - Offered to many by L. Olson - Iowa (Teacher)
        Please read Baseball Fever Policy and Forum FAQ before posting.

        Comment


        • I'll offer my humble opinion on this topic, but to start I'll give you a bit of background.

          I have coached kids ranging in age from 5-18 for many of the past 20 years. As a strategist, I prefer the 16-18 year olds, but enjoy teaching/working on the fundamentals with 10-12 year olds as well, not to mention that this is the age group where I have spent most of my coaching years.

          Here's a little background on myself. I was a pretty decent high school player, not great, but good enough to receive 3 D-II offers for baseball. Throughout my early years (ages 10-14), every coach I had wanted me to pitch, but I had always resisted as I much preferred the "hot corner" and getting my uniform dirty! One game our team was desperate for pitching as we were short pitchers due to summer vacations, suspensions and overuse. I came in and threw strikes for 2 innings while suprisingly blowing through hitters with nothing but a fastball. At that time, I was 14 years old and later that year was clocked at 81 MPH. I wasn't much of a pitcher as I couldn't throw a lot of "junk", but I threw strikes and changed speeds and had a lot of natural movement on my fastball and that proved to be enough. Although I threw hard, my pitching career was less than spectacular and at 16, I tore my rotator cuff and later suffered a dislocated shoulder in football, that required reconstruction (as you can tell, I was recruited as a hitter, not a pitcher).

          As a coach, the thought of using a radar gun for anyone under the age of 13 sounds like a horrible idea (I'm not crazy about using one for kids between the ages of 13-15 either) as these are the ages where kids should be learning the fundamentals of the game. I am all for development tools, but I do not see a radar gun as a tool, but as a measurement.

          If your child is throwing 46 MPH at 10 years old, he does have a good arm. Don't push him, but encourage him (i.e., don't force him to pitch, don't force him to play on traveling teams, etc.)!!! If he is interested in strengthening his arm, try buying theraband. Theraband is a large rubber band that stretches from your foot to your hand and you repeatedly perform reps of your throwing motion...this will increase the strength in his shoulder. I'm sure there are newer and better things available today, but this is an affordable and effective way to strengthen his shoulder while watching TV, reading or whatever. Focus on throwing strikes!!! Draw a plate on the back of your house or buy a pitch-back and have him throw a rubber ball at it. This will help him with his control while strengthening his arm, and at the same time, it's fun. Have him play out a game with just walks and strikeouts. It sounds like you are an excited father, which is OK (you should be), but just remember to support his wants and not yours. Your son could have a bright future...keep us updated.

          Comment


          • Update

            It's been several months since I've posted.

            My boy is 11 now.

            Last week we received a phone call from a travel team from a nearby town. They invited my boy to come and try out for the team (very short notice).
            Because of weather and school I only had one good day to take him to the bb field and practice. The day I took him I have to tell you that he was terrible. You wouldn't believe how bad he was. The word rust doesn't do it justice.

            This past weekend we had the tryout for the travel team. I've known about this travel team for a couple of years. It's my understanding that this is one of the better travel teams around here.

            When tryouts came my boy was very good. There was no way he was the same kid I had at the baseball field just two days before. Of course he made a few mistakes but he looked really good. They were doing grounders (all of the kids lined up in the short stop position) and the ball got by one of the boys and rolled to the fence. My boy ran to the ball and stood almost flat footed and threw it all the way to home plate. The ball fell into the coaches glove chest high. I knew he had a good arm but he didn't run and throw it he just turned and threw. He was about one maybe two feet from a 205 ft fence. My goodness that was a great throw for an 11 year old. After practice I asked him if he threw that ball as hard as he could and he smiled and said no. I only threw it about 85% he said. I laughed because when he and I pitch in the backyard I'll tell him give me one about 40% or 50% or 80%....you get the idea.

            Anyway, we got the call today that my boy made the team!

            I will not be coaching him now but that is fine by me. These coaches are very good coaches. I loved the way they ran practice. One of the coaches is pretty stern with the boys (I like that). My boy was yes sir and no sir to him (again I like that).

            My boy is playing basketball right now. Again he is the best player on the basketball team. He has always been the best player in any sport he has played. I tell you that because of this... this travel ball team is made up of very good players. Every single kid on that team is as good or better than my boy. All of these kids have had a lifetime of "great coaching" and they are fundamentally sound. I don't know how many kids will be on the team but I'll guess 11 or 12. My boy might be the 10th best player on the team (right now). In short, my boy has a lot to learn, things that I either couldn't teach him or he simply would not listen to me.

            It will be interesting to see how he responds to his first challenge. Will he work hard to be the best? It's always come so easy to him in the past so will he be willing to do what it takes to be the best? I honestly don't know. I know he will go in the backyard and throw pitches and hit off the tee and stuff. But what will he do when the coach puts him in the outfield or maybe my boy doesn't start a game for the first time in his life? How will he respond to that?

            Of course I don't know the answer. But being on a travel team is something he has dreamed of doing since he learned that there were travel teams. So, we'll see.....

            Now I have no idea how we are going to pay for this....I don't have a clue. Our finances have hit a snag and we are still paying legal bills to try and keep him from going back to a home where he was abused. I reckon the man upstairs will find a way...he always does.

            I'll update all of you on my boys progress on the team. It is my hope that he learns a great work ethic and really learns the game from good coaches that know how to teach kids the game of baseball.

            Sparks

            Comment


            • Hey Sparks!
              Glad to hear things are going well for you all. I always look forward to your updates.

              Many TB coaches are a step above rec league coaches and hopefully he'll get the next level of training he needs. I am glad to hear he is playing absketball. I have always felt that multiple sports help develop the overall athlete.

              Hope all the other things in his (and your) life are going well.

              Regards,
              Jake
              "He who dares to teach, must never cease to learn."
              - John Cotton Dana (1856–1929) - Offered to many by L. Olson - Iowa (Teacher)
              Please read Baseball Fever Policy and Forum FAQ before posting.

              Comment


              • By the Way

                I don't want to bring up this argument again but I thought it was worth mentioning.

                At the end of tryouts (for the travel ball team the other day) the coaches wanted to see the boys pitch. It's my understanding that this particular coach wants every player on his team to be a pitcher (I think this is normal for travel ball but I'm not sure about that).
                Anyway.....yep you guessed it, they got out the radar gun when they looked at the boys pitching. My boy hit 57 mph at 11 years old. I don't think 57mph is super great for an 11 year old but most of his pitches were either strikes or close to a strike. He only had one wild pitch that was in the dirt. I think it's also important to note that we had only been throwing the baseball for about 4 days before tryouts. He hadn't thrown a baseball in about three months. Then again, all the other kids were the same way so I guess it all evens out.

                I'm not sure what these boys on the other travel teams will throw (at 11 years old) but my guess is when they start playing in tournaments we will see some kids who throw some fire.

                I was also thinking of something the other day when my boy was trying out for the team. Once again he is the smallest player on the team. I guess as a parent (grandparent) we don't see our kids compared to other kids. In other words I never really notice that my boy is smaller than other kids. Well, the day after tryouts I weighed and measured my boy. He is 4'9" tall and weighs 89 pounds. I know all kids grow at different times but it seems my boy is always a little smaller than other kids (not a lot smaller just a little).

                I had to ask myself what I hope my boy will get out of travel ball. Going by his family history I doubt he will grow taller than 6 ft. So I'm going ahead right now and getting it out of my head that he will ever play pro ball ( I never really thought he would but I'm going to go ahead and get it out of my mind right here and now).

                1.My greatest hope is that he can love the game of baseball (and other sports) and stay out of trouble. It is a dream of mine that my boy will never ever do any drugs of any kind. Maybe by staying in sports it will make him want to take care of himself and his body.

                2. Confident: I want him to be confident in life. I think sports is a good way for kids to have confidence in themselves.

                3.Respect: I want him to respect other people. Sports is a great way for kids to learn how to respect others and to play as a team and rely on other people to achieve a goal.

                4. (this might be a little far fetched). It is a great great hope of mine that he could be good enough to get into college. My dream would be for him to get a scholarship. Yes he is only 11 and I'm thinking way way ahead. But I want him to have a great education which will allow him to do what ever he wants in life. I don't want him to have to settle for a low paying job (like most of us have had to do).

                I have always thought sports can build a foundation for a child that will carry them through life. Who knows, my boy might love sports and be a great coach some day. I guess it all boils down to this. I think sports builds character in kids. I only want what's best for my boy and I hope that sports will be the foundation to help give him a great life.

                Sparks,

                Comment


                • Originally posted by Sparksdale
                  Anyway.....yep you guessed it, they got out the radar gun when they looked at the boys pitching. My boy hit 57 mph at 11 years old. I don't think 57mph is super great for an 11 year old but most of his pitches were either strikes or close to a strike.
                  This is pretty fast for that age. Control is what's most important. The coach looking for everyone to be able to pitch is a smart thing as long as the number of games are age appropriate.


                  Originally posted by Sparksdale
                  I was also thinking of something the other day when my boy was trying out for the team. Once again he is the smallest player on the team. I guess as a parent (grandparent) we don't see our kids compared to other kids. In other words I never really notice that my boy is smaller than other kids. Well, the day after tryouts I weighed and measured my boy. He is 4'9" tall and weighs 89 pounds. I know all kids grow at different times but it seems my boy is always a little smaller than other kids (not a lot smaller just a little).
                  The doctors can feel through xrays and other tests just how big he is going to be.

                  Originally posted by Sparksdale
                  1. My greatest hope is that he can love the game of baseball
                  2. Confident: I want him to be confident in life.
                  3.Respect: I want him to respect other people.
                  All great goals...
                  "He who dares to teach, must never cease to learn."
                  - John Cotton Dana (1856–1929) - Offered to many by L. Olson - Iowa (Teacher)
                  Please read Baseball Fever Policy and Forum FAQ before posting.

                  Comment


                  • Originally posted by Sparksdale
                    I got home that night and emailed my old high school baseball coach. He coaches at the University of Alabama now. I told him about my boy and asked his advice. He put me in my spot in a hurry. He told me not to get caught up in all of it but to make sure my boy had fun. He said what ever I do make sure he has fun. He is right of course.
                    My kids are eighteen and thirteen. One plays college ball. The other is 14U. I've watched so many preteens go from stud to dud in a couple of years or in the transition to the big field, parents should learn to enjoy every moment their kids are having fun playing the game.

                    When it stops being fun the kids won't play. The ride home should be asking what kind of ice cream they want, not what were they thinking when they swung at ball four on a 3-2 count. The kid knows he shouldn't have swung. He'd rather talk about ice cream.

                    My dad didn't say much more than two things about my games. One was "good game." The other was "there's always next game." When I was older he did add the Sunday doubleheaders in the college summer league might be easier if I wasn't out until the bars closed Saturday night.

                    Comment


                    • Originally posted by Sparksdale
                      I think I made a big mistake this year. My boy begged me to allow him to play football and I refused, I wanted him to play fall baseball. (Notice that I said "I").
                      Never forget it's his youth, not yours.

                      Originally posted by Sparksdale
                      There simply was no way these kids were going to hit a homerun. Let's face it, part of the game that kids love is hitting homeruns...when you take that away from them you take a lot of the fun away.
                      The fun is hitting the ball hard and competing. Home runs should come off pitcher's mistakes.


                      Originally posted by Sparksdale
                      In the future I'm going to try to make sure he has fun playing and not force it on him again. Who knows, maybe he would have been a good football player.

                      Anyway, if anything I learned a lesson. All the talent in the world isn't worth spit if the kids can't have fun.
                      By the end of the post you're getting it. My son didn't touch a baseball from mid August until last week. He was real ready. That's the way I like it.

                      Comment


                      • Originally posted by Sparksdale
                        Anyway, we got the call today that my boy made the (travel) team!
                        How many games? Is is it tournament or league ball? How many players on the roster have dads coaching the team?

                        Originally posted by Sparksdale
                        Now I have no idea how we are going to pay for this....I don't have a clue.
                        Be careful. What he accomplishes before he hits the big field isn't going to impact his future sucess/making high school team. Having solid fundamentals when he hits the big field are most important regardless of where he plays preteen.

                        Some parents get caught up into thinking they are denying their kid something if they don't play preteen travel. It's not the end of the world not to play travel early on.

                        Comment


                        • Originally posted by TG Coach
                          My dad didn't say much more than two things about my games. One was "good game." The other was "there's always next game." When I was older he did add the Sunday doubleheaders in the college summer league might be easier if I wasn't out until the bars closed Saturday night.
                          LOL... He sounds alot like my Dad...


                          As for SPARKS.....just relax and LET HIM PLAY. Maybe I've throttled back lately, or the people around me have ratcheted up...but I coach a 10U "travel" team....and I can't believe how early parents were getting worked up over baseball..when my son and I were worried about having enough good days to go hunting....and then basketball season....just let it come. Let him HAVE FUN.

                          And like many have said...unfortunately..or fortunately...depending on where you're standing...what a kid does at the younger ages, especially in baseball, really means nothing for later in their sports 'career'. The big equalizer will be puberty...and then when cars,jobs, and GIRLS enter the top five of their interests. It's a lotto pick at best before then. I've watched several guys I grew up with end up playing pro sports, and only one did I even REMEMBER playing against BEFORE High School Age....

                          So let him have fun. If wants to practice, practice with him. But don't push.....



                          HTH

                          Comment


                          • Oh my did you mention girls?

                            My boy has a little girlfriend, I'm not happy about it either mind you. She is an older woman and I don't like it. He is in the fifth grade and this little lady is in the sixth grade!!!!! LOL...kidding of course.
                            He talks to her for hours on the phone. He used to beg to go pitch now he wants to see if he has a message on "myspace" or he calls his girlfriend.

                            I told him he cannot have a girlfriend until he is 18 ;-)

                            Seriously, I can already see how he doesn't live and breathe baseball (or other sports). Then again he is playing basketball right now and he really doesn't care that much about baseball (at present).

                            I reckon my dad thought I would be a major leaguer's or a doctor or something. I reckon none of our plans happen like we dream. I will say this, and I've said it on this thread before. From the ages of 9 -11 my boy was the best baseball player in our area for his age. No other kid really came close. He did great pitching and incredible hitting. Yeah, he may have peaked at 11 but I will always have those memories of my kid being the best if only for a short while in his life.
                            Our last season LL all star game my boy was the starting pitcher. Our area had not won a single all star game (for the 9-10 year olds) in over 35 years. My boy pitched the first game and we won! After he threw the last pitch and the hitter grounded out I ran onto the field and my boy jumped into my arms (he pitched a complete game). I will always cherish that memory. There was also a game where he played up (the 11-13 year old) and hit a homerun as a 10 year old. That was a great day.

                            I'll always have those memories, and many many more. I just hope he likes sports and learns to respect others and work hard in life. If a kid is playing a sport then he isn't out doing things that get him in trouble. For example: I have a kid who played on my baseball team. He had a great arm and did pretty good hitting. Well, he quite the team several times and each time I would let him come back. Finally he quite for good. He was very good friends with my boy and spent the night here many times and I picked him up from school everyday for two years. Well, we had several things come up missing at my house. Come to find out this 11 year old kid was steeling them. He isn't in sports at all and every day after school he just runs around the neighborhood and I think he just looks for trouble.
                            Mean while, my boy has to rush home to do homework because he has practice or what ever.

                            In the end I try to do what is best for my boy. I'm sure I'll make many wrong decisions along the way. The best I can hope is that I give him a foundation to build upon. I think it is a huge honor for him to be on a travel team. It reflects not only his God given ability but also reflects the fact that he has worked his tail off to be good at something. Travel sports will take up time that he might be spending running around the neighborhood steeling other peoples things.

                            Comment


                            • Originally posted by Sparksdale
                              I'm sure I'll make many wrong decisions along the way.
                              I do not believe they will out number the correct decisions. As always love the updates.
                              "He who dares to teach, must never cease to learn."
                              - John Cotton Dana (1856–1929) - Offered to many by L. Olson - Iowa (Teacher)
                              Please read Baseball Fever Policy and Forum FAQ before posting.

                              Comment


                              • i agree. The fastest kid in my class when we were 10-13 wasnt top 5 in highschool. He was also one of the best ball players and wasnt good enough to make the team in hs. A lot can change in those puberty years
                                Originally posted by wogdoggy
                                easy sparky,,all i said is he better know how to throw,,cause if he cant throw hes done.must be nice knowing how a 10 yr old boy matures to make a statement that you KNOW your kids gonna make HS,,that is something you CANT control..Maybe he has a rotten tryout or God forbid he hurts himself before the tryouts..what I'm saying is ANYTHING can happen between now and then..making a STATEMENT like I KNOW he will make the HS team tells me you must be from a rather SMALL community..HECK you though he would make the travel team and he didnt...so maybe ease up on me.you are taking it the wrong way.I would love to see evry kid get to play until he WANTS to quit but being in a HS with near 4000 students REALITY can bite pretty hard.FWIW my boy never played a lick of travel ball and avg 16 games of park district ball per year and made the team..NOT ONE kid who had a sub par arm made the team.GOOD luck to you and junior,,and honestly travel ball is good but its not the CURE ALL for staying in the game.sorry if i come across rude in print,,I just read two ohfor comments and it must have rubbed off on me inadvertently

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