by Neil Malm
(Rochester MN. USA)
BAIL OUT PROBLEM
The fear of being hit is, in my opinion, one of the toughest problems to coach. Especially in Minors baseball, as you have poorer pitching and limited time to work with the kids.
Kids are smart and they know it hurts to get hit with a baseball. Being smart, they naturally want to avoid that pain. Many step out or freeze until they are sure they are not going to get hit and then slap at the ball in desperation at the last second. Few have success at batting when doing this.
As a minors coach, I usually had one or two players a year that were scared enough of getting hit to effect their batting. So I tried some different things to help the kids.
I tried to distract them and create a positive reinforcement by offering them a bag of Hershey kisses if they happened to get hit (take one for the team). That really did not work and I had a kid that didn’t care if he got hit, so he deliberately would lean into a pitch to get the candy. So I ended that idea.
I bought the book “Managing Little League Baseball” by Ned MacIntosh. He recommended having a player bunt that has a fear of getting hit. I tried this out and it does seem to work and has some advantages for the player. If the kid is fast, he has a good chance to beat out the throw on the bunt even if the other team knows he is going to bunt. I had him attempt to bunt till he had two strikes then swing away. This helps break them of the habit of bailing out, freezing, or stepping in the bucket. They will see more pitches without the habit of bailing out or freezing. This gives the kid some success and confidence while at bat that they can build on. It turns him to face the ball and concentrate on the ball which kids want to do anyway. They learn to judge the flight of the ball and be confident they can avoid getting hit and it is easier to adjust the bat to contact the ball in the short time after they are sure they won’t get hit. It can throw off the pitcher as well giving them a chance to get a walk.
I hope this helps!
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