In my 21 years coaching youth baseball, I’ve been called a good coach, a great coach, an overrated coach and a horrible coach. I guess it depends on which game or games people have seen me coach to determine which superlative to use.
I like to think that my best coaching moves come from my gut and not from the “book” of coaching. People have questioned some moves I have made and asked me why I did what I did. Many times I have to respond, “I just had a feeling it would work.”
I have also found that the best coaches in all sports deviate from the “book” over the course of their career. Some of these uncanny moves will work and some will not.
My thoughts are you cannot have all coaching moves pre-determined, because situations occur with different personnel at different times.
Let’s look at five situations and why I sometimes stray from conventional coaching decisions:
Tip No.1: Don’t Bunt With Two Strikes
This is a tough one when it fails. We have all seen it in youth baseball when the third baseman plays in close anticipating a bunt.
When the strike count gets to two, the coach will yell to the third baseman something like this: “Two strikes on the hitter. Move back so you are even with the base.”
When the fielder moves back, depending on the ability of the batter, I love to give him another chance to bunt, given that the defense and opposing coach are sure the batter will not bunt. I have been successful with this and at other times it has failed.
One warning, if you try this. When your batter does fail, you will hear from all the “General Managers” in the bleachers.
Tip No.2: Catch Everything With Two Hands
I know most coaches and parents will hold me to task on this one. When my players are moving laterally reaching for a fly ball, I just want them to catch the ball any way possible.
I don’t want my players thinking they have to catch everything with two hands if some catches are easier one-handed. If the shortstop is sprinting for a pop-up behind the third baseman, and has to reach for it, a one-handed catch works best.
When catching a pop-up hit right to a player, with little or no running, a two-handed catch works best. But too many coaches and parents overemphasize catching everything with two hands. Coaches need to have youth players practice catching balls with one and two hands.
Tip No.3: Don’t Make the First or Third Out at Third Base
Tim McCarver won’t invite me over to dinner on this one. I send my runner to third most of the time not worrying about how many outs we have.
I have my teams run the bases aggressively. We get thrown out at third and home more than other teams. But we also win more games than we lose.
In youth baseball, every game has its share of wild pitches and passed balls. From my many years coaching third base I know that we have a great chance getting the runner home on a wild pitch or passed ball.
I hate ending the inning with a player who doesn’t score from third base when some aggressive baserunning would have landed him on third and he would have scored.