We're often told in life to "not sweat the small stuff," but it is just as often the case that the, seemingly insignificant, small stuff means the difference between winning and losing.
Here are three tips--or three areas of "small stuff"--that when focused on can help any baseball player take their game to the next level.
It's All in the Details
In many games, only one or two plays decide the outcome, making execution critical at various points during the contest. Laying down a bunt to move up a runner or taking an extra base on a throw to home can help a team win as much as a clutch base hit.
Laying Down a Bunt
Bunting is somewhat of a lost art in the professional game, apparently forgotten in an age where entertainment typically holds a greater value than playing fundamental, winning baseball.
For example, let's assume a scenario in which runners are on first and third with one out, up by a run. It's late in the game, so insurance is at a premium, yet when was the last time you saw a major league power hitter lay down a bunt along the first base side -- a nearly indefensible strategy, since the runner must be held on at first and making a play at home in this situation is difficult for the pitcher, regardless of which side he comes off the mound.
Tip: Learn how to execute a proper bunt, and pay attention to game situations when it can be effective.
Taking the Extra Base
There's a fast baserunner on second when a single is dropped into right-center field. Assuming he was running on the play, there should be no reason he cannot score, yet the outfielder will typically make an attempt to make the putout at home, especially in a tight game.
However, the batter will often round first on the play, and jog back to the base, when he could have taken second base while the ball was on its way home. The throw is often cut by the pitcher, whereas the runner would need to get back to first, but the pitcher does not cut it off, there is little excuse for not making it to second.
Tip: Aggressive baserunning can often force your opponents to make a mistake.
Discipline and Hustle
Always hustle, regardless of how the play seems to be unfolding. What may appear to be a routine ground ball to second may turn into a bad-hop opportunity or an overthrow of the first baseman.
A ball crushed deep may not always be a home run, but a lack of hustle can mean the difference between a double and a single if the hit stays in the park. Discipline cannot be overstated in its importance to winning, where it comes into play at the plate, on the base path, and everywhere in-between.
When a batter makes a pitcher work, it forces fatigue later in the game. When a runner stays smart when on base, he keeps the opponents on-guard and does not give them anything for free.
Tip: You can't always control results, but you can control effort. Give 110 percent and you put yourself in a good position to succeed.
I have spent many years coaching Little League baseball and am currently serving as an assistant coach at Grossmont College (JC) near San Diego, CA.