Here’s to Yogi

yogiIt is a rarity in sports when a superstar athlete is beloved by nearly everyone. It’s downright impressive when it’s a New York Yankee.

A three-time AL MVP, 10-time World Series champion and 18-time All-Star, Yogi Berra was one of precious few that achieved legend status while he was still living.

Adored by Yankee fans young and old, Berra’s exceptional life experience earned him affection from countless others, even if they despised the Bronx Bombers. A St. Louis native of Italian descent, Berra was raised Roman Catholic, stood a diminutive 5’7” and served with the U.S. Navy in World War II. His blue-collar work ethic also garnered respect, as he played more than 100 games in 14 straight seasons.

A 1972 Hall of Fame inductee, Berra was also named to The Sporting News’ list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players (1998) and the 1999 MLB All-Century Team.

“He knew baseball as well as anyone and he watched all of our games, but he didn’t like to overanalyze things,” wrote Derek Jeter in a Players Tribune article. “He loved simplicity. I think that’s why he often spoke in short sentences that were full of meaning. With Yogi, less was truly more.”

69 years to the day of his big league debut, Yogi passed away, but his words- affectionately known as ‘Yogisms’- are truly immortal. As with any of baseball’s best stories, the exact details are up for debate, but Berra was credited with a multitude of noteworthy quotes full of creativity, simplicity and charm- just like Yogi himself.

Here are just a few gems from the most quotable athlete in the history of sports: Continue reading

Will He Make It? How I project college players

article by Chris Burke former 1st round pick and MLB player; current ESPN analyst

article by Chris Burke
former 1st round pick and MLB player; current ESPN analyst

One of the best parts about my job as an ESPN college baseball analyst is that I get to travel around and see the next generation of the game’s great players. As a baseball NERD this is quite fun, especially the task of forecasting how a certain player’s skills will translate to the next level. The question comes up often, and while nobody is ever 100 percent sure about a prospect, there are some characteristics that I like to focus on to make my evaluation.

Now, I am by no means an expert in this space, and my experience is very much in the development stage as it pertains to projection, but these are the qualities I look for when measuring a college player’s chances at having a solid pro career.

This issue I will focus on position players (non-pitchers) and in an upcoming issue I will get into pitchers, both starters and relievers.

Projecting Position Players

1) Position profile: There are so many good college players that don’t ever make it to the big leagues, and a big part of that is being what some people call a “tweener,” meaning they’re not quite offensive enough to play their best defensive position, and not quite athletic enough to play a position where their bat would be sufficient.

For instance, a really good college third baseman may get to Double A because of their advanced approach and solid defense, but doesn’t produce enough runs to hit in the middle of the order and can’t run well enough to hit at the top of the order, or play defense in the middle of the field (CF, SS, 2B).

To be a top flight prospect, it really helps to have a clearly defined position.

2) Continue reading

Excited to announce our official partnership with the ABCA!

ABCA_LogoThe American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA), the leading professional organization for amateur baseball coaches, announces its newly forged relationship with Inside Pitch as an official partner of the ABCA. “The Inside Pitch magazine has been provided to attendees of our annual convention for the past three years. The quality of the magazine and its contents are excellent and the goals of Inside Pitch are consistent with those of the ABCA,” says ABCA Executive Director Craig Keilitz. “Through this relationship, our entire membership will have access to Inside Pitch and will be afforded opportunities to contribute to the magazine.”

Both the ABCA and Inside Pitch were busy in 2014. Along with a new design for its Covering All Bases newsletter, the ABCA recently launched a new website which offers new features, an updated look and simpler navigation for its members and others interested in the organization. The website redesign also includes the ABCAvideos.org site, which offers special discounts and free access to members and convention attendees. The ABCA has also enhanced the registration processes for both its membership and its annual convention, made its online Job Postings and Open Dates pages free for anyone to view, and has increased its presence on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to help spread news and encourage networking among members.

After unveiling its Summer issue at the Perfect Game World Wood Bat Championship in Jupiter, Fl., Inside Pitch launched a new-look website of its own, which is more content-focused and easier for visitors to navigate. Inside Pitch also announced that its online publication can now be downloaded and viewed across all platforms, including iOS, Google Play, Amazon and HTML5. The updated app includes full issue content along with exclusive extras such as videos, slideshows, music, hyperlinks and other multimedia.

“I have tremendous respect for the members, board of directors and the executive committee of the ABCA,” said Inside Pitch Publisher Keith Madison, who is an ABCA Hall of Famer himself. “Our relationship with this organization will broaden our reach and provide both the ABCA and Inside Pitch with a larger platform to promote quality instruction, cutting edge information and character in the game we all love. Saying that I’m excited about this initiative would be an understatement.”

About the American Baseball Coaches Association

Established in 1945, the American Baseball Coaches Association is the foremost professional organization for amateur baseball coaches. Its membership has grown to over 6,600 members representing all 50 states, more than 20 different countries and eight divisions across amateur baseball: NCAA Division I, II and III, NAIA, Junior College, Pacific Association Division, High School and Youth.  The Association is involved in numerous programs that promote the integrity of the profession and the development of the game of baseball. Each January, the ABCA hosts the largest baseball convention in the world.

For more information on the ABCA, visit www.abca.org

About Inside Pitch

Inside Pitch is a quarterly instructional baseball magazine for players, parents, coaches and fans that promotes integrity, thought, development and improvement of the game of baseball in a direct, unique, and first-class manner. Inside Pitch will continually strive to be informative, entertaining and inspirational for the reader and fan of amateur baseball, whether coach, player, instructor or administrator. Inside Pitch is a cross-platform publication that can be downloaded and viewed with iOS, Google Play, Amazon and HTML5 and includes full issue content along with exclusive extras such as videos, slideshows, music, hyperlinks and other multimedia.  For more information see: www.insidepitchonline.com.

Fall 2014 recap

fall14Publisher Keith Madison wants us to enjoy the ride. Don’t miss his take on what every player needs.

We heard what our readers would do if they called the shots in our Fall 2014 From the Bleachers. Our 3 up, 3 down section covered what baseball’s past three commissioners have done in office.

Coaches Corner featured Top Coach Podcast‘s Jack Warren.

We know that recruiting is a two-way street, and coaches from across the country chimed in on how to get recruited.

New Mexico State head coach Brian Green was the subject of an excellent Inside Interview.

Read why Eddie Comeaux thinks that Little League World Series players should be compensated, and check out Louisville Slugger’s 2015 performance bats.

The ultimate walk-off was registered towards the end of the 2014 season. Did you miss it?

Drs. Michael Ciccotti and Ben Kibler address the arm injury epidemic in Part 1 of our Arm care double feature.

Also don’t miss three resolutions we should all try, Chris Burke’s Frame by Frame breakdown of Giancarlo’s Ground Force, how to love the game more by playing it less, and the ABCA offering clinic videos to all.

Keep your internet browsers pointed this way for all the Winter 2015 articles coming soon!

 

 

What’s the deal with scholarships?

College baseball has seen unprecedented growth over the past several years. Facilities, attendance and general interest in college baseball used to just exist in pockets in the southern United States. Now, first-class facilities and growing fan bases are visible all over the country.

The parity that now exists in the game gives many more schools a chance to make it Omaha, thanks in large part to the changes in the bats and the resources that so many universities have now committed to the programs. For all intents and purposes, it’s a fair playing field.

Except for scholarships. Continue reading

Why a leg kick?

Chris Burke

Chris Burke

As a sophomore at the University of Tennessee (UT) I had a breakout year. I set the school record for hits in a season, batted over .400, and earned first team All-SEC and All-America honors. That performance earned me the chance to try out for the USA National team in the summer of 2000. Before I left for tryouts, my head coach Rod Delmonico called me into his office for what would prove to be a career-changing conversation.

Before I left, he wanted to talk to me about my swing- specifically my load (or lack thereof). Although I’d had a productive year, I hit only four home runs. Doubles were not a problem, but I wasn’t able to consistently get the ball out of the park. Coach Delmonico suggested that I spend my summer studying the guys I was going to play with (Mark Teixeira and Ryan Howard were both on the team) and try to find a comfortable, consistent way to get some separation in my load. He showed me my video and pointed out that as my front foot went forward my hands did too, putting me in a weak position to swing, and said that he felt I had the power to hit more homers if I could get in a better power position.

I have told this story many times and most people are surprised that he was so bold to attempt to change me and that I was so easily convinced to change. The truth is, I don’t think I would have changed without the video. Once I saw the clips of my load and compared it to the best hitters in the world, it was obvious that I needed to change, the question was how?

All summer long, I tried to figure out a way to get my hands moving back as my foot went forward, but I was unsuccessful for the most part. My breakthrough came when I was watching former UT standout and five-time MLB All-Star Todd Helton. I noticed that he started with his hands really high, almost above his head. When he would stride, his front knee would come up as his hands went down and back. I decided I would give it a try and almost instantly, it felt comfortable.

While I didn’t implement these changes full-time until I returned to UT, the results came instantly. My teammates had given me a hard time for my lack of BP power, but now I was hitting three or four balls out almost every round. When the season came, the changes I made showed up in a big way: I set school records in hits, slugging percentage and extra base hits and hit five times as many home runs (20). My batting average also went up 30 points! The addition of the leg kick resulted in more separation with my hands and changed my career.

I have spent a lot of time breaking down why I had such a dramatic improvement and why we see so many of the great hitters in the Major Leagues use the leg kick, and have broken it down into two main points:

Rhythm and timing. Maybe the hardest part of hitting is being on time. That is why so many people try to stress getting your “foot down early” so you will be “on time.” The problem is if the foot is down too early, we lose our rhythm. When you study the game’s greats, you see players who are able to make adjustments to different pitches in different locations traveling at different velocities. The leg kick helps with this by giving the hitter the freedom to be athletic, make minor adjustments, and handle all types of pitches.
Engage your legs! No one would argue with the fact that our legs are the strongest muscles in our bodies. Thus, the act of swinging a bat violently has to include the maximum use of our legs. Oftentimes when hitters don’t stride or quick stride, they are susceptible to standing up or never using their lower half. When a hitter uses a leg kick, their entire lower body is activated when their foot hits the ground. They’re also able to use the ground to create maximum energy in the swing!

I’m not saying there aren’t plenty of hitters that have had success with the no stride or “foot down early” technique; some great hitters past and present (Joe DiMaggio and Albert Pujols instantly come to mind) have used this style with Hall of Fame results. Just like the leg kick isn’t for everybody, so is the no stride. The challenge is to get the most out of your swing so that you can be as consistent and powerful as possible. So if you’re looking to make a jump in one of those areas, try the leg kick- it certainly worked for me!

Chris Burke’s four keys to stealing bases

article by Chris Burke

article by Chris Burke

Amateur baseball is in the midst of what many have called the “dead bat” era. Home runs are way down in both college and high school baseball, thus scores are much lower and runs are at a premium. With tougher scoring conditions teams have looked to a number of alternatives to gain an edge offensively.

Some programs have emphasized the bunting game, some have worked diligently on situational hitting and others have decided to recruit more speed in an attempt to steal more bases.  While all of these areas are vital components of an effective offensive attack, the stolen base can be the most disruptive and ultimately lead to increased run production. With that said, let me first admit that the hardest base to steal is first base, but assuming the offense is producing base runners, here are four keys to swiping more bags:

1) Practice, practice, practice
I was blessed to play for Rod Delmonico at the University of Tennessee. Coach D loved to steal bases and he put a strong emphasis on it during all of our practices. We talked leads, starts, slides, situations, and constantly worked on our breaks!  During our scrimmages we had a mandatory steal rule. It was a must steal within the first 3 pitches of every at bat. This type of mindset was equally beneficial for the offense and the defense. As base runners we developed an aggressive mentality, and learned how to steal bases when the defense was on high alert. While the offense is gaining confidence and learning, the defense is getting invaluable game reps as they work to control the running game. Continue reading