Best Cooler for Weekend Camping or Youth Sports

My wife was right.

For our 2-night camping trips, I wanted to get the bigger, “better” cooler. She wanted smaller.

We got smaller. Everything fit. Everything stayed cool.

The “best” cooler turned out to be the correctly-sized cooler, correctly packed. Read More »

Filed in category: Product Information

So You Want Your Kid to be a Good Baseball Player

Some parents come from a place of supporting their kid’s biggest passion in life. Others come from a place of wanting their kid to be the best they can be at whatever they do. Others may wish for their kid to have more baseball success than they had. Regardless of where you’re coming from, you’re not alone if you want to give your kid every chance to realize his or her potential.

I’ve observed hundreds of kids from the age of 2 to 10 being introduced to baseball. I’ve learned that how you get started playing baseball can have a big impact, perhaps more than what is possible once your kid has some experience.

In this article I don’t discuss mechanics or getting formal lessons. I discuss what you can do when your kid is just getting started that will be most helpful for the long run. Some of my advice will be conventional wisdom or common sense. Some of it will surprise you. Most of it will be based on evidence backed by data or scientific studies. Read More »

Filed in category: Baseball

Axe Bat Review: In the Hands of a 10-year old

I recently wrote a comprehensive youth baseball bat guide, targeting the ages of 12 and below. While I briefly summarized key points for various recommended bats, I think there are some noteworthy bats that merit a detailed review. The complete line of Axe bats is one of them, due to the special nature of the handle.

My 10-year-old son has been using an Elite Axe bat (provided for review by Baden Sports) and a Phenom Axe bat (purchased) over the past 10 weeks, partly because I wanted him to test them, but mostly because he wanted to.

From Baden Sports'

Axe Bat Elite 2015

In the comprehensive guide, I mentioned several times how bat reviews are universally poor. Too many variables are not held constant, making it difficult if not impossible to write a completely fair review for any given bat. In this review, I discuss the unique aspects of the Axe bat and how my son fared. I also point out issues with my own methodology and why reviewing bats is so difficult. Read More »

Filed in category: Baseball

Developing a Youth Pitcher: A Balanced Approach

Imagine: The hardest throwing pitcher in your local youth recreation league dominates by striking out most batters, even though he does walk about 1 batter per inning. All he has to do is throw hard strikes. Clearly a shoo-in for the all-star team.

Then comes the first game against a tough team in summer play. Everyone is surprised when the other team scores 7 runs in 2 innings through a combination of walks, hits, and errors. How could that happen against the team ace?

What’s even more surprising is when the guy who relieves him does better, despite having only average velocity. This pitcher varies the location of his pitches, throws some changeups, and throws a “little league curveball” that wasn’t permitted during regular rec season. The other team’s hitters are baffled, managing only 2 hits, 1 walk, and 1 run in 3 innings. What’s going on here? Read More »

Filed in category: Baseball

Practice Hitting with Tee and Net in Your Back Yard

Kids often don’t like it, but hitting off a tee is useful for developing hitters. It’s also quite useful for accomplished hitters. Most major league players practice with a tee every day.

This article discusses the benefits of hitting off a tee and recommends specific tee and net models suitable for the back yard or team practice. Read More »

Filed in category: Baseball, Product Information

Accumanager 10 Review: Best Low Cost AA Battery Charger to Date

My Best AA Batteries post included a section on low-cost chargers. That section had only a single charger, as several models I previously recommended were discontinued. Earlier this year I purchased another good charger:

AccuPower AccuManager 10

After several months of use, I strongly recommend the Accumanager 10. It is the best low-cost charger I’ve ever used. Read More »

Filed in category: Product Information

Getting Benched in Baseball: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

There are good, bad, and ugly reasons for a kid to get benched in youth baseball. There are good, bad, and ugly ways to react to benching.

Most recreational youth baseball leagues have rules to insure that all youth baseball players get a reasonable amount of playing time, regardless of ability. It is when a young player gets selected to be on an all-star or travel ball team that, in many cases, lots of bench time begins.

You may be mystified by playing time decisions the first time your player goes through this experience. You may feel as if your player is being treated unfairly, or that coach decisions seem arbitrary. Read on to make sense of what’s happening and how you and your kid can react in the most productive manner possible. Read More »

Filed in category: Baseball

The Bat with the Biggest Barrel and Most Pop

Massive barrel. Huge pop. Light-swinging composite barrel. Swing a bat like this and you’ll be hitting better than ever, right?

Uh, not really. Read More »

Filed in category: Baseball

Best Youth Baseball Bats: A Skeptic’s Guide

Every year or two there comes along a new bat that quickly takes the youth baseball world by storm. I call the latest of these “The Magic Orange Bat” or “Magic Bat” for short.

Making contact anywhere on the barrel sends the ball to the outfield, regardless of how hard you swing or which part of the bat hits the ball—or so reported my son the first time he saw this bat in action last year among 9- and 10-year-olds. Each month I see ever more players in travel ball and even recreation leagues with this $300 bat:

Is this the best bat for youth baseball? If you’d like to spend $300 to improve your player’s hitting, is this the best way to spend it?

Maybe. Maybe not. Read More »

Filed in category: Baseball, Product Information

Great Baseball Books for Kids

My son fell in love with baseball at the age of 20 months. Since then I’ve read over 100 baseball books for bedtime reading and attended over 150 youth baseball games.

For those with similarly baseball-obsessed kids, I’ve put together a guide to describe our favorite baseball books, ordered by age range. Read More »

Filed in category: Baseball

Review: Gamechanger Scorekeeping App for Youth Baseball

Baseball scoring has been done by hand for over a century. Now that most people own smartphones and tablets, many people are motivated to keep score electronically. Why?

  • Live broadcasts
  • Pitch count tracking
  • Single game boxscores, stats, and recaps
  • Season stats and spray charts

Among the many scorekeeping apps attempting to accomplish all four of these objectives, Gamechanger and iScore stand out for their comprehensive suite of features and polished user interfaces. Read More »

Filed in category: Baseball

Youth Baseball Stats Part 3: Mustang Kid Pitch Begins

The stats that matter most for youth baseball change dramatically as kids get older. The biggest change is the transition from coach pitch to kid pitch, which in our league happens at the age of 9.

This post is part of a series that started with Youth Baseball Stats Part 1: It’s Hard on how to gather, interpret and apply baseball data to improve youth baseball play.

Part 2 discusses stats appropriate for coach pitch.

This post discusses the stats that matter when kid pitch begins. Read More »

Filed in category: Baseball

How to Draft in Youth Baseball

There are four keys to successful drafting in youth baseball:

  • Establish clear goals
  • Gather the player data you need
  • Organize your data for rapid access
  • Work the system to your advantage

You can get what you want on draft night with minimal fuss if you concentrate on the first three. Read More »

Filed in category: Baseball

Get the Best Youth Baseball Glove, not the Most Expensive

As I enter into my sixth year as a youth baseball dad (and sometimes manager or coach), I have noticed a few patterns for players struggling to catch a baseball or field a grounder:

  • Fielding skills need many repetitions in order to fully develop.
  • Field bumpiness can make grounders hard to field.
  • Lapses of attention can be a factor, especially at ages 8 and below.

But some fielding difficulty has to do with not having the right glove. So here’s a short guide for how to get the right glove, for players aged 12 or younger. Read More »

Filed in category: Baseball

Acer c720 Chromebook Review: Netbook Dream Becomes Reality

This review is both less and more than a typical review. It is less because there’s little analysis of hardware components or comparison with other leading Chromebooks. It is more because I explore the key question:

What makes for a good netbook?

I’ve thought a lot about netbooks over the years and have experienced various expressions of the concept with an EEE PC, an iPad, and most recently an Acer c720 Chromebook. In this post, I draw on this experience to lay out criteria for a good netbook. I then explain why the EEE PC did not satisfy these criteria, while the Acer c720 satisfies these criteria quite well.

In short: with the Acer c720 Chromebook, we finally have a good netbook. Read More »

Filed in category: Browsers and the cloud, Product Information

Best Browsers 2015: Which Browser is Best for You?

My 2009, 2010, and 2011 browser comparison posts were so popular that by early 2012 they drove nearly all the traffic to this site. Several times in 2012 I began to write my fourth annual browser comparison. I did not finish. Why?

Partly, it’s because I had other projects that seemed like a better use of my time. Mostly, it’s because there wasn’t all that much to write about. Moves to a 6-week release cycle for Chrome and Firefox led to frequent incremental changes but not much change in the grand scheme of things.

Perhaps a French phrase sums it up best: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The 5 major browsers have become more alike than ever. They all display tabbed pages and run web apps quickly and competently. But there are still subtle reasons you may prefer one over another.

It’s time for another comparison. Read More »

Filed in category: Browsers and the cloud

Best Low Cost AA battery charger: BQ-CC17

I recommend only one inexpensive battery charger among hundreds of possibilities. It is the Panasonic Eneloop BQ-CC17 which can be had for $15 at Amazon in white or black, or as part of several possible bundles that include Eneloop batteries.

Update 6/24/15: I have discovered another budget charger that is a little more expensive, but better. However, it’s availability in the U.S. is sporadic. See Accumanager 10 review.

I bought a BQ-CC17 bundled with Eneloops two months ago. The rest of this post is my review of the included BQ-CC17 charger, as well as the criteria I use to eliminate other low cost chargers from consideration. Read More »

Filed in category: Product Information

Four Little Breakthroughs: Bikes, AA Batteries, Daypacks, Transit Cards

Big media loves to celebrate big breakthroughs. The Internet. The electric car. The smartphone. These truly are big breakthroughs (though not without their side effects).

Big media also loves to celebrate future breakthroughs. Revolutionary new battery technology. Private spacecraft. Quantum computing. Nanotechnology. Some day, these amazing technologies will be commonplace. Worth writing about? Absolutely!

But what about all the little breakthroughs—innovations that are here and now, improving people’s everyday lives? Big media can only cover big topics. So that leaves covering little breakthroughs to blogs or forums or niche web sites, like this one.

I like little breakthroughs, so here are a few of my favorites, ones that I use every day:

Read More »

Filed in category: Product Information

Best AA Batteries: 2015 update

Not much changes from month to month or even year to year in the world of AA batteries and chargers. My two articles on the subject continue to be relevant despite their age:

Best AA Batteries That You Never Heard Of

La Crosse Battery Chargers

However, there have been many minor developments in the market over the past few years. Newer generations of low self-discharge batteries have been released. My favorite inexpensive battery chargers were discontinued. I’ve also heard a few questions asked repeatedly, the most important being, “When is it better to use Alkaline batteries instead of NiMH?”

This site has become a significant source of information about low self-discharge batteries and chargers, so it’s time for an update.
Read More »

Filed in category: Product Information

9-year old Baseball Arms Race: Pitcher vs. Hitter

I recently completed my first year as a youth baseball manager while my 9-year old son completed his fifth year of PONY league baseball. It was a fun year, much better than I expected.

The dynamic I found most interesting was the arms race between pitcher and hitter. It started at a very low level with most hitters striking out when pitchers actually managed to throw a few strikes. More often, hitters walked. But the hitters and pitchers kept leapfrogging over each other to get better . . .

Here’s how it went:

Read More »

Filed in category: Baseball

How to Prevent Youth Pitcher Arm Injuries

I researched and collated much information on pitcher arm care into a parent advice guide for my spring PONY team in April 2014. Here I present the same information, expanded and reworked into a more blog-appropriate format. Read More »

Filed in category: Baseball

Great iOS Apps for Taming Information Overload

I’ve spent a bit of effort with this site describing techniques and reviewing software and hardware that helps people reduce distraction, filter information, or otherwise deal with information overload . . . perhaps a bit too much effort at times. In this post I’m going for short and sweet:

Here are some iOS apps I use day in and day out that help me get information I want, and nothing more: Read More »

Filed in category: Product Information

iPhone 5C Hand Feel and Other First Impressions

After using a Blackberry for nearly 4 years, I switched to using an iPhone 4s. As I wrote about here and here, it was a great leap up for portable computing, but it was a step down in terms of voice performance and hand feel.

On Friday I got an iPhone 5C (32GB white) to replace my 4s. So what do I think of the 5C after 3 full days of use? Read More »

Filed in category: Product Information

A Great Web Site Design

I am always on the lookout for readable, content-focused WordPress themes. I’m happy to see that a higher percentage of sites of late have been moving in the direction of better readability.

However, I haven’t seen any WordPress designs that better meet my design goals as well as the theme I designed for FilterJoe four years ago.

That is, until today. Read More »

Filed in category: Reading and writing

Book Review: Liars and Outliers

The book Liars and Outliers: Enabling the Trust that Society Needs to Thrive provides a framework to answer the question, “Why do people trust each other and cooperate?”

I read this book with an eye towards improving my understanding of how people filter information, which is relevant to the focus of this blog and my recent interest in improving the trustworthiness and quality of crowd-sourced product information. I also knew of and respected the author, security expert Bruce Schneier, who is a source for parts of my password management series.

Filtering information effectively requires trusting your information sources as well as the people who recommend these information sources. If it were fully understood why people trust each other and cooperate, that might guide the development of much more effective and automatic systems to make online information sharing more trustworthy and relevant.

So what did I think of Schneier’s book? Read More »

Filed in category: Product Information