Great Gifts for Kids Who Love Baseball

My son loves baseball and will be entering the 11-12 year-old Bronco division of PONY baseball in 2016. I’ve seen a lot of baseball gifts come and go over the years. Some of them work. Some of them don’t.

gift image from

Here’s a gift guide aimed at kids below the age of 11, broken down by age, so you can benefit from 20/20 hindsight and hopefully get an idea or two. I purposely skip books as I already wrote about great baseball books elsewhere. Read More »

Filed in category: Baseball

More Fun is More Effective in Youth Baseball

My son really enjoyed the year I managed his 9-10-year old baseball team. When I asked him what he liked so much, he said that I was good at organizing. But that’s not what this post is about.

He especially liked that practices were really fun. He takes baseball very seriously. Yet, at age 9, he wanted practices to be fun . . .

Cubs players dog pile

“Of course I want to have fun!” says Milo (my son)

In this post I describe how I organized 9-year-old youth baseball practices for fun. Even if you aren’t a coach, there’s a few things here you can do at home with your little leaguer, though some of them require another kid or two. Read More »

Filed in category: Baseball

Magic the Gathering Guide for Keeping Costs Low While Still Having Fun

Magic the Gathering is a very popular collectible card game. Kids and adults who seriously pursue this game will stretch their minds and have loads of fun. However . . .

Magic the Gathering can be very expensive.

Some people end up spending thousands of dollars per year buying cards or participating in drafts. There is a collectible aspect to the game that can become more like addictive gambling or playing the lottery, leading to the phrase “cardboard crack.” Some people open hundreds or even thousands of packs of cards per year.

This post was inspired by a conversation with a worried parent and was initially intended as a parent guide, explaining how to get most of the fun and benefits of playing Magic while spending no more than the cost of a typical board game along with several expansions. The intent was also to approach the cost aspect of Magic as a tremendous financial learning experience far beyond the typical benefits of games.

However, now that I’ve finished this guide, I think it’s also useful for newer Magic players of all ages who want to maximize fun and minimize cost. Read More »

Filed in category: Games

Do Hitting Mechanics Matter in Youth Baseball?

It depends.

Sure, there’s a few rudimentary basics that everyone has to learn such as bat grip, batting stance, hip rotation, keeping your back foot planted, and keeping your eye on the ball. Beyond that it gets confusing fast.

Muhl Tech Tee helps develop better mechanics by discouraging casting or dropping the bat head

Should coaches spend a lot of time teaching hitting mechanics during practices and give tips during game at-bats? Should kids take private hitting lessons? Will spending time improving hitting mechanics have an immediate impact on game performance? With all the disagreement among pros about finer points of hitting technique, how to even know which mechanics are correct? Do mechanics even matter all that much if you have the right mental approach and a good batting eye?

I’ve been confused about this topic for years. My 10-year-old son recently began taking private hitting lessons for the first time, which helped me sort out why and when mechanics matter. I’m ready to share what I’ve learned. Read More »

Filed in category: Baseball

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