Handedness in Youth Baseball



A big deal is made in Major League Baseball (MLB) about which hand a player uses to throw and to hit. The differences between handedness breakdowns of MLB players and in the population at large are quite dramatic.

But what about youth baseball? How does an understanding of MLB handedness issues impact opportunities for young baseball players? How do coaches assign positions to left-handed versus right-handed players?

The answers depend heavily on coach philosophies, which vary. Given that my son is left-handed, I’ve seen firsthand how the positions he has been allowed to play in youth baseball have varied depending on context and coach philosophy.

In this article, I first share the data on MLB handedness and the reasons why handedness is so important for professional baseball players. The remaining part of the article explores handedness in youth baseball.

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Reflections on 10 years of Youth Baseball Part 2: Ages 9-14

Ten years is a long time to be playing recreation league youth baseball. This is the conclusion to the two part series, which began with:

Reflections on 10 years of Youth Baseball Rec League Part 1: Ages 2-8

Enjoy the end of the story!

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Reflections on 10 years of Youth Baseball Rec League Part 1: Ages 2-8

It has been a very long time since my last post, because I’ve become busy heading up a youth baseball software startup. We have a prototype and now I’m raising money. I’m not prepared to discuss it publicly yet, but if you’re interested in finding out more, you can contact me privately.

My son just entered his tenth and final year of PONY baseball. So I thought it would be fun to do a 10-year retrospective on how those years went. Rather than make this into a really long story, I’ve written just enough about each year to get the feel of it. This post covers through age 8. I’ll do another post soon that covers ages 9-14.

For me, youth baseball is about the stories and the memories. Many of my memories are still very strong, even from nearly a decade ago.

Most of my posts require a great deal of research. Not this one, so it was easy to write.

Enjoy!

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Axe Bat Review: Element Drop 8 USAbat vs Prior USSSA Youth Axe Offerings

Last year I reviewed the Axe bat MB50, the best single-piece Aluminum USSSA BPF 1.15 bat my son had ever used. It was not just a good Axe bat. It was as good as or better than any single-piece aluminum bat I have ever seen used on a youth baseball field.

My son would still be using it if he could, but due to the new bat standard which went into effect January 2018, USSSA BPF 1.15 bats are no longer legal for use in recreation leagues. The new USAbat standard attempts to bring bat barrel performance in line with wood barrels. Bat makers selling into the recreation league youth baseball market therefore introduced many new bats to conform with the new USAbat standard.

Even without the new bat standard, it was time for my son to move from a drop 10 to a drop 8 bat. He’s 13 now, which means it’s a good idea to get used to swinging heavier bats before BBCOR is required in high school . . . or sooner (see 13u Player Bat Needs).

So how well did Baden’s first USAbat Axe bat offerings perform in comparison to last year’s BPF 1.15 models? I can’t speak for all of them, but I can speak to the 2018 drop 10 Element 2 5/8″ bat which my son began using just before he turned 13. Baden Sports was kind of enough to provide me a sample for review.

30″ and 31″ models of the 2018 USAbat Axe Bat Element

To buy the Element or other 2018 USAbat models of Axe:

Axe Bat USAbat lineup

For a 10% discount off the Element or any other Axe bat at the manufacturer’s site, FilterJoe readers may use code JGOL10 when checking out (The code is usually disabled when Axe is having a sitewide sale, as often happens between Thanksgiving and Christmas).

So how well did my son do with the Element Drop 8 USAbat?

As expected, this USAbat model performed worse for him than last year’s USSSA bat.

But how much worse?

Read on to find out what my son and I thought of this bat and the impact of the USAbat standard on the Axe bat line.

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The Convoluted Bat Needs of 13u Baseball Players

Getting the right bats for a 13u player is far more complicated than any other age. Not only do a variety of bat standards apply depending on context, but BBCOR bats are looming in the near future for players who hope to continue playing in high school. As if all this weren’t enough complication, a new bat standard, USAbat, was introduced. Even this level of complication isn’t enough: the date of the age cutoff has shifted for most recreation leagues across the country.

Dealing with bats for a 13u player is a confusing mess. I’m here to help sort out the mess so families with 13u players don’t end up with 5 (and soon 6!) bats like we did:

This article defines a 13u player, states who must use BBCOR bats, discusses the logical progression to BBCOR, and goes into all the permutations of which bat is needed for which context.

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Last Spot in the Batting Order

The last spot in the batting order matters.

On many rec league teams, the last spot in the batting order is occupied by the player on the team with the lowest batting average, lowest on base percentage, and the weakest base running skills, as if the last spot did not matter.

In my opinion, this is a mistake. In this post I explain why.

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Does Player Size Matter in Youth Baseball?

The 12u base runner is bigger than the 1st base coach, and about a foot taller than the first baseman (who was slightly taller than my 12u son at the time)



 Yes!


 But how?

Try doing a few google searches for articles about small or big players in youth baseball. Did you find anything? Me neither. Outside of a few opinions shared on forums devoted to youth baseball, you’ll find nothing. That’s amazing, considering how big of an impact size has at the youth level.

In youth baseball, the bigger you are, the harder you throw and hit the ball, on average. Therefore, bigger kids usually get more playing time, bigger roles on the team, and more opportunities. Meanwhile, smaller kids are usually given less interesting roles and more bench time.

Some of the bigger kids clearly perform better at the young ages, especially with hitting. Will they continue to outperform all the way through the end of high school? Apart from highly gifted athletes, do smaller players even stand a chance? How can parents better support their child if they understand how their kid fits in, size-wise?

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USAbat Recommendations and Observations from Early Adopters

The first bats in conformance with the new USAbat standards went up for sale on September 1, 2017. Since then this site has maintained a database of all USAbat models currently available or expected to be available soon. The list has not grown by much since September. Many of the lighter models won’t be released until 2018, as some bat makers struggle to get these models to meet the new standard.

So how are the early USAbat models actually doing in the hands of young baseball players?

Courtesy CrimsonGuy from baseballfever.com

My son has only personally tested one bat model, but reports are coming in from other parents testing various models, including one parent who spent over $3000 of his own money to test many of the new bats. In this post I share some of these early takes, including some personal observations I have from visiting my local Big 5 and weighing a few bats. Quite a bit of the information for this article comes from a USAbat thread at Baseball Fever, where coaches and other avid youth baseball parents honestly share information.

tldr version:  Most of the expensive composite USAbat models disappoint, while a few of the more affordable single-piece aluminum bats stand out as good values.

Read on for details, including recommendations for a couple specific models that seem like early standouts.

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Thanksgiving is a Time to be Grateful

What are you grateful for?

Each person in our family of three takes turns saying a few things he or she is grateful for as part of a regular dinner ritual. Quite often, one of us says something related to baseball such as gratitude for a particular baseball coach, an inspiring MLB story, being part of a fun team, or support for my son’s biggest passion in life. Of course, we also express gratitude related to many other areas of life.

Scientists have studied gratitude and the impact it can have on peoples’ lives. I know because my wife researched gratitude quite a bit before publishing her book My Amazing Day, a board book which helps toddlers and their families develop habits of gratitude. The toddler featured in My Amazing Day revels in everyday wonders, as any 2-year-old might do. It’s a great toddler gift, as the gift of gratitude is one that keeps on giving.

I’d like to share what I’m thankful for as it relates to this site. I’ll start with my readers, including some traffic stats:

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Training to Sprint Faster

Even the most casual fan of baseball knows that baseball players have to sprint. In addition to sprinting to first base or beyond after hitting a ball into play, outfielders run after fly balls, infielders accelerate quickly to get to a ball, and base runners steal.

But that’s not all.

Young athletes sprinting
courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Ballplayers who improve their sprinting also develop muscles used in hitting and pitching. Improving sprinting also improves explosiveness, by recruiting the right types of muscle fibers (type II) and generating energy more efficiently with the body’s fastest system for replenishing ATP, Creatine Phosphate.

It turns out science has a lot to say about how to train for sprinting, and I learned some of that science recently by completing a Coursera course, The Science of Training Young Athletes.

My son has been trying to improve his sprinting speed in the off season. After taking this course, I suggested he change his routine. He did.

The improvement was swift and dramatic.

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