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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Review of Progressive Plyometrics for Kids: The Ultimate Off-Season Workout?

My 7th grade son has been working out for the past half year. It started with calisthenics towards the end of his baseball season. After the baseball season ended in early September, he also began a plyometrics program based on the book Progressive Plyometrics for Kids, as a way to step up his efforts to become fit in the baseball off season.

Progressive Plyometrics for Kids

Though I already briefly mentioned plyometrics as part of my Strength and Conditioning guide, I’m ready to fully review the program now that he’s done as much of it as he’s going to do.

To summarize: On the one hand, the book is very well done. When followed with good faith effort the program produces impressive, measurable results. On the other hand my son was unable to stay motivated enough to complete all 6 weeks of the program.


In detail:

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Astros Win 2017 World Series: Springer Dingers and the Axe Bat

None of the teams I normally root for were in the World Series this year. Yet, it was one of the more interesting World Series I’ve watched. We saw some terrific fielding. There were a few steals and bunts to add a little spice to the games. We got to watch Kershaw and Verlander put on good pitching shows. Yes, I know, the Astros did manage to get to Kershaw in the 4th inning of the 5th game . . .

But what will probably be remembered most about this World Series were the record 25 home runs, 15 hit by the Astros, and 10 hit by the Dodgers. The MVP was awarded to George Springer on account of his 5 Springer Dingers.

World Series MVP George Springer, courtesy Wikipedia

Curiously, I never heard any of the World Series broadcasters discuss Springer’s bat.

It’s an Axe bat.

The fact that his bat was never discussed suggests to me that Axe bats are no longer curiosities used by some college teams and a few well known major league players (Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts, etc.). Axe bats, while not quite mainstream, are common enough to no longer merit special mention.

And yet, I’m still not seeing too many Axe bats used in youth baseball. I think that’s going to change over the next few years, and not just because of Springer’s Dingers. Here’s why:

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USAbat Profile: Easton S450 (drop 12)

New youth baseball bats came to market in September 2017, supporting the new USAbat standard. This site maintains a comprehensive list of USAbats that are on the market (or will be soon). Over the next few months, I’m going profile a few bats that I happen to think are particularly noteworthy.

Easton S450 YSB18S450 (drop 12)

This is the first such profile, the Easton S450.

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Complete USAbat List

Below is a complete list of youth baseball bats with the USABat stamp printed on them (last updated November 30, 2017).

All bats on this list are approved for play in leagues which require this new standard, which goes into effect January 1, 2018 for most recreation leagues in the U.S. In addition to bat name, model number, width, drop, and length range, the list also includes MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price).

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The Value of Being a Multiple Sport Athlete for Baseball Players

Editor's Note: I'm pleased to introduce guest writer Karr Fager, a college athlete currently attending Northwestern University. Karr has played baseball, basketball, and soccer in high school and beyond, so I jumped at the opportunity when he offered to share his thoughts about the multi-sports athlete experience. Karr discusses many other issues related to the physical and mental side of baseball at his blog, Baseball Hideout - Joe Golton

As a multiple sport athlete, I have long wondered how much the other sports I played affected my baseball play, if at all. Baseball was my main sport from a young age, but I thoroughly enjoyed pickup games of football, basketball, volleyball, and really any other sport I could get my hands on.

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Strength and Conditioning Guide for Pre-High School Athletes (Especially Baseball)

Formal strength and conditioning programs for athletes usually start in high school. While this happens to be the cultural norm in the U.S., it’s not what’s best for serious athletes in youth baseball or any other sport. Starting earlier not only has the potential to increase performance short-term. A well done physical conditioning routine reduces the chance of injury and helps increase an athlete’s long-term potential.

Finishing his pitch
Spring 2016
Image Courtesy John Walter

The question is not whether strength and conditioning is appropriate for young athletes, but rather which specific strength and training activities are appropriate for pre-high school athletes, and how to tailor these activities specifically to an athlete and his or her sport(s).

I’ve spent months trying to get my mind around the general concepts and specific implementation of physical conditioning routines, because my 12-year-old son loves to play baseball, loves to pitch, and has the motivation to do what is needed to keep his arm healthy and maximize his long-range potential.

What can he do to minimize his chances for injury while increasing his chances to realize his full velocity potential 5 years from now?

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Leo’s Journey from Little League to College Baseball (Second Chance at College)

This is part 11 (Age 20-21, second chance at college) of an ongoing series following a young player’s baseball career from Little League to College Baseball. In order to get the most out of this series, be sure to start at the beginning.

It will be a long time before another part is written after this one. This is a true story, which as of the end of part 11 is up-to-date (June 2017). It will be at least a year before there is enough new material available to write out the next part.

This last post (for now) is long enough that I broke it up into sections to make it a little easier on the reader.

Leo overcame many obstacles in his long journey from little league to college baseball. What will he have to overcome next?
Image courtesy of Robert Montenegro at crookedscoreboard.com

Leo overcame many obstacles and setbacks during his years as a young baseball player, made all the harder by rarely being proactive on his own behalf, not taking his studies seriously, and sometimes simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The old adage, “if you’re good enough, they will find you” may apply to the very best few thousand high school ball players in the nation each year. But it does not apply to most players, and it certainly did not apply to Leo. Except . . .

They did find him. Well, sort of . . .

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Axe Bat Review: MB50 Big Barrel in the Hands of an 11-year old

My son likes Axe bats so much that he now refuses to swing bats without an axe-like knob. Though he likes all of the Axe bats he’s tried, the MB50 is the first bat he’s truly loved. He loves the appearance and grip (designed by Mookie Betts). He loves the feel of the swing. But more than anything, he loves the performance off live pitching.

I’m not new to describing my son’s experience with Axe bats. My first review covered two 2 1/4″ 2015 models, while the second review covered the 2 1/4″ 2016 Origin.

This review is for my son’s first big barrel bat, the 2017 MB50 2 5/8″ barrel (since replaced by 2018 Origin), 30″, 20 oz. (for 10% discount, use code JGOL10), which Baden Sports provided to us for testing:

MB50 Axe Bat 2 5/8″ (Courtesy Baden Sports)
Origin L144E Axe Bat 2 5/8″ (Courtesy Baden Sports)

The $129.99 MB50 differs from the $99.99 L144E Origin big barrel only in appearance and the tape used for the handle, so any experience with the MB50 applies to the L144E as well.

How did the MB50 work out for my son?

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