Youth Baseball Instruction: Advancing from T-Ball to Live Pitching
By Mary Ann Tarr
Much preparation is undertaken before a beginning driver gets behind the wheel of an automobile.
And youth baseball experts agree that before young hitters try to find their wheelhouse, they also should be well prepared.
Many key moments will take place for youth baseball players as early as during their T-ball years. Of particular importance is the transition from hitting a baseball off the tee to live pitching.
“Many leagues incorporate a little coach pitch in T-ball,” says Brian Giallella, head coach of the multiple state-championship baseball program at Steinert High in Hamilton, N.J. “They’ll get so many pitches and then also bring the tee out.”
Giallella, a frequent clinician for youth baseball leagues, is in agreement with Tony Richardson, who oversees the administration for all sanctioned Little Leagues in New Jersey, that safety is paramount.
“You may notice that whenever the ball is near the plate, they jump away,” Giallella says. “You can use one of the soft-touch balls to encourage them to not shy away from the ball, to stay in (the batter’s box) longer.”
Richardson suggests using the Reduced Injury Factor (RIF) ball and says there is a universal need for proper batting helmets at all levels of youth baseball.
“It depends on the league,” Richardson says. “But many will offer coaches’ clinics to provide expert instruction. You’re dealing with the psychology of kids and the safety aspect. You need to spend time with the kids. You can’t start with the ball coming at you – some kids are afraid of the ball – you can pitch underhand.”
As with so many youth-oriented situations, time and patience are important factors for the baseball swing.
“Be positive with them,” Giallella said. “Show them the correct technique to hit the baseball. Once they do it once or twice and feel the right way to do it and it doesn’t hurt, that will help instill confidence.”
“You’re really helping to teach them hand-eye coordination,” Richardson says. “Teach them the proper way.”
It may eliminate problems down the road.
"I used to videotape my players,” Richardson says. “When you film them you can show them their stance and to make sure their eyes were open and that they were headed in the right direction. Where are they looking?”
Giallella concurs. “I am a big proponent of videotaping players,” he says. “It is one of the best ways to show a player what they are doing right or that needs to be changed with their mechanics. As for what age to start, I don't think there is any problem with starting at a young age. Plus, it may help the kid with some confidence if they see themselves hitting the ball or throwing it correctly or just to help them make some adjustments. Also, it is so much easier to show someone what to do with the video then to try and explain it.”
Behind the wheel of an automobile, or in the batter’s box, proper instruction is the key to good drivers.
Coaching Youth Baseball
Former major leaguer and current Princeton Univ. baseball coach Scott Bradley presents over 80 video tips, skills and drills developed specifically for 5- to 12-year-old players. Check out the Coaching Youth Baseball training plan.