You can help son show off his talents

ASK CAL

April 09, 2006|By CAL RIPKEN JR.

I have a senior in high school who has struggled with dyslexia for most of his school years. He has struggled with his grades throughout high school, but has made improvements. He was starting catcher on the varsity team until a bad math grade resulted in him being put off the team. He has had many years' experience playing ball and had finally considered college. However, being removed from the team has left him (and the rest of us) feeling a bit lost. He is an outstanding baseball player, even with his lack of high school play. He played on leagues to try to keep up his game, but he is 18 now and they no longer make sense for him. How do we get him looked at by a college if he isn't even going to have stats? He has come so far that I would hate for him to give up on something that he is very talented at.

Jeanice Newton, Cedar Park, Texas

DEAR JEANICE / / There are many options out there for players who find themselves in a similar situation to that of your son. A quick search of the Web will uncover many college recruiting services that can help introduce your son to college coaches. The services that these companies provide range from helping you put together a video of your son working out to creating a complete package -- including a workout video, physical and skills testing scores and recommendations -- that they will send to the colleges of your choice. Obtaining letters of recommendation from your son's past coaches and mailing them along with these items can be helpful as well.

While mailings and phone contacts can help raise awareness among college coaches about your son, most of them are not going to take a chance on him without seeing him play in person.

There are various "showcase" camps and tournaments held around the country throughout the year that are attended by college coaches and professional scouts. Most of these events include some type of skills testing and live games. This format gives the coaches and scouts an opportunity to compare not only the players' raw skills, but also to see how they stack up against the competition in a real game setting. We hold our own Ripken Baseball "showcase" event in the fall at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen. Please visit our Web site, ripkenbaseball.com, to find out more.

My nephew wants me to get him one of those batting-practice balls on a rope you tie to a pole. Do those really help you with your hitting?

Jeffrey Fuller, Owensboro, Ky.

DEAR JEFFREY / / Any time a young player has a bat in his hand and is attempting to hit a ball of some sort that is in motion, the player is going to improve his eye-hand coordination. That's always a good thing. Obviously some products are better than others, and nothing beats getting out there and actually hitting a pitched ball. However, for parents who don't have as much free time or even the skill level to pitch effectively to their children, it is nice to have something like the product you mentioned to help a young player. Even if isn't quite the same as hitting a pitched ball, this type of product can occupy a kid for hours, providing a safe, fun and productive activity.

Swinging a bat the correct way over and over again can help build the muscles a young player needs to become a stronger hitter. Repetitive swings can also help strengthen the hands, wrists, forearms and core muscles that all successful hitters depend upon.

There are many products out there similar to the one you described. I would recommend taking a look at several and determining which ones you think might be of the highest quality (no matter which one you choose, you want it to last). Then, ask your nephew to choose the one he likes best. One of the most important considerations when it comes to purchasing any instructional products for kids is that it is going to be something that excites them and that they have fun with. It doesn't make sense to buy any product that is going to be so boring or tedious that it gets used once and then just sits in the corner of the garage or shed.

I have been asked to coach an 11-to-12-year-old team in Little League baseball. Do you know a good book that would give me tips on how to do this job well?

Bruce Barnett, Baltimore

DEAR BRUCE / / Your plight is not unusual. Many -- if not most -- youth baseball coaches are coaching because their league has a coaching shortage and their children's teams need coaches. It is honorable that so many adults will volunteer in hopes that their sons or daughters will have an enjoyable experience on the baseball field. Their intentions are good, but unfortunately many of them have little or no coaching experience and possibly little or no playing experience.

One of our goals at Ripken Baseball is to arm parents such as yourself with the resources you need to provide a safe, fun and productive environment for you child's team.

We have been doing this through a series of coaching clinics and through an e-mail newsletter called Coach's Clipboard. The newsletter is free and can be accessed at ripken baseball.com / cc. It includes more than 100 archived articles about all aspects of youth baseball coaching.

We also have produced an instructional CD-ROM and a series of instructional DVDs that are available at ripkenbaseball.com, as well as an instructional book that is now available in paperback at most bookstores.

Finally, we are working on exactly the book you are asking for, a guide to coaching youth baseball, and hope to release that sometime this year.

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Have a question or issue arising from your involvement in youth sports? Send it by e-mail to askcal@baltimoresun.com.

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