Give child chance to show batting side preference


July 30, 2006|By CAL RIPKEN JR.

MY 4-YEAR-OLD SON RECENTly started T-ball, and we are not sure whether he is a right-handed or left-handed batter. He is not consistent in the strength of his swing from either side, so we're not sure which side to have him swing from. Also, we purchased a standard glove for a right-hander, but he throws equally well from both sides. Any direction that you can provide for us would be appreciated.

Michael McAdams, Greendale, Wis.

DEAR MICHAEL / / I'm sure you are not the only one who can't figure out whether a 4-year-old is right-handed or left-handed. At that point in a child's life, for the most part, all muscles are developed pretty equally, so it really comes down to whatever the child prefers.

If you have purchased a glove for a right-handed thrower and he seems to throw just as well from either side, my advice would be to teach him to throw right-handed unless you notice that he really seems to prefer the left.

As for hitting, whether you are a 4-year-old or a 22-year-old professional, being comfortable is the most important concern. Lay the bat out, see which way he picks it up and swings most often, and go with that. If he seems to be struggling from one side, try the other. The great thing about working with a 4-year-old is that you don't have to lock him into something for the rest of his life. There is room to experiment and find out what works best.

My 14-year-old son has become a decent catcher and he hits fairly well, but his downfall is his speed. Without hiring a personal trainer, what can we do to help in this area? Can speed be taught?

Rob Quigg, Baltimore

DEAR ROB / / Genetics definitely are connected to a person's speed. But improvements can be made. To get the best results, you should hire a certified fitness professional to design a program that suits your son's needs. This doesn't mean that you have to send your son to a personal trainer three times a week. Many college and professional strength and conditioning coaches run speed camps throughout the year. Or maybe your son can visit a trainer once a week until he establishes a routine that he can continue on his own.

When it comes to catching, speed usually is not the No. 1 consideration among college coaches and professional scouts. If your son becomes a polished defensive catcher, develops good arm strength and a quick release and hits the ball well, many coaches would find a place for him.

I remember you used to use a glove with a basket web, then you switched to a glove with the open web. I am thinking of buying one, but I need some advice as to why one might be better than another.

Zane Schlegelmilch, Sarasota, Fla.

DEAR ZANE / / I played third base for the majority of my minor-league career. When I made the switch to shortstop, I was a little paranoid about turning a double play and getting my fingers caught up in an H-web, which is an open web. So I went to the basket web.

Once I realized that I was not going to get my fingers caught up in the top of the glove, it was an advantage for me to switch back to the H-type web. I could see fly balls through the webbing and block out the sun with my glove.

Which glove to use is a personal preference. One is not more right than the other.

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