In the baseball infield, it's tough to find the right fit for a left-hander

ASK CAL

Youth Sports

March 25, 2007|By CAL RIPKEN JR.

DEAR CAL -- My 12-year-old son is a left-hander and loves to play shortstop or second base, but left-handers at those positions are hard to come across. What can he do to improve as a left-hander at either position?

Beth Soper, Gorham, Maine

DEAR BETH -- This question has been haunting baseball for years. I think that a left-hander can play all positions, especially at younger age levels. As you progress higher in baseball, it becomes more difficult for a left-handed second baseman to complete some of the more advanced skills, such as turning a double play. It's not impossible, but it is rare to see one at the high school level.

I think it would be easier to play shortstop as a left-hander because the plays are in front of you and your momentum carries you toward your target. But I don't think it's impossible for a left-hander to play second; it's just a matter of working on it and figuring out the best way to turn a double play.

There are certain positions in baseball that have been off-limits to left-handers through the years: catcher, shortstop and second base. There have been a few left-handers who have been able to play third base, but even that generally is considered a right-handed position.

I think third base and shortstop can be modified over time. Second is going to be harder because of the throwing angles and the double-play pivot.

DEAR CAL -- I have a 7-year-old who loves baseball. I am assisting with coaching his new team this year. When leaving practice the other day, I asked my son how things went. He told me his coach was yelling at him the whole time and he doesn't want to play on the team anymore. What do I do?

Mark Swann, San Marcos, Texas

DEAR MARK -- Coming from a 7-year-old, this feedback is valuable to you as a father, especially as a coach's assistant.

Sometimes kids can overreact to passion, emotion and frustration. More often than not, coaches can deliver frustration in a way that is unfair to the kids on a team. It is important for you to approach the coach right away and express your concerns. Tell him what your son told you and try to find out exactly what happened so you can assess the situation.

In the end, you want to provide a good, nurturing environment for 7-year-olds. This is an introduction to baseball; you want to tap into their love for the game and create a fun atmosphere.

You don't want to make it structured too soon and take the joy out of the game, because that joy is what brings them back.

It may not be an easy conversation to have. Find a quiet spot away from the field to discuss your concerns. You will be doing your son, and the other kids on the team, a great service.

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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