Private lessons part II- Is baseball different?

The thread on private coaches prior to the big field reminded of something I’d struggled with when I was considering a private instructor for my son.

I don’t think anyone should be embarrassed by wanting the best for their kids whether it is on the field, in the classroom or wherever else. We think nothing of sending kids to weekly music, dance and karate lessons but when it comes to early baseball lessons it seems parents are suddenly viewed as evil. Why is baseball different- or is it?

[quote=“JP”]The thread on private coaches prior to the big field reminded of something I’d struggled with when I was considering a private instructor for my son.

I don’t think anyone should be embarrassed by wanting the best for their kids whether it is on the field, in the classroom or wherever else. We think nothing of sending kids to weekly music, dance and karate lessons but when it comes to early baseball lessons it seems parents are suddenly viewed as evil. Why is baseball different- or is it?[/quote]

Evil! Where did you get that idea?

How about you try to answer this. What could early pitching/hitting lessons possibly give a child that just normal growth and interaction wouldn’t? Do they somehow guarantee a college scholarship or pro contract, or even provide a significant advantage? IOW, what’s the return?

JP, I agree completely with your outlook–if baseball is something your son enjoys, and if you enjoy being part of his baseball journey, why on earth would you balk at spending a few $$ early on to get the highest quality coaching and training possible–especially at a young age when it matters the most. For one thing, it’s usually fun and rewarding to learn from people who really know what they’re doing. Truly outstanding coaches may even go beyond fun and rewarding–they can have inspiring and life-changing effects on kids.

On the other hand, baseball is steeped in tradition which may lead some folks to believe, “if it was good enough for grandpa to learn how to play ball in the sand-lots without any instruction–it should be good enough for my kid”. Of course, one problem with that is: There is no sand-lot baseball anymore. What’s more, when grandpa was playing sand-lot ball he was actually getting lots of instruction–both good and bad–from other players.

Nowadays you might pay lots of $$ for high quality coaching, so the essential task for newbie parents is to develop a very good b.s-meter to navigate with: Learn how to distinguish what makes good sense to you versus what doesn’t make good sense.

Unfortunately, coaches who might be a very poor fit for your son (for whatever reason) don’t usually wear a T-shirt that says, “I’m actually a lousy coach, but I’ll still charge you the same $$ as a really good coach does”.

Still, even without any baseball background at all, if you do a reasonable amount of homework on the subject, you can develop the ability to judge high-quality instruction from poor-quality instruction when you see it, read it, or hear about it.

Outstanding, mediocre, or down-right lousy…coaches tend to develop a more-or-less public reputation for what they do, one way or the other…just like teachers, pastors, contractors, restaurant owners, neighbors, etc., etc.

la,

Everything you said was true to at least some degree, but what I said had absolutely nothing to do with tradition. In fact, if the comment was directed at me, I’m surprised because I’m one of the least “love that tradition stuff” people there is when it comes to baseball. In fact, I spend a great deal of time proving a lot of traditional thinking is wrong.

So I’ll as you what I asked JP.

“What could early pitching/hitting lessons possibly give a child that just normal growth and interaction wouldn’t? Do they somehow guarantee a college scholarship or pro contract, or even provide a significant advantage? IOW, what’s the return?”

And now that I’ve thought about it, I’d like to add another question.

“Do you think taking the game more and more into the “country club sport” category, forcing/chasing out many players prior to maturity, is good for the game?”

Scorekeeper, maybe I can shed some light on this for you.

I am 18 now, and it was not too long ago that I was a kid. When I was about 10, I was one of those 4 spot hitters that had a year where just about every time I stepped up to the plate, I got hit with a baseball. I was playing with kids a few years older than me because I was good enough, but I got scared. No matter what my dad did, he couldn’t break me of being afraid of the ball. I actually went to a baseball camp in Houston, and let me tell you I know it was pricey. Guess what though? I had a great time there with people who restored my confidence in my ability to hit. I had Jeff Bagwell work with me during the camp, and knowing that someone like that was working with me gave me the confidence that my father could not. Now as a parent there is only so much you can do, especially if your knowledge of baseball is not nearly as advanced as most peoples knowledge. Would you believe though that my hitting after that took me a long way? In fact, the confidence I got from the instruction at a really young age did a lot more for me than my natural growth would have. Fast forward to senior year, I went 0-7 my first two games, and I am supposed to be hitting better than that. I looked at my dad and said, I would like my birthday present early. Will you pay for a lesson for me to see a hitting coach? So he did, and even though the coach said some of the same stuff that I have heard, he explained it in a better way than I had heard. I went on to bat pretty well the rest of that year. I am still developing, you could even refer to me as a child then because I won’t quit developing for a long time, most people say from 25-30 is when you are fully developed, even in your prime.

Furthermore, baseball will never turn into that country club sport. Why? I believe it takes more heart than any other sport. How many times do you fail in baseball? And no other sport has that amount of failure. So any man (or as Mickey Mantle would have said that you have to be a child to play baseball) has to have the utmost desire to play the game himself. It takes heart to stay in there when the day is late, you’ve gone 0-4 last night, 0-3 tonight and have one bat left in you, to walk back up to the plate and say “I’m going to hit this ball, and hit it.”

[quote=“scorekeeper”]
How about you try to answer this. What could early pitching/hitting lessons possibly give a child that just normal growth and interaction wouldn’t? Do they somehow guarantee a college scholarship or pro contract, or even provide a significant advantage? IOW, what’s the return?[/quote]

That’s sort of my point. In baseball many seem to approach lessons from a tangible, return-on-investment outlook. How many see it for the potential money, scholarship, etc. rather than as a means to give junior a more enjoyable or IMO more importantly a safer experience? How about the idea that early instruction might help him play a little better and boost his self esteem with his peers? If it takes weekly lessons to do that then I don’t see the harm. If it’s all about a scholarship it’s not hard to figure out there are better opportunities than baseball.

Do the parents of dancers or musicians see it the same way? How about Tiger Woods? Was all his early instruction a waste? Could he have just gone through “normal growth and interaction” and chopped it around in the back yard or wherever, started instruction when he was big enough to play the back tees and still won the US Junior at age 15?

I’m thankful my son started early and spent time learning good habits under the eye of an excellent instructor. I feel he’s safer for it. I also know that as he moves on he doesn’t have to devote valuable time to unlearn bad habits while he’s trying to learn good ones.

From what I’ve seen the kids that have had private instruction have made an easier transition to the big field- better pitching mechanics, better footwork in the field, better at the plate. This doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions and the other kids can’t catch up. They’ll just have to work harder while the other kids have time to move on to new things.

If it was all about the money I’d sure rather my son get an academic scholarship than a baseball scholarship yet I don’t regret the money we’ve spent on baseball or the time we’ve spent together knowing we were working in a positive direction.

Back to the original question. Why is baseball different- or is it?

My comments were not at all directed to you, scorekeeper. In fact, I didn’t see your post until after I had finished writing mine and added it to the thread.

As to your questions,

What could early pitching/hitting lessons possibly give a child that just normal growth and interaction wouldn’t? Do they somehow guarantee a college scholarship or pro contract, or even provide a significant advantage? IOW, what’s the return?”

  1. The answer to the first one should be really obvious: If your son’s “normal growth and interaction” doesn’t already include high-quality instruction from an outstanding baseball coach, then paying for outstanding instruction can potentially help to fill that void, if interested. I am not trying to tell you what the definitions of “normal”, outstanding", or “high-quality” are…those are deliberately subjective words, and it is up to each of us to arrive at our own satisfactory definitions.

  2. I’ll try to answer your second question with some more questions: Does HS attendance guarantee entrance into the college of your choice? What about attending HS plus seeking out and paying for extra tutoring–does that guarantee anything? What about attending HS, hiring extra tutoring, and giving up some TV/vid game time in order to study more…does that guarantee anything? Without any guarantees, do you understand the trend in my questions?

  3. “…what is the return?”---------That clearly is a subjective matter. For some, there may be no calculable return at all, a complete waste of time and money. For others, seeking the highest quality training and instruction in support of a passionate interest might be a way of life. You never know.

A quote I read somewhere: If you want to learn how birds soar, study eagles…not penguins and ostriches.

Well CS, I’m glad to hear you got over it and have gone on to have at least some degree of success. But I’m afraid you’re missing what I’m saying. Let me take what you said and explain what I mean by “country club sport”.

Let’s assume everything’s all good and you are afflicted with ball fright. I don’t know if you realize just how common an affliction that is, but trust me, its very common. There you were with a problem, and no way to solve it on your own, but luckily your dad had the kind of wherewithal that allowed you to go to this “pricey” camp. Now let’s consider something. Take a guess at how many kids at 10YO suffer from the same affliction, but whose parents couldn’t afford that kind of thing, and ended up giving up the game.

Does that make your dad a member of the evil empire? Shoot no! And it certainly isn’t any reflection on you either. But to a kid who didn’t have that same access to Jeff Bagwell, you’re a very privileged kid. And ponder this. Of all of the kids who ended up giving up on the game as a result, how many do you think were superior to you as far as potential goes? Remember, there are literally millions of kids playing baseball in any given year.

Now that’s what I mean by “country club sport”. I know that’s how life works for real, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I’ve seen too many kids who were really gifted players, but couldn’t afford private lessons, “pricey” equipment, or the cost of being on a high caliber team, let alone “pricey” camps. Its not that they get totally eliminated, but their “road” is a whole lot more difficult, and for what? The accident of birth.

As I said, I’m really glad to hear about a kid who overcame adversity to continue on in this game, and wish you nothing but the best. But, I always wonder how many other kids who were just as good if not better who just disappeared because they weren’t members of the country club.

Love the post from CSOleson, hitting is so much a mental thing isn’t it, that’s why slumps are so hard to get out of, you can’t stop thinking about them so they just continue on.

Scorekeeper, if you knew that I had to help pay for it would your tune be different? I’ve never been one of the kids who could really afford the nice stuff, I’ve always from day 1 had to work for it, yes my parents chipped in, but I am definitely not from a family who is well off, beings that I worked during highschool to put food on my plate. You are right. Some people may never have the chance to go anywhere with baseball because they lack the financial means. Yet you will see this with any sport, more so in most sports. If someone has a desire enough to play, someone else loves the game enough to help pay. It’s true. In my highschool days I sold enough fundraisers to help pay quite a bit of my spring baseball costs, I didn’t get a chance to play summer ball until I went to my summer coach (different from spring coach) and requested to be on his team since the legion payed for everything but pants and gas money. What I am saying is, this doesn’t make it a country club sport, it makes it life. This is the same reason why some people never go to college, but does that make it an exclusive thing that you have to have a lot of money for? No. If you work harder than anyone else in school, it will become more affordable, easier to be done because of scholarships. Same with baseball, there is no substitute for hard work, not even paying for top of the line coaching and private lessons and the best teams and equipment. It just doesn’t work that way.

Thanks Buwhite, and yes, hitting is a mental thing just as much as a physical thing, but baseball itself is a mental game that takes just as much brains as talent to play.

Interesting discussion. Granted, it’s a special case but I’ll just throw this out as food for thought…

Tomorrow, I will begin working with a young (12yo?) boy who has suffered a growth plate injury. The boy has since healed and has gone through PT where they claim the injury was due to his throwing motion. The boy plays baseball but does not pitch. Of course, I’ve got a bunch of questions for the boy and his parents one of which is about what prior instruction the boy had, if any. I wonder if some good instruction early on would have prevented/avoided the injury.

How about an entire league as an observation group?
We (Green Cove Springs Athletic Association) had never attained any real success outside of this little town…sure there were a couple of kids who got scholarships ultimately but as a rule, as a league they weren’t much to speak of. That is until I met Rick Wilkins. Rick caught for my Cubbies as a rookie and for 4 or 5 seasons after that (10 year career)…he caught Sutcliff, he caught Maddux for his 1st Cy, Randy Johnson, he was a stinkin doubles machine who is one of very few catchers to hit 30 HR and bat over .300. Rick was a Bolles School alum who has always been motivated to give back to the community (Clemente Award runner up as just one example).
When Rick retired, he made an alliance with the University of North Florida and was present for their summer camps. My youngest started attending camps at UNF from the time he was 8. We used it instead of daycare in the summer and it was perfect for learning the game and learning to love it (Cost was almost the same as daycare…actually when you threw in the “free” lunch it was cheaper). I usually stopped in to have lunch at least once during the week and was sitting there eating one day when I asked Rick how much we could donate to his foundation in order to get him to give our little association a clinic…well Dusty Rhodes the now retired HC of UNF heard this and said if we did he’d bring his coaches and provide a coaching clinic to boot. This became an event for the next couple of years, he’d give a clinic (Hitting and pitching) with the UNF guys (Coaching) and after it we’d put on a HR derby and give away “The Much Coveted…GOLDEN HOMER AWARD”!!! (Which was a plastic Homer Simpson action figure which I very tackily painted GOLD!!!..Homer was in a baseball uni with a bat in hand :lol: ) and the winner would get Homer for the year and his name on a plaque as well as $50 to sweaten the pot a bit.
The upshot? We won 2 Florida State Championships over the next 3 years with 2 different teams (My sons 12U All-Stars and the group older as a 15U AS squad…we are talkin a little town of maybe 10,000 beating Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Tallahassee teams. Became perennial Babe Ruth District Champs for about 6 straight years too.
The instruction made the difference…in the coaches and the kids. I don’t think it necessary for personal trainers but training at an early age by competent, experienced trainers put this little town way over the top

My daughters take piano lessons that help them tremendously right now, so why should my 9 year old lefty son not take an occasional pitching lesson to help him (and me his dad and pitching coach) right now?

Math, piano, baseball: they all benefit from early practice and instruction. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. And whether that instruction comes from a dad or mom who knows math, piano, and baseball, or a tutor or private instructor who knows math, piano, and baseball, really doesn’t matter. It’s the instruction that matters.

As for parents being looked at as “evil” for sending their young sons to private pitching instruction, that may be due to a perception that these days some parents push their kids too hard in sports, which, unlike in math and piano, can result in serious physical injury.

I know. I pitched through high school in a large city and started teaching my son to pitch in the summer of 2009, when he was 7 going on 8. We went out every 5 days or so that summer, with a week off here and there, strictly following our local Little League pitch limits (which are stricter than the national Little League pitch limits). By the end of that summer I heard from a friend who had heard from a friend that I was “pitching my son year round!” Wow! How did they come up with that?

Was there jealousy that my son has a father who pitched and can instruct him? That could be a factor - a lot of kids these days don’t have a dad around, or do but the dad doesn’t know baseball or is too busy working to coach the boy.

While that incident did not involve a “professional” pitching instructor (my wife won’t pay me), I think it shows that teaching our sons early how to pitch correctly - whether we do it ourselves or hire someone else - can lead to quick judgment.

And whether that judgment is based on perceptions of risk of injury, or jealousy, or something else, I don’t know.

I’m just an armchair sociologist who once pitched. :lol:

No CSO, my tune wouldn’t change one bit because one person’s story of self-help doesn’t mean everyone who isn’t as fortunate to find a job wasn’t trying, anymore than it means everyone who found one was bustin’ his hump. I’m talking about the general population, not one person specifically, and when you’re talking about millions, there’s bound to be those who fall through the cracks in the ceiling as well as the floor.

You’re taking what I’m saying too personally. I’m not at all saying you’re a bad person or anything like it. I’m saying there are many players who for some reason totally beyond baseball skill, don’t get the opportunity to advance, even though judging on baseball skills alone, they certainly should, no matter what the level of hard work.

How many hours a year do you send your daughters to do something with the piano? I.e. lessons, practice, concerts, jam sessions, playing in plays or church gatherings, etc… How many hours for your sons involvement with baseball?

And what fool says it doesn’t?

I haven’t got any idea where this “evil” thing started. I suspect it was someone who felt guilty, speaking up in their own defense.

Is it just a perception that some parents “push” their kids too hard, or is there truth in it?

I don’t think its that its viewed as “bad” only because a child might be injured, although that’s definitely part of it. I believe that after seeing how so many uber-athletes turn into such despicable people, a leap is made that being “pushed” into it at too early an age doesn’t allow the child to develop with “good” social skills and mental processes.

Whether it really does happen in a higher percentage of athletes than the general population, may or may not be true because Lord knows there’s a heap of perverted people running around out there now-a-days. But I do believe that the accelerated pace of many youngsters does impede their overall development.

Is it that you did such a great job of teaching him “correctly”, or simply that he had plenty of OPPORTUNITIES to throw a baseball? My dad seldom played catch with me because he was too busy trying to earn a living. But, even living in a rural area in mid-eastern Ohio where actually have 4 seasons, I had 50 kids within a bicycle’s ride to play baseball with, be it playing catch, playing flies and grounders or some other fielding game, or playing games, and it didn’t matter what time of the year it was. I played baseball with snow on the ground, and football while listing to baseball games on the radio in July.

The result was, the worst 8YO in our area was much more baseball savvy with much better all around baseball skills than most kids today who go to ex-ML players to be privately coached. Did we do everything the “best” way? Certainly not, but is that what’s necessary to play the game and enjoy it, while preparing for the next level?

As I think of it now, we really had something I believe is much superior than the private coaches today. Our peers were our coaches and mentors. The result of it all, was that the level of all players was much better. IOW, not just the ones who had access to the best coaches were making the HS team or going on beyond. I’m not saying the level of individual play was better, but that the level of play for all players was.

south paw,

Excellent points.

I hadn’t really considered the injury part because most people I know, including myself started lessons to help minimize the risk of injury. To someone outside of baseball though I could see how that could be the impression.

You touched on something that I was unable to verbalize in my original post. Baseball lessons are often seen as a form of “pushing” while lessons for other activities are seen as a form of “nurturing”. Using “evil” was probably a poor choice but it was the best I could do at the time. I probably should have said parents are looked at “differently”.

A point that I was also considering in the OP was that I also see a reluctance/resistance to seek outside instruction in baseball by dads with the means to do so when it would clearly help their player. Instead they insist they can do it themselves. As a coach this subject is pretty “taboo” as I would never consider interfering with someone else’s father/son relationship but a fair amount of the “dad” instruction I see is counter-productive. If it were another acitivity, especially one they may not have participated in they wouldn’t think twice about seeking help.

However my original post was more to question whether baseball, unlike any other sport, is so steeped in “ American tradition” that dads feel it is their “fatherly responsibility” to teach their sons baseball and that paying someone for assistance is somehow different? Does outside help, at least at an early age somehow break the bubble of joy we have- soon after we’ve counted fingers and toes- about playing catch with our kid?

I do remember it seemed a little weird or different at first in talking to an instructor about “baseball lessons” but that quickly passed.

[quote=“scorekeeper”]

Not sure what you’re asking or its purpose.

My daughters take many, many more piano lessons (@40 per year each) than my son takes private pitching instruction (less than 10 per year - I go to two or three instructors at most two or three times each year really just to get another perspective).

Look in the original post.

Both. Some parents do push their kids too hard (I know some), and other parents are aware of it and have that perception.

I agree that the risk of injury may be part of it. But so may jealousy.

I think it could in extreme cases, such as the Olympic hopeful who from 5 years of age trains 6 days a week 11 months a year and has to be home schooled and has no social life. But I don’t think we’re talking about that here; we’re talking about 8-12 year old kids taking a few private pitching lessons.

First, a kid merely throwing a baseball does not a pitcher make.

Second, let me put it this way: I (a former high school pitcher) started to instruct him in pitching at 7 in June 2009 (consulting a friend a few times who pitched A, AA, and AAA for the Red Sox), and in January 2010, at 8, he went to the 8 year old clinic and was moved up into Little League Minors (9-12), where he pitched in 7 games and pitched well. So I’d say there’s no need to put quotes around “correctly” :).[/quote]

Its not the lessons part to prevent injury that bothers me. Heck, I did the same thing when I realized my limited knowledge was no longer sufficient to at least mitigate my boy’s risk of injury. But that’s when he was 5 months shy of 14. To me, as long as organized baseball only meant spring and summer, and him throwing maybe 40 innings, I had absolutely no worries about him getting injured.

It was when he got into year round travel ball, along with HS ball that had become basically year round, that I felt expertise far beyond mine was necessary. He went from throwing 41 total innings in the year he was 11/12 and only played LLI Majors, to 75 the year he was 12/13 and played LLI Majors in the spring, and LLI Jr Fall ball, to well over 100 the year he was 14/15, and it continued up from there.

I’ve still never figured out why its important for a kid who doesn’t yet even have curly hair in private places, to be throwing more than 30-40 innings in competition. What is it they gain that makes it necessary?

That has a much different connotation to me.

[quote]A point that I was also considering in the OP was that I also see a reluctance/resistance to seek outside instruction in baseball by dads with the means to do so when it would clearly help their player. Instead they insist they can do it themselves. As a coach this subject is pretty “taboo” as I would never consider interfering with someone else’s father/son relationship but a fair amount of the “dad” instruction I see is counter-productive. If it were another acitivity, especially one they may not have participated in they wouldn’t think twice about seeking help. [quote]

With the easily available information out there now, its relatively simple for a dad to pick up enough to help his child on the “right” path, at least until the “madness” kicks in and pitching becomes more of a job than a game.

I don’t think it does to any significant degree. When I worked with my boy, it wasn’t to turn him into a beast on the mound, but rather to spend quality time with him, hoping he’d gain a love for the sport I loved. Heck, I was hoping he’d follow in the ol’ man’s footsteps and catch, but instead he chose playing 3rd which I hated, and pitching which as a catcher I didn’t have a great deal of respect for. Thankfully, age got rid of most of those ignorant biases, and I was just happy to see him play with such passion.

But in my experience, the percentage of dads who have significant ability and knowledge to help their child, don’t get nearly as involved in coaching them as people think. Often they defer to team coaches or private coaches as I did.

An interesting question not addressed yet here is what exactly is a “private instructor”?

Is a father who pitched through high school and threw a 7-inning no-hitter at 15 in Babe Ruth League (me) and who has studied up on youth pitching instruction a “private instructor” when he instructs his son?

Or does a “private instructor” exclude fathers and include only unrelated instructors who get paid?

I ask because I 'm surely not considered a “private instructor” by anyone around my league (I coach for free!), but then one of the top private pitching instructors in town never pitched a lick but instructs for a fee (and is very good by the way).

Kinda funny.

[quote=“scorekeeper”]
I’ve still never figured out why its important for a kid who doesn’t yet even have curly hair in private places, to be throwing more than 30-40 innings in competition. What is it they gain that makes it necessary? [/quote]

Agree. Veering slightly off topic what actually bothers me more is that LLI pitch counts and rest days mirror closely what seems standard in MLB. At 13 in LLI a kid can throw 95 pitches, potentially 100 or so, and come back 5 days later and do it again. This is similar to the work load for a full grown man in professional baseball and look how often they break down- and beyond that look how hard a pro conditions to avoid the breakdowns. Yet LLI is lauded for their commitment to safety.