• Stretch, form run and throw before every practice and every game. Do not neglect this step. (You are probably tired of hearing us talk about this. But it is that important.) This is the first thing we do at practice. Early arrivals play pepper. They do not throw before the designated long toss time period. Everything is done as a team. If practice is to start at 4:30, start it on time. Don’t wait for late arrivals. Make the kids adapt to your schedule. Don’t fit yours around their impulses and whims. Late arrivers have a way of being chronic. My approach is to simply ignore these players. I focus on the ones who are punctual. I have found that the most dedicated players are almost always at the field early. They get most of my attention. Sometime this approach brings the habitual slowpokes into the fold. Anyway, you know what the old scout said, “SW, SW, SW.” Some will, some won’t, so what.”
  • At the high school level the players have to get the field ready for practice or a game. So as they arrive this is the first thing they should do. They set up the screens, put out the bases, get the equipment. On game days they line the field, rake and prepare the mound and batter’s area and paint the bases.
  • Some teams may hit in the cages before stretching. If that is what they do they should do it that way every day.
  • Have a set routine for rainy and/or wet days. Wet grass ruins baseballs. If it is not raining and simply wet, hit in the cages with old balls. On rain days find a quiet building where you can run a baseball classroom. A blackboard and TV with VCR would be good. Whatever your facilities, be prepared and let the kids know what to expect no matter what the conditions are. Have practice, rain or shine.
  • One summer a few years ago, Coach Grant felt his pitching staff needed to develop a change up they could throw with confidence. So one rainy afternoon we all went into the clubhouse. (Vero Beach High School is fortunate to have a nice clubhouse/locker room for baseball only.) Each pitcher got up in front of the group and “threw” his fastball. (Just the grip. They didn’t let go of the ball.) Everyone listened to the “whoosh” the arm makes as it goes through its throwing motion. You can hear it in a quiet room. Then they gripped the baseball in a change up grip. Again we listened for the same sound. That sound told us the pitcher was throwing his change up with fastball arm speed. That was a pretty good demonstration. And it reinforced in the players’ minds how important fastball arm speed is when throwing the change. That was a very beneficial day for those kids. In fact, every day should be a learning experience for your players. A little thought and creativity can go a long way toward developing skilled baseball players.
  • Your batting practice should be run essentially the same way every day. Occasionally you may add situational hitting or opposite field drills but the meat of batting practice should be routine. Utilize stations, have the same groups hit together, make sure everyone hustles, etc. Hit ground ball fungoes during batting practice. Pitchers can throw bullpens during batting practice.
  • Have a set procedure for bullpens. Pitchers should warm up and throw the same way every time. They should know what day they are going to throw in relation to their starts. Structure your practices and pre-games so that a catcher is always available at the appropriate time. Nothing is more time wasting than a coach trying to find a catcher so his pitcher can throw his pen. (The Vero Beach Dodgers have their catchers hit in the first group in batting practice so that they are available when needed.)
  • Have a procedure for pre-game bullpens and bullpens during games.
  • Pre-game outfield-infield should be run the same way every time.
  • All away games should have a schedule and be very structured. These are some of the things that Coach Grant required of his Legion teams when they traveled. Safety and discipline received high priority.
  1. Everyone left together, parents and players alike. If a player drove, he was placed in the middle of the caravan with a coach in the lead car and a parent or coach in the last vehicle. If you were late, you were left behind.
  2. There were no unnecessary stopovers or sight seeing tours. Coach Grant’s saying was, “We get on the bus. We arrive at the field. We kick their butts, we get back on the bus and go home.” All business.
  3. He usually scheduled the time of departure so that when we arrived we went straight to the field and played the game rather than going to the hotel first. He felt there were fewer distractions that way. (I believe you could parachute Coach Grant’s players into the middle of the Gobi Desert and they would be ready to play.)
  4. Everyone checked into the hotel together. Good behavior was required at all times. (We tried to get accommodations at first rate hotels whenever we could. Another one of those “little things.” The players looked forward to the travel.)
  5. There were three players to a room and whenever possible we grouped the players by one older with two younger.
  6. Some time leeway was allowed but there was an “in the room” curfew.
  7. We checked on players’ rooms periodically during the night.
  8. There was a set time to be in the lobby in the morning and the players then went to breakfast together.
  9. Strict decorum was mandatory at all meals. We once had a waitress in Bradenton tell us that she had never seen baseball players so well behaved. (I’m sure the tips didn’t hurt.)
  10. If we were to stay more than one night the parents were asked to find a laundry facility and wash the players’ uniforms. That often kept them up until the wee hours of the morning.
  11. On the morning of departure everyone met in the lobby and an assistant coach then checked all the players’ rooms. (We were always invited back to every hotel where we stayed.)
  12. The same procedure for driving home was observed as the one when we left. We all drove back to our departure point so that the equipment could be offloaded.
  13. Then it was home and usually Monday off. Practice on Tuesday.



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Tim Kafer has coached over 25 years of youth baseball. He has worked with players at college, High School and youth