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Teaching your child: Fielding the ball is often the game's biggest challenge

June 16, 2000

I've been watching the little players on my son's T-ball team for several weeks. Some of them seem to be naturals. But others, especially the first-year players like my son, get frustrated when they can't get a hit, when they get tagged out or when the ball eludes their gloves.

Most of them have learned how to connect the ball and bat and that they have to run fast to the bases. But fielding the ball is another story.

My husband was talking about this with the team mother, Shelby Lowry. (A team mother stays in the dugout to make sure the batters are lined up and ready to go when they're at bat.)

Lowry says her son, Chad Lowry, works on his fielding skills by bouncing a tennis ball against the garage door of their Indian Springs home or against the outside brick wall of the dugout.

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"He's of the mindset that if he could have a ball in his hand 24 hours, he would," says Michael Lowry, Chad's father.

A coach for Grosh Lawn Service junior league team, Michael Lowry says as a child, he often bounced a tennis ball against a brick wall and concrete patio at his house.

The continuous circle of throwing and fielding teaches a child to anticipate where he needs to be to stop the ball when it comes back to him, Lowry says.

"Baseball is just repetition. It doesn't matter if you're playing T-ball or for the Baltimore Orioles. The team that catches the ball will always win," says Carl Dixon, Hagerstown Community College baseball coach.

As a child, Dixon also used a tennis ball for hand-eye coordination. He would lie on his back, throw the ball up in the air and catch it.

Working with a tennis ball allows a child to be more aggressive in practice because he knows if he gets hit, it won't hurt as much as a hard baseball, Dixon and Lowry say.

Another advantage is that the child doesn't need a partner.

But that's not always the answer, Lowry says.

"The biggest thing you can do for your son or daughter is to go out and play pitch and catch," says Dixon, who is also a Little League coach.

He also recommends:

* Always catch the ball out in front of you so you can see it go into your glove.

* For ground balls, put your hands 6 to 10 inches in front of your feet. Stop the ball before it gets between your feet.

In the book "Baseball for Dummies," Hall of Famer Joe Morgan offers these tips for fielding grounders:

* Charge the ball. If you hang back, the ball has more time to take a bad hop.

* Keep your body low to the ground.

* Keep your weight balanced evenly on the balls of both feet.

* Use both hands whenever possible.




Tell us what you're trying to teach your child. We'll ask an expert for advice. Call Lifestyle Editor Lisa Tedrick Prejean at 301-733-5131, ext. 2340, write to her at P.O. Box 439, Hagerstown, Md. 21741, send a fax to 301-714-0245 or e-mail her at lifestyle@herald-mail.com.

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