Baseball - Complex to learn, but worth it

March 20, 2005|by Don Tapley

Hey batter, hey batter, hey batter, swing.

If you have ever been to a youth baseball game, you have heard this chatter come from the players in the field. But what do they do after the ball is hit? Coaches of these young players have struggled with this question every year, and the reason is simple: Baseball is a complex game to teach and to learn.

This fact became obvious to me a few years ago as I played left field in a church softball league game. I hadn't played any form of baseball for more than 20 years, and I admit I was a little nervous as I took my position in left field. The first batter hit a single between the shortstop and third baseman, and as I charged the ball and began to throw it in, the runner was already rounding first and heading into second. My throw was not even close as he came in standing up.


WOW! There is a lot to think about as you play the field, and it only took one batter to remind me of this fact.

How fast is the runner? How many outs? What's the score? What inning are we in? Is the center fielder playing toward me or toward the right fielder? There are lots of things to consider for every at-bat.

The answers to these questions will change how you play. If the batter is fast, maybe I need to be aggressive and charge in on a grounder, holding the batter to a single. Decisions really change with a runner at second and no outs, compared to a man on first with no outs. If there are two outs, maybe I play the ball safe because we only need one more out and we can get the next hitter. If the score is close maybe I try to play aggressive to hold the runner to a single and keep him out of scoring position. There are lots of different options, but the question is: How do we teach these young players all of these different options?

One way is by watching televised baseball games. The game of baseball is great to watch on television, especially if the announcers do a good job going over the different options for you. This is a fantastic way to teach youngsters. As you watch the game, ask your young ones what they would do if they were playing a certain position and the ball was hit to them. Explain to them why the first and third basemen play close to the line late in a close game. Tell them why the shortstop or second baseman signals to the other fielders what the pitch is going to be. Teach them how to back up a player and why it is important.

The game of baseball can be a simple game: Throw, catch, and hit. But it also can be complex with the number of options throughout a game. Coaches and parents should take advantage of the many games that are shown on television and tape some of them. Use them as training devices for young players. Have a team party, watch a game together and use the time to teach and build your team chemistry. Teaching youngsters early will help them enjoy the game of baseball and keep them from getting bored as they stand in the field.

Maybe the kids are not really looking for four-leaf clovers in left field or drawing in the dirt at second base. Maybe they really are going through the different scenarios that can happen at any time in baseball. This is what makes baseball not only a great game to play, but a great game to watch and teach.

Note: Thanks to coach Harry Saufley for taking the time to teach me the game of baseball the right way. I hope I can teach my son, Jordan, and other youngsters just like him, the game of baseball the right way.

"A Voice From The Crowd" is a weekly feature in The Herald-Mail which gives sports fans an opportunity to be a sports columnist. This week's guest columnist, Don Tapley, is a resident of Hagerstown. Comments on his column can be sent to If you are interested in becoming a contributor to this column, e-mail Sports Editor Mark Keller at

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