Last Updated: January 17, 2017
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A guide for "Junior Pirates" Coaches

CITIPARKS BIG LEAGUE SPORTS

"Junior Pirates" (ROOKIE BALL)

Since 1988, Citiparks Pittsburgh BIG League Sports
and the Pittsburgh Pirates have teamed up to present
"Junior Pirates" (Rookie Ball) to boys and girls in
the City of Pittsburgh. As of 2007 we have 20 sites
throughout the City. Give us a call at 412-488-8585
and we will connect you with a site near you.
Big League provides each site with equipment such as
pitching machines, bats and helmets, while the Pirates
supply each child with a shirt and hat along with two
tickets to a Pirate game.

"Junior Pirates" is a fun through fundamentals program
for boys and girls ages 4 to 7.
Any child, regardless of skill, is given an opportunity
to learn the games simplest fundamentals in a fun and
relaxed atmosphere, without the pressure of competition.

Here's how it works:

"Junior Pirates" should be held twice weekly. Practices
usually last between 1 to 2 hours. Children are divided
into their respective age groups and practice as a team.
There should be 4 to 5 stations set up around the field,
they are; batting, throwing, catching, (throwing and
catching can be done as one station) base running and
baseball situations, and a batting tee station. Each
team moves through these stations for 20 to 25 minutes
each. Volunteer coaches, give personalized and individual
instructionto each child. Parents are encouraged to
become volunteer coaches as a means to have direct
involvement with their child's development.
Don't know anything about baseball?
No problem, we will teach you! Each site has an annual
coach's clinic given by BIG League. In addition, each site
is provided with a "Junior Pirates" coach's clinic on VHS
tape that you can take home and view. Here is a breakdown
of each station:

HITTING

Proper bat size can be as important to success as the grip
stance and swing. Have the child hold the bat straight out
with their dominate hand; if they can hold it there for
more than 7-10 seconds, the weight is fine.

The grip should be one that is much like a golfers grip, the
bat should lie in the hands at the point where the fingers
meet the hand. When wrapping the hands around the bat;
make sure that the middle knuckles on the fingers are
lined up.
This may feel uncomfortable at first; however, this will
insure maximum bat speed and control.

The stance should start with the feet. Have each child stand
at a distance where the bat can comfortably reach the outside
corner of the plate. Have their toes pointing in the
directionof the plate. The front foot should be in line
with the back corner of the plate, where it begins to
angle back.
The feet should be shoulder width apart, when this is done,
have the child take one step back with their back foot,
(about 12 inches).
This will give them a wide stance. See that they have good
balance to go along with their good athletic stance.
Good balance is a trait that all good hitters possess.
It will also be instrumental in the child's safety, meaning,
their ability toget out of the way of an errant pitched ball.
Next, the knees should be slightly bent, as should the back.
The bat should be pulled back to where the hands are over
the back hip, and in line with the chest.
The hands should be no more than 6 to 8 inches away from
the chest.
If each child does this properly, they can be reminded that
any pitch above their hands is a ball.
Have each child keep their eye on the letter or logo on
the hatof the pitcher.
When the pitcher raises his arm to pitch, they
can then make one minor shift with their eyes to the ball.

The swing begins with picking up the ball as soon as it leaves
the pitchers hand. Three important points to remember are:
Stay behind the ball, stay on top of the ball and keep your
hands inside the ball.
The main reason we teach the stance back as
far as we do is to allow each child to see the ball for
as long as possible, make a good decision on whether it
is over the plate and in the strike zone, and then to
begin the solid mechanics of a good swing, thus,
staying behind the ball. Beginning the
swing starts with the transfer of the weight simply by the
cocking of the bat. The weight should be about 40% on the
front foot and 60% on the back foot as the pitch begins
towards home plate.
Make sure that the child keeps his head still, and only
takes a small 6 inch step with their front foot closed,
pointing toward home base.
Many successful hitters just lift the front foot and then
put it back down as a means to rotate after the full swing.
If a child takes a large step, his balance is thrown off,
they can'tstay behind the ball, and it will force them to
move their head, thus making it much more difficult to see
and hit the ball squarely. Stress the importance of seeing
the ball as well as possible in order to hit the ball.
Keeping the hands inside the ball is
easier said than done, but is the single most important
aspect of hitting. Think of the butt end of the bat as
the hammer and the ball as the nail.
As the pitch comes in, getting the hands
through the zone as quickly as possible is critical,
by throwing the hands or the hammer at the ball, or the nail,
will naturally bring the barrel of the bat to the ball if the
hands stay between the body and the ball.
Thus staying inside the ball. Make sure that the front hip
opens up only as the swing is in progress.
Opening up the hip to soon will deplete their power significantly.
As the bat comes through the strike zone, the rotation of the
back foot should be done by what is called squishing the bug
or grape. Making contact with the ball should be done in
front of the plate where the maximum amount of power will be
generated from the swing.
The swing should come at an angle as if cutting down a tree and
level out as the bat comes through the strike zone, thus,staying
on top of the ball.One important note,Tiger Woods hits a golf
ball as far as anyone, if he thought he could hit it further by
stepping into it with a large step, he would! Keeping the head
and body still is critical to fundamentally sound hitting. The
follow through will find the player's belly button facing the
pitcher, as well as both toes pointing towards the pitcher.
Important note: If you are using a pitching machine, make sure
that the pitch comes straight in; do not attempt to slow it down
by looping it in. Each child develops hand to eye coordination at different times, getting a straight pitch will help them to develop
bat speed and hand to eye coordination at a faster rate. It will
also help you to gauge their progress. So, the rule is:
NEVER CHANGE THE SPEED OF THE MACHINE, it may look fast; however
they will eventually catch up to the pitch.


THROWING AND CATCHING

The fundamentals of throwing and catching are always the ones
that get the least amount of attention for a few reasons.First,
there is thinking that either you can throw or you can't throw,
secondly, most kids want to hit and not concentrate on other
aspects of the game, and finally, many use the excuse that their
child's arm isn't strong enough to throw yet.
The grip of the ball should come first; have each child hold the
ball across 4 seams, rather than two. Using the four seam approach
allows the ball to cut through air resistance easier, faster,
and quicker. Place four fingers on top and around the ball and
the thumb on the bottom of the ball which will form a "C" with
the hand. The ball should not be back in the palm of the hand,
but out on the fingertips. Players then should point their shoulder
and glove hand in the direction of their target and the feet should
be shoulder width apart. Have each player, in slow motion, rock
back on the rear foot, with the ball back and high enough,that the throwing elbow is above the shoulder. Pushing off of the back foot
and stepping forward about 6-12 inches with the front foot, have
them move their arm forward and release the ball, above and in
front of the head, flicking the wrist down at release. The follow
through will have the back leg coming forward, and the bellybutton
will be facing the pitcher.
Catching the ball should always be taught with the soft hands
approach. With young children using water balloons alternately
with the baseball is an excellent drill. Have the kids stand
3 feet apart and toss to each other. Alternate the baseball in
between and they will begin to understand the concept of soft
hands,and its fun too!
Next have them sit cross legged, (Indian style),
about 5 feet apart, facing each other. Have the player receiving
the ball put his glove up to his face,peering over the top of his
glove with his throwing hand beside the glove. Have the player
throwing the ball put his elbow in the glove, chest high, and
wrist pop to his partner. Do not let them use the forearm or
shoulder in this drill. The next phase is putting the players
on one knee 10 to 15 feet apart. This will take the bottom half
of the body out of the equation and allow each player to
concentrate on the proper fundamentals of the upper half of
the body. Have them, in slow motion, find the "C", and get
their elbow above their shoulder and throw, finding a consistent
release point. Finally have the two players face each other,
20 to 25 feet apart, glove hand and shoulders pointing towards
each other, and repeat the steps described at the beginning of
this paragraph. Do each of these drills for 5 to 10 minutes
each day.

BASERUNNING AND GAME SITUATIONS

This stations importance can be seen in the way that each child
learns the game. This is the station where players learn what
a force play is, what tagging up is, when to run through first
base and when and how to round first base. They also learn that
you can't run through second or third base, but you can at home!
Seems simple to those of us that know the game, however,for
kids that are receiving their first introduction to baseball,
this is all very confusing.
Teaching each child how and when to run through and round
1st base, should come first.
A player running to first base after hitting the ball, within
the first 2 to 3 steps out of the batters box, should give a flash
look over his shoulder. This is to see whether or not it went to
an infielder or into the outfield. It is at this time that they
either run straight through the base or begin to round. If the
ball is hit to a fielder, encourage the child to run straight
through the base, and then breaking down 4 to 5 steps after
touching the front part of the base. Do not have the player turn
to the right and run toward the fence. Simply have him run past
first and as he is breaking down, look to the right to see if there
is an overthrow. By doing so, the player only has to run from the
base line to second base and not from the fence in the event of
an overthrow. If the ball is hit to the outfield, the player
should run 3 to 4 steps and begin to round towards first base
without decreasing speed.
After touching the inside of first base with
whichever foot allows without breaking stride, have the player
run towards second, 4 to 5 steps, and then break down to find
the ball.
At this point they can either return to first base or advance
to second in the event of an error.Players should be taught to
touch the inside of second and third base as well.


BATTING TEE STATION

This station should always be used before the live pitching
station. The same fundamentals that are spoken of in the
hitting segment should be used here.
The tees should be set up to allow each player to drive the
ball into a fence or net. Concentrate on bat speed, hand to
eye coordination, stance, grip, and swing.