Georgia Avalanche: Pro Tips

Advice For Young Players by Vida Blue
Oakland Athletics/San Francisco Giants (1969-1987)
Position:  Pitcher
Career Highlights: 
Vida made his major league debut with the Oakland Athletics in 1969, pitched a no-hitter in 1970, and won 24 games in 1971, when he was voted the American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner. Blue played on three straight A's World Series championship teams and was the first pitcher to start All-Star games for both leagues. He retired in 1987 with a 209-161 record and a 3.26 earned run average, with 143 complete-games and 37 shutouts.

At an amateur level, playing for the love of the game should be at the forefront, according to legendary 18- season pitcher Vida Blue. "Try to have fun and enjoy playing the game," he said. "Pros make a living at (baseball) and obviously take it a little bit more seriously, but at the amateur level, you should have a lot of fun participating in team sports, specifically baseball."

*Try to have fun and enjoy playing the game
*There is a time and a place to throw a curve ball. Even during the season in the major leagues, players are on the disabled list from throwing curve balls without the proper mechanics. Remember, this is on the major league level the most elite level there is.
*I really stress to young kids the importance of using the proper mechanics: use your legs, use your back, and obviously, it all has to come in sync with your arm
*When learning to throw a curve ball, proper mechanics and patience are necessary
*Proper mechanics equals good leg movement, using your back and arm motion
*I stress to kids not to throw curve balls. Even if you're a mature 14 or 15 year-old who has learned the proper mechanics of throwing a curve ball, I still think it should be done on a limited basis. The problem I find and that I stress to parents is most of the time, the coach will put the pressure on you, by having you throw curve balls at your own expense because the coach wants to have an undefeated season.
*Even at the age of 14 or 15, the curve ball should be used on a limited basis
*The importance of your arm and health is more important than the season's record
*A pitcher's number objective is to throw strikes. If you can throw a fastball and a chageup as a high school athlete, and know how to grip the ball and make your fastball move inside and outside to right-handed and left-handed batter respectively, that's all a talent scout is looking for.
*Most importantly, scouts are looking for you to have control. Every pitcher doesn't have to throw 99 MPH. If you have good velocity, movement, and control, that is what a scout is going to look for.
*Control is the key to pitching
*Arm speed is the key to throwing a ball fast. Obviously, mechanics come with that, where the leg drive of a Nolan Ryan would be a prime example. Nolan Ryan wasn't 6'-6", 235 lbs. He might have weighed 190 pounds, but he had great drive with his legs and lower body and the arm speed is what really creates the velocity of the ball.
*Many young athletes want to think that they can go and lift weights, but that's just building up bulk. You need more flexibility to create faster arm speed. If you go and lift weights, you are going to be stronger, but it will not going to make you throw any harder.
*Good drive with your legs and lower body and arm speed creates ball velocity
*Flexibility is needed to create faster arm speed

The Fundamentals of Hitting by Mike Piazza
New York Mets
Position: Catcher
Career Highlights:
In 1997, Mike hit .362, the highest batting average for a catcher in more than 50 years, and racked up a slugging percentage of .638. With 40 homers, 124 RBIs, 104 runs, and 201 hits, Piazza had the greatest offensive season of any catcher in the more than 100 years. In his career, Piazza has made seven trips to the All-Star game in seven years.

Look for a good pitch to hit
You must have a quick bat
To hit the ball to all fields, stay inside of the ball
Try to spread your feet a little wider than shoulder width for balance
Hold your bat at a 45-degree angle to alleviate unnecessary movement in your swing
Keep your back elbow close to your body to help your hands and the barrel of the bat swing through the ball
It is a good idea to have someone watch you while you swing and check your mechanics

Ivan Rodriguez On Catching
Texas Rangers
Position:  Catcher
Career Highlights:
  Pudge has won eight consecutive Gold Glove awards for his defensive excellence behind the plate. Only Johnny Bench has won more awards at the position. Pudge's .334 average in 1999 ranked seventh in the American League and was the sixth highest average by a catcher in history. It was also his fifth straight year to hit .300 or better, making him one of five players in the majors to have such a streak.

Although it may be instinct, quickly chasing after a pop-fly foul ball behind the plate may take away an opportunity to catch it if it drops off, according to Texas Rangers All-star catcher Ivan Rodriguez. "When there is a fly ball, the first thing I do is just look up and stay where I am, "he said. "I always turn so that my back is facing the infield, because pop-flies come off the batter's bat and go in the opposite direction." Let the ball come to you, he advised. The best thing to do is just wait and see what direction the ball goes and then react.

Fielding and Throwing Tips by Nomar Garciaparra
Boston Red Sox
Position:  Shortstop
Career Highlights:
  In 1997, Nomar led the American League with 209 hits and 11 triples, and was second with 365 total bases, 122 runs, and 85 extra-base hits. He also led the Sox with 98 RBI and, with his 30-game run from July 26 to August 29, racked up the second-longest hitting streak in team history. He finished second in AL MVP balloting in 1998 and became just fifth player ever with 30 home runs in his first two Major League seasons.

* To decide where to position yourself, see if the batter is right-handed or left-handed. Determine whether the batter typically pulls the ball down the line and check the way your pitcher has been pitching.
* After evaluating these factors, you may want to cheat over towards the hole between short and third base to cover more ground
* Depending on the hitter and the way pitcher has been throwing, I tend to shade more toward second base with a left-handed batter
* Lastly, I play about one or two steps from the grass on the dirt, but this varies with different baseball fields
* When a double play ground ball is hit to you, stay down and make sure you catch the ball first. That is the key.
* Then pivot and release a good, firm throw to the second baseman
* The analogy I use to throw is to think of the ball as a dart so I think of it as an overhand throw--not a full windup, not a full throw-- the ball is a dart so the second baseman can control it turn the double play
* When the ball is hit to the opposite side, position yourself so your shoulders are square to receive the ball so you adjust either way
* Keep your hands close when it comes, catch it, and rotate your body toward first base for a nice, accurate throw
* When the catcher throws the ball to second base to nab a stealing base runner, it depends on who the batter is whether the shortstop or second baseman covers the base
* If the batter is right-handed, the second baseman tends to take the throw if the base runner steals because there is a chance that the batter may swing and hit the ball
* Always assume that the batter will pull the ball so you do not leave the hole wide open if he does happen to swing
* If the batter is a left-hander, the shortstop covers second in a stealing situation