Glove: In the 7 & 8 yr. old group the child's glove should be between 10.5 & 11 inches. The 5 & 6 year olds group their glove should be a little smaller and broken in well. Many leather gloves today are "pre-broken in". Some synthetic gloves have a V-Flex or Power Close feature, gloves with these options will be much easier for the children to open and close. It is not necessary to purchase an expensive mitt at this level since you will be buying many more in the future.
Bats: Our League does provide team bats that are of high quality and are sized for the appropriate age group. If you decide to purchase your own bat it must be Little League Approved and say it on the bat. The length should be no more than 28 inches and weigh no more than 22 ounces.
Batting Cages: Always ask if "slow pitch" cages are available. There are
many local indoor facilities in East Hanover, Fairfield, Randolph, Montville/Pine Brook.
Encourage them. Children need encouragement in everything they do, sports are certainly no exception. It can be very damaging to chastise a child for not hitting a pitch or for being tagged out. Whether your child is at bat, in the outfield or playing catcher, an occasional "You can do it!" can make a world of difference. Especially to a child who feels like the whole world is watching!
Being tagged "out" can be rough on a child, especially boys it seems. Do your best to make them feel better. A clapping, smiling parent can often be all it takes to bring the smiles back.
Explain it. The batter hits the ball and it sails out toward third base. The first baseman, shortstop and all the infielders run after it! Two players fight over who gets it and the batter is safe on second. This is commonplace when players don't understand why they have a position to play. Tell your kids how the game works: draw it out on paper, walk the bases on the field before the game starts, use rocks and sticks on the grass the map out the field if you need to. But teach them why they have a position in the game so they understand why the first baseman is not supposed to run to third to get the ball. Helping your child this way will turn frustration into fun.
Sportsmanship. This is one of the most important aspects of playing the game. Children can easily become angry at one another for a number of reasons. Teaching kids to be a good sport can be very challenging. Put the emphasis on fun and remind your kids that everyone is still learning and that anger won't solve the problem. Encourage your children to cheer for his/her team mates and to congratulate the other team on a good game.
Have fun.Baseball is a game. Games are meant to be fun. It can be very easy to get caught up in the competition, just be very careful not to say anything damaging that the kids may hear. It is a child's nature to enjoy games and activities. It is from the influential people in their lives that they learn whether to enjoy the game or not. There is plenty of time for competition when your child gets older. For now, baseball should be something your child say "Yeah!" to.
Always practice with a safety ball when working on ground balls and line drives (straight throws).
Catching: The basic rule here is "thumbs up - thumbs down". Any ball above the waist should be caught with the fingers and thumb of the glove pointing up and the palm open to the ball. Any ball below the waist should be caught with the fingers and thumb of the glove pointing down and palm open to the ball. The player should position their throwing hand slightly behind the glove and use this free hand to help close the glove on the ball after contact with the ball.
This drill should be done with a tennis ball or safety ball at first. From a distance of about 15 feet toss the ball to the player on a line or a slight arc. For younger or inexperienced players, the toss in the beginning should be slightly to the glove side of the player so if they miss the ball it won't strike them in the face. Alternate throws from above the waist to below. After they have developed confidence, move the ball around so the player must adjust glove position to catch the ball.
Throwing: Always warm-up by first doing a flip drill. Have the player start by standing facing their partner. Raise the throwing arm to the side in a goal post position with the elbow slightly above shoulder height and the fingers pointing away from the body. Grip the ball lightly and with the elbow and arm relaxed. Flip the ball to the partner by moving the arm downward and using a slight rotation and flip of the wrist as the ball is released. Accuracy of the throw should be practiced. A slight rotation of the shoulders and hips should be added as the player progresses through about 15 easy tosses.
Now, the player should be ready to utilize a full motion. Start by facing your partner with the hands joined at the chest with the ball griped by the throwing hand inside the glove. Younger players should use a three or four finger grip. Next, rotate the shoulders and hips so the shoulders point toward the target. Weight should be on the back foot and the body balanced (don't lean back).
Start of the forward throwing motion begins with the hands separating to a goal post position with the throwing arm elbow back and slightly above the shoulder (see note below). The glove hand should point toward the target. As the hands are being separated the forward foot & knee should lift and then stride toward the target. Next the hips and then the shoulders should rotate toward the target. Finally, the throwing arm should come over the top and down with the wrist rotating slightly and snapping as the ball is released. The rear leg should be allowed to follow through as well as the throwing arm. Do not stop their movement short. The entire motion should be fluid and continuous. All motion should be directed toward the target. Practice the timing of all these elements until a comfortable rhythm is developed.
Note: The fingers of the throwing hand should be pointing away from the body and the hand should be extended beyond the elbow (reaching back but not fully extended). The elbow should remain bent and relaxed. Do not over grip the ball or tense throwing the arm.
Ground Balls:Body position is important in fielding ground balls. Players should crouch down by lower their hips and bending the knees with back straight and feet spread wider than the shoulders. Weight should be balanced and slightly on the balls of the feet. Most coaches prefer the player keep their throwing side foot slightly behind the other. So a right hander would have their right foot slightly behind their left foot. A lefty would have their left foot slightly behind the right. This puts the player in a better position to throw the ball after the catch.
Next, the player should extend their glove hand to the ground, fingers pointing down with palm open toward the ball. The throwing hand should be along side the glove hand ready to trap the ball in the glove. The eyes should follow the ball all the way into the glove. Catch the ball with a cradling motion pulling the ball up and in toward the body. Grip the ball with the throwing hand as the glove comes up to the chest and then rotate shoulders and hips to start the throwing motion.
Start this drill by using a tennis ball or safety ball for younger players. Have the player start from a ready position with hands on knees and back straight. From a distance of about 15 feet roll the ball to the player. Let them field the ball and throw it back. Next try rolling the ball slightly to the right and left. Have the player shuffle to reposition their body to center on the ball as it arrives. Next, try bouncing the ball so the player must adjust their glove position to catch and cradle the ball. Now, try bouncing the ball side to side. Make sure the player gets the glove down to the ground, as it is easier to adjust to the ball by raising the glove and less likely the ball will roll under the glove.
Fly Balls:When working with fly balls ALWAYS start out with a tennis ball. The bright color will help your children follow the ball. Should your child miss the ball you will most likely avoid injury in addition helping the player maintain their confidence.
Start out at a distance of 20 feet or so, and toss the ball lightly, as your child becomes more proficient move back 10 feet at a time. While moving in these 10 foot intervals you can begin to toss the ball higher. Do not switch to a safety ball until your child has built enough confidence and skill to catch the tennis ball at a distance of 60 feet approximately 15 feet high.
Next make throws to the sides so the player must move sideways to the ball. Then throw short and long so the player must charge and chase the ball. Gradually increase the distance the player must move to the ball.