But how do you know which equipment to choose?
John Fix, founder of Chicago's oldest baseball instructional facility, The Strike Zone in Glenview and Northfield, Ill., visited our ABC7 studio with tips.
Youth Baseball Tips
- Your glove
- When buying a baseball glove, make sure it is made of leather, not plastic. Also make sure that it fits your child's hand well -- getting a glove that is too big (or "they will grow into") is not good. You would be surprised how small the gloves are that Cubs and White Sox infielders use.
- If you buy the glove new, it will need to be broken in. The best way to do this is to play catch with it and spread a light coating of Vaseline over it to help soften the leather.
- A good alternative to buying a new glove is getting one used at a place like Play it Again Sports.
- Your bat
- Everyone uses metal bats these days in youth leagues.
- The three main factors in bat prices are the type of metal that they are made of (aluminum or high tech nano composites that offer greater distance), the bat diameter size (standard size to big barrel -- some leagues have rules as to how large the barrel can be), and the "drop of the bat," which for youth is the most important factor. This is the number on the bat with a minus sign in front of it: -10, -12, -13, etc. This means that the weight of the bat is that much less than the length. This means greater length to cover the plate and greater lightness to swing the bat faster and control it better.
- In terms of which size bat to use, there is no simple answer. The only real way to figure this out is go to a store and swing a few bats, or go to an instructional center and set up a lesson where you will be fitted.
- Drills parents can do with their children
- Fielding - play catch without the glove so they learn to use both hands in fielding. Roll them grounders, and have them bend their knees and field the ball (with bare hands) in front of them (before it reaches their body). You can do these with a league ball or whiffle ball. Have them grab the ball with hand on top of the other (like an alligator).
- Throwing - make sure they extend their arm all the way back and have their hand turned so they can see the back of their fingers before throwing the ball. Make sure they stride into the throw, they turn their body to their target and they are pointing at their target at release.
- Batting - make sure they are in an athletic stance while batting. Their knees are bent and that if you were to gently push them while in the stance, they wouldn't fall over.
The key to all sports is repetition, repetition, repetition. Muscle memory is key and it takes 3,000 repetitions to engrain a muscle habit.