I had a follower of this blog ask me a question about kids playing specific positions on the baseball field. I would like to take this opportunity to let all of you know that I enjoy the questions that you send, and I will try to answer as many of them as possible. I also want everyone to know that I, by no means, believe that I have all the answers. Whenever I get a question like this, I go to the players and coaches that I am surrounded by every day and ask their opinions. You are not just getting my personal ideas, but the combined thoughts of the people who have seen it first hand. So, please keep the questions coming, so you can hear about the things that you want to hear about.
When I polled the players on my team, and some of my former teammates about playing only one position, I could see that I struck a nerve. Most of the pitchers were very agitated about how they or their kids have been treated in regards to this issue. I do believe that kids should start putting more time into certain positions, but that is not until they are well into their teenage years. We are seeing kids who are just getting started in the game that are told that they are "Pitcher Only." Are you kidding me? These kids don't even know which position they may have the most interest in, and it is being decide for them by a coach or parent. Please, let these kids play all the positions on the field at the beginning stages of the game, and I am not just talking about tee-ball.
Also, let them all play. I know that it is hard to put a kid out there who can hardly catch a ball, but if you go about it the right way, he will eventually get there. At the youth level, every kid should play the same amount. Fight the temptation to keep putting the kids out there who excel at certain positions. As they get a little older, and into their teens, the kids need to be prepared for high school ball and the fact that the best players will play. Use your scrimmage games and non tournament games to make up for the innings that your less talented players are going to get later on. But, this should not be happening while these kids are just being introduced to the sport.
The best way that I have seen it done, is to have the kids list out which positions they love to play, and then which ones they would like to learn more about. I would suggest that you tell every one of your kids that the team NEEDS them to pitch, so that none of the other kids will end up hurting their arms... (We have a great interview on the way with the Cardinals Medical Trainer on this topic.) The one position that seems to be the exception to the rule is catcher. Many kids are just afraid to get back there, and I would absolutely not put a kid behind the plate that is afraid to be there.
The lesser talented kids will usually shy away from pitching, because it is such a high pressure and visible position. What I have seen though, is that once you get them out there, and they throw a few strikes and eventually get some outs, they are so proud of themselves and will feel like they are a big part of the team. They will see that they can do it, and will start working harder on their throwing skills and will be a better overall player in the long run. If you keep firing the worst kid on your team out in right field, they are going to lose interest in the game overall, and once again, what is the purpose here? I hope that from the previous blogs, you have already heard me preach that the end game should be to help these kids fall in love with the game of baseball, and that doesn't mean, just your best players.
The obvious thing that we have not talked about, is pitching only one or two kids on your team that you think can win you a game...we will address this later. I had a great conversation with one of our pitchers, Joe Kelly, who quit the game because he was being over pitched. I will do a blog interview with Joe, so he can share his thoughts. Once again, the goal is to influence all these kids and it will sometimes cost you a youth league game. Not the end of the world. But refusing to let all of your kids play, and play all over the field may be the end of their baseball experience.