In working to establish our BAT 1000 throwing and fitness programs with two of the the highly esteemed Doctor’s of Physical Therapy and teaching professors at USC, ranked by U.S. New and World Report as the #1 program in the country, we came away with some fascinating insights about their professional concerns of rushing children into playing competitive baseball. Mainly, these are issues with developing motor skills and core control that are required for basic baseball performance, as summarized below:
To be clear, our experts wouldn’t say at what age most children should start playing competitively, but that without certain functional skills, there were various risks ranging from getting hit in the face with a ball to suffering a growth plate separation that would put them on the sideline for months of rehabilitation and a lifetime of potential arm elbow and shoulder injuries. Understanding these concerns, BAT 1000 has implemented our BLACK SHIRTS Safety Ranking System, through which each participant’s increasing skill level will be signified with a different colored shirt. Our player’s all start with a White Shirt provided on their first day with the program, and graduate through 5 stages to Black Shirts, at which point the BAT 1000 program believes they will have mastered the fundamentals necessary to be safely prepared for competitive play.
Our goal at BAT 1000 is to create a different kind of baseball program, in collaboration with other highly qualified coaches, physical therapists and athletic trainers that emphasizes total body fitness and baseball skills development without the pressure of competitive leagues. There is competition in our games, and teams will win or lose on a given day, but the focus is on continued improvement. Prepare to be Perfect is our motto, and we coach young athletes to believe that their training and preparation will allow them to succeed when their “big league moments” arrive. You can find more information at www.Bat1000.net or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/bat1000baseball.
I’ve been a baseball expert for as long as I can remember. I grew up in big league clubhouses listening to discussions with baseball greats like Tommy Lasorda, Bobby Valentine, Tom House, Carlton Fisk, and Tom Seaver. I played at USC in the early 1990’s, my brothers both played professionally, and my dad and two uncles played in the big leagues. My dad has coached countless championship baseball teams, and my brother’s have achieved outstanding recognition during their coaching careers. I’ve been asked for baseball advice on many occasions, and never hesitated to give my so-called expert opinion. So what I quickly learned last year as I started coaching my then seven year old son really took me by surprise.
I realized that most of my planned instruction was not just outdated, but was also likely to put my son at risk of an overuse injury. Studies show that one third of youth baseball pitchers will experience shoulder or elbow pain during a season. Fortunately for me, and more importantly my son, we were with my brother Mack, the 2014 San Gabriel Valley Baseball Coach of the Year. As he continually corrected my instruction, it dawned on me that the theories that I was attempting to teach were nearly 25 years old. It was like I was Richard Simmons with Sweating to the Oldies, while Mack was Tony Horton and P90X.
While I’ve been out of competitive baseball since 1992, Mack played professionally into the early 2000’s and has been coaching, attending national coaching conferences, and learning from some of the most respected coaches in the country ever since. When he showed us his throwing progression, it broke the process down into five simple steps that made it easy for me to coach and for my son to put into practice. My son’s improvement within a month was so impressive, I wanted to find a way to share this with others.
Shortly after, I learned that the 10 year old son of a friend and former USC teammate had suffered a growth plate separation in his throwing arm caused by overuse during his rec league season, and was unable to play any sports for at least 7 months. Sadly, according to medical experts, this 10 year old will likely deal with arm problems for the rest of his baseball career. In talking to this friend, who is also a part-time pitching coach, I realized that dads like us might be the most dangerous of all parent coaches, because the general public looks to us as experts, and we’re not.
Because we were great baseball players a generation ago, everyone thinks we’re great coaches, including us. By not understanding the current science of throwing, or conditioning, or adolescent growth plate development, we are unknowingly offering advice that is putting kids at risk. We are well-intentioned - we aren’t the over-the-top Little League dads trying to achieve glory through our kids and we don’t need to “win at all costs”, but we’re a contributing factor to the many problems in youth sports today.
So with BAT 1000, I’m working with my dad and brother to create a different kind of baseball program, in collaboration with other highly qualified coaches, physical therapists and athletic trainers. Our program emphasizes total body fitness and baseball skills development without the pressure of competitive leagues. There is competition in our games, and teams will win or lose on a given day, but the focus is on continued improvement. Prepare to be Perfect is our motto, and we coach young athletes to believe that their training and preparation will allow them to succeed when their “big league moments” arrive.