Tips and Tricks for Softball – Batting stance


“I was such a dangerous hitter, I even got intentional walks in batting practice”

This was probably the first quotes that I read as an amateur. Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron were automatically on the list of admired people (legends to precise) and their posters were the first to look for, before any match. Reading their records and watching the MLB matches was a favourite pass time during the 90’s. Even when, kids around me were glued to only cricket, I also found my moment of excitement in the homers of Barry Bond or the amazing saves by Derek Jeter (and even the amazing dunks of Michael Jordan + the legendary game of Sachin Tendulkar + the victory lap of Michael Schumacher, etc….). I always imagined myself walking into the batter deck with the pitcher perspiring just by the sight of me. I believed every time I walk in, the pitcher should atleast think about the above phrase once! Well, I even aimed for making this dream come true and strived for perfection as well.

These might have been similar sequence of events for many. Everyone learns a new thing and desires to be amongst the best, right?

Baseball/Softball is a game of hand-eye coordination and immense physical & mental application. There are various attributes to any sport but I feel when the brain starts working along with instinct, that’s a killer combo. Hitting is natural to some batters but many have to really strive to get the ball to even nick their slugger. This blog is amongst the series of blog for tips and tricks for Softball starters and also for those who wish to tweak their skills a bit and achieve that extra thing (the earlier one was on batting line up). Batters only succeed when they hit the pitch in the direction of the pitch or the ‘V’. Anything apart from that is just a power game which has a higher probability of failure.
When I started Softball, around 1994-95 we practised with a bamboo stick, then a wooden bat (one amongst all 15, sometimes even 30 players) until we got the aluminium slugger. I still remember we never worried about how to stand in the batter deck nor did we worry about where the pitcher is going to pitch and stuff! The game is no longer so simple these days. The way you stand in the batter deck or even hold the slugger will tell the pitcher which pitch would be difficult for you to hit. It takes a hell lot of practice to deceive a good pitcher by playing tactics in the batter deck. Batter deck is a cleverly defined space which can give you enough mobility to move around and leverage the speed and swing of the ball. If you do not make use of that, you are risking a safe hit and ultimately a win for your team. We will come to leveraging the batter deck in the coming blogs but for now lets see how we can improve the batting stance.

Tips and Tricks on how to improve your batting stance

  1. Hold the slugger’s handle with both the hands and keep the slugger at the center of the home plate (this will allow you to have contact with any pitch that cuts the home plate)
  2. Keep the slugger at the center of the home plate and move ahead of the home plate (in the same line) in case the pitcher is too slow for your swing or is swinging the ball in any direction (this will help you to hit the ball before the swing)
  3. Keep the slugger at the center of the home plate and move behind the home plate (in the same line) when the pitcher is too fast for your swing or you need to hit a tap shot
  4. Hold the slugger at the bottom for transferring maximum energy into the ball
  5. Hold the slugger a fist above to hit a tap shot (make sure to swing completely)
  6. Do not commit to any shot (bunt or hit) before the pitcher starts his pitching action
  7. Keep both the legs in the same direction as the pitcher (keeping the leg(s) towards the 2nd base or shortstop indicates a shot in that direction which the pitcher can counter by pitching in the opposite direction)
  8. Hold the slugger high and aim to watch the ball when it hits your slugger (even a minimum swing with a firm grip and right timing results in a good shot)
  9. Do not rest the bat on your shoulders but hold it up at an angle so that it is exactly halfway between being vertical and horizontal (you won’t be comfortable if it’s directly pointing towards the sky)
  10. A bunt is the most special weapon in the batter’s artillery. There are many types of bunts viz. pivot bunt, square bunt, sacrifice bunt and even a push bunt. Bunt in the direction of 3rd base when there is a runner on 2nd base and bunt in the direction of 1st base when runner is there on 1st base.

 

ajmst-logoI know there are multiple videos on how to improve the batting stance and even techniques of using the bunt, line drive and sacrifice hits but this list should give a good insight for the teams starting to play Softball or introspecting their past performances for this year. My academy, (AAYS Softball Academy, India) is committed to help all upcoming teams in Softball and has been serving this game ever since its inception in Pune for the past 4 to 5 decades. We are also celebrating the 10th year of Level 1 of Amit Joshi Memorial Softball Tournament this year. Do share your views about the blog and make sure to visit/participate in the tournament (It’s considered one of the best tournaments held in India for Softball).

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Tips and tricks for Softball – Batting LineUp


110 officially playing countries and countless sports enthusiasts across the globe, all contributing to the sport that’s fondly called Softball. Most of them know that the name Softball has a historic origin and the ball is no longer “Soft” as it used to be. Infact, it’s changed colors too over the decade. Year 1887 till today, there must have been countless brain hours put into strategies for winning matches and more importantly getting the perfect batting line for the match. Now why focus only on batting line up when there are many things to seek in a match? What difference will focusing on a batting line up make? Fitness, practice and passion for the game is what is required to win a match, isn’t it? Well, even if the last point is true it’s still enough to win championships.

Ground reality is that a good batting line up can save a difficult match for a weaker team – kind of like brains over muscle. Batting line in Softball/Baseball is a little game in itself. There are numerous drills for fielding but very few coaches understand and leverage the power of a good batting line up. We make sure to give our best in every match and even have combination drills for fielding to get more runners out in a single ball play. A good team differentiates itself from the rest by going a step further and thinks about its batting line up as well. It’s a part of the game strategy that allows you to work as a coordinated unit, each performing its duties for the winning goal. In a team game, if everyone is moving in the same direction, there is a higher probability that your team would perform better than its competition.

This blog is the start of a series which focuses on key attributes of playing softball the way I think would make better ‘players’ than just order takers. Mind you, both could be amazing players but a player who understands intricacies can change the pendulum of the game at any time. Over the past 2o years, I have observed coaches with new or upcoming teams molding players into ‘order takers’. The coach makes the line up shares it with the team and tells them their ‘job’. These players focus only on their game and think just 1 player before and after them at a time. According to me batting line ups are not so easy to make. Every team member should be part of the discussion when a batting line up is being made.

To start with, a batting line up means a ‘batting line’. Yes, actually it has to be stressed that way since many people think about it as a team line up rather than a batting line up. The right expectation is that we mention which player(s) would come to ‘bat’ in a predetermined order. Both the teams get their own copy of the opponents line up to analyse who is coming next as well. The general understanding is that the first 3 players should occupy the base and 4th players who is usually the hardest hitter in the team goes for the maximum. No one thinks beyond this point.

Here’s a snapshot of a traditional batting line up (usually of a new team):

  1. Bunter (usually amongst the best batter)
  2. Bunter (usually amongst the senior most members)
  3. Hitter (usually amongst the best batter)
  4. Hitter (usually the captain of the team)————- no one thinks beyond this point
  5. Bunter (stop gap arrangement)
  6. Bunter (stop gap arrangement)
  7. Hitter (usually amongst the better batter)
  8. Hitter (usually amongst the better batter)————- players after number 4 come in a similar fashion too
  9. Hitter (usually the pitcher)
  10. Someone who is not good at batting but fields well (Designated Player or DP)
  11. Extras (no focus required in this match)
  12. Extras (no focus required in this match)
  13. Extras (no focus required in this match)
  14. Extras (usually found chillaxing or do not attend if not a part of the match)
  15. Extras (usually found chillaxing or do not attend if not a part of the match)

Sounds familiar??? I am sure most of them who have just started their Softball journey would realize that the position they play would mostly demand above mentioned roles only. Mind you, this line up has helped me win matches earlier on but in the long run this technique has failed. It’s time to gear on and think about how each one can contribute in winning the match – one base at a time.

Batting line up form includes the mention of all 15 players in the final team along with their coach and manager’s name. The column of playing position in front of the line up requires one to fill the playing position number and not the short forms. Eg. Pitcher is referred by number 1 and a Short Stop by 6. Do not write P or just SS in that column. Batting line should be discussed with the team so that all members know the strategy of the entire team and can share their inputs which the coach might have missed to notice. The extra players are key in such cases to share vital weaknesses of the opponent. This can help in choosing hitting areas or running that extra base. A bunt without the knowledge of the opponent is a killer in crunch scenarios. A homer is surely a pinnacle but if there are players on the bases it’s an icing on the cake.

Batting line up should be designed based on the opponent and not just the team’s own strengths. If everyone in the team is aware of the final outcome of each inning, no matter where the batting line starts from the goal will surely be achieved. Infact, you can define the batting line up inning wise as per role. Here’s a snapshot of a batting line up which we first came up as a team during a final match. It was not made by the coach nor the captain of the team nor by senior team members. The opponent was the home team with several renowned hitters (homer players) and a fielding side which was in form.

Batting line up for the first inning:

  1. Hitter (the best batter in the team to start a winning tempo)
  2. Hitter (when the iron is hot keep it that way)
  3. Bunt (most experienced player in the team to play the mind game)
  4. Hitter (brute force making sure the opponent has to chase minimum 2-3 runs after the first innings)
  5. Bunter (load the base)
  6. Hitter (push the batter 5)
  7. Bunter (load the base)
  8. Hitter (push the batter 5, 6 and 7)
  9. Hitter (push the batter 5, 6 and 7)
  10. Pitcher
  11. Hitter whose style of hitting is not required for this innings
  12. Bunter – one who would chip in any time we need an extra arsenal of tricks
  13. 2nd Pitcher observing which pitch should be our focus
  14. Brainy kid – focusing on who is giving the actual orders to the team and tries to mess up his orders by shouting them out loud
  15. Practice kid – who helps 11 & 12 with their batting warm up

Insidently, our opponent were prepared for the hitting onslaught but with 3 runs in the first innings and 2 outs they were just trying to muscle their way across. That’s when in the second innings my team’s line up changed.

Batting line up for the second inning with a change of just the roles:

  1. Bunter (unexpected move)
  2. Bunter (load the base)
  3. Bunter (load the base)
  4. Bunter (most unexpected move)
  5. Hitter (switch roles from here)
  6. Bunter (load the base)
  7. Hitter (push the batter 6)
  8. Bunter (load the base)
  9. Bunter (load the base)
  10. Pitcher
  11. Hitter whose style of hitting is not required for this innings
  12. Bunter who would chip in any time we need an extra arsenal of tricks
  13. 2nd Pitcher observing which pitch should be our focus
  14. Brainy kid – focusing on who is giving the actual orders to the team and tries to mess up his orders by shouting them out loud
  15. Practice kid – who helps 11 & 12 with their batting warm up

We won the match with a margin of 10 runs against a team who had won all their previous matches in the same tournament against all teams with a margin of 5+ runs.

Here is the collated version of the 10 tips and tricks for batting line up:

  1. Define the batting line up with the entire team
  2. Fill all the columns in the batting line up to make sure your team doesn’t fall prey to any regulatory default
  3. Always keep an eye on the opponents batting line up and make sure they are adhering to it
  4. Stick to your batting order (it’s a breach of a rule if you don’t)
  5. Preferably use different batting line up for all your matches based on the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses
  6. Define the batting line based on roles for each innings and not just orders (Eg. ‘Hit’ only when I say to hit types)
  7. Target minimum 2 runs in every innings for a sure shot command on the game
  8. Switch the roles of each player ideally after 2 innings of his batting
  9. Leverage the ‘designated player’ rule
  10. Remember the team is of 15 players, so use the batter(s) in reserve to the fullest in the last 2 innings

 

ajmst-logoI hope, this should give a good insight for the teams starting to play Softball or introspecting their past performances for this year. My academy, (AAYS Softball Academy, India) is committed to help all upcoming teams in Softball and has been serving this game ever since its inception in Pune for the past 4 to 5 decades. We are also celebrating the 10th year of Level 1 of Amit Joshi Memorial Softball Tournament this year. Do share your views about the blog and make sure to visit/participate in the tournament (It’s considered one of the best tournaments held in India for Softball).

Movies that light up my soul


“Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

I am confident, there’s no Hollywood fan who doesn’t know this line. An epic movie which is still lauded for many intricate things in cinematography and stuff. Yes, the Shawshank Redemption!

Most of us remember movies because of its dialogues and the story line. According to me, these two make up the soul of a movie. Rest all is beautification. If the soul manages to make a mark, everything else is applauded. Movies that light up my soul include a blend of classics, suspense, action, comedy and ‘simplicity’. I don’t remember the first time I watched most of them but every time feels like the first. Such is the craftsmanship of the people behind shooting them that it touches a new chord every time. There is no age bar to watch them and neither is there a ‘right’ time to watch them. Just tune in any time, any day, any mood and these gems will set up the ‘mahol’.

Movies that light up my soul:

movies-that-light-up-my-soul

Some of them glorify the Black and White era, some the Eastman color and some depict the power of cinematography to the pinnacle. I have amazing memories of watching them every single time. Be it the tickling of Eli Wallach or Paresh Rawal or Lakshmikant Berde or even the action of Gregory Peck or Akshay Kumar or Russel Crowe or the beauty of Audrey Hepburn or Anna Hathway, these movies have allowed me to relive many lives in one.

Feel free to share your list as well!