AJMST celebrating 10 years – a walk down memory lane


10 years! Just can’t believe it! A dream that was shared by everyone, a sport that was loved by everyone, a tournament that became the spirit of sportsmanship and a bond that developed more friends that I could have ever imagined. Amit Joshi Memorial Softball Tournament or now rebranded and known as ASL (AAY’s Softball League) has now become a respectable name in all of India. The players who played the first year would remember how quickly this idea was materialised. An emotional attempt to bring friends together and contribute to the sport that made us who we are today. More than 1000 players have played this tournament and all of them have only good memories of these ten years. I remember each and every year how it evolved and how we made true every dream that we had seen as a young player.

  • The first ever tournament to be played under lights
  • The first ever tournament where all the players contribute in both organizing as well as playing
  • The first ever tournament where players share the gimmicks of the game with their rivals freely during the tournament
  • The first ever tournament where an “amazing catch” or “strike out” or “homerun” is cheered by everyone regardless of who takes it
  • The first ever tournament where guests wait till the match is over to greet the players
  • The first ever tournament where there is no politics involved
  • The first ever tournament where trophies were given by parents and grandparents who came to cheer for their kids

The list is endless and this is just Level 1 which I am talking about.

ASL

The first year was such a big success that players couldn’t control the flow of ideas that came through. The strength from the first year paved way for expanding the tournament into 2 levels. The first level was the intended to develop the sport in Pune and also provide a platform for upcoming/new teams across Maharashtra. It was also an emotional promise made by us to meet each year atleast once and play. It was also a small token of gratitude towards the sport which developed us as good human beings.

The teams playing at level 1 were intended to focus only on developing their softball game and look forward to becoming a better sportsmen. It is difficult to believe how true this intent still is. Even teams and players not selected to playing the Level 1 come to watch and learn this sport. They share ideas and cheer for teams they have seen for the first time. Without any barriers of caste and creed everyone is considered equal at AJMST.

Level 2 is a different ball game altogether. Efforts from senior members of the game helped in getting 12 sponsors. This sponsorship changed the face of the game. All teams got individual sponsors along with team kits, accommodation, food and travel allowance. The tournament ground also got a facelift. More lights, fence, stands, podium, live telecast, cash prizes and lots more. It’s a super tournament of sorts where some players consider to be better than the official All India Tournament that is being held each year.

This journey of AJMST or ASL will continue in the years to come with bigger dreams being realised and even better players who would contribute to the sport. You never know, a team who started playing in AJMST or ASL might even go ahead and win the World Series! I thank everyone who played and grew the tournament, who put their heart and soul into its success.

2007-ajmst

This was our team which won the first ever #AJMST!

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).