You're not in T-ball anymore! Now that you're a little older, you probably have noticed that baseball has gotten more challenging.
Pitchers can throw the ball a lot faster and hitters smack the ball with more power. That means injuries can be more serious if you get hit by a pitch or a batted ball. Older kids can run faster, too, so you've got to be extra alert when you're playing. No more looking at butterflies in the outfield!
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Getting hurt stinks, and even worse, it could keep on the bench instead of out in the field having fun. Here are 10 tips to help keep you in the game:
1. Talk with your coaches and parents about what sort of gear you'll need for practices and games. And make sure all your gear fits correctly.
You know you'll need a glove and the whole baseball uniform — cap, jersey, pants, and cleats. But there's some protective gear you'll need, too:
- Batting helmet: You must have a helmet when batting. Some kids have one of their own, but your coach or little league may supply one. More about this later.
- Athletic supporter and cup: Guys must wear these to protect their private parts. You don't want to take a screaming line drive to this portion of your body!
- Catcher's equipment: If you like playing the rough-and-tumble position of catcher, you'll need additional protective gear. That includes a special helmet that protects your face and neck, chest protector, and shin guards. Some kids also wear padded "knee protectors" to ease the strain of sitting in a crouch for so long.
2. Make a checklist of all the gear and equipment you need to bring to the field. Use the list to make sure you have everything and take everything home with you.
The list should include all your gear and other things you might want to have with you, like a mouthguard, batting gloves, and water bottle. If you forget to bring a piece of equipment, don't be afraid to tell your coach. You don't want to get hurt because you were embarrassed to admit you forgot something. Sometimes gloves and bats all look alike, so it's a good idea to label your equipment, too.
3. Always wear a batting helmet anytime you're at bat, waiting to bat, or running the bases.
Your coach and parents will insist on this, but you can help by remembering this rule. Following it can prevent serious head injuries, like concussions.
Helmets should always fit properly and be worn correctly. If the helmet has a chin strap, make sure it is fastened, and if the helmet has an eye shield or other faceguard, it should be in good condition, securely attached to the helmet.
4. Get to the field in time to join in the warm-up, paying particular attention to your throwing arm.
Have a catch with a teammate to warm up your arm. Start with soft throws and gradually work up to throwing the ball as hard as you would during a game. This is also a good time to make sure your shoes are tied.
5. Watch out for practice swings.
It's common for the player on deck to take some practice swings. Give this guy or girl a lot of room and be sure that you take your practice swings in the designated area.
6. Develop your batter's stance.
When you're batting, it's important to stand confidently in the batter's box and not be afraid of the ball. Ask your coach for help in proper positioning. Your coach also can give you advice about times when you need to duck and turn away or move to avoid being hit by a pitch.
7. Never throw bats or helmets.
If you make a hit, drop the bat before you start running to first instead of throwing it aside. If you make an out, it's a natural reaction to be upset, but you'll need to control your emotions and put your bat and batting helmet back in their proper places. Throwing them can lead to your teammates getting hurt, and that will make you really upset as well as getting you in trouble.
See what legendary player Cal Ripken Jr. has to say about controlling your emotions on the field and other baseball topics:
8. Be a heads-up base runner.
Don't look down when you run the bases. Be on the lookout for opposing players, batted balls, and coaches who may be telling you to stop or keep going.
9. Know your position and call that ball.
Fielders have to work together to cover the entire baseball field. Know where your area of responsibility is and be ready to back up the other guy. Calling out "I got it!" will alert other teammates so they stay out of your way, letting you make the catch and avoiding a crash in the field.
10. Foul balls — watch out for them!
Be a leader and look out for yourself and your teammates. If a foul ball is headed toward a player or spectator, yell out "Heads up!" Be especially alert if you're warming up a pitcher or throwing on the sidelines, because this is prime territory for a foul ball. Knowing where the ball is at all times not only will keep you safe — it will make you a better ballplayer.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: May 2010