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Archive for November, 2010


Swing Batta Batta…

Power hitters, contact hitters and everyone in between—today’s bat technology is designed to improve the performance of anyone who steps to the plate.

A lot has changed since the first aluminum bats were introduced more than 30 years ago. Bat manufacturers are constantly introducing new performance enhancement technology to give you an edge in the batter’s box.

Today’s bats feature exotic combinations of aluminum alloy, zinc, copper, magnesium, graphite and titanium. Wilson and Louisville feature perfect examples of this revolutionary technology.

The Wilson “half and half” technology combines a “Flex-Tuned Evolution Composite” handle with an alloy barrel for optimal balance and a generous sweet spot. Louisville uses a different approach with X-1 Composite Technology that layers aerospace grade graphite embedded in epoxy resin.

While the technology is complex, the objective is simple: optimize light weight for durability.

Lighter materials mean hitters can generate more bat speed. Greater bat speed results in harder hit balls that get through the gaps and over the fence.

In making bats lighter and more durable, manufacturers have also enlarged the sweet spot. Hitting behind the runner, going to the opposite field or laying down the perfect bunt becomes a lot easier with a sweet spot that allows for a greater margin of error.

Like most performance-enhancement technology, the right fit is a key to success. Selecting a bat with the correct design, length and weight is critical. This is especially true for younger players who are still growing and developing their skills. The wrong bat could lead to bad habits that develop to compensate for ill-suited equipment.

The barrel and handle of bats are designed for specific purposes. A larger barrel provides a bigger sweet spot but hitters can generate more bat speed with a smaller barrel. A larger handle can take the sting out of hitting the ball but it also increases weight.

The length and weight of a bat are also critical to success. Here’s chart that can help you select the right size bat:

Length and Weight: The weight drop is a figure that refers to the difference between the length of the bat (in inches) and the weight of the bat (in ounces). Weight drop is always shown as a minus number. Lighter bats have a higher weight drop which means a -10 would be lighter than a -8.

Determine Your Bat Length by Weight and Height
Your height (inches)
Your weight (pounds) 36-40 41-44 45-48 49-52 53-56 57-60 61-64 65-68 69-72 73+
Bat length
less than 60 26″ 27″ 28″ 29″ 29″
61-70 27″ 27″ 28″ 29″ 30″ 30″
71-80 28″ 28″ 29″ 30″ 30″ 31″
81-90 28″ 29″ 29″ 30″ 30″ 31″ 32″
91-100 28″ 29″ 30″ 30″ 31″ 31″ 32″
101-110 29″ 29″ 30″ 30″ 31″ 31″ 32″
111-120 29″ 29″ 30″ 30″ 31″ 31″ 32″
121-130 29″ 29″ 30″ 30″ 31″ 32″ 33″ 33″
131-140 29″ 30″ 30″ 31″ 31″ 32″ 33″ 33″
141-150 30″ 30″ 31″ 31″ 32″ 33″ 33″
151-160 30″ 31″ 31″ 32″ 32″ 33″ 33″ 33″
161-170 31″ 31″ 32″ 32″ 33″ 33″ 34″
171-180 32″ 33″ 33″ 34″ 34″
180+ 33″ 33″ 34″ 34″

-Home Run Hitter

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Fast-Pitch The New Field of Dreams

Less than 15 years ago there was talk that fast-pitch softball was on its last legs. Today it is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. Driving the resurgence are women who have embraced fast-pitch and made it a game of their own.

The seed was planted back in 1972 with the passage of Title IX. The legislation set the foundation for growth in women athletic teams and athletic scholarships for woman at the collegiate level. Even with Title IX, women’s fast-pitch softball lingered in the background.

The sport really grabbed everyone’s attention with the success of the U.S. Women’s team at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. At the time, fewer than 250,000 women were playing fast-pitch across the nation. Today the American Softball Association (ASA) projects there are more than 1.8 million women in the U.S. playing on nearly 650,000 teams.

Back in 1996, just a few universities had fast-pitch teams. Now there are more than 932 collegiate programs involving more than 16,000 student athletes.

While these numbers are impressive, they could be just the tip of the iceberg.

ASA registrations indicate fast-pitch is still gaining in popularity with women. There are more than 1.2 million girls participating on 83,000 youth girl softball teams in the U.S.

Don’t confuse these women with the recreational player who plays a few games when the weather is nice. Most women participating in fast-pitch play more than 52 games a year.

Proof of the game’s popularity can also be found on the internet. A quick search of fast-pitch softball turns up hundreds of links. The sport’s popularity has fueled a new industry of training videos, books, camps, tournaments and specialized equipment. There are even endorsement opportunities for star athletes.

-Home Run Hitter

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It All Starts with the Ball

Golf balls only look simple. Inside that tiny dimpled sphere is nothing short of a space age laboratory of high technology, all designed to make your shot do precisely what you want it to.

 

How Many Pieces?

 

One-Piece – The most basic ball, usually only used on driving ranges. Inexpensive and durable, it is typically made of a solid piece of Surlyn with dimples molded on. Because of its low compression, distance suffers.

 

Two-Piece – By far the most popular golf ball, it combines durability and distance. A solid core of high-energy acrylate or resin is then covered with a tough, cut-proof blended cover that gives maximum distance. This is a very durable ball, but that “hard” feel makes it more difficult to control than softer balls.

 

Three-Piece – These balls have a solid rubber or liquid center, a layer of enhanced rubber or a liquid produced layer and then a molded cover, typically Surlyn. The softer design takes more spin, allowing a skilled golfer more control over the ball’s flight.

 

Four-Piece – All four layers work to produce a combination of distance and soft feel. The first layer is a solid rubber center that gives explosive distance. The next layer, an inner cover, transfers energy from the strike to the core. Next is the middle cover (the “extra” layer compared to the three-piece design), designed to both maximize distance and feel for mid-irons and around the green. The outer cover is the thinnest layer, made from Urethane.

 

Putting a Spin on the Story

 

Low Spin balls decrease side spin, meaning straighter shots. While they sacrifice distance (at least in the air), they are suited for high handicappers who struggle to stay in the fairway.

 

Mid Spin balls are the middle ground that attempt to balance accuracy and distance.

 

High Spin balls increase backspin, which enhances control, especially on approach shots. That shot you see on television on Sunday that “backs up” to the flag—it’s done with a high spin ball.

 

So, How Do You Feel About Your Ball?

 

Firm Feel – These balls provide maximum distance, but sacrifice feel. Aimed at the high handicapper, they are also extremely durable.

 

Mid Feel – Again, a balance between the explosive distance of a firm ball and the control of a softer ball.

 

Soft Feel – Enables low-handicap players to work spin into their game and use the soft feel for their short game.

 

Being long off the tee is great for the ego, but it’s your irons, putter, and yes, your ball that will have the biggest impact on your score. Advancements in golf technology have given you a tremendous amount of choices. The real key is choosing the technology that best fits your game.

 

-Par Shooter

 

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Advancements in Soft Air Technology

For better or worse, kids have long been fascinated with guns, be it playing make-believe war, imagining themselves as cowboys or practicing to one day be a police officer. Now, with the invention of soft air guns, which have become increasingly popular since their inception in the 1970s, kids can act out their fantasies in a safe and fun way.

A Novel Idea

Invented in Japan in the 1970s, where firearms were illegal but interest in them was still high, soft air guns were created as a way to satiate public interest and allow citizens to experiment with guns in a safe way.

Originally spring powered guns that shot small plastic pellets, soft air guns have since evolved to include gas and electric powered guns as well, all working on the same general principle of compressed gas expanding to force pellets down the barrel of the gun.

Especially popular among 10 to 18 year-old boys, soft air guns today are manufactured into near-exact replicas of real guns. Soft air license company Soft Air USA®, offers guns that resemble popular firearms like those of Smith & Wesson, Kalashnikov, Colt and Beretta.

Greater Power, More Accuracy

In addition to its products’ physical attributes, Soft Air USA also prides itself on producing firearms with high power and accuracy. According to Soft Air USA, “People want it to shoot straight and shoot hard.”

Given such, the guns that are produced today are of a higher quality than the ones developed nearly 40 years ago. One way in which Soft Air USA has improved the quality of their guns is the addition of a Bax system, which is an adjustable mechanism that holds the gun’s barrel in place to make the shot more accurate. Soft Air USA ensures that their guns can hit a target the size of a quarter within ranges varying from 25 to 50 feet away, depending on the type of gun being used.

Fun, Safe and Easy

The soft air industry often finds itself competing with that of BBs and paintballs. However, soft air guns often appeal to kids, or at least parents, because they are notably safer and easier to use than BB or paintball guns.  Soft air guns are safer than BBs, given that they shoot plastic pellets, whereas BBs typically shoot lead pellets. There is little risk of getting injured when using soft air firearms because the pellets travel too slowly and are too light to break the skin.  Protective eyewear, however, is necessary to avoid the dreaded shooting-your-eye-out injury.

Soft air guns also end up being cheaper and easier to use than paintball guns, which typically require some form of makeshift battlefield, a large space to run around in, targets and padding. With soft air guns, one can simply step out into the backyard for some casual target practice.

Soft Air Extras

For those who do wish to get more involved with their soft air guns and make a game of it, additional soft air accessories do exist, such safety goggles, face masks, vests, holsters, targets, reusable pellets and gloves.

Let ‘Em Play

So whether they want to play battlefield, train for the police academy or simply shoot at a few empty soda cans, by using soft air guns kids of all ages can do so safely without sacrificing the look, power and accuracy of a real gun.

-Paintball Warrior

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Peter’s Principles

Oh great, another year is over and it’s time to make your resolution for the New Year. But wait, why is it always the same ones all the time? You’re going to lose weight or join a gym or stop eating potato chips and chocolate.

 

Let me tell you this… losing weight is not a project, it’s a process. And it involves what you eat and how you burn the calories. Sounds simple right? Obviously not or I wouldn’t be touring the country and writing books and articles like this, trying to help the millions of you fighting the battle of the bulge. Because of my Crohn’s Disease, the choices were easy. I had to eat what my body could handle and exercise, or die. Of course many of you face the same challenge. But what about those of you who have the ability to be a size 6 or wear 34-inch pants, and just can’t figure it out?

 

Here are some Principles to live by:

 

1) Realize that diet and exercise work in tandem. Have you said this to yourself, “I just busted my butt at the gym for 45 minutes so I’m having pizza for dinner”? What you need to do within the first hour is get 10-20 grams of protein in your system like a glass of low fat milk, fish, chicken breast or energy bar. This is when your body and muscles need it the most.

 

2) On the contrary, what happens if you’re eating fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and drinking lots of water every day, but only moving from one chair to another? You’re adding good calories but burning none. The bottom line for losing or maintaining a comfortable weight is burning off more calories than you take in on a weekly basis. It’s always good to be on the move for at least 30-60 minutes a day, whether that’s walking, raking the yard, shoveling snow, playing with the kids, doing housework, mowing the lawn… you get the idea. It’s a direct relationship too, the more you do and the harder you do it, the better the results. If you’re concerned about your heart, get some guidelines from your doctor first.

 

3) And what’s the rush? Forget the fad diets and quick weight loss stuff! Excuse the cliché, but it really is a lifestyle or culture change. Set one big goal with lots of little ones on the way. Meet the first one then set your sights on the next. Try a nice, crispy Gala apple or bunch of seedless red or purple grapes, they taste great. Read labels, paying attention to the amount of saturated fat and good fiber. Low fat and high fiber is a recipe for success.

 

-Peter Nielsen

 

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Kayaking

Whether you are looking for a new activity to add to your current exercise routine or you simply want to find an enjoyable outdoor activity during the warm summer months, kayaking may be a great option for you. The basic skills of paddling are uncomplicated to learn for recreational needs, but can be perfected over time to increase efficiency for more serious kayakers. Kayaking can also provide many health benefits for both those who appreciate the competition of sport and those who just want a fun, social activity.
 
The repetitive action of paddling over a long duration of time improves both aerobic and muscular endurance. The continuous paddle stroke and physical effort required to propel the kayak through water should keep the heart rate elevated and the muscles challenged. Because kayaking focuses primarily on the upper body for the basis of the movement, it should affect your cardiovascular system very differently than many standard aerobic activities, such as jogging or biking.
 
The added variety and emphasis on upper body musculature through hundreds, if not thousands, of repetitions will not only build muscular endurance, but strength as well. Kayaking provides great emphasis on the back, shoulders, arms and torso. Depending on your skills as a kayaker, the lower body can also become very involved. The added difficulty of working in an unstable environment, in addition to the trunk rotation necessary for this activity further increase the significance of core strength in the abdominal and lower back muscles, as well as the hips.
 
Similar to any aerobic activity, kayaking can also be used as a tool to achieve weight loss. Depending on your physical abilities and intensity of paddling, kayaking at five miles per hour burns roughly 400 calories per hour. Better yet – You are able to enjoy the benefits of creating a significant calorie deficit while appreciating the pure and simple, stress-reducing perks of being outside to enjoy the weather and the scenery. Being with nature will allow you to clear your mind and relax your body without the bothersome interruptions of everyday life.
 
Before you begin, be sure to invest in the proper safety equipment necessary for most water sports. In addition, finding an appropriate training program that will help you improve your core strength, upper body strength and endurance, aerobic conditioning, flexibility and balance will allow you to enjoy the sport of kayaking for many years.
 
-Paddle Bum
 
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Stay Dry and Fish Longer

If you still think waders are just rubber overalls . . . it is time to change your thinking.

Wader technology has come a long way since the days of heavy, rubber outfits that sprung leaks and trapped moisture. Sure, tradition latex waders are still available and fine if you want something very inexpensive, plan on spending only a couple hours fishing and don’t mind patching leaks.

But, for anglers looking to spend more time fishing than drying out and making repairs, there is an alternative. Outerwear manufacturers are going high tech with new fabrics.

Frogg Toggs® has a line of wade-wear using DriPoreÔ technology. DriPore makes Frogg Togg waders 100% waterproof, 100% windproof and breathable. The patented process uses three layers of polypropylene material with pores that are 20,000 times smaller than a droplet of water.

Frogg Toggs also feature a seaming process that eliminates needle holes. Put this technology together and you have waders that prevent water from getting in while allowing body moisture to escape to keep you cool and comfortable.  Frogg Toggs wade-wear goes one step further by wrapping the DriPoreÔ in an ultra-tough, nylon microfiber outer shell for added durability and comfort.

Fabric is just one part of making the right choice of waders.  Standing just off-shore requires different wading gear than if you prefer standing in deeper water with a rocky bottom. Think about how you use waders and you will be more satisfied with your gear.

-Hook, Line & Sinker

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Don’t Let the Big One Get Away

You don’t have to talk about “the one that got away” after your next fishing trip. Today’s fishing gear makes it easier than ever to reel in that trophy bass.

Gone are the days of trolling along the shore, hoping to find the best fishing hole. Today’s fish finders guide you right to the perfect location. Anglers can find just the right model to meet any budget. Even basic models like the Humminbird® Fishin’ Buddy® provide sonar data and water temps. More sophisticated models from Humminbird and Lowrance® have full color displays showing water temperature, depths, shore contours, GPS and more. Fish finders like these are stand alone units that can be added to your current equipment.

Finding fish and getting them to bite are two different things. Fortunately, fishing gear tech has stepped up to the challenge of helping you snag the prize.

Today’s lures have all the appeal of live bait without the drawbacks. Simulating live bait is more critical than ever. Recent court rulings prohibit transporting fish into and out of lakes to prevent the spread of communicable diseases between fish. The result is that many anglers cannot bring their own minnows and other bait fish into the area.

Manufacturers like Berkley® and Rapala® have put their engineers to work in creating life-like lures. The Berkley® PowerBait® 4 Hollow Belly™ swim bait has been field tested and tweaked by the top Berkley Pro’s in order to give themselves a significant competitive advantage on tour. As if the PowerBait® scent and attractant weren’t competitive advantage enough all by itself, this Hollow Belly bait is loaded with other features as well that has made it the “choice of champions” when conditions call for a super swim bait. Unlike most other swim baits on the market, the body is truly hollow from nose to tail, and easily collapses around the hook when bit to insure a solid hookset. The Rapala lineup features lures that are hand-tuned and tested to recreate the swimming actions of a small fish that attracts larger fish.

The sophistication of today’s lures doesn’t stop with simulating live bait. Many lures have buoyancy ratings of floating, slow sinking and fast sinking. Getting the most out of your tackle box requires choosing a rate of fall suited for your fishing conditions.

Even colors are a big factor in selecting the right lure for the right day and the right water conditions. Pradco® lures cover the color spectrum with dark hues for dark days and light colors for light days. Picking the right color is just as important when selecting your fishing line. Manufacturers offer a variety of fishing line colors to blend in with the water so fish cannot detect the attachment to a lure.

Landing a trophy bass also requires having the right rod and reel. No two anglers are the same so one type of rod and reel won’t work for everyone.

Okuma®’s Diemos Rod/Reel Combo offers different lengths and actions to meet individual needs. The Diemos combo features a four-bearing reel with aluminum spool. The rod is a carbon composite blank with cork grips and split butt design. These features combine to make this the perfect choice for inland lake fishing.

Other manufacturers are introducing rods with adjustable lengths and high strength titanium. Pair one of these rods up with a new reel designed to reduce friction for further casting and you can stay on the water all day without getting tired or having to worry about your tackle handling the challenge of reeling in a bass.

The days of tying a string to a pole and hoping to catch a fish are gone . . . and with the latest technology, so are the days of talking about the one that got away.

-Hook, Line & Sinker

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Hooked on Bass

They say that once you’ve hooked a bass, you’re hooked on bass fishing for life.

The popularity of the sport suggests that old bass-fishing aphorism has a lot of truth to it. Contributing to the sport’s popularity is the fact that bass fishing doesn’t require a lot of travel or money. You can probably find a good bass fishing spot nearby, as the big fresh water fish is plentiful in our lakes and rivers. And some basic equipment can have you fishing with little money spent.

The Fish

Before thinking about bass fishing, think about bass. Two varieties are common in U.S. freshwater: smallmouth and largemouth. Smallmouth were originally native to the central states, while largemouth lurked in central and southeastern states. However, both have been introduced to most of the nation. Both are similar in appearance and have large mouths, although the largemouth’s yap is a bit bigger. While smallmouth rarely exceed 17 inches, largemouth grow to 26 inches.

Bass travel in schools. So if you catch one, you’ll probably catch more. When bass feed, it’s usually near the bottom of the lake or river. Whether they hang out in deep water or shallow depends on temperature. They’re likely to feed where the water temperature is 60° to 75° F, and they frequently congregate near weed beds or underwater structures.

The Rod and Reel

If you’re new to bass fishing, don’t invest in fancy equipment. You can catch fish with a basic outfit. The Zebco 404 spincast fishing combo is inexpensive and well regarded. The bargain-priced Quantum Vibe Series Spinning Combo features a graphite reel and two-piece rod. The South Bend Ready-2-Fish Inshore Spinning Combo is a good choice as well.

Not as basic as these but still affordable is the Shakespeare Ugly Stik® rod, fitted with a Pflueger Trion spinning reel. This medium action rod is suitable for a number of bass fishing techniques.

The Bait

Most bass fishermen prefer artificial bait. There are plenty from which to choose, but plastic worms and tubes are most popular. Plastic worms are self-explanatory; tubes resemble a minnow moving through the water. You won’t find either appetizing, but bass will.

The Texas Rig

Texas rig bass fishing with plastic worms is very popular. The hook is shielded by the worm, so it won’t snag on underwater plants or debris.

For this rig, you need a size 3 or 4 hook and a plastic worm. You also need something to weigh the line and bait. Brass weights are better than lead for obvious environmental reasons. A ¼-ounce weight will work for most conditions, although in calm, shallow water, some fishermen go lighter, and heavier in deep, choppy water.

On bright days, a light colored worm works best; if it’s cloudy, choose a dark color. For murky water, select bright colors; the Berkley Power Worm is a good choice.

To assemble the rig, slide the weight onto your line, then tie on the hook. Hold the worm in one hand and push the hook into the end of the worm with your other hand. Push the hook through and out, so that about ¼-inch of the shank is covered. Pull the hook until the eye is right up against end of the worm. Turn the hook so the point is facing the worm and push the tip into the worm until it almost protrudes from the other side.

A tube bait can be Texas rigged in much the same way. A 4-inch tube is usually good for bass fishing. Color choice is dictated by conditions, just as with worms.

The Carolina Rig

The Carolina rig is useful in water with poor visibility because it allows for plenty of action; fish can spot it readily.

The main difference between the Carolina and Texas rigs is the location of the weight. To make a Carolina rig, slide a ½-ounce weight onto the line then tie on a swivel. Attach a leader of 1 ½ to 3 feet to the swivel. The shorter it is, the easier to cast. But long leaders are better in deep water.

Tie a size 3 or 4 hook onto the end of the leader, then hook the worm as described above for the Texas rig.

The Wacky Rig

The wacky rig is simple, and the bait reacts with a lot of action, so it’s another solution for low visibility. To assemble a wacky rig, position the point of the hook so its shank is perpendicular to the worm and run the hook through the exact center of the worm until it protrudes fully.

The Drop Shot Rig

This rig ties the hook into the line 6 inches to 4 feet above the sinker. It’s meant for deep water, so the position of the hook will depend on where the fish are hanging out. Insert the line into the hook’s eyelet from the side opposite the point, tie a palomar knot, then push the line into the hook from the other side. Pull your line through and tie on a 3/8-ounce bell-style sinker.

Your equipment is in order, so it’s time to head for your favorite lake or river and drown that bait. And don’t forget to take a youngster. Every kid should learn to fish.

Okay, Let’s Fish

The key to successful fishing is presenting the bait in a way that makes it look like a tasty meal.

Bass are stationery fish for the most part, so you have to bring dinner to them. Cast your bait just beyond where you think your lunker may be lurking: 10 feet past that sunken tree stump or mass of vegetation. Before you begin to retrieve the bait wait 20 seconds.  If the bait’s splash spooked the fish, they’ll have time to return. Then retrieve slowly, providing action by moving the rod tip and alternating the speed of your wind.  When fishing a Carolina rig you may want to stop intermittently. When fishing a Texas rig, a steady retrieve can sometimes produce the best results.

Drop shot rigs are well suited to fishing over structures, like sunken boats or the remains of trees and buildings at the bottom of man-made lakes. All underwater structures are favorite hangouts for bass, and the drop shot lets you position your bait just above them.

Whether you’re fishing the drop shot rig on a structure or on the bottom of a deep lake, you should give the bait 20 seconds to settle after your cast. Then, after retrieving it a few feet, let it rest for a few seconds. While it’s resting, wiggle it just a bit by moving the rod tip. Retrieve it a couple of feet and let it rest again. Give it a few wiggles, then repeat. Continue until the bait is back at the boat.

Whatever type of rig or water you’re fishing, when you feel the slightest nudge on the line or see the line move in an unexpected way, set the hook immediately with a quick lift of the rod top. Don’t give the fish time to reject the bait. Setting the hook doesn’t cost you a thing. Failing to do so will cost you a fish.

-Hook, Line & Sinker

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