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The Final Two of My 4 Most

[Written by Greg Kelser].
The final two of my 4Most
You may remember in discussing the four most influential sports stars of my youth, I began by highlighting the great Willie Mays who is considered by many as the best all-around baseball player to ever play the game.
Next I paid honor to basketball great Bill Russell who won 2 NCAA titles at the University of San Francisco, Olympic gold with the United States in 1956, and 11 NBA championships in 13 seasons with the Boston Celtics. There is little to debate when it comes to Bill Russell being considered as the the most prolific winner in team sports history.
Now for my final two…
I remember tuning in to watch a summer exhibition game on television in 1973 between the stars from the old American Basketball Association vs top players from the National Basketball Association. Since the ABA was considered the lesser of the two leagues I thought the NBA players would win in a blowout. The NBA did in fact win but it certainly was no blowout. It was a well contested game and when it was over I knew exactly who I wanted to pattern my game after.
Julius Erving played for the New York Nets of the ABA. Until that time in 1973 I, like most people had never heard of him. Early in the game he stood out because of his flashy dynamic afro that blew in the wind as he ran up and down the court. It did not take long for his dazzling and flamboyant style of play to become the most impressive part of the entire event.
Julius Erving, aka Dr. J did things on that basketball court that I had never seen before. His offensive moves, ball handling wizardry, and antelope-like strides set him apart from all the other players on either team. When he stole the basketball in the second half and dunked from the free throw line on a breakaway I’m sure everyone in that arena as well as those watching on TV knew they had seen something they’d never witnessed before. He proved to be totally unguardable and the sweet moves he displayed in that singular game served as his coming out party causing many people to wonder if he might be the best player in the game at that time.
I was totally in awe call the Doctor from that moment on. I tried my best to incorporate as many of his acrobatic attributes into my own game. I was in high school at that time and dunking was not allowed in games but because of Julius Erving and his influence I would dunk anyway and take the technical that ensued as a result. I wanted it all, the soaring dunks, the slick ball handling, and for a while I even sported the afro.
Dr. J would go on to play 3 more years in the ABA winning championships in 1974 and 1976. When the NBA and ABA merged after the 1976 season Julius joined the Philadelphia 76ers and now would be on full display for everyone who may have missed him in his days in the American Basketball Association.
Known for his style, grace, and class it didn’t take long before he became the most popular player in the league. He scored 30 points in his first NBA All Star Game and was named the Most Valuable Player from the East squad that lost the game. He then led the Sixers to the NBA Finals where they would eventually lose to the underdog Portland Trail Blazers in six games.
Julius would go on to lose two more times in the NBA Finals before capturing his only NBA championship with the Sixers in 1983. By the time he tasted the champagne of a NBA title he was 33 years old and while still performing at an all star level he was certainly entering the twilight of his career. This would explain why the basketball world was cheering for him to finally get his elusive NBA championship ring.
I met Dr J during my sophomore year at Michigan State. I was able to visit with him for a short while in the locker room after a game between the Detroit Pistons and the Philadelphia 76ers. He was very kind with his time and words of inspiration. Shortly after winning the 1979 NCAA Championship for MSU my teammate, Earvin “Magic” Johnson and I were invited to Philadelphia to spend a weekend at the home of Julius and his wife, Turquoise.
Our visit included a game against the San Antonio Spurs, cruising the town, dining with this dynamic couple, and relaxing at their stunning home. This as you might imagine was a dream come true for me. I mean, how often does a young athlete get the chance to be that up-close and personal with the superstar who provided such inspiration for the pursuit of his own dreams. I got a chance to experience that!
As a final note, there was never anything pleasant about trying to guard Julius once I became a NBA player. We played the same position so he was always my assignment and I knew that if I wasn’t ready to compete that the potential for embarrassment loomed large. People often ask who was the toughest of the small forwards when I played in the NBA. I will quickly mention Larry Bird, Bernard King, Adrian Dantley, and several others but the one at the top of list is the one I grew up admiring. The “Doctor. ”
Perhaps my favorite athlete of all is Muhammad Ali. Once again my parents were huge fans when he was known as Cassius Clay. The thing that struck me most about Muhammad Ali was his confidence in himself and his ability. He was never bashful about how much he thought of himself and that he truly believed that he was the greatest fighter of all time.
As a young boy I remember watching him in the mid sixties as he dominated the heavyweight division. He even had the audacity to accurately predict the rounds in which he would win his fights. I probably didn’t know much about boxing and its history at that time but whenever Ali would fight on television it was mesmerizing for my family and me.
I paid close attention in 1967 when Muhammad was stripped of his heavyweight title for refusing induction into the Armed Forces. I was living in Okinawa at the time as my father was stationed on the island while serving in the Air Force. I am certain that Ali’s stance was a hot button topic for all active and retired military personnel around the world and for long time opinion leaned heavily against him.
I remember my parents while military themselves, supporting his position and explaining to me how important it is for a man to stand by his beliefs even though the cost can be high.
For Muhammad Ali the cost was extremely high. He was banned from boxing for three and a half years because of his religious beliefs and his resistance to the Vietnam War. The three and a half years that he lost were right in the midst of his prime as a prize fighter. He lost his coveted heavyweight title and millions of dollars in lost wages. Additionally, he faced jail time after being convicted for refusing induction.
By the early 1970s the Vietnam War became less and less supported by Americans who now felt that far too many lives have been sacrificed needlessly in the South Pacific. Opinions of the former heavyweight champion began to reshape as well and in 1971 the Supreme Court voted unanimously to overturn his conviction and he was free to fight again.
In his first attempt at regaining his crown he lost in an epic 15 round battle against Joe Frazier in March of 1971. Another defeat at the hands of Ken Norton in 1973 had most people thinking Ali might never be champion again. When he signed to fight the new heavyweight champion George Foreman in 1974 few gave him even the slightest chance of surviving afterall, Foreman had destroyed Frazier and Norton in a total of four rounds combined.
Well as Ali promised, he shocked the world with an 8th round knockout of Big George in Kinshasa, Zaire to once again reign as heavy weight champion of the world. For me, it was a full circle moment. Vindication on a grand stage. By now I was in high school and I saw Muhammad’s triumph as more than just winning a title back. I saw it as a test of courage and how one’s beliefs in himself in the face of so many doubters is what’s most important.
It was also a tremendous demonstration of patience, trust, and acceptance. Ali have the courage to accept the fact that he could lose everything, yet he had the trust that if he stayed true to himself and his beliefs that things might work out. He certainly had the patience because it was 7 long years from the time he was stripped of his title until the time he regained it.
I met Muhammad Ali for the first time in August 1980. He was in Detroit to observe the welterweight championship bout between Thomas Hearns and Pipino Cuevas. A friend of mine who was covering that fight as a reporter was going to interview Ali at his hotel room and asked me if I would like to go. I jumped at the opportunity and on the ride downtown to the hotel I could not believe that this was really going to happen!!
When we walked into the room and I saw him sitting on a sofa and I could not believe it. I was 22 years old having just finished my rookie season in the NBA just a few months earlier. Still I felt like a kid staring at some superhero. He could not have been any nicer. We spent 30 minutes chatting though I admit I did most of the listening. He asked about my young career and I will never forget how gracious he was with his time and how he made me feel at ease in his presence.
For me and so many others, Muhammad Ali truly is “The Greatest.”
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NBA Rookie Transition Program

[Written by Greg Kelser].
Greg Kelser graduated from Michigan State University and along with Earvin “Magic” Johnson captained the Spartans to the 1979 NCAA basketball championship defeating Larry Bird and the Indiana State Sycamores. That same year Gregory was named both All-America 1st Team and Academic All-America 1st Team, the first in MSU’s basketball history. He would become the fourth player selected in the 1979 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons and played six years. Gregory has served as a television broadcaster for the Pistons since 1988 and the Big Ten Conference since 1987.
I recently attended the NBA Rookie transition program which is designed to help all incoming rookies with the arduous transition from being a college or international basketball player to competing in the greatest league in the world.
This is a program that is mandatory for today’s young players but one that did not exist when I was embarking upon my first year in the NBA. I wish that it had been in place because the information that is shared during this four day seminar is invaluable not just to life in the league but life itself.
I must say that everything is covered. The pitfalls, the hurdles to get over, the challenges to succeed and survive, and most importantly, how to go about being a professional. The seminar addressed the importance of maintaining healthy diets and lifestyles. The athletes were given concepts to proper hygiene and grooming of one’s self. There was excellent instructions on how to dress for success and how to best represent your own individual brand through proper presentation.
The sessions also included great information on saving and investing money and ways to use your NBA careers as a springboard to even greater success after basketball. The four days included many demonstrations, interactive exercises, small group discussions, and real life testimonials from former NBA players both from a positive and not so positive perspective.
I was there to serve on a panel that dealt with image and life after basketball. I wanted to emphasize to the young athletes how it is so important to not wait until their careers are over to start thinking about the things that they would like to do later on. I shared with them how they can begin building those inroads to their second careers while playing and also how sometimes they will find many more open doors during their careers than if they were to wait until afterwards.
I found it very enlightening that the NBA also included as part of the seminar presentations from a few former athletes who had made incredible sums of money during their careers but somehow lost much of it through bad investments and poor choices. The stories shared and the honesty with which these players demonstrated while opening themselves in the effort to help others was revelational. It was not hard to see that the young athletes in attendance were riveted to these stories and I believe that many of them will remember these examples when faced with similar challenges in their careers.
This program has been in place for several years now with the idea that if you bring the young players in and isolate them from other distractions over a four day period that the chances of providing them with as much insight into what they are about to face perhaps increases their opportunity for success and longevity. Some of the rookies will go on to have great careers but history has shown us that the larger percentage may only spend a very short time in the NBA but whether their careers are long or short the information shared during the seminar transcends basketball because they will be able to take what they have learned and apply it to any career or future endeavor.
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The Shoe Fits!

Today’s Shoes Fit You and Your Game.
Quick, how far back would you say cleats date: 1923, 1874, 1600s or 1500s? The correct answer is 1500s, when King Henry VIII is said to have requested a pair of shoes with cleats so he could play soccer.
From the early days of players hammering metal studs to the bottom of their shoes for greater traction, soccer shoes and those for any sport that requires additional traction, have evolved immensely. Heck, today’s shoes are light years ahead of those worn only 30-40 years ago. In addition to being specifically designed for the sport, they are lightweight, supportive and feature a great deal of technology. Here are just a few offerings to make your spring sport or hobby pursuit more effective.
“For 2015, we’re really excited about our Leadoff line of baseball shoes. They feature full-length ArmourBound® midsole cushions that absorb shock and spread the force over the entire shoe,” said Under Armour’s Pat Baylor.
They also feature Rotational Traction technology for explosive acceleration and power and are available in mid- and low-ankle design.
For those who want to customize their shoe laces to match their team’s uniform colors, check out Under Armour’s Ignite line of baseball shoes. Each pair comes with five lace colors: black, red, royal, orange and pink. These shoes also feature ArmourBound midsole cushions and Rotational Traction technology.
For youngsters who want to release their inner superhero, Baylor recommends the company’s Deception rubber molded alter-ego (Batman) shoe, which features all of the previously mentioned technology, plus ClutchFit.
“Thanks to ClutchFit, these shoes mold to the wearer’s foot to fit the way that is most comfortable for the wearer. This technology also enhances durability,” Baylor added.
Very popular for girl high school softball players is Under Armour’s Spine Glyde cleat.
“With high schools in the Midwest allowing metal cleats for softball players, we’ve seen a lot of interest in our Spine Glyde for women. It features steel cleats in the heel and forefoot for ultimate traction. Additionally, the three-quarter-length ArmourBound® midsole delivers unrivaled cushion and comfort by distributing cleat pressure,” Baylor explained.
Spine Glyde also features abrasion-resistant toe piece for extra protection. As with the Ignite baseball shoes, five lace colors are included to match the player’s uniform.
When I was playing soccer, only a couple of brands offered shoes, so options were extremely limited. The manufacturers followed Henry Ford’s approach to colors, “You can have any color, as long as it’s black.”
A walk down the soccer shoes aisle at your local Dunham’s Sports tells you that’s not the case today. Shoes are brightly colored and much more comfortable than what I wore.
Take Under Armour’s Speed Force FG cleats, for example. They feature a lightweight performance synthetic upper to provide support and enhanced ball control and a TPU outsole with bladed heel for immediate ground penetration. The result is quick acceleration in any direction.
“Comfort, touch and feel are extremely important in a soccer shoe and these deliver just that,” Baylor said.
For runners, Under Armour recently introduced the Speedform® Gemini line in select markets.
“This is the first shoe built in a clothing factory and makes you want to run as soon as you slip it on,” Baylor said. “It features our new Charged Cushioning, which delivers multiple advantages at once: energy return, impact protection and adaptive support for every runner.”
Additional features of the Speedform Gemini include:
A seamless heel cup with foam collar for a locked-in, anatomical fit
Smooth, ultrasonic welded seaming with Bemis tape for next-to-skin support and comfort and
A perforated upper with ultrasonic seal for durable breathability
“Runners will truly appreciate the Charged Foam midsole. It’s cushioned and responsive. Most foams do one or the other. Charged Foam does both and does it better,” Baylor added.
To prepare for the various pastimes, many participants purchase training shoes.
“Because training typically involves more lateral movement than running, which is a more straightforward endeavor, our training shoes are designed to provide plenty of lateral support,” Baylor said.
He recommends having training shoes that are specific to the sport, whether you’re on the field, in the gym, on the court or on the road, as is the case with long-distance runners.
“We have our Strive training shoe that features breathable lightweight mesh with strategically placed, stitched leather overlays for durability. This design also locks down the ball of your foot for enhanced stability,” he added.
When soccer first took hold, players would wear their heavy, work boots – not the best choice when speed and touch are primary factors. Today, we recognize the importance of having shoes that are specifically designed for the sport and that deliver maximum comfort and support.
To ensure your shoes are ideally suited to you and your endeavor, stop by your local Dunham’s Sports and talk to one of the knowledgeable professionals.
-Home Run Hitter
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Covering Your Bases: Injury Protection and Prevention

One of the largest aspects of not only youth sports, but athletics on all levels, is player safety. However, it’s not only limited to keeping athletes safe on the field. It’s helping athletes recover while off of it.
With all of the attention given to the advancements of on-field equipment, especially in baseball, it’s easy to overlook the advancements of protective products. Thanks to EvoShield, players won’t only have a top-of-the-line bat and glove, they’ll have advanced, customized protective gear to maximize the use of their on-field tools.
“Safety has risen to the forefront of both players and parents’ minds with the recent focus on sports injuries,” said John Womack of EvoShield. “EvoShield’s mission is to keep all athletes in the game by providing protective gear that forms to the exact shape of the user, ensuring complete comfort, mobility, and flexibility all season long.”
But with safety comes performance. Players don’t want something big and bulky that’s going to affect how they perform. Luckily, EvoShield takes that into consideration when producing protective gear.
Gel-to-Shell™ technology was developed for this very reason. It’s able to form-fit to the athlete, giving them a custom protective product that forms their bodies. This leads to more streamlined, movement-enhancing gear that molds around the players’ style.
“EvoShield’s Gel-to-Shell™ technology is the only protective gear available that begins as a soft, gel form and transforms to a hard ‘shield’ after exposure to air,” said Womack. “This allows the shield to form to the contours of the athlete’s body as it hardens, creating a unique protective layer that disperses impact to protect better than traditional gear.”
As any athlete or parent knows, it’s impossible to avoid injuries completely. The disappointment that comes with being on the sidelines is what led EvoShield to develop Dispersion Technology in its Gel-to-Shell™ gear. This technology forces the impact energy to be dispersed rather than absorbed or deflected. The slim, form-fitting protection provided by the 1/4-inch-thick shields enable greater athletic movement while maintaining stronger safety.
Don’t think just because you or your child isn’t at the professional level that you can’t get the same kind of treatment or protection. With technology like Gel-to-Shell™, players of all ages can keep themselves in the game and limit time off due to injury. After all, to be the hero, you have to be on the field.
-Home Run Hitter
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The Sweet Science of Baseball

The Zepp Baseball Swing Sensor Has Revolutionized Baseball Training.
You’re in the batter’s box and the ball comes blazing toward you. In milliseconds, you have to decide if it’s in the strike zone. Analyzing the ball’s trajectory, you have to set your hands in motion and execute a swing at the correct angle of attack while achieving maximum bat speed. But you can’t think about it. You have to focus intently on that small white orb. Miss it completely and it’s a strike. Swing low and you pop it up. Swing high and you bounce it to an infielder.
Baseball is America’s game, and kids throughout the land dream of glory on the diamond. But success at even little league level doesn’t come easy. Mastering baseball skills requires countless hours of trial and error practice. But now the difficult task of developing a powerful, effective swing has been quantified and simplified thanks to a revolutionary training aid. It’s called the Zepp Baseball sensor, and it may be the most important advance in baseball training ever conceived. That lofty status is supported the names of the ballplayers who have worked with Zepp in developing the training platform. The current roster includes Mike Trout, David Ortiz, Hunter Pence, Jose Altuve, Giancarlo Stanton, Will Myers, George Springer, Anthony Rizzo, Josh Donaldson, and the world’s number one softball player, Jennie Finch.
The Zepp Analyzer
An innovative product of the digital age, the Zepp analyzer uses a smartphone or tablet app to analyze data generated by a sensor attached to the bat handle heel. The sensor, equipped with an accelerometer and gyroscope, generates 1000 points of data per second and transmits them to the app via Bluetooth, or the data can be stored for download later. The Zepp app, available for both Apple iOS and Android operating systems, provides a 3D image of the batter’s swing from a variety of angles. It charts bat speed throughout the swing, calculates hand speed, records bat speed at impact, and measures swing elapsed time from the beginning to impact. The app can also determine the angle at which the bat is swung relative to the ground, and the vertical angle of the bat at impact
Getting started with the sensor + free mobile app is simple. It attaches to the bat by a mount that fits over the heel, below the batter’s hands. With sensor attached, the player takes batting practice. The analyzer can also be used in a game. The app processes the data, generating video and 3D rendering of the batter’s swing and providing numbers for the values cited above.
So what can a ballplayer and his coach do with all that data? Practice, practice, practice. The Zepp website provides a wealth of training and practice information that utilizes the data to offer tips and prescribe drills designed to optimize a batter’s swing. Tim Walton, coach of the Florida Gators softball team has developed drills targeted at softball players. The baseball drills were developed by Major League hitting coach John Mallee, one of the most respected coaches in the major leagues.
Speaking of the major leagues, Zepp product manager for baseball, Trevor Stocking, said more than 22 major league teams are now using Zepp in one way or another. As mentioned above, Zepp has ten stellar ballplayers on its roster of advisors, all of whom rank among the game’s best hitters. They’ve worked with the device and have developed additional drills.
The Zepp Training Center
The drills and various tools to help analyze the data can be found in the Zepp Training Center and are accessed in the app and online at . For example, bat speed at impact is a critical swing component because increased barrel velocity will drive the ball harder and farther. The Zepp analyzer charts bat speed throughout the swing and at impact, telling you if you’re making full use of your power. Charts compare baseball and softball bat speed values to those achieved by pros and amateur players at various levels.
Other charts tell you how bat speed can vary depending on where contact occurs. Throwback, loose hands, and stepback drills, prescribed and described by coach Mallee, can help optimize bat speed and location at impact. Similar drills are provided for softball players.
Other charts prescribe tips and drills that can help ballplayers work on other swing components measured by the analyzer. For example, bat angle and swing angle are extremely critical. Swing low and you pop up. Swing high and ground out to an infielder. The Zepp analyzer can measure how much your swing angle and bat angle differ from ideal and recommend drills that will have you hitting line drives.
As of February Coach Mallee had developed 30 drills for baseball, and Coach Walton had developed 20 for softball hitters. Stocking said that he had just finished filming additional drills that will be added to the Zepp Training Center by the time this article appears. Analyze your swing, set goals, complete the drills, and watch your batting average soar.
Baseball is a science. Physicists, scholars and ballplayers have been studying it for more than a century, so the science of hitting successfully is well understood. Now, for the first time, that science can be applied by anyone, because a device that can quantify the mechanics of your swing and help you improve it is available at a truly affordable price. See it today at Dunham’s and play ball!
-Home Run Hitter
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Puddle Wonderful

The snow has melted, the grass is green, and it’s time to play.
It’s spring when the world is puddle-wonderful,” wrote poet ee cummings, heralding the season many love most. Almost everything about spring is wonderful: the greening of nature, the change from bitter cold to just right, the feeling that this is a time for new beginnings. The urge to break out the sporting gear and head out to the lakes, baseball diamonds, links and soccer fields.
If you don’t enjoy a sport, spring is a great time to take one up. If you’re a seasoned sportsman or sportswoman, it’s time to get up and go!
On the Links
I was a golf fanatic as a teenager, couldn’t wait to get out on the fairways come spring. And sometimes I didn’t wait. Back about half a century ago or so, a buddy and I headed out to a public course in Chicago in late March, only to find it was all mud and snow. The clubhouse was shuttered, but we tried to play a round. We made it through three holes before our feet were wet and our hands numb.
Getting out too early isn’t recommended, but you do want to be ready for opening day at your favorite course. If you’re just getting started and would like some helpful hints, golf instructor Nick Lico’s article, “Beginner Golfers Can Play Like the Pros,” can point you in the right direction. Nick’s tips can help you avoid the frustration that ill-prepared beginners can experience.
Seasoned golfers on the other hand, will want to brush up on the latest gear – equipment engineered to lower that handicap. Mr. Lico has the straight dope on what’s new for 2014. See “Advancements in Golf Technology = Better Scores.” You might be surprised to discover how much high science goes into producing low scores.
Batter Up!
Nothing says spring like the crack of a bat, and nobody knows baseball better than Dunham’s. In this issue, we sort through the needs of beginning players, helping moms and dads figure out what’s required for success in Tee Ball and Little League. It all starts with training aids and equipment geared to the needs of young players. You’ll find a review of what’s available in the article titled “Play Ball.”
If you’re an experienced ballplayer moving up to senior leagues, high school ball or NCAA competition, you’ll also want to move up to equipment that’s as good as your game. We talked to experts at Easton and Wilson as well as Dunham’s baseball consultants to put together a review of equipment engineered to help every player succeed in the upper levels of amateur baseball. It’s all in “Moving on Up.”
We’ve Been Kicking this Around
While baseball and football may be America’s most popular spectator sports, the game we all play is soccer. (Just to keep us confused, our friends in other countries call it football.)
But there’s really nothing confusing about soccer. The basics are simple: two goals, two teams, a ball, and no hands please. The last part is the hardest for youngsters to learn. If you watch mini-kid soccer games, you’ll hear the coaches shouting, “no hands! NO HANDS!”
Because it involves high-speed action, soccer is great exercise; with minimal risk of injury, it’s one of the safest sports for kids. And come spring, many kids, teens and adults can’t wait to get back out on the soccer field. Today, with indoor soccer growing in popularity, they don’t have to wait. “The Ins and Outs of Soccer“ takes a look at how the indoor game differs from outdoor soccer and reviews the equipment you or your child will need to take up the indoor game. Find all the soccer equipment you need at Dunham’s.
The Ice is Out, the Kayak is In
The ice has melted on our lakes and streams, and it’s time to get out the kayak. Or should we say the kayaks, because kayaking is an ideal family sport and many of us have several or more boats stashed in the garage, waiting for the first day of the season.
If you don’t have kayaks stashed in the garage, you should. Kayaking is easy with the right equipment, and it’s great exercise for the entire family. Our article, “Families Who Kayak Together Have More Fun,” offers some hints on choosing boats for one and all.
The Season Opener
Me, I’m going bass fishing on the first day of the season, which is the Saturday before Memorial Day on Michigan inland waters. I’ll probably take a baitcasting reel and rod and some crankbaits and see if I can get some love from a lunker largemouth on one of Michigan’s 10,000 lakes. If you’d like to try your hand at bass fishing, you’ll find some tips in the article titled “Tempting Mr. Bass.”
That’s a wrap for now, but don’t forget that Dunham’s has everything you need for every sporting season, along with the expert advice that can make your game more fun. Stop by your Dunham’s store today for everything you need to get in the game.
-Your Friends at Dunham’s
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Moving On Up

You’ve moved up through the ranks of amateur baseball and are looking for equipment that’s as good as your game. Dunham’s can help!
Remember your Tee Ball days? Everyone chose one of two or three bats that the coach provided – usually the one that looked the coolest – and a ball glove was just a ball glove. As you progressed into Little League, you became a bit more particular about the bat you swung and the glove you wielded. Now that you’re on your way to the higher levels of amateur baseball, those choices become more important every day. Without equipment that is well matched to your skill set and body type, you can’t reach your full potential.
In recent years high technology has reshaped the baseball bat and glove, while providing some excellent training aids. With new tight regulations dictating bat materials and dimensions, advanced design provides significant advantages. At the same time, as pro ballplayers have asked for changes in glove construction that can maximize their game, those designs have filtered down to the better amateur equipment. And simple training aids meant to simulate game conditions or improve coordination and concentration have proven a boon to players of every stripe. In the end, it’s all about optimizing your game, which will go a long way toward ensuring that as you move up through the ranks, baseball remains much more about fun than frustration.
Swing a Big Stick
It used to be simple to choose a bat. You stopped in at a store like Dunham’s, picked up a couple, and bought the one that you could swing with ease – the one that felt good in your hands. Today’s ballplayers have a lot more to consider when choosing a bat. For example, new rules prescribe certain materials and set limits on the velocity at which the ball can come off the bat. Your Dunham’s sales consultant can help you determine what type bats are legal for play in your league.
Little League and most other youth leagues specify bats of a certain dimension. Non-wood bats must have been tested to ensure that they don’t exceed a performance standard. Little League baseball allows only those composite bats that are on an approved list. Dunham’s sales consultants can help you choose a bat that’s legal for the league in which you play.
NCAA college baseball, high school baseball and most intermediate, junior and senior leagues allow only wood bats or aluminum alloy and composite bats that meet BBCOR standards. Again, bats for various levels must be sized according to strict specifications.
When bat standards were first introduced, they made shopping for a bat difficult. But now, several years after the regulations have became all but universal, every bat sold by Dunham’s is legal for its intended purpose. But while all Dunham’s bats meet prescribed standards, there are numerous things to consider when choosing a bat.
Ryan J. Weller, a strategic account manager for Easton, says, “Getting the right bat for each player goes a long way toward determining the amount of success that player will have and how much they will enjoy their season.”
The most important factors are length, barrel diameter and weight. In general, the stronger the ballplayer, the heavier the bat. The best way to determine if a bat is too light or too heavy is by swinging it. You shouldn’t have to struggle to move the bat rapidly through your strike zone, yet if it’s too light, it will feel as though you don’t have to exert much force to move it. In other words, swinging the bat should require effort but that effort shouldn’t be debilitating. Delivering maximum force is important, but you must be able to maintain good bat speed to hit a fastball.
Mr. Weller says that composite materials enable a lot of manufacturing design options, resulting in bats that can enhance the game of ballplayers at the highest levels of NCAA collegiate baseball as well as high school and intermediate league players. The new Easton Mako, for example, which is available at Dunham’s, utilizes a new composite technology, which allows for longer barrels and even lighter swing weights than previous Easton offerings.
Dunham’s also stocks Easton’s S2, an aluminum-alloy bat with a composite handle that’s joined to the barrel using Easton’s ConneXion technology. The alloy barrel expands the sweet spot and provides increased durability.
In addition to the Easton offerings, Dunham’s carries a wide range of Hillerich and Bradsby Louisville slugger wooden bats and DeMarini aluminum-alloy and composite bats.
Flashing Leather
While there are various things to consider when choosing a bat, selecting a ball glove requires just as much care. A glove that doesn’t fit correctly or is wrong for the player’s position is a huge disadvantage and can lead to the development of bad habits in the field. Dunham’s sales consultants have expert knowledge of baseball equipment and can help you select a glove. A number of factors are considered in arriving at an optimum choice, including level of competition, throwing hand and position played.
Youth league players who have advanced beyond the basic levels might choose a Wilson Softfit A800 model. These gloves are reasonably priced and engineered to not require break in. They come in various lengths and are tailored to the position played. For example, the Softfit A800 pitcher glove is available in 11.75-inch and 12-inch versions.
Players in advanced youth leagues or high school baseball will probably find that an A1K series glove is a good choice. Dave White, national accounts manager for Wilson says, “The A1K glove is built using the same patterns and construction techniques employed in making pro gloves but sizes them down just a bit for a more snug fit on fingers and wrists.” That fit enables better control in the field than would an overly large glove that flops around. The A1K gloves are offered as infielder, outfielder, catcher and pitcher models in a variety of lengths.
Taking it to the Top
While Dunham’s can provide the equipment you need to play at the top of your game, they also carry a variety of training aids from SKLZ, a leading manufacturer of baseball training equipment. Among them is the Quickster 5-foot sports net. With a strike-zone target outlined in the center, the Quickster provides a way for pitchers to practice their delivery almost anywhere. When a thrown pitch strikes the Quickster dead center, the net springs back and returns the ball. The Quickster is engineered for ballplayers on the go. It can be assembled in as little as 90 seconds while its TenstionTite poles provide a sturdy frame. When it’s time to move on, it can be packed into its carrying case.
SKLZ’s most popular product, the Hit-A-Way® is another great training aid. The concept is simple: a baseball is attached to cords that wrap around a pole. When the ball is batted, it winds its way around the pole and returns, providing another opportunity for the batter to practice his swing.
The Lightning Bolt Pro is an affordable pitching machine that allows hitters to perfect their game almost anywhere. The machine tosses small, lightweight balls that are difficult to hit and can make a regulation baseball look like a beach ball in comparison. The machine is particularly effective when used with the Quick Stick™ training bat. The narrow lightweight bat allows plenty of swings without fatiguing the batter, and its small diameter means full concentration is required to hit the small balls.
Bad bounces have led to many unearned runs and lost games. Now fielders can be ready for them by practicing with the SKLZ Reaction Ball™. Guaranteed to bounce every which way, this training ball improves reaction time and makes those impossible plays seem quite possible. How much fun is that?
The sun is shining, spring is in the air, and it’s time to play ball. Stop by your Dunham’s store today and get in the game.
-Home Run Hitter
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Play Ball

Prepare your youngster to get in the game with the right training and equipment.
Almost every kid wants to answer the call to play ball, and moms and dads can do much to help them develop the skills that make baseball an enjoyable and healthy activity. From providing the right equipment to providing a bit of training in the backyard, that first encounter with the game will go a long way toward determining whether baseball proves fun or frustrating.
Training aids can give youngsters a great start on the way to skill development. Dunham’s stocks a wide range of SKLZ training tools that can make practice more productive and more fun. For example, the Hit-A-Way swing trainer attaches to any pole or tree and simulates real pitches. Your young slugger can get up to 500 swings per hour without ever having to chase a ball. The 5-Position Brush Tee is another great training aid. Rather than just a simple tee, it allows the ball to be positioned high, low, inside, outside or down the middle, and the brush top promotes a realistic ball flight when your little slugger makes contact. SKLZ Softhands is a practice mitt without a pocket that teaches young infielders to get in front of the ball and use two hands. It also reinforces correct transfer of the ball to the throwing hand.
A variety of other training aids are available as well. Ask your Dunham’s sales consultant to help you find the equipment that’s right for you and your aspiring ballplayer.
Of course, on-field equipment is important as well, and having a properly fitting glove and a correctly sized bat can help your ballplayer achieve the kind of success that breeds confidence. Dunham’s carries baseball gloves for players at all levels. Among those recommended for the littlest guys and gals are the Rawlings 10″ or 10.5″ Tee Ball Gloves. These are durable gloves that can help a player get off to a good start. As skills mature, your youngster can move up to the lightweight Wilson A 500 glove or the affordable Wilson A 450. Both are available in 10-inch size and larger. Also, check out Dunham’s assortment of youth baseball and fast pitch softball gloves for girls.
At the plate, little sluggers need a bat designed for beginners. Dunham’s stocks a number of choices from the top suppliers, including Easton and DeMarini. Ryan J. Weller, Easton’s strategic account manager, says, “We offer two bats for Tee Ball: the XL and the Mako. The XL has a -10 length to weight ratio, while the Mako is -13. Because the Mako is lighter it can be swung faster, which often improves control. Both bats are one-piece aluminum.” For the bigger and stronger Youth Player, Dunham’s also carries a wide assortment of Youth Baseball Bats from Easton, DeMarini and Rawlings.
As young ballplayers graduate to little league and higher, Dunham’s can supply equipment that will keep pace, and our knowledgeable sales consultants can make sure that it’s a perfect fit.
-Home Run Hitter
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The New Old-Fashioned Way

Pete Browning got the first finely crafted Hillerich & Bradsby hardwood bat in 1884, and ever since, many super stars of major league baseball have made that manufacturer’s Louisville Slugger their weapon of choice.
H & B Louisville Sluggers are still carefully made from fine hardwood, but the process has evolved over the years. It frequently begins in H & B’s own timberland in Pennsylvania and New York. There, northern white ash and maple trees that have reached the age of 60 or more are harvested. The finest logs are then selected at the mill. After hand sawing into square billets, the wood is vacuum dried.
A proprietary machine, built for the sole purpose of making Louisville Sluggers, compresses the grain of the barrel to achieve optimum hardness. Next, filler is applied to close the grain. The filler is topped with several layers of a topcoat seal. The resulting finish is said to be the hardest of any wood bat on the market.
Over the years a variety of hardwoods have been used to make Louisville Sluggers. At one time, hickory was very popular, but it’s too heavy for today’s players who emphasize bat speed. Ash was the most popular wood through most of the modern era, but in recent years, maple has achieved equal status, as many players experienced success with maple bats in the 1990s.
Babe Ruth swung a mammoth hunk of H & B timber. It was 36 inches long and weighed a whopping 42 ounces. Mickey Mantle’s Louisville Slugger was considerably lighter at 32 ounces. While Major League Baseball rules allow bats up to 42 inches in length, no one has ever used an H & B bat of that size. The longest was a 38-inch stick used by Al Simmons in the 1940s.
“Wee” Willie Keeler, a right fielder of the 1890s, stepped to the plate with a Louisville Slugger that measured 30½ inches. That’s the length prescribed today for a 120-pound little leaguer who stands just over 4-feet tall. Willy, who had a .341 career batting average, wasn’t a lot bigger at 5 foot, 4 inches and 140 pounds. He is said to have been the first to say, “Hit ‘em where they ain’t.”
Both that strategy and the Louisville slugger Wee Willie swung remain key parts of the game.
-Home Run Hitter
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