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Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category


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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The Right Tools

 
Gloves and bats that don’t fit the player’s game are an obstacle to skill development
 
Baseball was king on the southside of Chicago in the 1950s. I grew up a few miles from Comiskey Park, and as a six-year-old I was dying to get in the game.
 
My dad was born and raised in Sweden, so baseball was foreign to him, but he knew I pined to play ball, so he bought me a glove. It was an Andy Pafko model, and it was flat as a pancake with no discernable pocket. To catch the ball I would try to sandwich it between glove and free hand. I played with that glove for a couple of years, developed all kinds of bad habits and dropped many balls. In later years I bought a good glove, but that early experience had left its mark, and I lacked confidence in the field.
 
Starting with the Right Equipment
 
There are many factors that affect the development of young players, but few are as important as having the right equipment. Baseball skills are complex, and learning is difficult. But handicapping a player with a bat that’s too heavy or a glove that doesn’t fit will lead to failure and frustration.
 
Fits Like a Glove
 
Wilson has developed a chart that prescribes baseball glove size and type for players of every age and position (see facing page). Consult it before choosing a glove or ask your Dunham’s sales representative to help you choose. By the way, the gloves Wilson designs for pros are identical to those Dunham’s sells. Everyone gets the best equipment.
 
Asked how a glove should be selected, Ali Brewer, of Wilson baseball said, “The first question we ask is what position you play.” A 12-year old middle infielder generally needs a glove that’s 11 to 11¾ inches in length with a shallow pocket. With a shallow pocket, a shortstop or second baseman can get the ball out quickly and make their throw. Younger players require smaller gloves. A six-year-old infielder should have a glove that’s 10 to 10½ inches long. In every case, the glove should be easy for the player to maneuver and must fit the hand. Apply common sense here.
 
In a video on Wilson’s web site, San Francisco Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez says, “You want a pocket but not too deep a pocket. At second base, I have to be quick getting the ball out.“
 
Outfielders require a longer glove: 11¾ to 12½ inches for older youths, and 10¾ to 11½ inches for eight- to ten-year-old players. Josh Hamilton, the Angels all-star outfielder, says, “As an outfielder you want as big a glove as you can possibly have.”
 
Extra length can give an outfielder the reach needed to grab over-the-wall flies and bad-bounce line drives. The double welting of Wilson gloves prevents the fingers from bending back when the ball slams home and makes cone catches possible.
 
The requirements for other positions vary, but your Dunham’s sales representative can help you choose the best glove for any player and position.
 
Swing the Right Stick
 
Swinging a baseball bat that’s the right size and weight is critical to success at the plate. Hitting a baseball isn’t easy, and the best players track the pitch until it’s close to the plate, and then swing rapidly and accurately. A player bogged down with too heavy a bat can’t generate the speed necessary to hit a fastball. And a player swinging too light a bat will not hit with power.
 
An efficient swing is extremely important now that bats must meet standards for the amount of energy transferred to the ball. Today’s aluminum and composite bats don’t generate the trampoline effect of yesteryear. A properly sized bat and correct swing are critical.
 
Dunham’s carries a wide range of bats, including DeMarini, Easton, and Hillerich & Bradsby models. Among the H & B offerings is the classic wood Louisville Slugger. All are great products, and your Dunham’s sales representative can help you choose one that’s best for you or your youngster.
 
A Range of Choices
 
All bats must meet strict performance guidelines. For little league, non-wood bats have to meet a bat performance factor of 1.15 or less. For intermediate leagues, NCAA and senior league play, non-wood bats must conform to BBCOR standards. In addition, there are barrel diameter and length restrictions for each category. Your Dunham’s sales representative can help you choose a bat that will meet all requirements.
 
The performance standards were instituted to make the game safer, but they also ensure that aluminum and composite bats perform more like wood bats. So while non-wood bats once outperformed classic bats by a wide margin, that’s no longer the case.
 
But technology still plays a role in bat construction, and if player preference is a guideline, certain bats rise to the top of the charts. Among top choices in the NCAA college baseball ranks are the DeMarini Vexxum, which combines a composite handle with an alloy metal barrel; the Louisville Slugger TPX Attack, featuring composite construction; and the alloy-metal Easton XL3.
 
All are premium choices, but every manufacturer also produces more affordable bats suitable for even the youngest T-ball slugger. All are available at Dunham’s.
 
Size Matters
 
In addition to the product dimension and performance requirements specified by various baseball organizations, there are common-sense guidelines that suggest how much bat a player can handle. Bat manufacturers have developed a chart that makes recommendations for length based on size and weight (see chart on page 21). For example, a 95-pound little leaguer standing 4½-feet tall would probably do well with a 30-inch bat. But handle diameter, barrel shape and weight are important too, and taking a few practice swings with a bat is a good way to determine its suitability. If your ballplayer struggles to get the bat around, it’s too heavy.
 
In brief, it’s all about matching the equipment to the player. The best bat or glove doesn’t get in the way but rather complements the player’s style, strength and ability level. While only raw talent can make an all-star, having the right equipment can help every player perform at his or her maximum.
 
-Home Run Hitter
 

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Giving the Gift of Game

Baseball training can help youngsters enjoy the game in good health.

It’s never too early to start training a ballplayer. We’ve all read stories about dads and moms putting a ball in the crib, and while that may be taking things to an extreme, teaching a sport as difficult as baseball can’t begin to soon. When baseball is part of growing up, youngsters develop skill sets much faster.

There was a time when baseball training was just a dad thing. Now that wasn’t all bad, because it got kids and dads outside together. But if dad didn’t know diddlysquat about baseball, junior might never get to first base.

Training Aids for Youngsters

In recent years, enterprising sports-equipment manufacturers, including SKLZ performance training products, have stepped in to fill the void with products that range from fitness training products to tees and to advanced training aids including swing trainers pitching machines. SKLZ also develops free instructional videos to demonstrate drills and proper use of their products that are all available for free on their website.

“We leave the bat, glove and ball work to the other guys,” said SKLZ spokeswoman Heidi Lont. “By focusing on training equipment and materials, we can devote all our efforts to developing techniques and products that will make any youngster a better player.”

Honing Those Baseball Skills

The SKLZ training aids you’ll find at Dunham’s can help every youngster develop baseball skills. They’re engineered to help players learn correct
techniques, right from day one.

Does your youngster have trouble hitting that low and inside pitch? The 5-Position Tee can provide practice in hitting pitches that paint the corners of that plate. With the base placed on home plate, balls mounted on the five tees locations can be positioned inside, outside, early, late and at varying heights. To hit an inside pitch, for example, players can be taught to pull their hands in and get more bat on the ball.

The Quickster® 5’ x 5’ net is great for hitting and throwing practice. Many teams use one for soft-toss workouts before every game.
A coach tosses a ball into the strike zone from the side and the player hits it into the net. It’s a proven practice and skill-building method.

The Reaction Ball™ is a sure fix for sloppy fielding. With six spheres jutting out in different directions, you never know which way it will go. Thrown or rolled to a player, it will bounce this way and that. Concentration is required to make the catch.

The Softhands™ fielding practice mitt can cure any infielder of sloppy, one-handed glove work. With no pocket or trap, the padded mitt forces the player to use two hands to catch the ball while improving concentration and control.

Many leagues require face protection for young players. The Face Shield provides ample coverage of the face, yet it’s light and doesn’t restrict vision. Parents may want to make it a mandatory for any practice session. The extra protection is priceless.

Training Assistance

Today, a great deal of skill-building help is offered by commercial training facilities. But before signing up for a program, it’s up to parents to make sure that the teachers know how to work with kids. John Stemmerman, general manager of Athletes’ Performance, says, “It’s key to observe a class that the instructor is teaching to see how he or she interacts with the kids. Beware of a ‘boot-camp’ mentality.”

It all goes back to one very basic truth: Baseball is a wonderful game that’s meant to be enjoyed. If the kids aren’t having fun, something is wrong.

-Home Run Hitter

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HOT BATS: They’re Going Going Gone

The pitcher winds up and fires toward the plate.  The batter swings from the heels and makes contact.  Thinking home run, he trots toward first, only to break into a sprint as he sees the ball fall short of the fence.
 
It’s a scene that will be repeated on many high-school baseball fields this spring, as most leagues begin their first season of play using bats engineered to perform more like the wood bats of old.  This change is due to the implementation of a new test – the Bat-Ball Coefficient of Restitution (BBCOR) – that a bat must pass, before it’s approved for play by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).  The new requirement has been in effect in NCAA play since January 2011.
 
While bats were subject to regulation prior to this year, the old BESR test measured the speed of the ball coming off the bat, a number that varied as bats were broken in.  The new BBCOR specification measures the bounciness of “pop” of the bat and is a better indication of performance.
 
The result is a bat that generates 10 to 15 percent less ball velocity than previously allowed composite and aluminum bats.  The 2011 NCAA season bore this out, as production fell.  According to Daniel A. Russell of The Pennsylvania State University, batting averages, home runs and earned-run averages for the 2011 NCAA season dropped to pre-aluminum-bat levels – the lowest in over 30 years.
 
Many students of the game count diminished bat performance as a plus, since BBCOR-spec bats perform much like major-league wood bats, thereby enabling comparison.  What’s more, according to the NFHS, the BBCOR requirement is expected to minimize risk, improve play and increase teaching opportunities.
 
Ballplayers like to see the ball soar at the crack of their bat, so the new BBCOR requirement isn’t getting a lot of love at the student-athlete level, but some have displayed a positive attitude.  Responding to an article on baseballbatreviewsblog.com, one athlete said, “The BBCOR bats have no pop, so I’ll stop complaining and square the ball up to get the pop, basically get better at hitting.”
 
In most leagues, players will have the option of using BBCOR-approved non-wood bats or wood bats.  Dunham’s offers both.  Among the most popular BBCOR bats are the Easton Power Brigade performance bats.  Because power is a function of mass and speed, these bats are engineered to optimize both sides of the equation.  The Speed Series bats provide a little help for players who need more at speed.  For power hitters who can swing with the best of them, Easton offers the XL Series with extra large barrels.  Because most of the mass is in the barrel, the bats offer a very large hitting surface.
 
Dunham’s sales consultants can help ballplayers, large and small, choose the best bat for their game.
 
-Home Run Hitter
 
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It Must Be The Shoes

Beginning baseball player or all-star, without the traction advantage of cleats, it’s no go.
 
The runner on first base steps toward second, then stops and studies the pitcher, looking for a clue that might reveal whether his next move will be a throw to first or a pitch to the plate. The pitcher goes into his stretch, looks over his shoulder and returns the stare, gauging the base runner’s lead and calculating whether he’s likely to break for second on the pitch. The runner takes one step back toward first. Confident that he has the runner leaning toward first, the pitcher delivers to the plate. But by the time he releases the ball, the runner has shifted his weight, and he digs in with his cleat, pushing off toward second with all the power his leg can generate.
 
Without baseball cleats, that runner would be spinning his wheels, slipping and sliding in the dirt, but the grip of the shoe allows him to apply as much force as he can muster. While cleats are essential equipment for the base runner, they’re also necessary for defensive players, who must react quickly to a batted ball and move into position. Similarly, that pitcher has to have firm footing on the pitching rubber and mound in order to deliver the ball with maximum velocity and accuracy.
 
A Historical Footnote
 
Baseball cleats are an important part of a player’s equipment, and they have been since a ballplayer named Paul Butler first attached spikes to his leather shoes more than 150 years ago. Today, players can choose from a wide range of baseball cleats, including types designed for different conditions and playing surfaces. And while cleats may resemble street shoes, there’s a lot of science involved in their construction. Wedges are frequently used within the shoe to provide cushioning in some areas without adding excessive weight. The wedges can also serve to keep the front of the foot low to the ground, an advantage when running. Soft pads are located within the shoe to minimize pressure, and cushioning is used in midsole areas to reduce the discomfort that results from hours of standing and running. Tongue flaps keep the tongue in place while keeping dirt out, and zippered shrouds lock laces in place.
 
The cleats on the underside of the shoe are usually made of metal, solid rubber or molded thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). Metal cleats are durable and can dig into hard dirt. Non-metal cleats reduce the risk of injury to opposing players and can make for a more comfortable shoe. But since rubber and TPU cleats don’t provide as much grip, more metal cleats are used. Maximum height for all types is ½-inch. Generally, players who have reached high-school level or above use metal cleats when conditions warrant, while more junior ballplayers use a non-metal type. Some shoes are made with removable cleats, so both metal and non-metal cleats can be used interchangeably and worn cleats can be replaced.
 
The position of  the cleats can affect the way the shoes — and the athlete — perform. Nike, for example, has moved the toe cleat under the big toe to improve traction, while the secondary cleats in the forefoot area are engineered to improve lateral movement.
 
Sizing Up the Shoe
 
It’s not all about traction and cleat design, the support the shoe provides and its durability are also important. Baseball cleats are available in both low-top and ¾-height shoe configurations. The low-tops offers great flexibility and are favored by speedy baserunners, while he ¾-height shoes provide more ankle support and are less likely to fall off. In terms of materials, synthetic outers can reduce weight, while leather is tough and durable. Many shoes are made from a combination of materials. Under Armour, a major supplier of baseball cleats, uses a combination of leather and a synthetic material called nubuck in many of their shoes. Nike baseball cleats use a rubber compound called Diamond Guard in the toe area to enhance durability.
 
Special Applications
 
Most manufacturers offer shoes designed specifically for softball and for children. Because softball involves motions that differ from those of baseball, particularly for pitchers, shoes are engineered specifically for that game. Kids, on the other hand, grow fast, and some baseball cleats are designed to accommodate growth with removable spacers in the heel area.
 
Dunham’s carries a wide range of baseball cleats for boys, girls and adults. Among the most popular are the Nike Keystone and Under Armour’s Leadoff IV. A Dunham’s sales consultant can help you choose the cleats that are best for you or your aspiring athlete.
 
-Home Run Hitter
 
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Holy Composite Material, BAT-MAN!

There was a simpler time when all baseball bats were made of wood. Then came aluminum and a variety of alloys. In recent years, composite bats made from fiber and resin have shown up in the batter’s box. Today, the material and method used to manufacture a bat can significantly affect the velocity at which the ball comes off the bat. At higher levels, uneven bat performance can lead to statistical confusion.

For those reasons, amateur baseball sanctioning bodies test new bat designs and sometimes restrict the type of bat that can be used in competition. As examples, let’s take a look at how Little League baseball and high-school baseball sanctioning bodies have dealt with recent changes in bat design.

Little League

It wasn’t long after the introduction of composite bats that ballplayers and Little League officials noticed that high-tech composite bats got “hotter” as they were broken in. Repeated contact with the ball softened up the composite material, giving it more of a trampoline effect. The result was harder hit balls — too hard perhaps for the safety of the players in the field. So in 2010, Little League International temporarily banned the use of composite bats in all baseball divisions of Little League.

“The moratorium is not the result of Little League changing its bat standards, nor was it influenced by any relationships with bat manufacturers,” said Little League International. “The decision is based solely on the fact that scientific research showed that composite-barreled bats may exceed the performance standard that is printed on the bats, after the bats have been broken in.”

In January 2011, the organization announced wavers for some composite bats that had passed the performance test and could now be used in the Little League Majors Baseball Division and lower divisions. These bats have the 2 ¼-inch barrels that are required at those levels.

Dunham’s can equip you with a composite bat that has received a waiver and is now legal for Little League play. A Dunham’s sales representative can help you find a bat that’s right for you.

High School and College

In recent years both high school and college baseball have used bats that complied with the Ball Exit Speed Ratio or BESR standard. Some of the bats meeting that standard didn’t perform in quite the same way as the wooden bats used in professional baseball. Baseball pundits and perhaps even major league baseball owners sometimes complained that it was difficult to determine how well a college player would perform in professional baseball, since the collegiate athletes were using a different type of bat.

That may be part of the reason why NCAA college baseball officially adopted a new standard called the Bat-Ball Coefficient of Restitution or BBCOR. That standard went into effect on January 1 of this year. The NCAA is reported to have said that the change was not done for safety reasons, but in order to get a more wood-like performance from the bats.

For 2012, high school baseball leagues will make the switch to BBCOR bats as well. California schools have already changed to the NCAA collegiate standard, but schools in other states can continue to use BESR bats through the end of 2011.

Dunham’s carries a range of bats that meet the new BBCOR specification. For help in choosing a bat that meets the requirements of the league in which you play, see your Dunham’s sales representative.

I’ve Got It!

A fielder’s facemask can help youngsters play with confidence.

It’s a sharply hit ground ball to the second baseman. The well-schooled fielder gets in position, lowers his glove, and focuses on the ball. But as it approaches the ball takes an odd bounce, and the
young ballplayer’s attention turns from the task at hand to wondering whether the ball might take another bad bounce and bop him in the nose. Distracted, he lifts his glove, and the ball rolls between his legs and into
right field.

Confidence and concentration are essential to the development of young players. Catching a baseball isn’t easy, and youngsters who are afraid of the ball will never develop proper skills. Taking necessary precautions to prevent injury is something that all youngsters should be taught, but fear doesn’t diminish the risks involved in any sport. It’s a distraction that can actually lead to injury.

The increased use of fielder’s face protection by pitchers and infielders in recent years has done much to both prevent injuries and instill confidence. Introduced in the 1990s, masks designed to protect defensive players are now becoming common in amateur baseball. The lightweight masks are engineered in such a way that they don’t restrict vision, yet they offer a substantial level of protection from batted balls. That protection helps defensive players focus on the game, so the benefits afforded by the mask are twofold: The players gain confidence, and their faces are protected.

Dunham’s stocks a number of fielder face protection masks, including Markwort’s Game Face mask, Worth’s First Face mask, and the Rip It mask.

Markwort Sporting Goods, said that the Game Face mask is ultra lightweight and offers extremely strong polycarbonate construction. Because it provides complete facial protection, it promotes player confidence. The mask can be fitted to the individual player’s face by means of pads. Lisa recommends that to ensure a proper fit, the player visit Dunham’s and try on a Game Face.

-Home Run Hitter

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