Good Glove, Great Game

Learning to catch a baseball can be difficult. Without good equipment, it may well be impossible.

Is there a six-year-old baseball fan out there who doesn’t dream of someday playing like a pro? I doubt it. For the youngest would-be athletes, now is the time to dream of what might be and relish it. Fantasy can be healthy; there will be plenty of time for a reality check in later years. Of course there’s no quicker way to extinguish early ambition than with early failure. And trying to learn the game while playing with inferior equipment is a certain obstacle to success.
There’s a general misconception among parents that good equipment is wasted on a neophyte ballplayer. “Heck, they might not even like the game,” says dad or mom. “Why not spend less and upgrade once they learn to play?”
The Catch 22 is that without good equipment, your offspring might never learn to play, depriving them — and you — of some good times ahead.
That First Glove
Dad bought my first baseball glove in early summer, 1955. Now dad was a kind and generous man who took good care of his family, but he knew absolutely nothing about American sports. Born and raised in Sweden, his interests ran more toward speed-skating and skiing. I had been asking for a glove for months because all the other kids had one, and they were playing this game called baseball in the alley behind our house.
Well, dad picked out a Globe Andy Pafko model. I thought that was pretty cool, since Pafko was a genuine major leaguer and a good one. I thought that with that glove, I could play like Andy, play like a pro. But in truth, the glove’s most memorable feature wasn’t Andy’s name on the front, it was the shape. It was flat as a pancake without a discernible pocket. It was puffy and thick, so it protected my hand when I stuck it out there in the path of the ball. But catching the ball was another matter. It required two hands and split-second timing. My gloved left hand would terminate the ball’s flight and my right would try to secure it against the glove. I rarely succeeded, and in Little League tryouts I failed to make the cut. (In those days, success wasn’t guaranteed to all. You had to make the grade. Cruel perhaps, but a good life lesson.) But life lesson or not, I was intimidated, and although I became a devoted fan of the game, I never again attempted to play in a league.
Playing with the Pros
Fortunately, good baseball equipment that is designed specifically for beginning Little League ballplayers is available at an affordable price, and the best equipment mimics the design attributes of top-of-the-line equipment. That means quality materials and construction features that are thoughtfully designed to improve your little one’s chances of succeeding at the plate and in the field.
There are many fine products available today, and Dunham’s offers a wide selection. Our sales consultants are well schooled in the needs of ballplayers at every level, and they can help you choose equipment that will improve your youngster’s game.
The Wilson A500 Glove
One of the best new products at Dunham’s this season is the Wilson A500 glove. New this year, the glove is crafted of 100% cowhide. It’s soft and game ready and can be broken in and ready to go within a day. Because it’s soft, it conforms to the player’s hand for optimum comfort and control. It’s modeled after Wilson’s celebrated A2000 pro-style glove — arguably the world’s most famous baseball glove — so you can be sure it offers premium design features. It also looks like an A2000, so your youngster will take pride in its appearance. An EZ Snap Closing System means junior won’t be fumbling with the glove when its time to take the field, and the EZ fit system with a flexible Velcro strap ensures that the glove can be customized to fit any size hand.
A Few Words from Ryan
Wilson ball glove developer, Ryan Smith, recommends breaking in the glove by playing catch. (That means with you, dad and mom. Break out your old mitt and pick up a ball.) Ryan doesn’t recommend steaming or microwaving the glove during break in. But he does suggest that placing a ball in the pocket when the glove isn’t in use can enhance the pocket shape. A weighted baseball works best for that purpose. With the ball placed in the pocket, slide a long tube sock or long sleeve shirt over the glove.
To preserve the glove’s leather and keep it soft and pliable, Ryan recommends glove conditioner. Formulated with lanolin and vitamin E, it prevents drying to keep the leather soft and pliable.
Baseball season is upon us. “Play ball!” echoes across the land, so it’s time to get your youngster out on the diamond with good equipment and a lot of encouragement from mom and dad.
-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, 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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Right Glove Means Comfort, Control and Confidence

Imagine hitting a sharp liner up the gap, but barely making it to first base because your baseball pants are so large they practically fall off. Or imagine rounding third, heading for home and literally flying out of your cleats because they’re two or three sizes too large.

While those scenarios may seem unlikely, chances are your son or daughter may be playing with another piece of extremely important equipment not properly fitted to his or her age, size or level of play.

“One mistake many parents make,” says Dave White, National Account Manager for Wilson Sporting Goods, “is choosing a baseball glove that is too large for their son or daughter, with the thought that they’ll eventually grow into it. What happens then is that the player often gets discouraged because the glove falls off their hand, or because they have a hard time fielding, catching or controlling the ball.”

From Little League all the way through the big league, choosing the right glove is all about fit, feel and functionality. Here are a few guidelines to use when choosing a glove for your little leaguer:

  • Baseball gloves are measured from the top of the index finger, over the surface of the pocket and down to the heel of the glove.
  • Players under the age of 8 should use a 9-inch glove for infield play and up to an 11-inch glove for outfield play.
  • Players from 8 to early teens should use a 9- to 10-inch glove for infield play, a 10- to 11-inch glove if playing multiple positions and up to a 12-inch glove for outfield play.
  • A shallow pocket helps infielders trap and grab the ball more easily.
  • A deeper pocket helps outfielders catch and hold the ball more securely.
  • Leather gloves offer superior comfort, control and durability over gloves made of synthetic materials.

Avoid the mistake of thinking bigger is better and your little leaguer will definitely benefit from the added comfort, control and confidence they get from a smaller, properly fitted glove.

Any other suggestions you have regarding selecting a baseball glove?

-Home Run Hitter

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2011 MLB Preview: Midwest Teams

Fans of 29 MLB teams are shaking off a 2010 that ended without a trophy and optimism abounds for the new season. Several teams in the Midwest have promising seasons ahead of them (see Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Minnesota), while a few may end up spinning their wheels (sorry, Cleveland and Pittsburgh).

Chicago White Sox

The White Sox hope that the acquisition of free-swinging slugger Adam Dunn can make up the difference with the Twins in the AL Central. Bobby Jenks will no longer close games for Chicago, since his Sox are now of the Red variety. Pitcher Jake Peavy (shoulder) is aiming for an Opening Day return. Pitcher Chris Sale arrived to The Show quicker than any other 2010 draftee, and he has a chance to pitch out of the bullpen (possibly close) this spring.

Chicago Cubs

The North Siders went from the second-best team in the NL Central in 2009 to the second-worst in 2010 and Mike Quade returns as skipper. Chicago traded for Pitcher Matt Garza, who joins Carlos Zambrano to form one of the fiercest pitching staff in the majors. Garza has NL Cy Young potential, having moved away from the AL East to the NL Central. Also coming over from the Rays is 1st Baseman Carlos Pena to provide some power. Outfielder Brett Jackson is a power-hitting prospect that could help by midsummer. The Cubs have improved their team in pitching and batting – but have they improved enough to get to the post season?

Cleveland Indians

Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo won the Tribe’s Triple Crown in ‘10, leading them in batting average, RBI and homers. Injuries have taken the shine off of Grady Sizemore’s star, but he’s still their most talented player. Dominican righty Fausto Carmona broke out last season, and Chris Perez emerged into a solid AL closer. Three of their top prospects already start: Catcher Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley and Carrasco. Cleveland has a lot of talent, but will they able to string together enough wins to make it to the playoffs?

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds played in the postseason for the first time in 15 years, mostly due to their young pitchers and the bat of NL MVP Joey Votto. While new shortstop Edgar Renteria is on the backside of his career, he did bat over .400 in the World Series last season. Aroldis Chapman may emerge into a lights-out closer, although manager Dusty Baker keeps everyone guessing. Catching prospect Devin Mesoraco could help offensively soon. Will the Reds repeat as division champs?

Milwaukee Brewers

New Brewers manager Ron Roenicke inherits a team on the brink of something special. Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks enter 2011 as 27-year-old stars. The Brew Crew’s hitting will be matched by a much-improved pitching staff. Pitcher Zack Greinke will try to strike out opposing pitchers in the NL now, rather than the homer-happy designated hitters of the AL. As excited as Milwaukee is about Greinke, don’t sneeze at Shaun Marcum’s arrival. The race for the NL Central title could come down to the final days of September. Will Milwaukee be playing in October?

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers progressed offensively last season, but their pitching staff ranked 25th. While their team ERA only climbed one-hundredth of a point, the rest of the majors improved. Catcher/1st Baseman/Designated Hitter Victor Martinez joins

a veteran Motown lineup, including a relatively healthy Magglio Ordonez. Austin Jackson was a pleasant surprise, but he’ll have to cut down on his 170 strikeouts. His 0.28 Walks/Strikeout ratio was sixth-worst in the majors. Justin Verlander may win his first Cy Young award, but will the Tigers be able to overcome the strong competition that they will face from the White Sox and the Twins?

Minnesota Twins

Twins 1st Baseman Justin Morneau had a concussion to end his season early last year, but there’s no reason to believe he can’t return healthy in 2011. Also, closer Joe Nathan returns after Tommy John surgery, but Matt Capps (brought over from Washington last season) will be their just-in-case closer. Minnesota’s ace, Francisco Liriano, had more strikeouts/9 Innings Pitched than all but five other starting pitchers. Japanese import 2nd Baseman/Shortstop Tsuyoshi Nishioka has Rookie-of-the-Year potential, with quality table-setting skills. The Twins won the division last year – and now they are healthy. Do they have a shot at getting to the World Series this year?

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Pirates enter 2011 with a new manager in Clint Hurdle, who led Colorado to the 2007 World Series. Speaking of hurdles, Clint inherits a tripped-up club. Pittsburgh ranked last in the NL offensively – only to be outdone by their pitching staff, which ranked last in the majors. They have a strong, young core, led by Outfielder Andrew McCutchen, Outfielder Jose Tabata, 2nd Baseman Neil Walker and 3rd Baseman Pedro Alvarez. All four are 25 years old or younger. Paul Maholm returns as the ace, despite 15 losses and an ERA north of 5.00. Will the Pirates’ young talent help them battle for a playoff spot?

Share your thoughts on how the Midwest teams will fare against the rest of the league this baseball season.

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