The ups and downs of softball

This week was bitter sweet for me personally.  My older daughter’s team had their very first blow out Win 22-10.  How cool is that!!! They have been on the cusp of winning so many times, just falling behind by a run or two, that this week they completely destroyed the other team.  If you have read my previous blog entries, you know that we have several kids who have never played softball before.  As we are reaching the end of our regular recreation season, we can see tremendous improvement and confidence in each and every player.  Finally they had a win which validates the fact that they are awesome players.  I think a win is something the girls need occasionally to gain more confidence in their own skills even though the coaches and parents know how much they have improved through out the season. This was the sweet news!

Now the bitter part is very personal, my daughter was complaining of back ache and after a visit to sports orthopedic doctor and MRI, we found that she has Little Leaguer’s shoulder, mild tendonitis and some sore back muscles.  What is Little leaguer’s shoulder?  Read more in the softball injury section.  I have posted a picture of her actual MRI. She is out for the next 4 to 6 weeks from throwing type of sports..a.k.a softball.  We have been referred to the best sports physical therapist who work with several athletes and I will do a review on them after we are done with our treatment.

My daughter was playing in 3 teams at one time, school basketball (first time player) and recreation softball and travel softball or “A” ball as it is called. She chose to play all of these sports. Trust me, you can’t force kids to do “A” ball.  It is too much work and the kids must really want to do it.  Even though travel ball is not in full swing yet, I think overuse is the cause of her problem. Next time she wants to do multiple sports at the same time, I am going to have to say a big NO!

The Orthopedic doctor said in the next 4 to 6 weeks she needs to review videos of her throwing mechanics, pitching mechanics with her coaches to make sure she is doing it correctly and learn core strengthening routines from her physical therapist and by the end of 6 weeks she will be much stronger to excel in her favorite sports.

Even though my daughter is bummed out, we are relieved at least we found out what was the cause of her problem and that it will resolve itself with just rest.

I have no idea how I ended up with kids who want to play so much sports 😉 Have you read my very first blog?  I was a softball dummy!  It is all my dear husband’s fault 😉

Types of softball gloves

I had no idea that there were so many different types of softball gloves.  There is a glove for the players in infield, the player in the outfield, first base player, 3rd base player, catcher and pitcher.

Looks like the different positions require different set of skills to be a great player and the type of gloves just help the player achieve their full potential.  First let’s look at the different parts of a standard glove.

standard glove

In a standard glove the web or pocket is designed to be more flexible to catch the ball and when the player closes the fingers, to keep the ball inside the glove.  It is important to have a correct fitting glove for the player’s hand so they are able to close the glove and keep the ball from coming out of it.  When you see young players catch the ball but can’t hold on to it, it is mostly due to the glove being the wrong size.

The size of the glove is usually written on the thumb or pinky finger of the glove.   This size usually represents the distance from the top of the index finger of the glove to the heel of the glove.

As the kids get a little older some coaches recommend holding the last 2 fingers (pinky and ring finger) like the Vulcan hand sign of Spock and put it into the last finger slot and then one finger each into the next two finger slots and then leave the slot for the index finger empty in order to catch the ball better.  I am not sure how many people use this technique but not all gloves can accommodate this.  I guess it is something your player can experiment with and see if it works out for them.

Now, let’s look at the difference between the different position gloves.  The catcher and first base gloves are called mitts because these gloves don’t have distinct fingers in them.

Catcher’s mitt:  The Catcher’s mitt is the most used mitt and takes a lot of fast pitch balls and so it is usually very stiff when it is new and has a lot of padding in order to protect the catcher’s hands. The softball catcher’s mitt is different from the ones used in base-ball because of the difference in the ball size.  The pocket-size is larger in the softball catcher’s mitt to accommodate the bigger softball.   The pockets are closed so it can have more lacing around it to make it durable to withstand the repeated catching.  The sizing of the catcher’s mitt is also different as it is measures the circumference of the glove to show the catching area of the glove.

Softball Catcher's mitt
Softball Catcher’s mitt

First base Mitt:  First baseman’s mitt is very similar to Catcher’s mitt except the pocket is webbed to be more flexible and taller to scoop the ball as it comes rolling towards them and the glove is not as padded as the catcher’s mitt.  Again there are no finger cuts so the glove is a little more stronger than the regular softball glove.  Kids don’t really need this type of glove until they are old enough  where they have developed enough strength to be able to close the glove as it is a little stiffer than the standard softball glove.

Softball firstbase mitt
Softball first base mitt

 Pitcher’s glove:  Pitcher’s glove is used to catch the ball back from the catcher or other players and is not as used as a catcher’s mitt.  It is not padded.  It should be more accommodating for comfort of the player.  Again the young kids don’t necessarily need this till they develop as a pitcher.  The web of the pocket is tightly knitted or closed mostly to hide the hand movement so they don’t give away clues to the batter as to the type of the pitch they are about to deliver.

Softball pitcher's glove
Softball pitcher’s glove

Infield glove:  Infielder’s gloves are designed for the quick play the infielders have to make.  Their gloves are typically shorter and more open than the other gloves, because they are required to catch the ball quick and then be able to take it out with their other hand and throw it to get the opponent player out.  If the pockets are too deep then they won’t be able to get the ball out of the glove quick enough. Every extra second helps as the players start playing higher level softball.

Infielder gloves
Infielder’s gloves

Outfielder’s gloves:  Outfielder’s gloves are typically longer with softer deeper pockets so the outfield player can catch fly balls and other difficult diving catches and still keep the softball inside the gloves.

Outfielder's glove
Outfielder’s glove

When you are buying a glove, always make sure you get the correct fitting glove and also make sure if your player is right-handed or left-handed.  Go to different stores, try it on and compare prices online. That is what has worked best for us.  Once you have bought your glove, make sure to oil it and steam it either at home or at the store to make sure the glove gets softer.  You can also condition it and then place a softball inside and wrap it with a belt to shape the glove.

Good luck with the glove.  I enjoyed learning about the different types of gloves and I hope you enjoy reading about it too.

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Softball injuries

This week one of our players tweaked her back muscles after practice and I was doing a lot of reading about softball injuries.  I have added a page called “Softball related injuries” under “Coaches corner” and only covered pitcher related injuries this week.  I will work on other position injuries as time permits.  Come check it out.

As always, thanks for reading and would love to hear from you.

How to tackle nerves before and during a game?

Guess what movie we watched after our Saturday night’s game? “Legend of Bagger Vance” !

If you have watched that movie you know how Bagger Vance helps Runnulph Junuh to find his swing.  Even if it is a different sport than softball I believe the idea behind it is the same.

It is hard to comprehend how good players who perform great during practice completely get themselves spooked during a game. One of our pitcher did great during practice but was told that her pitching coach was out among the spectators watching.  That was just enough to derail her focus.  She is a new, up and coming pitcher.  Everything bothered her.  She was able to focus on everything else (like other team & parents commenting) other than pitching.

How do you calm down nerves?  I started searching through scores of websites about what the pro’s do before games.  Some of them have their own set of rituals  they do before they play, some of them have their favorite music to listen to, some have their lucky bats or lucky cleats or lucky wrist band they wear.

Have you read some of the superstitious things the major leaguers do?

Some of it is down right disgusting!!!  It makes one believe that they place more importance on these meaningless rituals than believe in their own abilities.

These feelings of anxiety and nervousness are deep-rooted in our biology and psychology and are evolution tools that helped us survive in ancient times.  They make us anxious and give us a kick of adrenalin that was needed to be on top of the survival game. Although we have toned down the need for these feelings since, thankfully we don’t live in a barbaric times, we still have these deeply ingrained in our psyche.

Then I did some reading on the miracle of acetaminophen on calming the nerves.  It is supposed to work on the Anterior Cingulate Cortex (ACC) highlighted yellow in the picture.  For more information of the scientific study, please visit the link when you click on the brain scan.

Calm nerves before game
Calm nerves before game

Again the problem with drugs is there are always side effects and if the scientist themselves are still trying to figure out how acetaminophen works in this process then you have to be cautious so later on in life when you are sitting in front of TV and watching an infomercial about “If you took Acetaminophen to calm down you nerves, please call this number, our lawyers are waiting to help you claim the rightful damage”, you are not thinking of calling that number.

Moreover this can cause serious liver damage if taken long-term.

There should be a much simpler way to calm down nerves.  At this time I am going for mind over matter route.  We are going to try some music and a list of items the pitcher needs to do in between pitches to keep her mind occupied which would make her focus more on what she needs to do instead of paying attention to unnecessary CHATTER in the field.

If you know of things that have worked of you to calm down your nerves other than a glass of wine 😉 please let me know.  Look forward to hearing a few interesting ones.

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