This past Saturday, Bill and I attended the Ripken Baseball Coaches Clinic at the high school in Milton, Massachusetts. Put on by former MLB players Cal Ripken Jr., Billy Ripken, and John Habyan, it was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. John started off with pitching - going through many of the drills that he uses with his high school team. Cal and Billy then went on to cover many aspects of individual and team defense. Finally they finished up with hitting instruction, drills, and techniques. Throughout the day, attendees were encouraged to participate in all of the drills.
John is currently the head coach for a high school on Long Island. He opened the pitching segment by showing the correct two-seam and four-seam grips. He then got on the mound and showed what he looks for when he analyzes a pitcher. First and foremost he looks to see if the pitcher is consistently throwing strikes - if so, then he's doing something right. He broke down the mechanics of the pitching motion as five links in the chain - if one link breaks, it affects the chain. He demonstrated and explained correct and incorrect form for the feet, balance position, power position, rotation, and follow through. For each link, he paused and demonstrated the correct mechanics and showed common flaws along with drills to correct them. He talked about staying back and balanced during the windup and how the back foot should still be down until after the ball is released. He showed how to successfully use the knee drill with a tee to prevent a player from dropping their elbow below the shoulder; the toe-tap drill for players who have trouble staying back; and the balance drill where the pitcher pauses for 3 seconds before delivery. Many of the drills and mechanics he touched on can be applied to throwing in general and thus are helpful to position players as well. In the second half of the pitching segment John, with Cal and Billy's help, went into detail about and showed how to correctly cover first, to vary looks and throws when holding runners on, and how the infielders let the catcher and pitcher know that a pickoff play is on. It was great to see and listen to them talk about and demonstrate these topics just as they once executed them as teammates at the Major League level.
After a short break for lunch, Cal and Billy began their defense segment. They started out with the basics in the infield - the ready position, maintaining a wide base with the butt down when fielding, and throwing to the base. They then went into the different types of backhands and how to always field the ball in front of your body.
As with the pitching segment they went through several drills as well: from playing catch, to the line drill, to a 5-4 force-out drill. Audience participation in the 5-4 drill was very funny as Billy got on people when they made a mistake and had alot of funny comments for the lefties (or "wrong-arms" as he called them). Billy was hilarious throughout the clinic, adding humor to every segment. In the second half of the defense portion, they covered forehand and underhand plays; the correct footwork, movement, and throwing for 2B and SS when turning double plays; and how to play first base.
The final segment of the day was the hitting segment. Cal began by talking about his many different stances over the years and why he did it. He reiterated a point brought up by all 3 players throughout the clinic which is that every player is different and may have varied mechanics which work for them. They covered weight shift, stride, and the various aspects of the swing - the hands, point of contact, and follow through. They then demonstrated some of the common hitting drills many of us use including the tee drill, soft toss, stick ball, one-arm drill, soft toss out in front, and the lob toss. The lob toss is interesting because it involves high arcing tosses with the goal of allowing the ball to get deep and waiting on it. I plan to use this drill more often as, lately, I tend to be too far out in front.
In a nutshell, the clinic was first class and I would recommend it to any coach or player. The atmosphere was no different than if Cal, Billy, and John were hanging with you at your local ball field showing you what they know and how to teach it to others. At the end of each segment they took several questions, and at the end of the day, all three players hung around and signed autographs and chatted individually with attendees. We gave a CheckSwing t-shirt to Cal, Billy, and John and were able to get a quick picture with each as well which you can see below. Hopefully they'll join us soon on CheckSwing!
For a few more photos go to our
Ripken Clinic Album