I maintain Little League and Tee Ball experiment with their players not using gloves. Before you decide to commit me and throw away the key, take a deep breath, relax and I’ll explain why using playing baseball without gloves for say the first two or three games of the season may lead to better ballplayers in the long run. I’m not looking to put Rawlings or Wilson out of business. In fact if my theory holds true then the glove companies will even realize better sales in the long run. The baseball glove is one of the most wonderful pieces of equipment ever invented. It has become part of a player’s body so to speak and the best players in baseball can do magical things with their glove. If you are a baseball fan as old as me, you may remember the 1970 World Series and the incredible fielding plays by third baseman Brooks Robinson. It was like his glove was programmed to go where the ball was going to be. How about if our kids were able to make those kind of plays? Well maybe. But from what I have seen too many young players are becoming dependent on their gloves making the play automatically rather than work for the play. I’ve seen too many young players reach for the ball and thus they never move their feet laterally toward the ball the way they should. Young kids have got to be taught to move their feet. I have also seen kids think because their parents spent two hundred dollars on a glove, it will automatically make a the play without the correct effort by the player. Life doesn’t work like this. A surgeon doesn’t become good because he is handed the best equipment. So how can we take the gloves off our young baseball, softball and tee ball players and get improvement at the same time? And this is from someone who constantly is preaching the virtues of the baseball glove that infielders can stop the ball with their glove and not necessarily catch it and still make the play. Here we go.
1) For Tee Ball if the season is 10 games long, the first two are played without gloves with an adult playing catcher. For this there will have to be a few changes. First off a very soft covered ball has to be used. I don’t care if it is a nurf ball. If the bats have to be adjusted for the ball then do it. Keep in mind in tee ball many parents have never bought a glove before. When they do they go to the toy section and see in baseball equipment a sign that says “Official Tee Ball Gloves” which are nothing more than something that looks more like a pancake than a glove and is actually impossible to catch a ball. Probably something made overseas. 2) For the third tee ball game I would distribute gloves with velcro in the pocket and have the hitters hit a ball with velcro on it so when the players tries to catch it, it sticks. There is nothing like developing confidence. 3) I would then move to real gloves. This “progression method” will work as long as the coach practices with his team correctly. 4) For older players 7 and 8 I would try the “no glove” method also for two games. Provide the pitcher with a glove (mostly as protection) if that age group pitches and of course the catcher. But encourage and challenge the rest of the team to play without their gloves.
Again safety is the most important goal in a youth sports and unless the right ball and parameters are set before the season, gloves will have to be used. But as young players are leaving baseball to other sports, it is up to parents and coaches who love the game to think outside the box. We have to make the game more interesting with practices and skill techniques. We all know that baseball is slow compared everything accessible to kids today including video games. But the effort has to be made to retain players in baseball.
Marty Schupak is President of the Youth Sports Club and has written nine books and produced twenty eight videos on sports instruction. He blogs about sports at Schupak Sports and T-Ball America. An avid New York Jet football fan for over 50 years, he is also the creator of Green Rewind, a popular Jets blog.