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Creating The Best Little League Team

Dec 28, 2007
In building a team, the pioneers of modern baseball discovered patterns which are essential to success on the field. John McGraw always wanted strength down the middle when he managed championship teams for the New York Giants. He wanted topnotch defensive players in center field, at shortstop and second base, and behind the bat. In checking the strength of the Chicago White Sox, 1959 American League champions, you will find it in those positions - Landis in center field, Fox at second base, Aparicio at shortstop, and Lollar doing the catching.

In the top teams of recent years you will find the same pattern. As examples, take the Dodgers with Snider in center field, Reese at shortstop, Robinson at second base, and Campanella behind the bat; and the Yankees with Dickey catching, Rizzuto and Gordon as the second-base combination, and DiMaggio in center field.

Connie Mack concluded that pitching provided 70 per cent of the strength of a club and proved it by winning pennants for the Athletics with such stellar mounds men as Bob Grove, George Earnshaw, Ed Rommel, Chief Bender, Eddie Plank, and Jack Coombs.

Add to this Branch Rickey's conclusion that it takes five championship players plus pitching to win a pennant under normal circumstances and you have a formula for building a team. By championship players, Mr. Rickey means players who can run, throw, field, hit with power, and have a desire to play the game to the best of their ability.

INFIELDERS AND OUTFIELDERS. Starting from scratch as manager, coach, or captain of a squad of players, who do you want to be your shortstop? You want the player with the strongest arm if he has the other attributes required of an infielder. He should have good running speed and agility and quick hands. Since the shortstop gets more fielding chances than any other player, he should have "glue in his glove"; he should be such a sure fielder that he will rarely fumble the ball.

It is desirable to have a second baseman with strong forearms and wrists which permit him to make quick snap throws. He must be able to get rid of the ball in a hurry without throwing with a big sweeping motion of the arm. The second baseman also has a wide territory to cover and should have good running speed, agility, and good hands.

Particularly in Little League and other junior baseball it is helpful to have a tall first baseman because beginners often make throws which aren't true to the mark. Of course, it is essential that he have flexible hands which do not fumble balls thrown to him. Agility also is desirable since a good first baseman should be able to leap for high throws, dig low throws out of the dirt, and leave the base to spear wide throws.

A strong arm is important to a third baseman. Balls are hit so hard in his direction that he can frequently knock them down with his glove and still throw out the runner. In fact, some players have gained a reputation for blocking the ball with their bodies, retrieving it and retiring the runner. Observers would comment about Pepper Martin, the St. Louis Cardinals' star: "He'll be a great third baseman as long as his chest holds out."

The catcher should be rugged but still have good enough mobility to field bunts and foul flies and to back up the bases. He should be able to throw quickly and with power and have leadership qualifications since he directs the play on the field.

In the outfield, the player with the best range should be assigned to center field. He directs traffic in the outfield and in most instances has the right-of-way to catch every ball he can reach. He should have a strong and accurate arm.

If you have the privilege of working with players of above average ability in these areas, you won't have many problems.
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