Monthly Archives: October 2014

“Beware the Autumn People” Halloween Read 2014

Excerpt from SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES by Ray Bradbury.

Chapter 39: Charles Halloway speaking to Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade in the library as they investigate and try to evade the evil Mr. Dark, the Dust Witch, and the other Pandemonium Shadow Show Freaks.

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His voice trailed off. ‘. . .Beware the autumn people. . . .’

‘What?’

‘An old religious tract. Pastor Newgate Phillips, I think. Read it as a boy. How does it go again?’

He tried to remember. He licked his lips. He did remember.

‘“For some, autumn comes early, stays late through life where October follows September and November touches October and then instead of December and Christ’s birth, there is no Bethlehem Star, no rejoicing, but September comes again and old October and so on down the years, with no winter, spring, or revivifying summer. For these beings, fall is the ever normal season, the only weather, there be no choice beyond.
Where do they come from?
The dust.
Where do they go?
The grave.
Does blood stir their veins?
No: the night wind.
What ticks in their head?
The worm.
What speaks from their mouth?
The toad.
What sees from their eye?
The snake.
What hears with their ear?
The abyss between the stars. They sift the human storm for souls, eat flesh of reason, fill tombs with sinners. They frenzy forth. In gusts they beetle-scurry, creep, thread, filter, motion, make all moons sullen, and surely cloud all clear-run waters. The spider-web hears them, trembles—breaks.
Such are the autumn people.
Beware of them.”’

After a pause, both boys exhaled at once.

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NOTE: If you have never read this book, or, if it’s been a long time since you have, I highly recommend it. Classic Bradbury in a spine-tingling fashion.

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Hitting Position: The Hosmer Breakdown

Hitting Position

Hitting position is a fundamental common to every good swing. The stances may vary, the styles may vary as much, or more, than the individual fingerprints of each and every batter, but HITTING POSITION IS A FUNDAMENTAL

A batter who gets to hitting position EVERY PITCH, no matter where their stance starts, makes for a consistent hitter. It’s important and it’s vital, and it’s simple. Hitting position consistency is key to being a consistent hitter. The best hitters in MLB get to hitting position every single pitch.

What is hitting position?

Hitting position starts the moment the stride (front) foot hits the ground. If you freeze frame this moment, this are the factors necessary for a proper hitting position:

  • Eyes level.
  • Front arm square or about at a 45° angle.
  • Stride foot landing of ball of foot and with a solid “stick” to stop forward slide of body. Outside of foot should be facing the pitcher.
  • Bottom hand stays in loaded position (at back shoulder level and over the back foot no more than 6 inches away from shoulder) with no lift of slide forward as weight shifts forward with stride.
  • Bat at 45° angle, do not wrap bat behind head.
  • An imaginary line drawn from the left foot to the neck to the right foot and back to the left foot should form a nice, isosceles triangle, indicating a balanced body.

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Load

In order to swing with a quick and powerful hitter’s swing, the body and bat needs to be loaded properly. Technically, it is a plyometric, pre-stretch of the muscle groups which allow for an explosive muscle fiber contraction and a quick, powerful swing. I tell hitter’s in my coaching sessions that it’s like shooting a rubber band at your sister. Do you take that big, thick, Sunday morning paper rubber band and only pull it back an inch before firing it in the direction of their beloved sister? Heck no! You pull that rubber band back as far as you can so you can fire it at that beloved sibling with explosive speed and power.

A baseball swing is just like this, and with a bonus. You can not only hit the ball hard every time at bat, but you can sleep well knowing that sister is not planning late-night revenge upon your person. Win-win situation.

The Load

  • Loose, relaxed grip on bat from a loose, relaxed body.
  • Bouncy – Athletes move on the balls of their feet, not flat-footed or with weight on the heels.
  • Hitter’s rhythm – rock side to side, when one heel comes off the ground the weight shifts to the other heel on the ground. Hitters should naturally rock with this rhythm almost unconsciously, even when just standing around. (It’s how we find each other in the crowd…look for the guys rocking back and forth in hitter’s rhythm).
  • Load – When weight rocks to back foot, the hands load to the back shoulder and lock into place. The rubber band has been pulled and now you are ready to stride and stick the perfect hitting position.

Offseason work

The great thing about these simple drills is the young hitter can perform them over and over and over again in front of a mirror from the comfort of the house all winter long without fear of breaking the new lamp or swinging a bat into the family’s new 52” HD television in the living room.

  • Bouncy Feet vs. Flat Feet – feel the difference between athletic feet (on ball of feet) vs. Coach Hays’s fat, old man feet (flat feet) as you hop 10 times with each style. Then do 10 side-to-side hops with each style.
  • Rock and Rhythm – a relaxed back and forth movement to train body the quiet weight shift of a hitter.
  • Rock, Rhythm and Load – check for proper load position, especially with lower hand to back shoulder.
  • Load, Stride, Freeze – check yourself for proper hitting position in the mirror.

 Hitting Position Breakdown of Eric Hosmer

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Here are a front and side freeze frame from the Vine video of Eric Hosmer’s home run in the 12th inning in the ALDS against the Angels. Hitting position. I froze the video when his stride foot hit the ground. Almost perfect. He naturally loads his bat a little further back than his shoulder, which runs a fine line between his compact swing when he’s hot and if he loads the bat even an inch or so further back. The further back a hitter loads, the straighter his arm becomes in the load beyond 45° the longer and slower his swing.

He is also shown here landing on the ball of his stride foot. As he swings and opens up the weight shifts back to his heel. His style, but one thing Hosmer does when he’s in a slump is land more on his heel than ball of his foot. When he does that his back shoulder dips, his arm straightens and his swing is long.

Right now, he’s money. Right now, he’s sticking his hitting position.

Hitting a baseball is not rocket science.

But, hitting with a fundamentally sound, consistent hitting position is the science of hitting rockets.

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Attitude & Confidence

It’s been awhile since the last Coach Hays rant. I am getting older, wiser, and possibly even settling down into a maturity level fitting of my middle-aged-ness. Well, maybe not completely.

We, as a sports community in our town, are working on turning around our programs. Turning around programs is an undertaking. Where’s the first place to start when undertaking such an endeavor?

It’s not facilities or fields, it’s not uniforms or equipment, nor is it pre-game/post-game events.

The start of change begins with attitude and confidence.

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Attitude

I used to start summer football conditioning with this speech.

“Would all 6’5″ offensive lineman please stand up.”

Nobody would stand up.

“Would all 6’3″, 215 lb. safeties who hit like a cannon shot please stand up.”

Nobody would stand up.

“Would all running backs who run 4.4 second 40’s stand up.”

Nobody would stand up.

The boys would laugh a nervous laugh, there would be a few snide remarks concerning the mental stability of their coach, then I would deliver the goods in my outside voice.

“We don’t have those physical attributes here in our town.  We don’t have those physical attributes sitting here on this floor.  But, I know what we do have.  We have a lot of bad ass SOB’s sitting right here.  We have kids who will fight and compete until somebody makes them stop.  IF, and I say, IF, you listen to me and do what we ask you to do, this strength and conditioning program will turn you into a human weapon. You will hit people harder than they have ever been hit.  You will play with such intensity and fire you will wreck havoc and create chaos.  We may not be big, we may not be fast, but we can be weapons!”

That’s attitude. That’s the attitude we had to have to be successful, the attitude necessary to compete with teams bigger, stronger, and faster than we were.

It starts with attitude.

We need to put a chip on our shoulder and claim our place among the elite.

As Coach Lane once told the team in this quote from G. K. Chesterton,

“They don’t write fairy tales to teach children that dragons exist…They write fairy tales to teach children that DRAGONS CAN BE KILLED.”

Time to slay some dragons, boys.

Dream it. Work for it. Do it.

Confidence

The attitude has to be paired with confidence.

  • Confidence is developed through repetition and work.
  • Confidence is developed through technical proficiency of the sports skills.
  • Confidence is developed through challenge and overcoming failure.
  • Confidence comes from earned praise and performance.

Royals pitcher James Shields said something very interesting this past week in an interview before his start in the 2014 American League Wild Card Game. The reporter asked him when the season turned around for the team. He pointed to the players-only meeting after the post-All Star Game losing streak. When pushed for what happened in the meeting, I expected Shield relating a story of some fiery, arguments and challenges between the players. Instead, he said something very surprising.

He said two mid-season Royals acquisitions, veterans Raul Ibanez and Scott Downs, who both were picked up from other MLB organizations, addressed the young Royals in the meeting. From their outsider point of view, the two told the team just how talented they were and how much potential the rest of the league saw in the Kansas City clubhouse. Shield said he could almost see the light going on in the players’s eyes around the room, he saw the confidence of the team rise as the players realized they were, or could be, a top-notch team. Things changed from there. The young players needed a little nudge of confidence, they needed someone from the outside to give them this jolt.

Confidence, backed up by hard work and attitude, leads to success.

Confidence, backed up by hard work and attitude, means you can compete with anyone.  You can slay the dragons.

I believe in our athletes. I believe we can succeed.

Gentlemen, you can do this. Puff out your chest and get to the business of being the best you can be.

W.E.B.A.T.T.

(We Belong At The Top)

 

 

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Morning Royals Conversation

The Kansas City Royals did it again last night. They opened the American League Division Series at Anaheim against the Angels with a dramatic extra-inning win. Mike Moustakas, barely able to hit his weight all season long, hit a home run in the top of the 11th for the go-ahead run and newly-minted father, closer Greg Holland, slammed the door with another impressive save. Good defense, led by Nori Aoki’s “chasing butterflies” style of outfield defense in right field, timely hits, and strong pitching won out.

The game started late and ended late, the second stroke of midnight win in three days. Not surprisingly, the Mrs. Hays did not make the stunning conclusion of either game this week. According to her, though, she did put her two cents in toward the postseason victories this week. Here is the first morning conversation of the day:

Me: “The Royals WON again. Moose hit a homer in the 11th!”

Wife: “That’s nice. It’s only because I went to sleep.”

Me: “Well then, can you go to sleep a little earlier for tonight’s game? I’m tired.”

Wife: “You’re dumb.”

(Note: This last statement is absolutely true. I am dumb, but I’m ROYALS DUMB!!!!)

Good luck tonight, Royals. Take the first two games out west and come home to wrap up the series. I’ll do my part, perhaps a large, starch-laden pre-game meal, and make sure Mrs. Hays makes the trip to La La Land a wee bit earlier tonight so your plane can leave at a decent hour.

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