" By its very nature, batting is discouraging. Even the very best hitters fail 65 percent of the time. We feel many youngsters are often trained negatively from the beginning. “Youth League coaches usually tell their players to take a called strike before they swing. At entry-level baseball, the pitching is generally poor so the coaches encourage non-aggressive behavior by ‘take’, ‘take’, ‘take’. “The coach is usually concerned more about winning with a lot of walks than developing hitters. "


 

Today’s Class: ‘How To Beat Cuba 101’ ... Emanski Shares Unique Insight

Highly successful Tom Emanski offers tips on how to outsmart Cubans when it comes to mental sparring at tournaments. By LOU PAVLOVICH Publisher/Collegiate Baseball

FERN PARK, Fla. — Is there a magic formula for defeating the Cubans in international competition? One coach with a superb plan of attack is veteran skipper Tom Emanski, president of the youth baseball school in Fern Park, Fla. called Baseball World. Emanski, an associate scout with the Houston Astros, guided the 1996 Junior Pan American U.S. team to a gold medal win over Cuba.

His coaching genius also includes the use of certain aspects of the Navy Fighter Weapons School better known as “Top Gun”. Two years ago Collegiate Baseball chronicled in the Jan. 6, 1995 edition how he has used segments of the Top Gun program to help teach baseball to young baseball players. More on that later in the article.

“When we address our pitchers, our philosophy is to have them stay ahead of the hitters,” said Emanski. “We tell them we will get you the runs. “Don’t give them free passes. We sell them on this philosophy at the major league level that if the first pitch is a ball, hitters bat .280 or better. Conversely, if the first pitch is a strike, the pro average drops dramatically to .230 or less. “This seems to get the point across. "

In 18 innings of intense competition at the Pan Am Games’ medal rounds against both Cuba and Brazil, our USA pitchers, Matt Roney and Troy Roberson, walked a total of four batters while consistently delivering 90-MPH pitches, allowing a total of five runs. “Our staff thought it was extremely important that our players be loose and confident before our first critical match with the Cubans.

It was the tournament’s first game, and a big crowd was expected. So we had them perform fun and entertaining drills right up to game time. This was totally designed to keep their minds off the Cubans. “We were careful not to get everybody tensed up with ‘win one for the country.’ We didn’t stress how good the Cubans have been in the past... so you better watch out, etc. “Everything went well as we were able to come from behind midway through the game with several big innings. We had an 11- 5 lead and two were out in the final inning. So we passed the word for the players not to be over-celebratory. “We wanted to send the message we expected to win, and we knew full well we would see them again in the medal rounds... and we did, as we again came from behind to beat the Cubans, 5-2. “We ended the tournament with an 8-3 win over Brazil, again coming from behind to win the Gold.”

Emanski added that the Cubans are famous for “mind games” and love to intimidate their opponents. “We were briefed at the tournament and by past U.S. coaches. "

Collegiate Baseball Solid Advice Coach Explains Tactics He Used While Beating Cuba Twice In Tourney CHAMPIONS —



Some reports had the Cubans standing way out of the coaches box to steal signs. Their hitters have been known to stand in the batter’s box while the opposing pitcher warms up.

“Some rival teams in the past have been known to drill the Cuban who stands in the box during warm-ups. Suddenly they stopped doing this. But in one game when they did this, they scored seven runs in the top of the first against their opponent. “So we decided, then and there, that it would be best to be harmonious and compatible with all the countries. "

We felt there is always one way to answer any intimidating behavior, and you always have it at your disposal. But it is best to throw strikes, play defense and keep doubling in the gap. “In all fairness, the Cuban coaches and players were very competitive and fiery opponents but for the most part were sportsmanlike toward us. The only unusual event that I can remember was during practice one day. We had the field reserved from 9:30 until 11 o’clock, and the Cubans were scheduled to take the field after our practice ended at 11. “About five minutes before 11, they started to come out of the stands and walking toward the field. Our first inclination was to tell them we’re not leaving the field until 11... then probably an argument would start, and we would fall into the same predicament as others. “No. 1, I didn’t know if this was a tactic they used. Maybe the coach’s watch was off. So we passed the word down to pick up all the equipment, get everything up and open the gate before they got there. And we all, as a group, welcomed them. Everything went well, and we got a three-minute start on lunch.”

Emanski was asked why he has had such successful teams at Baseball World. “When you think about our operation at Baseball World, the first thing you should understand is that we stress offense. Baseball World-coached teams have set every offensive record in every tournament we have participated in, leading in batting average, slugging percentage, runs batted in and HRs. Our teams have walked less and struck out less than any teams.

“Our philosophy is simple…be aggressive, be offensive, swing the bat. We as coaches sell the point that we promise there will be no “take” or “bunt” signs. We don’t point out flaws in batters if they take an aggressive swing and miss the ball. This is not the time or the place. We’re simply delighted the swing was confident and aggressive and encourage batters to continue in that mode. “This is not to say we don’t have hours of hitting instruction. We do. But it’s done individually with plenty of soft toss and tee work. Here the swing is slowed down and critiqued as we implement our Baseball World rotary mechanics. “However, once the live pitching begins either in batting practice or in the games, the instruction ceases and our coaches switch to an encouragement mode. We are very careful never to disturb the hitter’s psyche with any negative comments now. Our hitter is up there to swing the bat. If he fails to make contact, and his swing is aggressive and confident, we are delighted. And the hitter is told so. “If the batter is taking pitches unnecessarily and swinging unaggressively, we feel he is lacking confidence. We temporarily replace the batter until we can correct the situation."

” By its very nature, batting is discouraging. Even the very best hitters fail 65 percent of the time. We feel many youngsters are often trained negatively from the beginning. “Youth League coaches usually tell their players to take a called strike before they swing. At entry-level baseball, the pitching is generally poor so the coaches encourage non-aggressive behavior by ‘take’, ‘take’, ‘take’. “The coach is usually concerned more about winning with a lot of walks than developing hitters. "

When a player does swing and misses, he gets publicly humiliated by a tirade of ‘swing level, keep your eye on the ball, keep your head in there, etc.’ “If the batter doesn’t swing, even if the pitch is right down the middle, everyone yells at the umpire. So youngsters soon learn it’s a lot better to do nothing, and Johnny observes that it pays not to be aggressive. "

“Even when players get to high school, it usually doesn’t end. We have seen an awful lot of ‘take’, ‘take’, and ‘bunt’, ‘bunt’. The hitters have become brainwashed and are often tentative at the plate in search of the perfect pitch. “We circumvent this with our aggressive-swing bat style, with no instruction during the game and zero public humiliation. After a few weeks, the results have been startling. Players can’t wait to get to the ballpark, and each at-bat is now fun."

“We feel coaches make a serious mistake requiring hitters to take a called strike and constantly moving runners over with bunts, especially early in the game. We feel this defuses any chance of a big inning, like we had against the Cuban Nationals, scoring 11 runs and pounding out 15 base hits in the first game. This offense came against a Cuban pitcher who struck out 12 of 12 in his previous tune-up game against an American Legion team before he was taken out to save his arm for us in the opener of the Junior Pan Am Games."

“Defensively, we stress an important concept often lacking with amateur teams. We feel players must be taught to ‘expect a bad throw’. For example, if a ball is hit to the first baseman, who is required to make a throw to third, and he throws the ball low and wide to the left, and it gets by the third baseman, most people blame the first baseman’s bad throw. “Our philosophy is that it’s the third baseman’s fault. Why? Because he should have been loose and rhythmic, expecting the throw to be bad, read its trajectory early, get off the bag and move to the ball, catch it, block it or knock it down. “We have observed most players mentally expecting the throw to be good and get their feet crossed up when the ball is off line. Consequently, the errant throw gets by and runs score."

At each practice we implement specially designed drills to eliminate this problem on all thrown balls. “Our practice style is to try to keep everybody involved and active and wrap everything up in a 90-minute session, or less. This keeps the players quick, and they’ll play like it in a game. If you have to work out twice a day, like we did with the Junior Pan Am Games, it’s important to keep things moving and short. We have observed coaches who conduct long, lengthy practices usually wind up with slow, lethargic teams.

“Our drills are designed to enhance fundamentals via a building-block approach that allows the player to get the feel of the proper techniques and then increase speed and complexity as the players become more proficient with each fundamental technique. “At the end of the 90-minute session, we try to end with our fast paced drills against the stopwatch so the player leaves the session with the feeling of quickness and accomplishment and not the feeling of another routine session."

” Top Gun Training Emanski said in the 1995 Collegiate Baseball article that adapting segments of the Top Gun Fighter Weapons School has paid big dividends for his teams. “If a pilot makes a mistake in Top Gun training, everyone sits down in a group and discusses how everyone can be better,” said Emanski. “It is not competition against each other but competition against the fundamentals. “In a Tomcat aircraft, there are two people in the plane. The pilot is in the front and the radio and weapons officer sits in the back. The radio and weapons officer has another job which is to be a good friend and psychologist to the pilot. “In other words, if the pilot misses the wire on the aircraft carrier (which stops the plane on landing), the man in the back doesn’t start screaming at the pilot and ask him what the hell is wrong with him. “He doesn’t tell the pilot he was way too high and that his grandmother could fly better than that. The pilot doesn’t need that.

Collegiate Baseball Coach Emanski Shows Way In Art Of Conquering Cuba

The radio and weapons officer gives words of encouragement to help the pilot accomplish his mission. “It dawned on me that hitters don’t need to be chewed out when they do something wrong either. But how many times have you heard a coach or parent scream at a kid because he swung at a bad pitch? He doesn’t need that aggravation. When the kids know you will not yell at them, virtually everyone becomes extremely aggressive and invincibly confident. They are getting nothing but praise. “I picked that up from pilots, and it works. “ Briefing & Debriefing Emanski said that at his school, youngsters are started off with a “briefing” and end practice with a “debriefing” just like pilots.

The veteran coach said his youngsters are started off with a 45-minute meeting in a classroom setting as he breaks down fundamentals of the game. Kids are given quizzes on why they do what they do to keep them alert. At the end of practice, the coaching staff goes over positive and negative aspects of practice.

He has also initiated a concept borrowed from aircraft combat training called the Greenie Board — a record system used on aircraft carriers to rank aircraft landings. Emanski keeps records in a hitting drill called “Greenie Board B.P. (Batting Practice). In this drill, players are divided into groups of four and allowed to bat. During the first cycle, batters are allowed to take five swings.

A coach grades a player as follows:

4 points — Hits a missile.
3 points — Good hit.
2 points — Fair hit.
1 point — poor hit.
0 points — missed ball or did not swing at strike.

After all groups go through the 5-swing cycle, they commence through a 4-swing, 3-swing, 2- swing and 1-swing cycle. A player in the 1-swing cycle can get bonus swings as long as he earns 3 or 4 points on each swing. After two weeks, all points are tallied and listed for all players to see where they stack up against each other. Those rated low are given extra instruction and drills so they improve.
 


 

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