Ask the Coach
Tammie Hinkle in Pearland, TX asks:
I have a 3-year old son who appears to have a great aptitude for baseball. He now has the Little Tikes pop-up pitcher (we replaced the tee) and he can consistently hit 4/5 right handed and 3/5 left handed and they were going over the 6 foot fence when it was in the center of the yard (even though they are plastic wiffle-type balls it was still 20-30 feet)….and he loves the game. We can do this for HOURS each day, or as long as mom can “field” the balls.
I grew up with baseball and two cousins that were great at the game (full scholarships with one having a contract with the Orioles prior to an injury and the other playing for an International League farm team for one year). It APPEARS that my son has a natural ability, but I don’t want to be too pushy or cause “burn out.” Is he too young for a coach? I am a single mom and am limited in my baseball ability. What can I do to help him develop?
Please don’t misunderstand, I have NO intention on being “one of those moms.” If my son decides to pursue ballet, more power to him and I will do everything to help him develop that. But I also feel that proper development and education at an early age helps later in life, no matter what they decide to do…all skills are transferable!!
Any advice would be appreciated!!
Coach Swift answers:
You have a unique situation. In all my years of coaching I’ve never been faced with this exact question.
Under normal circumstances I would suggest that you do nothing more than you’re doing for at least another three or four years. I’m not a big fan of pushing kids into any sport at any age. I’ve found over my years of coaching that good athletes often times only start a sport when they’re about 12. But there are several “buts” that apply to that statement.
I would caution you very strongly that at age 3 what you see is just a natural want “to play,” and it’s very good for you and your son to do something that both of you can participate in together and have fun. I don’t you should get much away from that.
What you could do is go ahead to go to Wal-Mart or the Dollar stores and get a plastic bat and plastic balls and play with him in the yard or in the house whenever he wants to. You can also drill a hole in a real leather baseball and tie an 8 to 10 foot piece of nylon string through it so that when he hits the ball it won’t have to be chased.
When he gets to be about 6-years old call your local recreation department and find out where there is a recreation team he can sign up for. Please don’t get too carried away with travel ball and competitive baseball until the boy is at least eight. This advice would go for any kid, let alone an exceptional boy like the one that you have.
You’re doing the right thing by just playing with him. Don’t get any more carried away than that right now. I’m sure if he were kicking the ball he would he having just as much fun. What I know as a father, grandfather and a coach is the one thing you can give him is your time. In your situation that may be the hardest thing to give him, but any time you’re together – whether it’s one minute or one hour – is valuable. Keep it up.
Write me back in about three years and we’ll see where the boy is at and get more specific about baseball.