Little kids SHOULD imitate major leaguers
When you were growing up, how many times did you play Wiffle ball or stick ball and pretend to be major leaguers? It was a daily occurrence for me and my friends. If I was the Phillies I would try to bat exactly like Mike Schmidt, Pete Rose, Gary Maddox, Larry Bowa, and Manny Trillo. If I was the Yankees it was Reggie Jackson, Oscar Gamble, Bucky Dent, and Chris Chambliss. And it wasn’t just the hitters. We’d imitate all the pitchers’ deliveries as well. Steve Carlton, Jim Palmer, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, etc.
Young players are frequently told NOT to imitate major leaguers. I’ve told it to kids myself. The reason is because many young kids do not have the strength and athleticism yet to wiggle the bat like a major league hitter or throw a variety of breaking pitches. I’m on board with that when it comes to safety issues but I’m a believer in young kids imitating the guys they see on TV. Here’s my rationale …
Every player is different in many ways. They vary in athleticism, height, weight, agility, hand strength, hand size, eye-hand coordination, and so forth. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. The goal of every young hitter and pitcher is to search for the most productive stance, swing, and/or delivery for their body. That takes experimentation. It takes trying out all kinds of different things players do in order to see what works for you.
In batting like Reggie Jackson I realized that his stance was very uncomfortable for my long legs. Choking up like Larry Bowa and Bucky Dent worked with two strikes but just didn’t feel right most of the time. A big leg kick like Jim Palmer took too much energy and threw off my balance. Over time, imitating major leaguers allowed me to “try on” various techniques. I kept the features that felt good and worked, I eliminated the others that didn’t, and eventually tailored a style of my own.
Of course, maybe the real benefit of imitating major leaguers was that I had to watch baseball games and pay close attention to what the players were doing in order to imitate them. That in and of itself is something all young players can benefit from.
Tomorrow’s post: Five foot what?