Archive for April, 2011
Spring has sprung, and undoubtely, little Jimmy will soon be off to baseball practice. Or, perhaps, big Jim is off to softball games already. The common thread there from an equipment perspective is baseball only requires a few things, most importantly, along with the bat and ball, is the mitt, or baseball glove. Purchasing a mitt for any kind of ball is an adventure and really, in my opinion, something to be treasured. From the smell of real leather to the beauty of a pristine pocket, shopping for a ball glove can be exciting, fun, and rewarding. But that’s for those with an incredible passion for baseball such as myself. For those with limited mitt knowledge, it can be confusing, lengthy and frustrating. So, for the benefit of those leatherly challenged-
There are many, many brands of gloves nowadays, starting with classic staples Rawlings and Wilson going on for miles. There are too many to list and discuss, and more importantly, I’m not getting paid by any of them, so go with your gut. Most of the time, a company will have several different models at several different price points, so asking ‘who makes the best glove’ is like asking ‘who makes the best car’, an argument that can go on forever and likely wind up with fisticuffs. Your safest bet is worrying more about price and feel than brand, and if you have a favorite brand, that’s half the battle.
The Brand matters, but the model is where the difference really lies, as a lower end glove from a great glove company most likely isn’t nearly as good as a high end glove from a company you’ve never heard of. The main rub here is your price range, as everyone would like an A200 or Pro Preferred, but it’s not necessarily in your price range. I recommend at least getting something made from real leather, which you should be able to find for as low as $50. Sure, a cheap mitt is nice, but the synthetic leather used is likely going to start disappearing quicker each season, so pony up and get something authentic. A real leather glove, no matter what price, can last you forever if properly cared for. The more expensive the glove, the better the leather, more often than not. The range of leather is expansive, so there definitely is a difference between a $50 glove and a $300 glove. Most of the time when it comes to leather quality, you get what you pay for.
Here’s where the confusion really sets in. Working in the industry, I constantly here questions about sizing. Here’s are some rough guidelines-
- 8, 9 & 10 inch- This is primarily for your tee ball players, with varying sizes not meaning a whole lot at that age, as not much slick fielding goes on anyhow. But that doesn’t mean you should nab the biggest mitt you can find, as you need to make sure your son/daughter can control the mitt with ease, pick up a ball with it, and open and shut it. From there, it’s all pretty colors, player’s signatures and cool features that butter the bread.
- 11 to 12 inch- These are the toughest ones to gauge, as there are many gloves in this spectrum that are either meant for kids or adult but not necessarily both. Adults playing middle infield and sometimes third base want a glove somewhere in the 11’s, with an open and shallow pocket for web gem playability, while the kids gloves at this size will likely have closed webs and deep pockets to help them in catching the ball. If your child playing baseball or softball is an infielder by trade, go with something smaller in size, and if they are an outfielder, go bigger. Kids who play both positions, I would err on the bigger side, because having a bigger glove infielding isn’t as bad as having a small glove in the outfield.
- 12 to 13 inch- This is the bonafide outfielder range for baseball players, and even some softballers, with most of these glove having big, deep pockets for shagging fly balls, and even some featuring outfield inspired features such as Rawling’s Trapeze pocket, made for fly balls. Some softball players will also use gloves this size for infield, especially those using a 12″ ball, needing those extra inches to trap the ball.
- 14 inches+ These gloves are softball outfield specific and made for those who are, shall I say, less than confident in their outfield abilities. You may also see some softball first basemen using a gigantic mitt this size, which leads me smoothly to my next topic.
Did you buy your 8-year-old a $300 graphite/titanium-lined aluminum bat for the upcoming baseball season? You did? OK, first, what the heck is wrong with you, spending $300 for an 8-year-old’s bat? Second, are you sure your child will even be able to use it?
Read the rest of this story at Forbes.com.
So two weeks ago I ranted about baseball’s Opening Day, and how awesome that was. Don’t get me wrong, I love Opening Day, it’s my favorite day on the sports schedule. But my favorite nearly two month period? The NHL playoffs. I know half the nation doesn’t get it, ok, maybe more like 7/8 of the country doesn’t, but for us hockey fans, it’s like Christmas for 6 six weeks. I love love love the MLB Playoffs, but the NHL Playoffs are probably a notch up for me. So, with all that love spread, let’s take a look:
Caps-Rangers: This one will get wayyyy more love than your typical 1-8 matchup due to A) the Ovechkin factor, B) the Caps chokejob against Montreal last year, and C) the media darling that is every freakin New York sports team. This matchup will hopefully be over early so we can stop hearing about last year’s Caps Collapse, how great the Rangers are (when they really aren’t), and Ovechkin’s so far futile quest for Stanley’s Cup.
Flyers-Sabres: This one could get interesting. Sure, the Flyers are a Cup favorite, no doubt about it, but their goaltending situation is less than desirable. Hot goalies rule the NHL Playoffs and Ryan Miller is capable of carrying a lesser team through a tournament(remember the Olympics?). With that being said, the talent that the Flyers bring to the table will likely be too much.
Bruins-Canadiens: Talk about a rivalry brought to the next level. After the Chara-Pacioretty incident last month, the bad blood here didn’t need a 7 game series to develop. Couple that with a media friendly original six matchup, two goalies at the top of their game in Thomas and Price and we could have a fantastic series on our hands. Hopefully no one takes the physicality too far in this one.
Penguins-Lightning: This one has some serious sex appeal. The Penguins sans Crosby still have a fair amount of drawing power, and rightfully so, as they’ve been pretty damn good without him. Across the ice, the Lightning have hockey wunder kid Steve Stamkos, and seeing what kind of postseason player he turns out to be will be captivating. Add in the suspense of a Crosby return, and this could get legen….wait for it…..dary.
Canucks-Blackhawks: Spoiler Alert! I honestly like Chicago’s chances here, despite the perceived squash match the seedings say. Chicago has been there before, Crawford can get hot, and steal the show. Meanwhile in Canada, tons of pressure is on the Canucks, along with the President’s Trophy Curse, and to top it off, Luongo folds up like poker table at times. Sure, he didn’t fold up in the Olympics, but seriously, did you see Team Canada’s roster?
Sharks-Kings: California Love! There’s my Tupac reference for the day. Well, here we are again. The Sharks are in playoffs, itching to choke, and this time, they get a chance for a shorter trip home if they do so in Game 6. The Kings are a nice story, a bunch of kids who are on the rise, yada yada yada, but what everyone will be talking about is the Sharks’ destiny as a habitual playoff patsy. Here’s to hoping they overcome the Kings, so we can hear about that some more……Just Kidding.
Red Wings-Coyotes: This one lacks a lot of pizzaz. The Red Wings, tried and true playoffs juggernaut, are setting up to destroy the ‘Yotes, who will only get Bryzzy with it long enough to avoid a sweep. Narrowly. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see the Wings knocked out, mostly because they’re all Detroit has left, but it’s just not going to happen. Sorry, die hard hockey fans in Arizona…
Ducks-Predators: This one should be interesting, just with the fact that Nashville is very under the radar. Ask a non-hockey fan to name NHL teams, I bet Nashville is left off that list. But, Pekka Rinne could be this year’s Halak, given his size and skills, and they could surprise a few teams, starting with the offensive heavy Ducks. If the Ducks had Jonas Hiller, I would probably take them to win at least a series, maybe two, but Ray Emery doesn’t blow my skirt up these days, even with a Mike Tyson helmet.
So there it is. Predictions? Not my forte. You should be able to decipher who I like in the first round from this, but beyond that, the Playoffs are NCAA Bracetesque when it comes to expecting the unexpected. Hot goalies make or break teams, and therefore decide the fate of twenty other men on their team, and make the ‘experts’ look like idiots. My Prediction- watch it, and you will enjoy it. It’s like the NBA Playoffs, only the first 47 minutes matter, the NFL playoffs, without the fluke wins, and the MLB Playoffs, being played at Mach 3.
Ooooooooooooo What a Rush!
See Ball, Hit Ball.
This add-age is timeless in the world of baseball, and throughout all the advances in the game through training, scouting, thinking and coaching, it still reigns supreme.
So, in the spirit of that, SKLZ has created the Lightning Bolt Pro Pitching Machine. The idea behind the machine is seeing the ball like never before. This small, portable pitching machine is your choice for a batting trainer to use almost anywhere. For use with large bats, or small barreled bats, such as the SKLZ Livewire, the Lightning Bolt Pro pitches small baseballs at you for a supreme hand-eye coordination training.
As far as training devices go, this one does the trick, as barreling balls in baseball is a tough task, and anything to help develop that skill is very important. Much like playing stickball, or using small wiffle balls in training exercises. I’ve always been a supporter of what SKLZ has been trying to do, especially on the baseball side of things, and this training aid is no different. For $59.99, this is a great choice for a solid portable pitching machine.
The Lightning Bolt Pro pitches balls at roughly 30mph from 25 feet away, with a 5 second delay. It also comes with a shagger that holds up to 26 special lightning bolt balls, and it runs on a battery or AC adapter.
So, see ball, hit ball. Or See little ball, hit big ball easier.
The Lightning Bolt Pro can be found at your local Sports Authority or Dick’s Sporting Goods stores.
It is baseball season, so why not talk about the differences between baseball bats and what to look for when buying one. I want to start off by discussing the differences between the materials in bats:
Aluminum is typically lighter in weight than other metals. Baseballs & Softballs travel faster off of aluminum bats than wood and other metals. Some aluminum bats feature a double layer wall. The inner layer acts as a spring to allow the ball to fly off of the bat with more speed and distance.
Graphite and titanium are two higher end materials which offer more power and durability in both baseball & softball bats. Graphite and titanium also help reduce vibration, which in turns makes the bat more comfortable and enhanced feel.
Wood maple bats are prized for their density and strength. The problem with Maple is the density of the wood which increases weight. Maple is less prone to crack and will last longer than Ash. Maple bats typically cost between $55.00 and $90.00.
Wood ash is not as hard as maple. An ash bat will split or crack after a couple of hard days use. Low quality ash is made from low quality maple. High quality ash is made from high quality maple. Ash bats are less expensive than maple bats. These bats have far less hitting power than metal bats. Typical price for an Ash bat is about $30.00.
Here are some other things to keep in mind when buying a baseball bat.
- The barrel size of a bat includes both the length of the barrel–top part of the bat–and its diameter.
- The drop or length to weight ratio of the bat is the difference between the length and the weight of the bat. Leagues have different drop ratings because of safety ratings.
- Make sure you check with the league that you are in which drop rating you need.
- Standard bats are tapered 31/32 of an inch but can be slightly larger or smaller depending on whether you want a lighter or heavier bat.
- High School bats typically have a length to weight ratio of -3, meaning the bat can be 33 length, 30 ounces or 32 length, 29 ounces.
- Bat performance depends on the type of alloy, barrel dynamics, and thickness of the bat barrel walls. Aluminum bats, especially higher performance models with thinner walls, should not be used in temperatures below 50 degrees.
- Two piece bats, which allow a trampoline like affect when the ball comes off of it have become more popular because of the extra power and distance. These bats tend to be sold at a higher price point.
Baseball bats usually cost from $29 all the way to $399. The lower end bats are made of basic aluminum that makes the absorption sensitive and doesn’t have much power or pop. The higher end bats have the higher end materials like graphite and titanium which deliver the power or pop, durability and optimum performance players are looking for. You can buy a nice baseball bat for around $149.
Some of the top models are the Easton Stealth Speed, Easton Surge, Demarini Vendetta, Demarini Voodoo, Rawlings H2, Rawlings Exogrid and the Miken MV3 to name a few. A few of the top retailers that offer some of these baseball bats are Sports Authority, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Modell’s, Academy Sports and Sport Chalet. You can find additional stores that sell baseball bats at Sportrabbit.com.