Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Baseball Tips by Dean Hughes and Tom Hughes

Baseball Tips: A Simple, Surefire System to Make You the Best Player You Can Be by Dean Hughes and Tom Hughes, illustrated by Dennis Lyall

Rating: 5 stars

About a month ago, Ben shyly asked our friend and librarian Miss Sharon where the baseball section was located.  When looking for a book on dinosaurs, we realized that there were plenty of children's books tucked within the nonfiction sections of the library.  He wondered if there were any good baseball books out beyond the well-known children's section.  So he asked.  And there are!

This is one of his best finds yet.  It turned out to be the first chapter book he and I read together.  It isn't exactly a classic chapter book but it is a) a book, b) has chapters, and c) about something he is very, very interested in.

Baseball Tips is chock full of great facts and lessons that you cross-your-fingers-hope your child's little league coach will teach them.  And you cross-your-fingers-hope that your son or daughter will listen to him or her and really, really allow the wisdom of his words to sink in.  The language is simple and straightforward, as if a grandfatherly coach was talking to a few boys who had taken a knee to pay closer attention.

The book simply introduces the game of baseball to young kids.  There are four parts: Up to Bat, In the Field, Positions, and Attitude.  Within each there are a few chapters.  For example, in the Positions part, there are chapters on Pitching, Catching, First Base, Infield, Outfield.

Within each chapter, Dean Hughes writes the "Big Three" rules for that topic.  (He gently mocks himself a bit about the fact that there are big three's for everything he writes.  It is part of his casual, approachable style.)  Here are the Big Three of Base Running:
The Big Three of Base Running:
1.  Round the bases.
2.  Always run hard.
3.  Be alert.
And then he talks about each one, describes it in easy terms.  Words mainly describe the ideas, but also plenty of diagrams and illustrations to show what he's talking about, too.  He points out the obvious in the best ways... He makes sure that kids know that the obvious facts (such as "always run hard") is actually what they think of the least, but it is focusing on these details that turn a decent player into a great one.  And I had to bite my tongue to keep from explaining to Ben that the lessons Hughes was writing apply to lots of other sports and also life itself.

The section entitled "Always Run Hard:"
This might sound too silly to talk about.  But it's not.  Every team would score more runs if all the players ran hard all the time.

You hit a ground ball right to the shortstop.  You figure it's an easy out.  But it's easy to miss a grounder.  And that shortstop has a long throw to make.  So run hard and force the shortstop to hurry a little.
I loved reading this with Ben.  While I love to run and Crossfit and try out new sports, I'm not much of a sports-watcher.  And the highlight of my one season of softball as a kid was catching a fly ball with my forehead (I only joined the team because my best friend Stacey was on it, and I was moving soon so I wanted to hang out with her).  It was fun learning the details of the game with Ben in the comfort of his room, a safe spot where he could ask questions.  He often said, "I know everything about baseball!" or that sort of thing, and I gently reminded him that the very best players always believe that they always have something to learn, something on which they could improve, something yet to truly master.  "Stay open to it all," I said, "by realizing you have more to learn."

This book should NOT be out of print.  Get it from your library, eBay, or through a used book seller.  It should be given to all little kids as they start the sporty side of their lives.  It is full of lots of information that kids need to take the time to learn while NOT on the field, but also full of lessons in life that you can learn from baseball.  And isn't that what sports is all about?

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