cmcgill – Baseball Notes

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The Top 7 Baseball Training Aides for 2020

If you’ve been following my weekly newsletter you know that at the beginning of every year my wife and I pray for a word.

One night in early January I started dreaming and I saw a group of people all huddled around looking into the ground.  

I walked up to see what they were looking at and out of the dirt came the word:

ENDURE

Being part awake, I was like “Oh it’s a word….maybe that’s my word!”

Then I was like, “Wait.  I don’t think I want that word!”

I was hoping for “Prosperity” or “Money” or "Niners win Super Bowl" or something fun like that.

So I’m like, “Hey God - thanks but no thanks, can you give me a different word?”

And right then out of the dirt came ENDURE & ENGAGE.

And I’m like “Ummmm, that’s better but WHY IS ENDURE STILL IN THERE?

Now I’m fully awake and dream is over. 

I wrote down the words on a little notepad next to me and wonder “Huh, I wonder what that is gonna mean.”

I think we found out!

Man, what an appropriate word for this year.

For me it was comforting to remember that word as God used 2020 like a personal snow globe.

Back to baseball, after a long quarantine we were fortunate to get some ball in this summer and fall.

And with the new challenges during and after quarantine I discovered some new products and new techniques that have really helped us along the way.

I get a lot of questions about my favorite things, so I put together a list at the end of the year.

(This must be what Oprah feels like)

So without further ado, here are this year’s top 7 products – Quarantine Edition:


7.  HitTrax

Ok, perhaps this should be in it’s own category for Best Commercial Product but hear me out.

A common problem many people experienced during quarantine was:

Their kid was completely disinterested in working on baseball.

We experienced the same thing.

As it turns out, without the lure of games or even practices with friends, baseball drills are really boring!

My son and I found ourselves playing basketball – like HORSE and other shoot around games that we’d make up.

There was something about the YES or NO outcome of a shot, either you made it or didn’t, that held our attention.

Our baseball drills didn’t give us that kind of feedback.

"Was that a good swing?  A great swing?  A bad swing?" 

It’s hard to tell!

Home run derby is a YES or NO game that kids LOVE, but takes a lot of room.

And so for us, practicing baseball wasn’t too appealing.  

We did it out of obligation more than “want to”, if that makes sense.  

Then once quarantine started to lift, we went to Dick’s Sporting Goods and decided to give their bat-testing-cage a try…which was equipped with a HitTrax…

…and our world changed.

"Now THIS is fun."

For those of you unfamiliar, HitTrax measures the speed/spin/trajectory of your hits and projects them onto the monitor where you can see the ball travel – get distance/exit speed/etc.

It. Is. Awesome.

We didn’t wanna leave!  After like 10 minutes I was feeling kinda guilty because there was this college kid who had to monitor us so we finally stopped.....

But I felt like we saw the future.

THIS is the type of experience that will get kids having fun while working on their stroke.

Now, the downside.

I called Hittrax to get more info and most of their current clients are academies. 

The package they offer them is over $20k.

They also offer a home version which is currently $10k.

Not exactly cheap!

But I’m telling you, this type of thing is what could solve a lot of issues with decreased participation and interest in the younger generation.

Mark my words, as this technology becomes more affordable - and it will - you're gonna see these everywhere.

And if you’re interested in getting one check out hittrax.com and let them know Baseball Notes sent you….I'll see if I can negotiate a little discount for you!


6.  Vuk Gripz

Bat tape is bat tape right?

I used to think so until I ran into these just recently.

A guy was showing me a custom bat and all I could see was the tape on the handle.  I was like, “What is this??”

He says “Oh this are called Vuk Gripz, they’re incredible”.

As I held the bat I was super impressed with how it felt.

The grip was incredible but it wasn’t sticky….more of a spongey feel to it.

From their site:

“Grip Lighter! Hold Tighter!”, VukGripz will provide more fluid movements when athletes use their sport, specific equipment. By not having to grip equipment with a hard, intense grip, athletes will now be able to experience a more free and flexible grip."

Apparently the grip is far superior in cold/damp settings as well, though I haven’t tried that first hand….but I’m sold!  

I just liked the way they felt.

They make these in a lot of colors too so would make a great stocking stuffer, check 'em out here.


5.  Box Jump

I bet you didn’t expect to see this on the list!

Watching my son play – baseball and other sports – the last few seasons, it always just looked to me like he needed some stronger legs.

So I bought this box jump, and honestly it didn’t get a ton of use at first.

Then a few months go by and Covid hit and we’re locked in the house for quarantine for a few months….

and that box jump was worth its weight in gold!

With the kids trapped in the house for days on end that box jump became much more versatile – not only did my son like to challenge himself for jumping to the highest level, it also became a hurdle/vault in our front room.

 Now, it’s great that they kids enjoyed it and all, but the reason it made this list was because my son made very noticeable improvement with his athleticism/speed.

See how he had a running start in the video?  He can now get over 30" flat footed.

I was so impressed with how much progress he made that I brought the box jump out to practice a couple of times (I would have brought it more but it's not very "Wagon friendly"!)

And it was incredible to see how BAD the boys were at it.

Hip strength/mobility and explosiveness are keys to the Big Boy movements they’re gonna need to be good at as they get older and want to throw hard and do anything athletic at a high level...

And I think box jumps are the simplest and most straightforward way to quick growth.

We tend to do 60 seconds max on the lowest level, then work on flat footed jumps on the highest (30”).

And most importantly he is noticeable better at baseball for it.  He’s faster, runs better (always ran kinda funny) and looks to have a stronger base while hitting.

I remember buying this on Amazon for like $130 and it was in that territory of “I really don’t WANT to spend this money right now” but went ahead and did it anyway and am SO glad we did.

Here's one on Amazon that looks most affordable and good. you can rotate it around to 3 different heights and is pretty durable.  Not a shin buster either like the wood ones!


4.  Infinitee

Here’s an awesome little nugget with you: a Baseball Notes reader invented this tee.

A few years back when I first started Baseball Notes a guy named Nick reached out to me and told me about this idea for a tee that he couldn’t get out of his head.

His position reminded me of myself when I was thinking about starting Baseball Notes.

After YEARS of being haunted by thinking this website could be a good idea, I finally decided that, you know what - even if Baseball Notes was a garbage idea I needed to smell the funk and not keep hypothesizing about whether it’ll stink or not.

I gave it a rip and it has been worthwhile.

So after providing Nick ZERO assistance on actually where he should go with his idea, I encouraged him to keep going.

"You only live once.  If you think you’ve got a winner then give it a go".

Now, fast forward to just a few weeks ago and he reaches out again.

Not only did he see his idea through but he WON BEST IN SHOW at the ABCA 2020 Convention (American Baseball Coaches Association).

Say whaaaaaaaaaaat!

That’s a big deal! 

That award isn’t given to the best tee but the best product of the year.  So cool!

So he sent me one.

And up to that point my stance on tees fell into two categories:

  • Simple tees that get the job done.
  • Creative tees that are WAY too cute and clever.

But the Infinitee strikes a great balance between the two….

I can see why it won Best In Show.

It’s super high quality (I recommend the Tanner Tee in home plate base option), it doesn’t fall over and the REAL genius is the little hinge in the neck.

It allows for you to work on different locations without moving the tee.

You might be thinking “Clint, I can use my old tee like this and just move it around for different locations.”

That’s what I used to do too.

But I noticed that after a couple of swings that the kids would lose consistency on where they’d stand.

Moving the base around kinda throws them off.

But with this you simply move the hinge to where you want it and the player still has a clear visual on where to stand.

(Pro tip:  Always set the arm placement so the ball is on the front half – if not front 1/3 – of the plate.  Today’s coaches have used video to break down the swing and it turns out that “letting the ball get deep” on outside pitches is only like an inch or two deeper than an inside fastball.  That’s more of a mental cue than anything. So hit that ball out in front)

So this is my new favorite tee and it easily made my top 2020 list.

I told my guy Nick that his tee made my Top Products List and he generously offered me a discount for you and an affiliate fee for me if I linked to his site….

….but since I’m feeling festive I asked him to take that affiliate fee and add it to the discount for you.

So use this link www.hitoffinfinitee.com and type in the code “baseball notes” at checkout and receive 20% off of your order!

Don’t say I don’t ever do anything for you!


3.  Half Bat

Alright this thing is so cool.  

It’s like my personal toy.

My daughter asked me over the summer “Dad, why do you always carry that thing around

[Lol]

So this little dandy was created by Mets MiLB hitting coach and one of my favorite accounts on twitter: Trey Hannam.

The concept behind the bat is that it encourages the “palm up, palm down” position at contact, and any swings that aren’t in that position will be sliced or foul tipped.

(Note: plastic or foam balls are to be used with this bat.  No real baseballs/softballs.  My son and I used rolled up socks during quarantine….so fun!)

And what I really like about it is the visual of the flat bat.

See, what all the good hitting coaches seem to be pounding home these days are that the good hitters keep their barrel in the hitting zone much longer than bad hitters.

They don’t roll over right after contact like average hitters.

And the flat barrel is a better visual than a round barrel for kids to keep that sweet spot “alive” as long as possible.

Plus the thing feels so cool. 

It’s made from quality wood with a big time grip on it.  It’s usually in my office and I find myself carrying it all the time when I’m on the phone or something.

So check it out here if you’re interested and be sure to follow Trey on Twitter – his link is on this page as well:  www.halfbat.com


2.  The Way of The Warrior Kid by Jocko Willink

Our first repeat winner on the Top Things List!

Some of you may remember me fawning over this book a year ago when it made the top 2019 list but MAN….

These books are magic.

And came in very handy during the quarantine!

For the first 2 months of the pandemic our baseball team met on zoom twice a week.

At first I tried to do some teaching on mechanics and stuff like that but it just wasn’t working, so I changed it up a bit.

We did 3 things every meet up:  #1 a physical workout (2 mins of max pushups, 2 mins of planks, that type of thing).

The second that was each player would present for about a minute on a former or current player that I assigned them the week before– just to keep baseball in their life a little bit and get to know players names better.

(I found out kids don’t know jack about players not named Betts, Trout and Harper!)

And the third thing we would do is have about 5-6 kids present a chapter summary from the AWESOME book, The Way of The Warrior Kid.

Love the book Jocko!

If you are unfamiliar, Jocko Willink is a Navy SEAL who wrote a number of great books on leadership and has a massively successful podcast…

…and he wrote a three book series about a young boy named Mark whose Uncle Jake (former Navy SEAL) lives with him for a summer, and Mark is taught how to handle a bully, how to be disciplined, how to be patient, make your own money….all sorts of good things.

And the best part is that not only is it a book that kids enjoy….it actually improves behavior!

After one chapter that my son and I read together about the main character taking awful care of his bike, my son said “That makes me want to find those batting gloves that I lost.”

And I was like “It makes me want to go clean out my truck!”

One of my good friends who got the books for his son (who is definitely gonna read this list – What’s up Addington!!) told me that he slept in one morning, looked at the clock and saw it was 8:30 and thought to himself “Uncle Jake would be so mad at me.”

Lol.

If you have a son around the 7-12 age, GET THESE BOOKS.  

They’re perfect stocking stuffers and your kid will be better off for it…

…and Uncle Jake will be proud of you.

Here's the Amazon link (Click Here)


And without further ado, the #1 product for 2020 is.....

[DRUMROLL!]

...

...

...

1. The SR BOOST Mid Weight Trainer

A few months back I had been brushing up on the latest and greatest in the hitting world – particularly focused on improving bat speed and power.

And from the studies and experiments that I read about, the fastest way to improve power is…..

Heavy bat training!

A lot of coaches call it “overload” training.

Just like lifting weights, swinging a heavy bat strengthens the body and after some consistent practice – boom, exit velocity improves.

But here’s the problem – a heavy bat can really break down a player’s swing

Especially a young hitter (like under 14).

So WHERE the extra weight is distributed in the bat makes a MAJOR difference in how “swingable” the bat is.

And having the weight closer to the hands (as opposed to the end cap) not only helps young players maintain their movements, it actually improves the movements by “staying inside the ball”.

There’s a few options of heavy trainers with the weight in the handle, but the guys over at SR Bats – who are MLB certified bat manufacturers – use their Pro Stock quality maple for these trainers and I think they’re good dudes, so I got mine from them.

I took a few dry swings with it myself, and when you initiate the swing you can really feel the ‘pull’ backward above the hands….that barrel stays slotted pretty good.

And most importantly, I like the way my son swings it. 

We have another super heavy bat – kids use it on deck sometimes – that we don’t really use because my son just doesn’t look right.

And the ball is coming off harder too.  I’ve been measuring the exit velo on the Pocket Radar (also a nice item!) and he’s already up a little bit from when we first started.

All to say….I’m super impressed!

So here’s the deal, if you’d like to order one the link is right here.  

These things can get backordered pretty quick so you may want to jump on this if you’re thinking about Christmas gifts.

I bet your kid is gonna love it.

 

    And before we finish, with Thanksgiving coming up I want to take a sec and say “THANK YOU” to all of you for reading.

The craziness of 2020 has actually helped me to be more mindful of the good things in my life.

And among a number of things, having readers who take the time to read work like this is something I’m really grateful for.

So if you're reading this, I'm sending up a prayer for you.  For health, happiness and endurance.

Here's to finishing the year strong and to being the best version of ourselves in 2021, regardless of what the year throws at us.

God bless and go get em!!!


My wife’s word for the year (2019)

(Repost from Jan 2019)

Non-baseball, but I think you’re gonna like this.

Dabo’s quote yesterday about his word for the year made me want to share a personal story….

….because my wife and I do this same thing.

Not sure your feelings about God (I’m a fan), so if you’re not a fan or undecided , don’t worry – just hang with me for a sec.

(Well maybe worry just a little:)

For the last few years she and I have prayed for a word for the upcoming year.  We usually have to let it marinate for a while, but every time there seems to a specific word that seems to stand out.

Last year my word was Expansion.  I felt like I was being called to “expand my territory”, specifically with Baseball Notes.  

I had a lot of content I thought was good – but I wasn’t promoting it mostly because I was a little intimidated about “putting myself out there”, ya know?

So anyway, 2018 we went from like 800 followers to 14k on FB, not to mention a few other channels.  Expand indeed!

This year, my wife feels like her word is “Transform“.

She just settled on this word this past weekend, we talk about it and are like “Whoa that’s a pretty big word!”

She’s gone down the health rabbit hole trying to find an eczema solution for our daughter and has taken a big interest in health.

So she had been thinking about getting her integrative medicine certification…which is no small time and money investment…and we were torn, so we prayed for clarity on the issue.

Again, this was this past weekend.

On Monday, two days ago as I type this, she sends me this screenshot of her email from the program:

Say whaaaaat!?!

“Does that word resonate with you?”

Just a little, haha.

Clarity = received.

So my wife may have a new career path in front of her.

As for me, it’s 9 days into the new year and I haven’t settled on a word just yet.

I’ve been hoping “Sugar Mama” is my word but it’s feeling a little forced.

I share this to encourage you to pray for a word for 2019.

And if you’ve never prayed before or haven’t been into the God thing, I’d REALLY encourage you to try it also.

I first thought it was kinda hippy-dippy but did it anyway because a few smart people I respect did it…and I’m so glad I did.

What could it hurt?  There’s something here and I would hate for anyone to miss out on it.

If you have questions on it feel free to reach out.  I don’t have all of the answers (or even half) but would love to chat.

And once you’ve got your word, share it with me, I’d love to hear!

Clint McGill

[UPDATE JAN 2020: Amy graduated from the Integrative Health program last week! And, she got her first health coaching client – whoop whoop! And I’ll be honest with you – she is phenomenal at this. More life coach than health coach. So if you have any interest in improving your health, happiness and mindset let me know and I’ll hook you up with her. Or better yet, give her a follow @amy.mcgill.hc on instagram. But better act fast before she’s booked and can’t take on more peeps, haha. ]

This MLB player changed my life with one sentence

I hope you understand how incredibly powerful your words can be.

Story time:

Just before my sophomore season at Fresno City College I was invited to a winter camp at Long Beach State.

I was EXTREMELY excited to be invited but also pretty nervous.

My dream was to play D1 baseball but I still was having the “imposter syndrome” doubts of, “Am I good enough?  Can I really play D1?”

To be honest, I was coming off a decent freshman season in junior college and still grappling with my identity there, like “Wow, I can’t believe little ol’ me is starting at FRESNO city college!”.

And now here I was, getting very real interest from Long Beach State, a perennial top 10 program at the time.

There were some monster names coming through LB: Jered Weaver, Troy Tulowitzki, Evan Longoria….

…but at the time, none bigger than this one: 

Bobby Crosby.

Bobby was a shortstop and had just signed a contract with the Oakland A’s as their first round draft pick …and he drove a new Escalade.

For a 19 year old kid, this literally is the dream.

This was winter time so he was hanging around the 2 day camp and wherever he was, people took notice.

I end up having a VERY good weekend.  Hard contact at the plate, throwing guys out trying to stretch triples, turning double plays…all of it.   Just one of those things where I picked a good weekend to have a good weekend.

And my last at bat of the weekend I crushed a high fastball but got way underneath of it.  The ball ends up being caught at the track.

But I killed that ball.

And Bobby happened to be standing at the end of our third base dugout during this part of the game, and
as I crossed in front of him…he says this:

Hey man.

I stop my jog and walk over to him.

He says with a very serious look on his face, “Are these coaches talking to you?”

Right when he says that he looks over to the first base dugout where all of the coaches were, as if he were about to get their attention to make sure they talk to me.

I say, “Yeah, I’ve been on the phone with Buckley and Barbara (coaches at the time) a little bit, so we’re talking.”

He looks back at me – no smile or anything – and says, “Ok.  Good.”

Right then some guy walks up and throws his arm around him and was like “Hey Bobby!” and so Bobby and I just gave each other a head nod and I went to put my helmet away.

I can still remember standing by the helmet rack, putting my batting gloves in my helmet and thinking:

“Bobby Crosby….thinks I’m alright.”

I had always *thought* and *hoped* that I was pretty good, but from that moment on….I believed it.

That one simple exchange – I can say with no exaggeration – changed my life.

And do you want to talk about the ULTIMATE throw away comment from Bobby!!

If you ask him a day later – shoot, an hour later – what he said to me, he probably wouldn’t be able to tell you.

And I will remember it for the rest of my life.

The thing is, we underestimate what an impact we can make – and are making – with our words.

We get caught up just watching ball games that we forget that these boys and girls out there are waiting for something ELSE to tell them what kind of player they are.

For most, the game results tell them WHO they are.  And if you let the game tell you who you are, it’s gonna tell you that you suck most of the time.

Every now and then it’ll give you a reprieve with a great day, but most of the time it’s gonna point out how many times you mess up.

So as parents and coaches, WE have to help them determine WHAT THEY THINK OF THEMSELVES.

Kids will believe what adults tell them, they really will.

If you have ever had a positive thought about a player on your kid’s team, and you DID NOT SHARE IT….

…man, what a missed opportunity.

A LIFETIME memory may have just been made….but you didn’t share it.

And “good job!” ain’t it.  “Hey _____, your bat looked so fast today.  I really love watching you hit.”

For some players you have to dig a little deeper….but those are the ones who could use a genuine compliment the most.

And I want you complimenting your own kid, but compliments to your own kid can be easily brushed off.

But a compliment from another parent?  Feels like a million bucks.

So parents/coaches, be mindful of how powerful your words are.

Your words are going to create their self identity – for better or for worse – so make sure you are choosing carefully.