“So your Son Wants to Play High School Baseball?”
A Q & A with Greg Blake, Varsity Head Coach, and Mark Razmic, Assistant Coach, Damascus High School Baseball Program
The following was inspired by, but is not a direct transcript of questions asked during the recent DSA sponsored meeting with Coaches Blake and Razmic. In some instances, additional questions were included to help players and parents understand the demands and opportunities involved in playing baseball at the High School-level and beyond.
Q. What is the baseball tradition at Damascus High School?
A. DHS has a long tradition of winning in high school baseball. As late as 2000, DHS won state championships in baseball. Unfortunately, the program has been less successful over the last decade or so, and we want to turn that around and return the program to its former prominence.
Q. What challenges do you see in bringing the program back?
A. In just the last two seasons, we have made major strides in bringing in a top notch staff and improving the quality of the facilities available for our players, but our challenge is the limited amount of time we have each spring to prepare players for the level of competition we face.
Q. Why are you excited about the current staff at DHS?
A. The current staff is a mixture of guys who all have the same vision and expectation of the program. Specifically, Coach Frye who is the Junior Varsity head coach, is one of the PE teachers at Baker Middle School, which gets us familiar with the kids as student-athletes before they even hit high school. With regards to our volunteer coaches, they are coaches who have coached and played at all different levels (high school, college, pro, public school, private school).
Q. Can you elaborate about your statement that you only have limited time to prepare players each spring?
A. Due to recent changes in Maryland HS rules, we can only coach or have organized team workouts for about three weeks prior to the season opener. Once we are into the season, we have some additional time, but baseball is a complex sport that requires that players develop sound fundamental skills well before they start high school.
Q. But don’t all teams share that challenge?
A. They do, that’s why it’s so important that players come into the program as freshmen with a good understanding of how to prepare to be successful. For some reason, we just haven’t seen that the last few seasons.
Q. What can players do prepare before they get to high school?
A. Develop good work habits and sound mechanics. Baseball requires honing skills through repetition, which means working outside of team practices and in the off-season. Every player should learn to hit off a tee as a means to hone their swing. Every serious player should have a tee and some area to hit into a net. It doesn’t need to be elaborate, but players should take 150 or 200 swings on a tee 4 or 5 times a week. Of course, those swings need to be good swings with a focus on weight transfer and a short, compact swing. Players should also play catch multiple times a week 8 or 9 months a year. Parents can help by making sure players are getting good instruction so this work creates good muscle memory, rather than engraining poor mechanics.
Q. How do you feel about playing multiple sports before or when in High School?
A. We fully support players participating in other sports outside the baseball season, so long as players make an effort to engage in some type of baseball activity each week. Hitting off a tee or in a cage, or playing catch just once a week makes huge difference. Plus, players that participate in other sports often come into baseball in better shape than players who do not work out in the offseason.
Q. What if a player wants to focus on baseball?
Players should constantly challenge themselves by seeking good competition, and to improve in all facets of the game. This region offers many good options for clinics, professional instruction, and a variety of baseball leagues and tournaments that will provide a great opportunity for players to learn and improve. If a player doesn’t feel challenged by the competition or coaches, they should seek opportunities to grow on their own. Try knew positions, or look to add opportunities to play in new settings. That doesn’t mean you have to change teams every season, but the committed player will be given any number of opportunities to play and learn.
Q. What is the most important then a player should focus on before or during high school if they are interested in playing at the college level?
A. That’s easy, it’s academics. Colleges are looking for good players who are also good students. We will work to find opportunities for our players to get a shot at playing college ball, but only if they have the grades. A talented player with 2.0 GPA just isn’t going to get a look from most schools. It’s actually easier for a baseball player to get academic money than an athletic scholarship.
Q. How realistic is it to expect to play baseball at the college level? Is that a realistic goal for players coming out a school like Damascus?
A. We have a great deal of success finding opportunities for our players at the college level. Back in 2010 we sent 13 players to play in college, ranging from JUCO to D1. Baseball has been one of the few programs at the high school which has consistently sent players off to play at the next level.
Q. How large is the typical high school roster?
A. We may have 15 to 19 players on the Varsity or Junior varsity roster, but I have no problem having one or two players that play very little if at all. Obviously, there are no partipation rules, so playing time is determined purely by the coaching staff.
Q. What can you tell us about the tryout process?
A. Tryouts take place in early March and typically last 2 or 3 days, depending on the weather. We provide little or no instruction during tryouts, but want to see how players carry themselves when no adult is telling them what to do. Do they warm up and stretch properly? Do the pay attention to instructions and remain focused? Do they have sound mechanics or do they appear coachable?
Q. How physically demanding is high school baseball?
A. Players must be in great physical shape to hold up to the demands of the high school season. The first week of spring workouts focus on developing endurance and physical strength. It’s intense enough that we typically have 2 or 3 players quit during the first week, because they simply were not ready for the physical demands.
Q. What qualities do you see in successful players?
A. Strong worth ethic and self-discipline. Baseball is a difficult and demanding sport where the best players fail frequently and often under the scrutiny of their coaches, fellow players, fans and parents. It’s important that players learn to accept that challenge and to use failure to fuel a desire to improve. Coaches should challenge players to overcome failure and to enjoy playing under pressure. Parents need to support such efforts, and support efforts coaches take to teach commitment, teamwork, and responsibility.
Coaches Concussion Training
All head and assistant coaches must complete a 30 minute concussion training course that is provided by the CDC. Please visit the following link: http://www.cdc.gov/concussion/HeadsUp/youth.html to complete the free “Heads Up, Concussions In Youth Sports” Training. Once you have completed the course please forward your certificate of completion to Gary Brown at Brown.Gary8@gmail.com.
This course is a requirement/law in the state of Maryland and requires all youth sport coaches at any level and any sport to complete before being allowed to coach. Please email Gary Brown if you have questions.
Tips New Players and Parents
For some of you parents this may be your first experience with a child entering a baseball or softball league. T-Ball, Coach Pitch and Machine Pitch are “Educational” levels of baseball and softball. Volunteer coaches with their volunteer staff work with all of their players to teach them more than just how to play the game but the players are taught how to play safely, work together as a team and good sportsmanship. Some players may come into the baseball and softball program at an older age or higher division however the players are taught the same. The Damascus Area Baseball League, DABL, and Damascus Area Softball League, DASL, are recreational level teams. Advance level teams participate in the “Select Division”. With recreational leagues there are no tryouts for teams, everyone plays. DABL and DASL use a “Rotating” batting order where the entire team will have a turn at bat. With the limited number of positions on the field, some players will take turns sitting on the bench, (7-8 Machine Pitch and older.)
DABL and DASL provides most of the equipment needed for the season such as bases, bats, balls, and batting helmets. Uniform hats and shirts are also provided prior to the start of the season. Each player should provide their own mitt or fielding glove. For T-Ball and Coach Pitch cleats are not required but are very helpful on grassy surfaces. Some parents opt to purchase batting helmets and sometimes bats for their own player. Helmets are inexpensive and for the hard to fit player, it might not be a bad idea. The helmets that are provided by the league are “One size Fits All” and for some players, that will not work for them. It is encouraged that players wear a ball cap of some type to all practices.
Look at the Handout/Rules tab for more information on selecting a glove. For T-Ball and Coach Pitch just about any glove should work as long as it fits on the hand properly and is large enough and pliable to hold a ball. (The player should be able to close the mitt to hold the ball in place.) For the older divisions a good quality glove is essential. Metal cleats are only permitted in the DABL 13-14 and 15 -18 divisions. All other divisions in both baseball and softball, only rubber cleats are permitted. Bats are not provided with the DABL 7-8 and older and DASL 10-13 and older. Some coaches supplement the assigned equipment with some of their own. See “Guidelines for Selecting the Correct Bat” in the Handout/ Rules.
During practices and games the players will be required to stay together as a team. When a team is at bat, the players awaiting their turn at bat will be seated on a bench, often in batting order. (A bench parent is often a good job to assist with keep the young players seated and in order while the coaches concentrate with the player at bat and on the bases. Please ask your player’s coach first.) A great safety rule for younger players and your coach may mentions this time and time again, the only player to have a baseball bat in their hands is the player up at bat.
As with most sports, baseball is classified as a contact sport because contact with opponents is part of the game. Accidents happen in all sports however there are fewer injuries in organized youth sports teams than kids playing a pickup game in someone’s backyard. Some players will use mouth guards to help protect the player’s teeth. Some players will wear sport type glasses. While these are great ideas, these items are not required by the league but are optional as a parent.
Should your player have a medical condition such as asthma, diabetes, heart condition, bee sting allergies and so on, please notify your player’s coach so that he or she is aware should a situation occur. Should your player have an inhaler or Epi-Pen or glucose pack, be sure to store it in your player’s gear bag or if you attend and stay at your player’s practices, keep it with you. Bring a water bottle to every practice and game for your player. As with the water bottle, clearly mark your player’s name on all of their personally owned equipment. Younger players will want to bring their own ball to practice. That will be unnecessary and often the player will loose their ball with the others.
In recreational baseball and softball, most coaches only are assigned one practice filed and time for each week. Prior to the start of the season, additional practice times and location may be assigned. Coaches have little time to try to teach all the players everything there is to know about the sport. (This works out to about an hour or so a week.) There are not enough fields in our area for all the youth sports teams and leagues. Each sports league is assigned fields by either the parks or school systems.
Another way a parent can assist the coach would be to contact the coach when your player is unable to attend a practice or a game for what ever reason. (This is also stated in the “Player’s Code of Ethics”.) Many coaches will have a lineup made prior to game time, (7-8 and older divisions). Having to make sudden changes seconds to game time will only delay the game for everyone else. Contacting the coach shows commitment and respect to not just the coach but the entire team.
A good rule for all to follow:
Let the players play,
officials call the game,
and the parents cheer!
Please contact your coach should you have additional questions.
Have a great season.
Guidelines on Caring for Your Glove
Benefits of Glove Oil
There are many different benefits to using glove oil on your glove. The oil helps preserve the glove to make it last longer by blocking it from mold, unwanted moisture and mildew. It also keeps the glove softer and broken in by adding needed oils and moisture for the leather of the glove. Glove oil also gives the glove a natural look and feel while keeping the gloves shape. There are several other techniques used to break in gloves, however, glove oil is much safer and more efficient because it has been manufactured for gloves specifically to preserve and break them in without causing any harm. It does not take long to apply oil to your glove and it will dry quickly for a faster break-in.
Glove Care Instructions
To attain the amount of flexibility and comfort that’s just right for you, follow these tips for breaking in your new glove from our master glove designer:
- Pour a small amount of glove oil on a clean, dry cloth and carefully work the oil around the pocket area and on the back shell for maximum leather conditioning and protection.
- Allow the glove to dry thoroughly for 24 hours.
- Wipe off any excess oil and play catch for 10-15 minutes or 50-70 throws to stretch the pocket and conform the glove to your hand.
- Position a ball in the pocket and tie the glove closes for a few days.
- Keep a ball in the pocket between uses.
- Do not over lubricate your glove. Twice a season works fine.
Rules of Good Sportsmanship
- REMEMBER WHO’S BOSS. .Don’t argue or pull attitudes with coaches or officials during the game. There are always questionable calls, but they’re in charge, not you. It is part of the game.
- STOP MEAN SPIRITS. Be nice to the other team. Don’t cheer when something goes wrong for them; support their injured players.
- PUMP UP YOUR TEAMMATES. You might not love every single member of your team, but you need to show support for everyone. Team spirit counts a lot towards a winning season.
- LOOK LIKE A WINNER. Make sure your uniform is clean and in ready-to-play shape.
- BE TIMELY. Don’t delay the game taking care of your personal equipment. Be on time for practices, pre-game warm-ups, and all games.
- NEVER FORGET WHAT TEAM MEANS. You can’t spell “team” without “me”, but don’t take too much credit or dispense too much blame. It’s never all about you; it’s always all about all of you.