Coach-pitch All-Stars learn base runningPublished 12:01am Saturday, June 9, 2012
NATCHEZ — As the Dixie Youth coach-pitch All-Star players stood on first and third, coach Geoff Flattmann threw the ball to his assistant in the outfield Friday afternoon.
If the assistant caught the ball, the players on third knew to tag up and run home. If it wasn’t caught, the players at both bases made their way around the diamond.
At ages 7 and 8, Flattmann said it’s a good time for the children to start learning the ins and outs of baserunning.
“With tee ball, it’s hard to get them to grasp the fundamentals,” Flattmann said. “At the All-Star level, though, it’s really important, because games are won and lost on the things we work on.”
Flattmann, who is a rookie All-Star coach, said he’s enjoyed working with the children so far and getting to teach them important skills for the game of baseball.
“First, we want to teach them baseball skills, and second, we want to keep it fun and help them realize it’s just a game,” Flattmann said.
“We try to make them competitive but also teach them responsibility and respect. I think that’s what attracts us to coaching.”
Flattmann had a special assistant on hand, as Natchez native and former San Diego Padre prospect Chris Rayborn was there to help instill the fundamentals into the coach-pitch All-Stars.
“You want this stuff to be second-nature, an instinct,” Rayborn said. “You don’t want them to be 10, 11 years old wondering, ‘What do I do?’ when they’re on the basepaths.”
Rayborn currently works in Baton Rouge but tries to take time to teach young baseball players in Natchez as much about the game as he can. So far, Rayborn said, he’s enjoyed doing it.
“These are great kids; they don’t give you any back-talk,” Rayborn said. “They’re a pleasure to work with. They take in just about any advice I can give them.”
All-Star Ronnie Michael McMillin said he learned a lot from Friday’s practice about what to do in certain situations while running the bases.
“If there’s no outs and it’s a fly ball, you see if he catches it or not,” McMillin said. “If he doesn’t, then you run.”
But if there’s two outs, McMillin said there’s only one option.
“Run no matter what,” he said.
Flattmann said he was lucky that his oldest son, Zach, played in All-Stars for five years, because it allowed the elder Flattmann to glean from the other All-Star coaches.
“I’ve been to a lot of practices and tournaments each year, and I learned from a lot of his coaches,” Flattman said. “The biggest thing at this age is, positive reinforcement is key.”
As is having high expectations, from which McMillin didn’t shy away.
“We want to finish in first place,” McMillin said.